Running a generous 32 tracks, Bear Family's Ronnie Rocks is an excellent collection of Ronnie Hawkins' rockabilly for Roulette Records. There are many other compilations that cover the same ground but no others cover it quite so extensively -- which might not quite be the same thing as thoroughly, as the title is a tipoff that the music here is all high-octane rock & roll. Often, this comes in the guise of covers -- Hawkins runs through the Chuck Berry ("Thirty Days," "Forty Days") and Bo Diddley ("Hey Bo Diddley," "Bo Diddley," "Who Do You Love") songbooks, and picks up some Sun records ("Matchbox," "Honey Don't," "My Gal Is Red Hot"), a bunch of R&B sides (Hank Ballard's "Sexy Ways," Larry Williams' "Dizzy Miss Lizzy"), and some Dixie-fried rockabilly ("Suzie Q"). All this is confirmation that Hawkins was perhaps the epitome of a working roadhouse rock & roller during the late '50s and early '60s: not someone who innovated but one who gave the people what they wanted, bashing out crowd-pleasers one after another. He had an excellent ear for material that extended into being an excellent bandleader, both traits in evidence here and both of which make these covers rousing. But when Hawkins had his own song -- as he did on the slinky minor-key rocker "Mary Lou" -- he was truly outstanding. And this has the most of his outstanding material in one big package.
Ronnie Rocks Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine