Rip It Up: The Best Of Specialty Records – Craft Recordings

by | Aug 22, 2021 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Rip It Up: The Best Of Specialty Records – Various Artists – Craft Recordings/Concord Music CR00422 single 12” vinyl ****1/2:

An overlooked early rock and roll label gets a well-deserved re-introduction on this Craft Recordings vinyl.

(Featuring the music of Little Richard, Lloyd Price; Sam Cooke; Roy Milton; Joe Liggins; Percy Mayfield; Larry Williams; Jesse & Marvin; and Jimmy Liggins)

Craft Recordings has released a vinyl compilation of rock and roll/r & b pioneer Art Rupe’s Specialty Records. These 18 tracks (Rip It Up:The Best Of Specialty Records) cover a game-changing 12 years (1945-1957), highlighting the label’s significant contribution to rock and roll. It is no surprise that Richard Penniman (“Little Richard”) is featured on four separate cuts. If Chuck Berry was the instrumental mentor of rock, then Little Richard was surely the vocal inspiration. As “Long Tall Sally” kicks off, his relentlessly frenetic singing and energy remain timeless. “Tutti Frutti” may be the most recognizable song in his repertoire. On this collection, the session players are credited. Names like Earl Palmer (drums), Huey Smith (piano) are studio legends and make this music unforgettable. Of course, many rockers have tried to emulate Penniman, and none succeeded. The rambunctious grittiness continues on “Lucille”. Lee Allen (tenor saxophone) and Red Taylor (baritone saxophone) add muscle to these concise jams. The fourth selection “Rip It Up” is as iconic as the previous selections. Amazingly, all of these hits were produced in under a year. 

Next up in the order of representation with a trio of recordings is Lloyd Price. His rhythm and blues templates served as a bridge from blues to 50’s rock and roll. With a decidedly New Orleans influence, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” is second-line funky and features soulful vocals and jaunty piano from “Fats” Domino. This song is a standard for r&b and rock, but Price’s version stands above the rest. (Not surprising as Price was the composer, as Little Richard was on his material). The nasty swagger of “Ain’t It a Shame” is classic blues progressions. “Oooh-Oooh-Oooh” is roadhouse angst with visceral pleading surrounded by a dense sound mix. Another multiple entry is jump blues drummer and songwriter Roy Milton. With more cohesive arrangements, Milton integrated big band with blues music, forming the genesis of a rock beat. as early as 1945 (“R.M.Blues”). This jam is elevated by the tinkling piano runs of Camille Howard, Buddy Floyd’s earthy tenor and Hosea’s Sapp’s muted trumpet. Four years later, Milton’s style evolved into “jump” on “Information Blues”. Milton’s arrangements are fuller as tenor and alto saxophone are expanded with trumpet. His singing is steady and never upstages the instrumentals. Taking on jazzy nuances, “Best Wishes” is a mellower change-of-pace with saxophone vibrato and jagged electric guitar. 

Another gem is a 1957 Sam Cooke smooth pop number “I’ll Come Running To You”. His unique soothing voice and assured delivery was a sign of a career primed for stardom. Specialty Records was also trying to connect with the teenage market. Jesse & Marvin’s doo-wop “Dream Girl” is 50’s slow-dance emotional surrender. Another seminal r& b artist Joe Liggins (who recorded “The Honeydripper” in 1945) is brilliant on the groove-infused  “Pink Champagne”. It is a topical snapshot of the emerging accessibility and crossover potential of blues. His brother Jimmy shines on the humorous “Drunk”. Another early star at Specialty Records was vocalist/songwriter Percy Mayfield. On “Please Send Me Someone To Love’ his plaintive vocals are framed by a processional musical structure, reminiscent of W.C. Handy. His earnest, lovesick frame of mind is captured perfectly on “Lost Love (Baby, Please)”. 

The inevitable transformation to “teen” music can be seen through the latest 1957 recordings by Larry Williams. “Bony Moronie” is topical 50’s adolescent imagery (“…I want to get married on a night in June and rock and roll by the light of the silvery moon…”)… It’s upbeat, and you can dance or whistle to it. Keeping the same romantic misdirection, “Short Fat Frannie” combines the party atmosphere of the dawning world of rock and roll.

Kudos to Craft Recordings for keeping the legacy of these blues and early rock artists alive. Art Rupe was committed to the emerging rock and roll movement. Rock enthusiasts and culture historians can research  articles and books on this subject. This single vinyl is very enjoyable, The overall sound mix is clear and vibrant.


Side One: Lawdy Miss Clawdy; Long Tall Sally; R.M. Blues; I’ll Come Running Back To You; Pink Champagne; Tutti Frutti; Please Send Somebody To Love Me; Information Blues; Bony Moronie

Side Two: Lucille; Dream Girl; Drunk; Ain’t It A Shame; Short Fat Fannie; Lost Love (Baby, Please); Best Wishes; Rip It Up. 

—Robbie Gerson

The Best Of Specialty Records - Craft Recordings, Album Cover

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