A skilled songwriter and nimble pianist, and possessing an emotive, velvet voice that prefigured Nat King Cole and other such crooners, Ivory Joe Hunter was instrumental in bringing R&B to an uptown audience in the late '40s. He almost repeated the trick in the mid-'50s for the then-emerging rock & roll style (although it took uptown audiences a good long while to catch on) when he signed with Atlantic Records and released a series of rock & roll-leaning sides for the label between 1954 and 1957, including the majestic "Since I Met You Baby" in 1956. A year later, Hunter's "Empty Arms" neatly welded R&B and straight country together, complete with a bed of soulful gospel organ. Hunter was so skilled at combining strains of blues, gospel, country, jazz, R&B, and nascent rock & roll into smooth and elegant packages that few at the time realized how innovative he was actually being. This set of his Atlantic sides is extremely brief (it struggles to top 25 minutes in length), but even at such a short running time, it still manages to be amazingly varied. Both "Since I Met You Baby" and "Empty Arms" are included, along with the kinetic sax and handclap-led "Shooty Booty" and the amazingly wise and prescient "You Can't Stop This Rocking and Rolling," which contains lines like "It's been here for years and years/It's just history repeating." There are lengthier and more complete collections of Hunter's work available, but this one, even as short as it is, provides an elegant introduction (but only that -- there's really so much more) to this wonderful musician.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett