Directly From My Heart: The Specialty And Vee Jay Years By Little Richard

September 19, 2015


Little Richard Penniman is a preacher, a churchman, a product of the early southern honky tonks, a bluesman, a member of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and one of the originators of rock and roll. His songs “Jenny Jenny,” “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Lucille,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On,” “Rip It Up,” and “Tutti Fruitti” helped define the sound and parameters of early rock and roll, while his personality and stage persona helped change American culture.

Little Richard’s hits have been released dozens of times in many formats during the last half-century. The latest entry into the Little Richard sweepstakes is the comprehensive 3-CD box set titled Directly From My Heart: The Best Of The Specialty & Vee Jay Years. While all of his hits are included; this new release digs deeper into his catalogue for a number of rarely released performances. This is especially true of his material from his time with the Chicago Vee Jay label.

Even the most casual rock and roll fan is probably familiar with Little Richard’s early hits but they were only the tip of the iceberg during his time with the Specialty label. “Chicken Little Baby,” “Heebie Jeebies Love.” “She’s Got It,” “Miss Ann,” and “All Night Long” are representative of the quality of energetic music that he constantly produced during the second half of the 1950’s. There may be a clunker here and there but when taken together his time with the Specialty label produced the best catalogue of early rock and roll recordings this side of Elvis Presley.

The Vee Jay material was recorded during the mid-1960’s, when music was changing and veers more toward classic rhythm and blues. While not as strong as his early material, it has more of a funky feel. Included is his rhythm & blues hit “I Don’t Know What You’ve Got But It’s Got Me,” which features a young Jimi Hendrix on guitar.

The sound is good by today’s standards and the 24 page booklet with archival photos contains an essay by Bill Vera, which gives an over view of Little Richard’s career and influences.

Directly From The Heart: The Best Of The Specialty & Vee Jay Years is not for the casual fan as it delves deep into his musical legacy. On the other hand, if you want an overview of the best of his career, this new box set moves to the forefront of his definitive releases.

Ooh My Soul 45 by Little Richard

November 22, 2012

Little Richard had had over a dozen hits, 1955-1957. 1958 started off well with “Good Golly Miss Molly” but “Oh My Soul” proved to be the last top 40 hit of his career when it reached number 31 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

If Elvis had worried parents of 1950s teenagers, then Little Richard scared them to death.

Just about all of his releases were high-octane fueled rock and roll and maybe that fact hurt him in the long run. Any of his compilation albums are worth seeking out. “Ooh My Soul” may not be one of his more memorable songs but it is the equal to any that are in his catalogue.

The Very Best Of Little Richard by Little Richard

October 30, 2012

“A-wop-bop-a-lu-bop-a-wop-bam-boom!” The year was 1955, the song was “Tutti Frutti,” and the artist was Little Richard. Parents of teenage daughters may have been uneasy with Elvis Presley, but Little Richard made them fearful for their sons as well.

Little Richard was different in looks, style, and the way he played rock ‘n’ roll. He was schooled in rhythm & blues, but by way of a thumping piano and frenetic vocals moved his sound over to straight rock. As such, he became on of the seminal figures and a founding father of the rock idiom; any history about the development of 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll must pass through Little Richard.

This collection covers all of the important music from his early career. 24 of the twenty-five tracks are from 1955-1957, with one live track from 1964. The sound is crystal-clear and the accompanying booklet is excellent also. The songs blast out of the speakers in two-minute bursts of energy, and listening to an hour’s worth of his material is both exhilarating and exhausting. His sound is a constant assault on the senses, from “Tutti Fruitti,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Good Golly, Miss Molly,” “Slippin’ And “Slidin,’” and “Rip It Up, these memorable tracks set the tone for what is to follow, and all this in about twelve minutes. Plus, all these songs were issued in succession within a decade, from 1955-1965.

The Little Richard hits just keep coming one after another: “Rip It Up” leads to “Ready Teddy” to “Jenny Jenny,” and then “Lucille,” “Keep A-Knockin’,” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

Little Richard would never move beyond his ‘50s sound. While some artists were able to change with the times and still others would fade from the scene entirely, Little Richard would continue to present the songs contained on this album for the next fifty years. He was an American musical original and there was truly no changing him.

Little Richard’s music has been presented in many forms over the years, but The Very Best Of Little Richard moves to the head of the class among the numerous releases. This disc accumulates all his important music into one place, providing an essential listening experience for any aficionado of American rock ‘n’ roll.

Keep A Knockin’ 45 by Little Richard

October 30, 2012

During the 1950s many adults were uncomfortable with rock and roll. No one made them more uncomfortable than Little Richard. His look, demeanor, race, and stage act were the stuff of nightmares for parents concerned about their sons and daughters. He was a star during the second half of the 1950s placing 15 singles on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. Just about all were up-tempo rock ‘n’ roll attacks.

“Keep A Knockin” first appeared in the film MISTER ROCK ‘N’ROLL. Released as a single during September of 1957, it reached number eight on the BILLBOARD Pop Singles Chart and number two on the Rhythm & Blues chart. It was one of the most frenetic performances of his career.

Little Richad created a sound that was one of the foundations of rock and roll. He fused gospel, rhythm & blues, and his pusating piano rhythms into what would become known as rock and roll. Little Richard was honored as one of the first inductees into THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME in 1986.

He was a star during the

She’s Together 45 by Little Richard

May 12, 2012

Little Richard is considered one of the fathers of early rock ‘n’ roll. His catalogue of music for the Specialty label, 1956-1959, is one of the best in music history.

While he would continue to perform for decades and produce a number of fine performnces, his early work would be the peak of his commercial popularity.

He would record for a number of labels down through the years. “She’s Together” was typical of his post-Specialty label material. It may not have had the frenetic brilliance of his early material but it was competant rock ‘n’ roll. Just about all of the Little Richard material is worth seeking out.

Rip It Up 45 by Little Richard

May 10, 2012

“Rip It Up” was the third Little Richard single to reach yhe BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart following in the footsteps of “Tutti-Fruitti” and “Long Tall Sally.”

Released during the early spring of 1956, it reached number 17 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. Its flip side, “Ready Teddy,” was another frenetic rocker.

It was another high octane performance that helped define early rock ‘n’ roll. If you want to visit this old blast from the past, turn the sound up real loud, sit back, and let the sound take you away.

Lucille 45 by Little Richard

May 3, 2012

There were what can be considered the fathers and originators of early rock ‘n’ roll and then there was Little Richard. He was an American original whose wild antics set him apart from every others early rock ‘n’roller.

“Lucille” was a cry in the wilderness set to a frenetic rock ‘n’ roll beat. The two layered lyrics told a simple story of love lost but underneath was a tale of passion.

It first reached the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart, March 23, 1957, and peaked at number 21. It also reached number one on the Rhythm & Blues Chart.

“Lucille” remains one of the seminal songs of the early rock ‘n’ roll era.

Tutti Frutti 45 by Little Richard

April 27, 2012

During the 1950s, parents were a little afraid of the developing rock ‘n’ roll scene. Little Richard did nothing to still those concerns.

His wild style made him one of the original wild men of rock ‘n’ roll. What was lost in his pumping piano and frenetic vocals was a sense of rhythm and structure.

“Tutti Frutti” was his first chart hit reaching number 17 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. It just roars out of the speakers and leaves you breathless. Released during late 1955, it was one of the songs that provided a foundation for the early rock ‘n’ roll sound.


Here’s Little Richard by Little Richard

April 14, 2012

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.

Article first published as Music Review: Little Richard – Here’s Little Richard on Blogcritics.

Good Golly Miss Molly 45 by Little Richard

November 23, 2011

Little Richard was one of the important figures in the development of rock ‘n’ roll. His sound and style helped moved music from rhythm & blues to rock ‘n’ roll. His series of high powered and frenetic single hits during the fifties were some of the best of the era. He was elected to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame during 1986.

He was also one of the most outrageous and flamboyant artists of not only the 50s but of all time. He was one of the first rock ‘n’ rollers to be hated by patents of teenagers.

His last top ten hit, “Good Golly Miss Molly,” was issued February 17, 1958. It would climb to number 10 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Charts. To hear him lead his band through this old tune is still a treat.