The Mike Pedicin Quintet was among the earliest white rock & roll acts -- if not the very first -- signed by RCA Victor, at the outset of 1955, nearly a year before Elvis Presley came to the label. They only ever scored one chart entry in two years at the label, and that was for exactly one week, but such national obscurity was no reflection on them or their music. These guys were huge in Philadelphia -- which had no shortage of good bands -- and played some of the best venues in New Jersey and points west, as far as Nevada. The first 23 songs here comprise the group's complete output for RCA, only 18 of which were originally released. The band consisted of Mike Pedicin on alto sax, Buddy La Plata at the piano, Sam Cocchia on the guitar, Lou De Francis on bass, and Al Mauro on vocals and drums, with Robert Sentenari (drums) and Louis "Ace" Devecchis (piano, trumpet, trombone) augmenting their forces and Sam "The Man" Taylor (sax) and Lloyd Trottman (bass) participating as well. The sound is solid dance-oriented rock & roll, akin to Johnny Otis or Bill Haley & His Comets, a mix of serious R&B with a level of virtuosity derived from the band's swing-era origins, all played very loud. "Mambo Rock" may sound hokey today, but in 1955 it was considered perfectly valid rock & roll, at a time when the latter was dance music, and "I Want to Hug You, Kiss You, Squeeze You" is one of the best white covers of a Chess Records single that one is likely to encounter from the mid-'50s. Mauro's singing was strangely analogous to the work of any number of Italian doo wop singers from later in the decade, crossing partly over to a "black" sound -- the crossover partially worked in the studio, but on-stage it was totally effective. And that's where the real treat on this disc comes in: nine tracks recorded live in professional quality from the Detroit Stadium in October of 1955. This is as good as this kind of music got, played loud and hard with few inhibitions and lots of virtuosity. The results are as exciting as any live recording of its decade, and rate right alongside Piano Red's 1956 Magnolia Ballroom live sides as a priceless artifact of what rock & roll was supposed to be in the mid-'50s.
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