State Of Confusion by The Kinks

July 11, 2012

State Of Confusion was an album that Ray Davies and The Kinks got just about right. It was more diversified lyrically and musically than many of their releases. Davies biting humor and sarcastic wit were out in full force which was always welcome. It was not as bonecrunching as their previous release, Give The People What They Want, but it was still an album of solid rock and roll.

The most popular and memorable track from the album was the hit single “Come Dancing.” This radio friendly tune was perfect listening fare during the early 1980s. It was a rare Kinks song that used Ian Gibbons keyboards rather than Dave Davies guitar as the underlying lead instrument. It may not have had the raw appeal of their 1960s hits, but it was a smooth song. If Ray Davies had planned to record a popular song, then here he succeeded well.

Every Kinks album seems to have included one somewhat forgotten classic. This time it was “Clichés of the World (B Movie)” Ray Davies was examining life as only he could, as he had the unique ability to see the obvious. Here he looked at life within the context of a movie and not a great movie at that.

The title song was written in the middle of life crises for Ray Davies. His marriage had fallen apart and his brother Dave was literally fighting on stage with his friend, longtime Kinks’ drummer Mick Avory. He put all of that angst into this hard rock song.

It was an album of consistently superior music. “Definite May” humorously criticized the ills of society over a simple bass and drum beat. ”Heart Of Gold” was about growing up as Dave Davies guitar moves front and center. “Don’t Forget To Dance” was a ballad with sermonic advice. “Young Conservatives” compared the younger generation of the 1980s to that of the ’60s. It remains an interesting look at the era from 30 years later.

State Of Confusion was a good example of Ray Davies looking at the common things of life and building his songs upon those observations. The album remains an excellent example of the Kinks style and sound.

Article first published as Music Review: The Kinks – State Of Confusion on Blogcritics.

Hard Headed Woman 45 by Elvis Presley

June 7, 2012

Elvis Presley was on top of the music world in 1958 as each of his releases was selling millions of copies.

His film KING CREOLE was a big hit and “Hard Headed Woman/Don’t Ask Me Why” was released as a single from the film’s music. It first reached the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart Jan. 27, 1958, and during its 16 weeks on the chart spent two weeks at number one. The flip side, “Don’t Ask Me Why,” was a moderate hit in its own right reaching number 25.

“Hard Headed Woman” was a high energy rock song. It also reached number two on both the Rhythm & Blues and Country Charts. It remains a highlight in the Elvis catalogue of music.

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.

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.

Roll Over Beethoven 45 by Chuck Berry

April 23, 2012

Chuck Berry’s second chart hit may not have charted as high as his first “Maybelline,” which reached number five, but it was every bit as important to the history of rock ‘n’ roll.

“Roll Over Beethoven” first reached the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart, June 30, 1956 and peaked at number 29.

The open guitar riff has rung down in rock history and the frenetic style of playing was similar to Jerry Lee Lewis’s piano playing on “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

The song was a statement by Berry that his music and indeed rock ‘n’ roll had now superseded that of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. Can’t argue.

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On 45 by Jerry Lee Lewis

April 19, 2012

Jerry Lee Lewis and His Pumping Piano was one of the original early rock ‘n’ roll madmen. His high octane live performances and high energy music were some of the highlights of 1950s rock ‘n’ roll.

His debut chart single was “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” It first reached the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart June 24, 1957 and peaked at number three. It was the second biggest hit single of his career.

Jerry Lee Lee Lewis is now a member of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and The Rockabilly Hall Of Fame.

His Sun Label bandmates, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash may be gone but now in his late 70s, Jerry Lee rocks on.

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.

Maybelline by Chuck Berry

April 13, 2012

The old 78 rpm records were almost extinct by the time “Maybelline” was released during 1955. They were, however, still being pressed as “Maybelline” was issued in both a 45 and 78 format.

It really did not matter which as the song was one of the most influential in rock ‘n’ roll history. Chuch Berry was one of the first musicians to move the rhythm & blues sound over to rock ‘n’ roll and put the guitar out front. The riffs he created would be copied for decades as he influenced guitarists for the next half century.

It was the first chart single of Berry’s career and one of the first rock singles to become a hit single. Released during the summer of 1955, it would peak at number five on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

Now in he 80s, Chuck Berry is still performing “Maybelline.”

Baby Let’s Play House 45 by Elvis Presley

March 11, 2012

Elvis in early Sun label rockabilly mode. “Baby Let’s Play House” received some national attention as it made it to number five on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Country Chart.

IT was another example of Elvis setting the stage for the early formation of rock ‘n’ roll, which would shortly follow. His Sun label material was some of the most influential in rock history as no one had quite done it like him before.

That’s All Right 45 by Elvis Presley

March 6, 2012

Unfortunately I own the Sun label reissue of this single. The original release only sold in the neighborhood of 20,000 copies and remains one of the most collectable 45’s out there.

Elvis Presley recorded “That’s All Right,” July 5, 1954 and it was released as a single on July 19. It was a regional hit in the Memphis area but did not chart nationally. A year later Marty Robbins would take it to number seven on the BILLBOARD Country Chart.

Like many of the Sun artists of the day, Elvis was basically a Rockabilly singer who was about to cross-over to a rock ‘n’ roll sound. As such, it remains one of the more important releases of the 1950s.