Produced by Bumps Blackwell
Label – Speciality
If nothing else, when reviewing any previous work by Little Richard (Penniman), one has to admire the balls he possessed. A black entertainer, who wore makeup, used what some termed an “effeminate” pose, singing what many considered “the Devil’s music”, his rise to fame came in spite of the cultural and racial difficulties he faced. His influence on modern music is of course vast, probably overshadowing his limited volume of work, however, for the briefest time he had the same type of revolutionary impact punk rock would have on mainstream charts twenty years later. Thanks to both New Orleans producer Cosimo Matassa, who heralded the development of recording artists Fats Domino and Ray Charles, and vitally, Speciality Records owner Art Rupe, the Macon Georgia singer’s persistence (he’d previously unsuccessfully recorded on RCA and Peacock Records) to be the chief architect of rock n’ roll was realized over a short period during the mid 1950s. This 1957 collection may seem similar to many of his peers from the same era, but what is strikingly innovative is his incendiary vocal delivery, throat shredding shrieks, whoops and hollers that defined his career. Many of the songs contain Richard’s ramped up boogie-woogie piano styling, and an energy that’s hard to resist. In addition, in an era of straight laced, innocently sterile crooning, his lyrics were relatively risque and although dated by modern liberal trends, one can understand the shock value.
Although poorly recorded by today’s standards (Richard’s vocal is often grainy at the top end), the electric vitality of the record spills out of every groove. Each song is a familiar development of the same theme and there is a tendency to feel that the similarities limit the true value of the stand out songs. For example the startling hysterical display of the stand out “Tutti Frutti” is replicated on the less inspired “Rip It Up”. “Long Tall Sally” and closer “She’s Got It” bear an distinct resemblance, even down to the saxophone solo. But it’s difficult to deny the album’s frantic, almost reckless momentum, something contemporary performers could only dream of creating. It’s rock music at its most primal, and for all the faults there’s still the incredible seeds of influence planted in future bands and artists for decades after this.
For all its basic charm, “Here’s Little Richard” does sound like a record that belongs exclusively in the decade it was made. However, one can still sense its influential essence as a reference point for the merits of just about any variant of rock you could name.
1 – Tutti Frutti (9)
2 – True, Fine Mama (7)
3 – Can’t Believe You Wanna Leave (7)
4 – Ready Teddy (8)
5 – Baby (7)
6 – Slippin’ and Slidin’ (Peepin’ and Hidin’) (7)
7 – Long Tall Sally (The Thing) (9)
8 – Miss Ann (7)
9 – Oh Why? (8)
10 – Rip It Up (6)
11 – Jenny, Jenny (6)
12 – She’s Got It (8)