Little Willie John

The Early King Sessions

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A career-spanning best-of compilation will be a satisfactory helping of Little Willie John for most listeners. But for devoted fans of the singer, and indeed of 1950s R&B in general, this more specialized anthology is useful, gathering both sides of all 12 of his first singles, all originally issued in 1955-1957. The only really well-known songs here are the original version of "Fever," "All Around the World" (adapted by Little Milton into "Grits Ain't Groceries," his 1960s soul hit), and "Need Your Love So Bad," and they are the best tunes on this collection. John's vocals are uniformly rich and moving, but the material is just too similar to place it in the same league as recordings during the same era by, say, Ray Charles. Still, these are sides in which you can hear R&B, blues, rock & roll, and bits of pop (particularly in "Fever" and its sound-alike follow-up, "My Nerves") coming together in a form that hints at early soul, on songs that were more apt to dip into minor keys than much other R&B of the time. Hardcore completists will note that the version of "I'm Sticking With You Baby" is actually a different take that eventually showed up on an LP, and not the one from the original 45.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:58
2
2:18
3 2:15
4 2:19
5 2:51
6
2:12
7 2:43
8 2:31
9 3:20
10 2:56
11 2:19
12 2:31
13 2:15
14
2:50
15 2:21
16 2:38
17 2:14
18 2:25
19 2:57
20 2:41
21 2:09
22 2:06
23 2:12
24 2:16
blue highlight denotes track pick