Various Artists

Rock & Roll Years, Vol. 6

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An unauthorized DVD compilation this may be, but it's still a pretty good way to view a 90-minute series of rare rock & roll television and film clips from the mid-'50s through the mid-'60s. An eclectic variety of stars and obscure performers are represented, many of the clips are live (though a good share are mimed), and the image and sound quality are pretty good, though a little below what you might expect of an official product. Some highlights include one-shot rockabilly group the Sparkletones doing electrifying, kinetic live versions of "Rocket" and their hit "Black Slacks"; the Johnny Otis Show doing their hit "Willie & the Hand Jive," with backup vocals by the huge woman trio the 3 Tons of Joy; live performances of "Blue Jean Bop" and "Sexy Ways" by a leather-clad Gene Vincent; live Ed Sullivan Show appearances by Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen, who sing their rockabilly-pop hits "Party Doll" and "I'm Stickin' with You," respectively; Judy Tyler's energetic "Roving Gal," interesting if only for the sheer novelty of seeing an energetic unknown '50s white female rock & roll singer; and Ritchie Valens' mime of "Ooh My Head" from the movie Go, Johnny, Go! A few of these performers, like Johnny Horton, Tennessee Ernie Ford (doing an elongated "Sixteen Tons" with audience participation), and Ferlin Husky, were country-pop singers rather than rockers, but they still fit in OK considering how popular they were at times with the rock audience during the era. It's true this does contain its share of comparatively dull mimed clips, but at least it affords you a chance to see artists like Jan & Dean, Brenda Lee, Eddie Cochran, Wilbert Harrison, and Billy Ward who don't pop up on archival television programs or film documentaries very often. Ending the disc is an exciting seven-song U.K. TV segment from January 8, 1964 featuring Little Richard live (with backup by British band Sounds Incorporated). It starts out a little more subdued than you might expect or hope, but soon gets rowdy enough as he rips his way through some of his big hits ("Rip It Up," "Lucille," "Long Tall Sally," "Good Golly Miss Molly," "Send Me Some Lovin'"), and covers of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and "Hound Dog."