Little Richard – Directly From My Heart/ The Best Of The Specialty & Vee-Jay Years – Concord Music/ Specialty Records SPC-36099-02 (3 CD Box Set + 30-page illustrated booklet) [6/2/15] ****:
(Featuring the music of Little Richard from 1956-1965)
If there was a Mt. Rushmore for rock and roll, it might not be too difficult to select the figureheads. Probably, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly are safe bets. Another one is Richard Wayne Penniman, known to all as Little Richard. Hailing from Macon Georgia, he exploded onto the rhythm and blues scene, crossing over with his first hit single, “Tuuti Frutti” in 1955. His frenzied showmanship, scorching piano licks and incredible vocals nearly created the template for soul music. The strong Evangelical and Baptist gospel roots were at the core of his music. His career would alternate gospel and secular projects. His legacy is defined by his significant influence on singers, both in rock and roll and soul. And in the case of Little Richard, the music was undiluted and fearless. He is a member of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Songwriters Hall Of Fame, The Recording Academy, and the Rhythm And Blues Foundation.
Concord Music has released a three-CD box, 64-track anthology of Little Richard. Directly From My Heart – The Best Of The Specialty & Vee-Jay Years. It is a collection of a genuine rock icon. Disc One opens with a straight blues treatment on “Lonesome And Blue”. Richards’s delivery is nearly restrained, including the r&b romantic ode, “Wonderin”. “All Night Long” feels like homage to Fats Domino, but the evolution is underway with screams and saxophone. The title cut is gospel rock and roll with sprightly background vocals. “I’m Just A Lonely Guy (All Alone)” hints at the impending explosiveness with feverish vocals. And then the music world is turned on its head with the phrase “…wop bop a loo bopo a lop bom bom”. “Tuuti Frutti” is among the greatest rock and roll songs. And Little Richard’s delivery is so emphatic that there are no worthy covers. His rollicking piano licks permeate songs like “Chicken Little Baby” and “True, Fine Mama”. He nails “Kansas City” as his vocal prominence soars in a call and response arrangement. But there are signature moments, especially on “Long Tall Sally (The Thing)”. He has developed a niche in fifties culture. “Slippin’ and Slidin’ (Peepin’ And Hidin’), “Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey” and “Rip It Up’ are timeless gems that still resonate.
Disc Two opens with another classic, “Lucille”. This song captures the essence of Little Richard. With rhythmic piano chords and ear-splitting vocals, rock and roll fury is unleashed. There is no let up with “Heebie Jeebies” and “She’s Got It” with all the trademark “hollerin’”. There is rock history in this compilation, none more significant than the back-to-back punch of “Jenny Jenny” and “Good Golly Miss Molly”. Whether there is movie magic (“The Girl Can’t Help It”) or the barrelhouse update of the r & b standard “Whole Lotta Shakin”, Little Richard is breathtaking. There are lesser songs and re-boots (“Bama Lama Bama Loo”), but they still have a kick to them. Disc Three (Vee-Jay years) has some interesting material. “Goin’ Home Tomorrow” is low-down blues with harp and guitar, and an oddly up tempo waltz-time overproduced cover of “Good Night Irene”. But “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” (with a great piano solo) is hard driving and soulful. Again, Little Richard doesn’t mind going over the top on numbers like “Blueberry Hill”. He and Jerry Lee Lewis are the pre-eminent rock pianists of the rock era. Despite uneven material, this unique artist cannot be held back.
The box set includes some interesting observations of Little Richard’s career by Billy Vera. What they lack are details about the session musicians, but this does not detract from the musical fun!
Disc One: Lonesome And Blue; Wonderin’; All Night Long; Maybe I’m Right; Directly From My Heart; Baby; I’m Just A Lonely Guy (All Alone); Tutti Frutti; Chicken Little Baby; True, Fine Mama; Kansas City; Wonderin’ (With Overdubs); Slippin’ And Slidin’ (Peepin’ And Hidin’); Long Tall Sally (The Thing); Miss Ann; The Most I Can Offer (Just My Heart); Oh Why?; Heebie-Jeebies Love; I Got It; Ready Teddie; Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey; Rip It Up
Disc Two: Lucille; Heebie-Jeebies; All Around The World; Shake A Hand; Can’t Believe You; Wanna Leave; She’s Got It; Jenny, Jenny; Good Golly, Miss Molly; Baby Face; The Girl Can’t Help It; On The Light Of The Silvery Moon; Send Me Some Lovin’; Keep A Knockin’; Oohh My Soul; I’ll Never Let You Go (Boo Hoo Hoo Hoo); Early One Morning; She Knows How To Rock; Whole Lotta Shakin’ Bama Lama Bama Loo;p Poor Boy Paul; Annie Is Back
Disc Three: Goin’ Home Tomorrow; Goodnight Irene; Money Honey; Lawdy Miss Clawdy; Blueberry Hill; Cherry Red; Only You; Memories Are Made Of This; Groovy Little Suzy; Short Fat Fanny; Cross Over; My Wheels They Are Slippin’ All The Way; It Ain’t Watcha Do (It’s The Way You Do It); Something Moves In My Heart; Without Love; Dance What You Wanna; Talkin’ ‘Bout Soul; Dancing All Around The World; You Better Stop; I Don’t Know What You’ve Got But It’s Got Me; Why Don’t You Love Me (Like You Used To Do)