Jackie Brenston

The Mistreater

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If ever there were a case of the record overshadowing the artist, it would be Jackie Brenston's "Rocket 88." Often cited as arguably the first rock & roll record, this 1951 chart-topping R&B hit was Brenston's only commercially successful recording. Even when "Rocket 88" is discussed -- and it does come up in rock histories pretty often -- Brenston is often dismissed as a footnote to his own landmark, with pianist/bandleader Ike Turner's role in the recording getting more ink, Brenston sometimes characterized as a journeyman who lucked into the spotlight almost by chance. This 24-track collection of 1951-1956 Brenston sides does much to fill out the picture of this singer, who might have ultimately been something of a journeyman R&B vocalist, but wasn't as inconsequential as some critics have opined. As you'd expect, "Rocket 88" itself is the highlight of this anthology; much of his other material was average if fairly gritty jump blues, sometimes obviously attempting to replicate the "Rocket 88" sound (as you might guess from a song title like "My Real Gone Rocket"). But if Brenston wasn't destined for the big leagues of early-'50s R&B singers (let alone the big league to which Ike Turner eventually descended), he was a solid enough earthy talent. And if the 1951 single "Juiced" is so raw that you wonder how they got away with playing so out of tune on a Chess release, that's part of its appeal. Less impressive are slower numbers that show Brenston feeling his way around ballads, though they do show he was capable of some range, and 1956 rock & rollers (including one, "Gonna Wait for My Chance," penned by a young Luther Ingram) that bear an obvious imprint from Little Richard. For most rock & roll and R&B fans, the appearance of "Rocket 88" on numerous compilations will be enough Brenston, but jump blues/R&B specialists will find this CD pretty good listening.

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