Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Huey "Piano" Smith

  • Huey "Piano" Smith's Rock & Roll Revival [Ace, 1971]
  • Having a Good Time With Huey "Piano" Smith & His Clowns: The Very Best Of, Volume 1 [West Side, 1997]
  • This Is . . . Huey "Piano" Smith [Music Club, 1998] A
  • That'll Get It (Even More of the Best) [WestSide, 1999] **
  • Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu [Hallmark, 2012] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Huey "Piano" Smith's Rock & Roll Revival [Ace, 1971]
[CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Having a Good Time With Huey "Piano" Smith & His Clowns: The Very Best Of, Volume 1 [West Side, 1997]
Once upon a time there was a budget label called Music Club that compiled 18 songs by this unlikely New Orleans hitmaker, three of which referenced diseases no less catchy than his piano style. As happens with novelty artists, his material soon ran thinner than hay fever mucus, so Music Club did well to find that many songs worth hearing. And as happens with budget labels, Music Club succumbed to impeded cash flow. This 24-track collection features all the Music Club songs in almost the same order and a reframed version of the same cover photo. And though the six extras dilute Smith's appeal, it is your best shot at catching, or catching up with, the rockin' pneumonia that showed Dr. John his vocation. [Recyclable]

This Is . . . Huey "Piano" Smith [Music Club, 1998]
"Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu" has already created a disturbance in your mind--as an impossible yet inevitable piece of language, and as the sloppiest and most, there's no other word, infectious of the New Orleans piano novelties. Forsooth, it could make you swear off antihistamines, yet it's no juicier than the slogan-crazed, tequila-soaked "Would You Believe It (I Have a Cold)," which comes with its own distinct melody, unlike "High Blood Pressure," not to mention "Little Chickie Wah Wah," the hidden link between "Rockin' Pneumonia" and Smith's other great hit, Frankie Ford's "Sea Cruise," although his highest charter was "Don't You Just Know It," from an idea by his chauffeur, Rudy Ray Moore. And if you're getting the idea that this man and his well-named Clowns had more than one way to turn a joke into a party, wait till you hear the one Patti Smith covered. A

That'll Get It (Even More of the Best) [WestSide, 1999]
Smith-penned/produced oddments that include one Huey-plus-Clowns essential, eight previously unreleaseds, and much amiable joking around (Bobby Marchan and the Clowns, "Would You Believe It [I Have a Cold]"; Danny White, "Educated Fool"; the Clowns, "Barbara"; Jesse Thomas, "Baby Won't You Turn Me On") **

Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu [Hallmark, 2012]
Huey Smith newbies beware: make sure the "Rockin' Pneumonia" on your confusing Spotify list or crappy-looking reissue runs 2:17 or so rather than 3:11 or so, because the longer version that now dominates both the streamosphere and online retail was cut for an Allen Toussaint who paid Huey even worse than Ace's Johnny Vincent--in the '70s no less, when the poor guy was up to his nose in Jehovah and failure and the endless slog of prying his money away from Johnny Vincent. My favorite Ace comp is Music Club's out-of-print 18-track This Is . . . Huey "Piano" Smith, still findable used if you're flush and quick; the 31-track Jax 501 with the same title as the one I'm featuring also looks good. But this more findable albeit shorter item covers most of the bases however much I miss "Beatnik Blues" and "Pop-Eye" and the nutty "Would You Believe It (I Have a Cold)." When his original cast of pranksters augmented his congenial chops and expert groove, piano maestro Smith had as much rock and roll in him as Fats Domino or Bo Diddley. Recording for hang-loose con man Vincent in Jackson rather than friendly professional Cosimo Matassa in New Orleans, he and his Clowns fell into an irreverent merriment in which collectivity was of the essence. His virtuosity and his commitment to fitting in were both so principled that they generated just plain fun in more ways than we can count, because that's the way that great prize just plain fun is. A

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