During the mid-to late 1950s, Ricky Nelson was wholesome, Pat Boone was as fresh as milk, and Elvis was the king. And then there was Richard Wayne Penniman, better known by his professional name Little Richard. He was anything but safe and made many people extremely uncomfortable with his wild stage act and androgynous sexuality. He also produced some of the best and most influential music of the early rock ‘n’ roll era.
His material has been released dozens of times down through the years and in many formats. Many of his compilation albums are a course in the foundation and history of rock ‘n’ roll, as he was one of the first artists to move the rhythm & blues sound over into a straight rock style. He may not have invented rock ‘n’ roll but he was there at the beginning and can be considered one of its early architects.
He released his first full-length album in 1957. The Concord Music Group has now rereleased Here’s Little Richard with bonus tracks. It’s nice to have his first album available again as it presents a different picture from the multitude of reissues that have appeared down through the decades. He was just transitioning from an artist who was playing smokey clubs into a national superstar, and the album’s 12 tracks catch him at his rawest and frenetic best.
The tracks move from one high octane performance to the next. “Tutti Frutti,” “Ready Teddy,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Rip It Up,” and “Jenny Jenny” among others remain exciting over 50 years after their first release and just blast out of the speakers.
The sound has been remastered and is excellent. A booklet is included which contains a biography and notes about each track. There is even a small poster included.
The bonus tracks include demo versions of “Baby,” “All Night Long,” and an interview with Art Rupe. Rupe founded Specialty Records, the label that originally released the album. Finally, there are two video screen tests of “Tutti Fruitti” and “Long Tall Sally.”
Here’s Little Richard is a must for anyone even mildly interested in the history of rock music. The 12 original tracks reduce rock ‘n’ roll to its purest form.