Prince and Sir Paul McCartney are two of my favourite artists of all time. What both have in common is one of their influences--a certain Richard Penniman, best known as Little Richard. Think about it: Prince's stylish clothes, razor-thin mustache, and curled hair during his Controversy through Purple Rain period are reminiscent to his illustrious predecessor, and Sir Paul's screams and high-pitched rocking voice were taken from Little Richard. Here are some highlights from the 25, count'em, 25, cuts on this greatest hits collection.
"Tutti Frutti," his earliest released on 14 September 1955, is by far my favourite song here, particularly with the "A wop bop-a-lu bop, a whop bam boom!" line. This song was considered risque so Pat Boone redid it. The lines where he talks about Daisy who drives him crazy, was changed from "boy don't you know what she do to me" to "pretty Little Susie is the girl for me." Lame! However, even before it was written, Richard edited out this line: "Tutti frutti good booty, if it don't fit don't force it." Well, darnit!
Four songs here were covered by the Beatles. "Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey", which is on their For Sale album is one. Little Richard's highest charting hit, "Long Tall Sally" was outdone by the Beatles as a tribute to one of their influences, but the original still rocks out. Heart's cover of this also shows a nod to Mr. Penniman. "Ooh My Soul" was one of his latter hits which made it to the Top 40. And "Lucille" demonstrates Little Richard's sheer vocal power. Whew!
And the three songs that he did for The Girl Can't Help It movie are included. The title track describes a girl who's so hot "bread slices turn to toast" and "makes Grandpa feels like he's 21", and it fit Jayne Mansfield, the female star of The Girl Who Can't Help It." Yes, he does that trademark raucous yell of his. "Ready Teddy" and "She's Got It" have similar rhythms so that apart from the lyrics, they're indistinguishable. Man, that 50's rock sound is really fresh, and he can be seen performing those songs in the movie. Sadly, none of these songs reached the Top Ten in the singles chart, although in order of mention, they reached #7, #8, and #9 on the R&B charts.
"Miss Ann" has a slowed down piano blues style like Fats Domino. The title refers to a black code-name for white female employees. Another song, a slower ballad, is "Send Me Some Lovin'." His voiec is similar to Ben E. King here, except with more power.
Little Richard also did cover songs. His take on "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" rivals Jerry Lee Lewis's version, and the raucous "Keep A Knockin'", is a tune Louis Jordan did back in 1939. I get a kick out of that "you keep a knockin but you can't come in" refrain, and those sax solos.
Other times, though, there are times Richard's songs make the line between influence and plagiarism fuzzy. "Slippin' In Slidin'" was influenced by songs by Eddie Bo and Al Collins.
The bonus tracks here are B-sides of some of the singles, such as "I'm Just A Lonely Guy" being the flip-side of "Tutti Frutti."
In looking at the chart positions listed on the cover, I notice how he did better on Billboard's R&B charts. For example, "Rip It Up", "Lucille", and "Long Tall Sally" went to #1, with "Tutti Frutti", "Slippin' and Slidin'", and "Jenny Jenny" hit #2. They never did as good on the Hot 100 Singles chart, or if they reached the Top Ten, never higher than the position reached on the R&B chart.
One of the legendary fathers of R&B/rock and roll whose contributions to the genre were overshadowed by white racism prevalent in the 1950's and by artists such as Bill Haley, Elvis, and Pat Boone.
on November 23, 1998
During the 17 months from September 1955 to January 1957, Little Richard recorded some of the greatest rock and roll of all time. This CD contains 24 of those songs plus one from October 1957. Anything that charted from that recording period is included. Without a doubt, this was the golden era of Little Richard in the golden era of rock and roll.On this CD, the songs appear in the order they were recorded rather than in the order they were released as singles. Specialty released these songs between October 1955 and August 1959. There are more Little Richard tunes from the 17 month golden era available in the Specialty "box set". However, that CD contains many alternate takes that were never previously released. This CD is probably the best available for that period.
Little Richard's mere four Top Ten entries between 1956 and 1958 are more a reflection of the racial policies of a white-controlled radio industry than the impact this true king of rock 'n' roll had on the music industry. It's been estimated that Richard sold 18 million singles in the Fifties and his influence ran deep and wide, including a young upstart named Paul McCartney who would couple "Kansas City" with Richard's "Hey, Hey, Hey" on the LP Beatles VI .
Richard had only one speed and that was full throttle on classics like "Tutti-Frutti," "Long Tall Sally," "Rip It Up," "Lucille" and "Good Golly, Miss Molly." If these songs don't get you out of your seat and on the dance floor, you might want to check the obituary--there's a good chance you're dead!
Short of springing for the exhaustive Specialty Box Set, this 25-song set is the best single-disc of Richard's best work at Specialty and no serious rock library is complete without it. ESSENTIAL
Little Richard is the one of the earliest (if not the earlist)examples of rock n' roll spirit. The rebellion, the lyrical antics, the sheer energy of the man outshines anyone else of the period, and inspired many streams of rock and funk later to come.
This is just a superb collection with 16 fantastic songs, with all or most of the essentials. Even with the more recent acclaim, I still think his importance in rock history is underrated. Turn this up loud, scare the neighbors, and have a great time! With informative liner notes by Billy Vera, and thorough documentation of recording dates and personnel.
on December 2, 1999
This is the best collection of Little Richard's work that I've ever heard. I find myself playing this CD over and over, and it always sounds fresh. Great work by the sax players and most of the piano playing by Little Richard Wayne Penniman. Wonderful liner notes tell us that "Tutti Frutti" was originally "Tutti Frutti Good Booty", but soon was "cleaned up", as well as comments about Little Richard's antics in several films, and positions on the charts for all his songs. All our favorites are here from LR's fabulous two-year period (1955-1957). This is the one to buy!
on April 3, 2009
Little Richard is so much more than just the crazy,
loud-mouthed, flamboyant, grand old "architect of Rock-N-Roll"
that we all know today! This man was a one man musical, sexual
& cultural revolution!--A force of nature in a time which was
very closed & uptight on so many levels!
Enter young Richard Penniman from Macon, GA with his hot band
rightly called "The Upsetters" and everything that was believed
about race, gender, music, what was acceptable and not,
all went out the window!
His songs were filled with the fire and brimstone singing
of old time black gospel (Marion Williams' high "Whoooo!")
mixed with the boogie-woogie piano and rawkus blues shoutin'
of a backwater moonshine swillin' jook joint!
He could make a piano get up and walk across the room!
Playing in the old rolling gospel/boogie-woogie style that
mixed angel & devil all together on the black & white keys!
He took showmanship as it was known at that time and turned
the volume up way past 10!!--Often whipping the venues he
played into such a frenzy that racial lines came down and black
danced with white!--A DEFINITE NO-NO in that time!
His persona was so flamboyant, so peacock, so flaming,
with his honey-brown pancake makeup, beautifully coiffed
and fingerwaved pompadour, pencil-thin moustache, mascara &
eye-shadow that people (male, female, black, white or even martian!)
were overwhelmed by it and made to tingle in ways that
they didn't know they could tingle!--Another DEFINITE
NO-NO in that oppressive time!
Aside from all that, his music (all contained in this
great collection), simply could not be denied as
tear-the-house-down ROCK-N-ROLL classics!
Little Richard didn't just come in...HE BUTTED IN &
BURNED DOWN ALL THE WALLS!!
When you think of a young black kid out of the jim crow
south who was reviled as a sissy and a freak in his own community
and as a low-down ni*$#r in the white community, you realize
what sheer guts & balls it must've took just for this guy
to wake up and go outside every day!--Let alone write and
perform some of the rawest & funkiest rock-n-roll ever!
All of this was 25 to 30 yrs before David Bowie's gender-bending
"Ziggy Stardust" wowed early 70's rock audiences, Freddie Mercury's
"Killer Queen" antics, Prince's 80's "Revolution" or
Sylvester and Boy George's androgynous cultural paradigm-shifting
careers ignited whole new generations to the fact that you
could be outrageous, different, and completely left-of-center
and still rock the world!--There's so much more to this guy
than meets the eye!--Learn about him.
Now in 2009, as failing health has now limited his visibility in
the public eye, he nears his 77th Birthday in relative quiet,
but as long as "Tutti-Frutti", "Rip It Up", "Long-Tall Sally",
"Lucille", "The Girl Can't Help It" and others ring out...
Little Richard's legacy will never be forgotten!
on February 23, 2014
This man exploded in my music awarenesses in 1955. His delivery, voice, lyrics, beat, and uplifting tempo was my start of a support of the birth of Rock and Roll.... He was copied by white artists and one in particular was supported in the subterfuge of being the only artist of a song that made the fake a Hall of Fame member. I was anti the song by the fake and loved the song by Little Richard... he left music shortly afterward... but in time things racially motivated began to be of notice and he came back to music. Today I understand more of the hell he went through....
Desert Storm and Desert Shield was the environment that my only son was sent to for his duty assignment, and the stress of his being in harm's way was high on the scale... a song "Voices that Care" was created and recorded for sale, I got the tape cassette, and Little Richard's voice saying "He's not just a soldier, he's somebody's son" brought me to tears... he touched my heart as tho he were standing in front of me. I am so grateful for that reach and that help to be strong at a single Mom's aloneness... like no other aloneness...
My youngest, my daughter moved to Nashville, Tennessee and fell in love, they set up housekeeping and to my delight she became pregnant with my first grandchild... I live 2500 miles away and her time flew for me but not for her lol... One evening she and her partner were going in to eat at a Nashville finery and they saw Little Richard exiting the same restaurant. He saw them, and her tummy announcing to the world "baby inside" and he, Little Richard, smiled and gave her the thumbs up on the baby...... My idol of the beginnings of our wonderful Rock n Roll the beginnings of so many artists and it keeps on giving.....
Now that he and I are in this late time of life, I am forgiving of those who tried to diminish this wonderful man and his talent that has been copied and treated as the fake had invented the moves... etc. I am so grateful for Little Richard's (btw my son is Richard, coincidence not intentional) music and the fun of dancing to his creations..
This is a real fun CD..... by a real funny comic too! have you seen him on the Tonight show? I have !!!!!!!!!!!!
Karen Kohr Blinn
If you don't want to spring for the 3-CD Specialty Sessions Box Set, which is easily THE best Little Richard compendium on the market, then this volume from the Legends Of Specialty series is your next best option. Magnificent AAD sound reproduction is featured on all 16 of his hits from 1956 to June 1958, plus the four uncharted B-sides in that period, along with one hit from 1959, two cuts that appeared in early LP/EPs, and two that were issued years later as singles, but failed to chart.
All this is augmented by an insert containing numerous vintage photos, six pages of background notes written in 1991 by Billy Vera, a sessionography for each of the tracks showing dates recorded and musicians involved, plus on the reverse of the CD a discography of the contents.
This original inductee into the R&R Hall Of Fame in 1986 first hit the charts in late 1955 when Tutti-Frutti exploded onto the charts, reaching # 2 R&B/# 17 Billboard Pop Top 100 b/w I'm Just A Lonely Guy. That dramatic debut was following in the spring of 1956 by Long Tall Sally which hit # 1 R&B and stayed there for 8 weeks, as well as # 6 Top 100, while the flipside, Slippin' And Slidin' (Peepin' And Hidin') reached # 2 R&B/# 33 Top 100. A couple of months later another # 1 R&B surfaced in the form of Rip It Up, also # 17 Top 100, while its B-side, Ready Teddy, made it to # 8 R&B/# 44 Top 100.
Cover versions of his hits to date were popping up all over the place as well, by Pat Boone, Elvis Presley and Bill Haley & His Comets, while major stars to come like Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, and four young Englishmen named John, Paul, George and Ringo were being suitably influenced.
It's a bit strange, then, that his next hit, Heeby-Jeebies b/w She's Got It, impacted only upon the R&B charts in November 1956, reaching # 7 and # 9 respectively, and that The Girl Can't Help It, featured in the Jayne Mansfield film of the same name, could only achieve a # 49 Top 100 while hitting # 7 on the R&B charts. The B-side, All Around The World, also scored at # 13 R&B. It seems mainstream white DJs didn't know quite how to take this energetic, flamboyant new star and were therefore not giving him the airplay he deserved. That was born out in early 1957 when his third # 1 R&B, Lucille, could only get as high as # 21 Top 100, and the B-side, Send Me Some Lovin', just a # 54 Top 100 while reaching # 3 R&B.
All his hits to this point had been billed to Little Richard And His Band, but from this point on the billing would be simply Little Richard, beginning with Jenny, Jenny (# 2 R&B/# 10 Top 100) b/w Miss Ann (# 6 R&B/# 56 Top 100) in July 1957. His second-best Pop cross-over then appeared late that summer when Keep A Knockin' hit # 8 Top 100 as well as # 2 R&B b/w the uncharted Can't Believe You Wanna Leave. The A-side was also featured in the film Mr. Rock 'n' Roll, starring Alan Freed.
In early 1958 Richard honoured Jackie Brenston by basing his piano intro on his legendary hit Rocket "88" from 1951, and saw Good Golly, Miss Molly top out at # 4 R&B/# 10 Top 100 b/w the uncharted (unbelievably so) Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey. That summer, Ooh! My Soul got to # 15 R&B/# 31 Top 100 b/w True Fine Mama, regarded as a # 15 R&B "follow-along" hit while also reaching # 68 Top 100.
Omitted from this volume is Baby Face, which reached # 12 R&B/# 41 Top 100 in October 1958 b/w the uncharted I'll Never Let You Go. They do, however, include his rendition of Kansas City, recorded on November 29, 1955 well before the the Thurston Harris hit, but not released until spring 1959 in a medley with Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey, reaching # 95 on what had then become the Billboard Pop Hot 100. The B-side, Lonesome And Blue, is omitted here.
Other gems in this release include Baby, recorded in September 1955, and Oh Why? which was recorded in February 1956, both released that year on LP 100 as well as a Specialty EP, Shake A Hand, recorded in August 1956, and Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On, recorded in October 1957, the last two not released until 1959 when they came out on singles that failed to chart.
It's interesting to note that everything Little Richard recorded for Specialty took place from September 14, 1955 to October 18, 1957.
on June 8, 2007
This is probably the best collection of Richard Penniman's Specialty label songs you'd want on a CD. I would put him way up at the top as one of the great innovaters, originators, and exremely important influences in the history of rock'n'roll. So many people covered his songs over the years. From Elvis to the Beatles to even Pat Boone and Marty Robbins. This CD is a must-have for anyone who loves fun, danceable, and wild rock'n'roll. So get this CD and rock your socks off!
As a note, I also recommend seeking out reissues of his earlier music recorded roughly between 1951-1954.
A truly great pianist, songwriter, singer and arranger.
on June 28, 2006
It is always easy to point out later rock recordings with more advanced sound pictures and lyrics. But most of them stand in debt to these foundations of rock'n'roll. Before Tutti Frutti there was rhythm'n'blues (often vivid like eg. Joe Turner), but never with the free-setting energy and abandon of Little Richard. He- a black youngster from the KKK South- took the step and both could and dared record like no one had recorded before.
Lean back and enjoy the rhythm and unleashed energy!
Just a pity, that a cd cannot include Little Richards stage act, which was also trail-blazing (and even more shocking by then).