Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Little Richard

  • Little Richard's Grooviest 17 Original Hits! [Specialty, 1968]
  • The Rill Thing [Reprise, 1970] C+
  • 18 Greatest Hits [Rhino, 1985]
  • The Georgia Peach [Specialty, 1991] A
  • Get Down With It: The Okeh Sessions [Epic/Legacy, 2004] Choice Cuts

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Little Richard's Grooviest 17 Original Hits! [Specialty, 1968]
[CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

The Rill Thing [Reprise, 1970]
Little Richard produced this alleged comeback in Muscle Shoals. He also wrote most of the songs, including the "hit," "Freedom Blues" ("Tutti Frutti" it ain't), and the title track, a slow ten-minute funk instrumental on which he doesn't even seem to play piano (very rill). I continue to value his singing. Best compositions: "Lovesick Blues" and "I Saw Her Standing There." C+

18 Greatest Hits [Rhino, 1985]
[CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Georgia Peach [Specialty, 1991]
You don't go to the King and Queen of Rock 'n' Roll for variety--he's a skyrocket, and you want him to take you over the top. I wouldn't warn anybody off his three-CD box. But quibbles aside--"By the Light of the Silvery Moon" would have been cute--these 25 tracks are enough. All the hits (and as similar as they are, you wouldn't want to miss one), plus for context jump blues his (not necessarily superior) way. The pace isn't as breakneck as it seemed in the '50s. In the '50s, though, there was no soul music that knew its name, and for all his frantic ambition and rock and roll fame, this godchild was telling us about it. Caveat emptor: the CD has nine so-called bonus tracks--which makes the cassette not enough. A

Get Down With It: The Okeh Sessions [Epic/Legacy, 2004]
The legend of Little Richard, which in a just universe would prove eternal, is based entirely on the sides he cut with Bumps Blackwell for Specialty between September, 1955 and January, 1957. This was pure rock and roll: lewd, feral, prophetically fast, prophetically funky, and beset by the identity confusion of a man who never did figure out whether he was gay. All that's accomplished by his other recordings is to demonstrate that his power howl and crazed piano triplets are equal to but not ideal for gospel, kiddie novelties, whatever's asked--on these mid-'60s sessions, the soul-r&b cusp. Their sole revelation: four previously unreleased tracks produced in London by Norman Hurricane Smith, at least three of which could sneak onto the Specialty box pure rock and rollers treasure. It's a worthy addition to Richard Penniman's oeuvre--but not to the legend. [Blender: 3]
"Get Down With It," "Rocking Chair" Choice Cuts

See Also