When you think about it, there really haven’t been all that many musicians who actually did change the face of rock ‘n’ roll. Little Richard was certainly one of the select few. He merged gospel, soul and rock into a rollicking stew – but also just might have provided the genesis for the glam movement of the 1970s. His ground-breaking mascara, pencil-thin mustache and outrageous stage antics provided inspiration for a multitude of artists. He had a habit of leaving and then returning to the rock ‘n’ roll scene, but was always worshipped. As is often the case, one of his comebacks completely captivated trendy Britain. Not many artists can say he had the Beatles and Rolling Stones appear on his show bill, as well as once having Jimi Hendrix as a band member. One of the keys to Little Richard’s bombastic shows was his piano-driven singing style combined with the presence of background vocals and sharper-than-sharp New Orleans based horns. He certainly did have a magnificent conception of the keyboard’s contribution, both when punishing them on stage and in the studio.
This superb Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs release combines Little Richard’s first two album releases from 1957 (“Here’s Little Richard”) and 1958 (“Little Richard”). Both records on the Specialty label were actually collections of his singles and B-sides released from 1956-58. Twenty-three tracks presented in the glorious original mono without any gimmicky attempt to re-channel into fake stereo. That’s the way it must be ’cause you really shouldn’t fool around with perfection – leave it as it is and just goose the existing sonics to state-of-the-art.
The disc starts off with “Tutti Fruitti”, a number LR had going around his head. Actually, his initial “version” almost got him kicked out of the studio before he cleaned it up for safe consumption by the masses (and the producer). The remaining tracks as listed below are all equally as hot. Just about all of them placed in both the R&B and pop charts. One of Little Richard’s other ground-breaking qualities was his ability to cross over and appeal to all types of music lovers. One of my greatest failures as a life-long music lover has been missing the live stage acts of both Little Richard and the mid-sixties James Brown. Even though I was quite young at the time, I could have somehow pulled it off and not doing so was simply inexcusable.
One of the best things about Little Richard’s records is that they invariably contain a live vibe. So if you can try to imagine the visuals, it’s still a great show. With the much-anticipated return to the scene of Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, the sonics have been raised to a level only before heard in the original studio sessions. The packaging itself is fascinating with the technical description of mastering techniques and a “so cool” B&W photo of the band in action – Little Richard is at the piano on one leg with his arms surrounding his other raised leg with its foot above the keys!
This double-album release is a necessary purchase on so many levels, even at the premium price. No rock ‘n’ roll historian or anyone else pretending to have anything even approaching an exhaustive music collection should be without it! Prime stuff from one of the greatest performers ever in this cultural gift we call music.
Tracks: Tutti Fruitti; Fine, Fine Mama; I Can’t Believe You Wanna’ Leave; Ready Teddy; Baby; Slippin’ And Slidin’; Long Tall Sally; Miss Ann; Oh Why?; Rip It Up; Jenny Jenny; She’s Got It; By The Light Of The Silvery Moon; Send Me Some Lovin’; I’ll Never Let You Go; Heeby-Jeebies; All Around The World; Good Golly, Miss Molly; Baby Face; Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey; Ooh! My Soul; The Girl Can’t Help It.
– Birney Brown