Thursday, April 3, 2014

50. Here's Little Richard (1957) Little Richard

  1. Tutti Frutti
  2. True Fine Mama
  3. Can't Believe You Wanna Leave
  4. Ready Teddy
  5. Baby
  6. Slippin' and Slidin' (Peepin' and Hidin')
  7. Long Tall Sally
  8. Miss Ann
  9. Oh Why?
  10. Rip It Up
  11. Jenny, Jenny
  12. She's Got It

Little Richard is one of the early pioneers of Rock and Roll who deserves to be held up with the likes of Chuck Berry as one of the great innovators of the genre. If we didn't have Richard the musical landscape would be a very different place today. But that's not reason to go and listen to him.

Chuck Berry's music holds up really well in the modern age. Granted it's fairly samey after a while but Johnny B Goode is still a great listen in 2013 and you can see why it set the world on fire. The same can't really be said for Little Richard whose music is frankly repetitive. His biggest hit is Tutti Frutti which starts this album off and even though it lasts for just under two and half minutes it doesn't have much in the way of musical ideas. It's a repetitive refrain repeated until it wears out its welcome and stops. Much the same can be said for Ready Teddy and his other hits which all come across as the same mine of ideas plundered for all it's worth.

It's almost as if Little Richard entered the studio with an attitude more than a set of songs. He knew he wanted to be a high energy piano player with a commanding ability to shout his vocals while his band swung behind him. This attitude and his considerable talent and charisma were enough to support his career but there's no doubt as a songwriter he was a bit lacking in ideas. He also wasn't a great soloist on the piano. While Jerry Lee Lewis could play perfect lead breaks on his piano and make the instrument sing, Richard was more limited in his abilities and tended to rely on thumping chords quickly to create a sound that was exciting but got tired fairly quickly.

Lead breaks and musical variation on Little Richards music are supplied by the Tenor Sax of Lee Allen who played with Richard on this and his other early albums. Allen is the master of the eight bar sax solo and his work provides a lot of welcome relief in the middle of almost every Little Richard song. He's one of those unsung heroes who deserves a lot of respect and recognition for his part in starting rock and roll.

Little Richard was an exciting and dynamic performer who could set a stage alight. We should definitely give the guy his due for helping to make Rock and Roll so thrilling in its early days. Richard was one of the artists who made the next generation of rockers sit up and take notice when his hits appeared on the radio. His vocals including his signature "Wooo" were a huge influence on artists like Paul McCartney and others who heard him sing and found a musical connection that brought out there own personal musical style.

But Here's Little Richard hasn't dated as well as its contemporaries. It's hard to listen to it without remembering that you enjoy Berry's version of Rip it Up more. the Beatles made Long Tall Sally more joyous and Elvis delivered the definitive version of Tutti Frutti. The King changed the final "A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bom-bom!" to "A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom!" which might seem like a minor change but does give the line a lot more impact and means when Richard sings the original it sounds like an inferior copy.

We should offer thanks to Richard for his contribution to music (and acknowledge Allen's as well) but Here's Little Richard isn't the best listen on this countdown. It's here because of it's influence not because people are regularly pulling it off their shelves and giving it a listen.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I gotta say being the fact I always wondered who sung that song in the helicopter scene in Predator, google, and boom Im on Amazon."

-I have no idea what he's talking about but I like the idea of a guy who became a fan of Little Richard because of an Arnold Movie.

So this started rock and roll but is it worth hearing or not? Let me know below.

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