Rock & Roll - The First 50 Years: The '50s 25 Top 10 Hits

Various Artists

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Rock & Roll - The First 50 Years: The '50s 25 Top 10 Hits Review

by Richie Unterberger

Like numerous compilations on the Varese Sarabande label, this anthology of 1950s rock & roll hits seems geared toward the casual consumer who picks up oldies collections once in a while, not the more serious collector looking for the best overview of a genre or the best volumes for building a comprehensive library of a certain style. If you're not worried about such matters, however, this 26-track scoop of early rock & roll smashes is pretty good, though the three-CD The Golden Era of Rock 'n' Roll 1954-1963 is a much more definitive survey of the most essential early rock & roll hits, if you're inclined to dig deeper. But Rock & Roll - The First 50 Years: The '50s 25 Top 10 Hits certainly has a generous share of inarguable top-ranked classics, starting with Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes," Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill," Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," the Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love," Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues," Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally," the Coasters' "Yakety Yak," and Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops." There are also some of the greatest songs by early rockers known for only one or two hits: Wilbert Harrison's "Kansas City," Huey "Piano" Smith's "Don't You Just Know It," and Bobby Day's "Rockin' Robin." There's also some diversity that goes a little beyond the most celebrated early rock & roll standards, including instrumentals (the Champs' "Tequila," Bill Doggett's "Honky Tonk, Pt. 2," Bill Justis' "Raunchy"), teen idols (Freddy Cannon, Frankie Avalon, Jimmy Clanton), quality songs that are more pop than rock (Miss Toni Fisher's "The Big Hurt," Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife," Guy Mitchell's "Singing the Blues"), and even Boyd Bennett's Bill Haley-like "Seventeen," which was a Top Ten hit in 1955 though it eventually faded from popular memory. As a "bonus" track, there's also Sonny Dae & His Knights' original 1954 version of "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock," which is more boogie-oriented than (and considerably inferior to) the Haley cover that became the first massive rock & roll hit.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Carl Perkins 02:17 Amazon
2 Fats Domino 02:21 Amazon
3 Wilbert Harrison 02:28 Amazon
4 Bill Justis 02:23 Amazon
5 Guy Mitchell 02:27 Amazon
6 Jerry Lee Lewis 02:55 Amazon
7 The Everly Brothers 02:21 Amazon
8 Eddie Cochran 01:58 Amazon
9 Toni Fisher 02:13 Amazon
10 Boyd Bennett 02:07 Amazon
11 Marty Robbins 02:32 Amazon
12 Billy & Lillie 02:09 Amazon
13 Little Richard 02:11 Amazon
14 Rick Nelson 02:33 Amazon
15 The Coasters 01:49 Amazon
16 The Champs 02:13 Amazon
Bobby Day 02:35 Amazon
18 Jimmy Clanton 02:32 Amazon
19 Freddy Cannon 02:13 Amazon
20 Frankie Avalon 02:24 Amazon
21 Huey "Piano" Smith 02:32 Amazon
22 Bill Doggett 02:38 Amazon
Larry Williams 02:25 Amazon
24 Jackie Wilson 02:34 Amazon
25 Bobby Darin 03:09 Amazon
26 Sunny Dae & the Knights 02:56 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick