Soul and Funk Albums from LITTLE RICHARD
Saturday, 4 February 2017
"The Rill Thing/King of Rock And Roll/The Second Coming" by LITTLE RICHARD (2016 Beat Goes On Reissue - 3LPs onto 2CDs - High Def Remasters by Andrew Thompson) - A Review by Mark Barry...
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Soul and Funk Albums from LITTLE RICHARD
A typically generous and beautifully presented set from England's 'Beat Goes On Label' covering the Georgia Peach's stay at Reprise Records between 1970 and 1972 (3LPs Remastered In High Def from Original Sources onto 2CDs).
Not surprisingly across three albums it's a tale of two cities - the great and the dismissible - with thankfully more keepers than ditchers. In fact there's very little Rock and Roll as we know it on offer here – these forgotten LPs are more about Little Richard's version of early 70ts Funk with a little old-time R&B style thrown in. Song after song comes at you like its Ike & Tina Turner having a jam-tight-butt-shake - and not as you would expect from one of the Original Rock & Rollers from the Fifties - Chuck Berry twelve-bar.
In fact Soul Boys the world over have been discovering these hip-shaking dancers for years now – Little Richard finding his inner 'sock it to me' Isley Brothers groove - his Allen Toussaint voice and winning (most of the time). There are times when it's shockingly different. Take the instrumental title-track "The Rill Thing" from 1970 – it's the kind of chugging Funkathon that would have customers rushing to the counter of any West End record shop demanding to know which 'Meters' song this is and on what album - only to find that you're listening to the Muscle Shoals House Band having a 10-minute Alabama jam without any lead vocal from LR.
And of course then there's that other aspect to any Little Richard record - the sheer fun of the man on those spoken passages where he sings the praises of – well – himself. Richard Penniman has always thought he's God and I'm quite sure a smiling God would be only too willing to agree (LR's modest declaration of 'The Second Coming' not withstanding). There's a lot to wade through indeed - so once mere mortals unto the beauty on a rooty...
UK released 22 July 2016 (29 July 2006 in the USA) - "The Rill Thing/King Of Rock And Roll/The Second Coming" by LITTLE RICHARD on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1235 (Barcode 5017261212351) offers 3LPs Remastered from first generation tapes onto 2CDs and plays out as follows:
Disc 1 (61:30 minutes):
1. Freedom Blues
2. Greenwood, Mississippi
3. Two-Time Loser
4. Dew Drop In
5. Somebody Saw You
6. Spreadin' Natta, What's The Matter?
7. The Rill Thing
8. Lovesick Blues
9. I Saw Her Standing There
Tracks 1 to 9 are his album "The Rill Thing" (credited as The "Rill" Thing on the label) - released August 1970 in the USA on Reprise RS 6406 and October 1970 in the UK on Reprise RSLP 6406.
10. King of Rock And Roll
11. Joy To The World
12. Brown Sugar
13. In The Name
14. Dancing In The Street
Tracks 10 to 14 are Side 1 of the album "King Of Rock And Roll" - released September 1971 in the USA on Reprise RS 6462 and November 1971 in the UK on Reprise K 44156.
Disc 2 (62:04 minutes):
1. Midnight Special
2. The Way You Do The Things You Do
3. Green Power
4. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
5. Settin' The Woods On Fire
6. Born On The Bayou
Tracks 10 to 14 are Side 2 of the album "King Of Rock And Roll" - released September 1971 in the USA on Reprise RS 6462 and November 1971 in the UK on Reprise K 44156.
7. Mockingbird Sally
8. Second Line
9. It Ain't What You Do, It's The Way You Do It
10. The Saints
11. Nuki Suki
12. Rockin' Rockin' Boogie
13. Prophet Of Peace
15. Sanctified, Satisfied Toe-Tapper
Tracks 7 to 15 are the album "The Second Coming" - released September 1972 in the USA on Reprise RS 2107 and in the UK on Reprise K 44204 (although allocated a 'K' catalogue in the UK by WEA - I've never seen a British pressed LP - so it's more likely that US copies were imported into Britain and 'K 44204' stickers put on the back of them).
This 2CD set will allow fans to sequence six x 7" singles issued around the three LPs:
1. Freedom Blues b/w Dew Drop Inn - June 1970 USA 7" single on Reprise 0907 (reversed sides in the UK on Reprise RS 20907)
2. Greenwood, Mississippi b/w I Saw Her Standing There - August 1970 USA 7" single on Reprise 0942
3. Green Power b/w Dancing In The Street - November 1971 UK 7" single on Reprise K 14124
4. Shake A Hand (if You Can) b/w Somebody Saw You - December 1971 USA 7" single on Reprise 1005
5. Mockingbird Sally b/w 1. Rockin' Rockin' Boogie 2. King Of Rock and Roll - August 1972 UK 3-Track 7" single on Reprise 14195
6. 1. Rockin' Rockin' Boogie 2. King Of Rock and Roll b/w 1. The Saints 2. Mockingbird Sally - 1974 UK 'Warner Giants' 4-Track EP on Reprise K 14343
The outer card slipcase adds a real classy feel to this release (as it does to all BGO reissues) and the 12-page booklet with new STUART COLMAN liner notes repros the original LP artwork. The praise-heavy blurbs on the rear of "The Rill Thing" by Pete Johnson and "The Second Coming" by RA "Bumps" Blackwell have been printed too in all their plugger-positive glory. Coleman gives a good insight into Little Richard's state of play when he went with Reprise after years in the chart wilderness - it's just such a shame that after "The Rill Thing" - the albums began a very obvious nose dive with the 2nd studio platter being merely good while the third leaves a lot to be desired (despite its ludicrous title).
What's not ridiculous is the fabulous Audio – High Def CD transfers from Original Sources by BGO’s Engineer ANDREW THOMPSON. I've had the Rhino set for years and the Remasters here pip it by a squeak - but it's an improvement in bottom end and muscularity that you can feel. These CDs sounds stunning - and fans will need to own them.
Album number one opens on a winner – the single that put Little Richard back into the US R&B charts after a 13-year absence - "Freedom Blues" - a co-write with his doppelganger and inspiration of old - Esquerita. A funky 'everybody's got to be free' groove starts up with guitars and keyboards - as LR proceeds to wax lyrical about dumping the past and embracing the new. A great guttural scream like only LR can omit ushers in the Sax Solo and resistance is futile. Written by Arthur Lowe and Travis Wammack - "Greenwood, Mississippi" is the most out-and-out Ike & Tina Turner guitar groove on the album - a tremendous funky-rock dancer to make you shimmy your booty thang to a backdrop of fuzz guitars. You can understand why Reprise in the UK switched sides for their opening single - putting the Rock 'n' Roll based "Dew Drop In" on the A-side instead of "Freedom Blues" in a country undergoing a huge Rock 'n' Roll Revival. Yet you can't help but feel the American side got the choice right. Little Richard's own "Somebody Saw You" is a Wilson Pickett strut with shimmering guitar notes and a seriously tight rhythm section. But the album is dominated by the aforementioned ten-minute work out that is Side 2's "The Rill Thing" - a truly fantastic instrumental that in reality has very little to do with LR - and yet is on his album. In fact when you go to the next song - a Country-Funk Tony Joe White take on the Hank Williams classic "Lovesick Blues" complete with a brass fade out - it feels weird to hear LR singing at all. The album ends on a reasonably cool take on that "Please Please Me" opener "I Saw Her Standing There" - Little Richard sanctifying The Beatles and just about getting away with it.
You can't help feeling that the 'King' on his throne artwork and title of album No. 2 dumbly emphasises a genre (Rock & Roll) that actually doesn't show up much on the record (it's another Funk LP ala The Meters). His cover of the traditional "Midnight Special" comes armed with CCR's warbling guitar underpinned by righteous sisters singing 'chugga-chugga'. He then goes after Motown by going all 'gotta' James Brown on The Temptations and their "The Way You Do The Things You Do". Better is the 'sock it to me' single "Green Power" where the funky rhythm and lady singers sound like they mean business at last. Another Hank Williams song "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" gets wildly rejiggered but it feels like a cover too far. Better is his Bass and Brass cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Born On The Bayou" - where he talks his 'beauty' and his 'title' and the 'kind of excitement that shakes the world' before it breaks into that familiar CCR swing. It's a good way to end an otherwise patchy album.
Despite its farcical title – no one was interested in his self-proclaimed nonsense in 1972. The album came out in September but the first Billboard review didn't appear until December - no doubt someone trying to flag failing sales. It opens with his own "Mockingbird Sally" where it feels like he's actually channelled some of that Specialty wildness once again - a piano-pumping Rock 'n' Roller. The Funk returns with "Second Line" - a co-write between him and Bumps Blackwell. "If Ain't What You Do, It's The Way You Do It" is terrible - clearly an outtake left in the can with his voice sounding like a guide - and a poor one at that. He re-arranges "The Saints" into a bopping 'marching in' travesty best forgotten. Better is the wah-wah-guitar funky "Nuki Suki". As an example of rare grooves from the vaults - Atlantic used it on the 2001 CD compilation "Right On! Volume 3" (it also appeared on the Rhino 4CD Box Set "What It Is!" in 2006). But my own poison is the great rhythm behind "Prophet Of Peace" and the track Soul Boys dig - the seven-minute instrumental "Sanctified, Satisfied Toe-Tapper" - an obvious attempt to recreate some of that ten-minute "Rill Thing" magic from album number one (they just about pull it off).
When all is said and done - you're left with the impression that if Little Richard’s record company (and him) had embraced Soul and Funk full on and not tried to rebrand his genius as the 'latest' version of an old Rock 'n' Roller - with some pruning and sassier material - we'd be talking about these albums in a more genuinely reverential light and not as a curio – an afterthought 47 years on from the event.
Rhino's "King Of Rock and Roll: The Complete Reprise Recordings" 3CD set in 2005 was the last time these recordings were covered - but that was a limited edition and has been deleted and acquiring high prices for years. So a welcome reissue then and far funkier than you'd imagine. The beauty on duty people...even half-cocked he was capable of magic...