With the lapse of ever more copyrights, publishing companies are begging Congress to extend them 50 to 75 years, all the better to protect the music from the greedy hands of profiteers. Well, if Universe is what we're meant to fear, cut them down to 25 years, and "let 'em at it" will be most fans' response. Directly From My Heart is the latest in an expanding series of legacy two-CD packages devoted to blues and R&B artists, in this case the ever flamboyant Little Richard. You don't meet that singer, however, until the tail end of disc one, as the set carefully charts Richard's career from his first recordings in 1951 to the beginnings of his breakout in late 1955. As always, the set meticulously notes the details, the date and place of sessions, and in the case of Richard's pre-J&M recordings, the backing musicians as well. It was at J&M, of course, that Richard recorded "Tutti Frutti," the first in a flood of high-adrenaline hits. None of those, however, prepare the listener for what came before, although those knowledgeable of the singer's start in gospel groups may be less surprised. Heavily influenced by such gospel greats as Mahalia Jackson, in his early years the singer brought an unexpected blues and soul styling to his songs. Equally startling is his smooth work as part of the harmony group the Tempo Toppers, a silky quartet with whom he recorded in 1953. By 1955, Richard was itching to give voice to his more exuberant side, and the set emphasizes that fact as the singer re-records older numbers to ever more devastating effect. You can hear it as he belts out the final version of "All Night Long," barrels through a couple of takes of "Kansas City," and burns his way across the re-re-recorded title track. "Baby" further turns up the heat, the chest-beater "I'm Just a Lonely Guy" is ablaze, with the stage now set for the revelation of "Tutti Frutti." The rest is history, more of which is captured here on a superb set that is as fabulous as Richard himself.
AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene