Good Rockin' Tonight: 25 Essential Rock & Rhythm Classics

Although the rather generic title doesn't spell it out, this is a compilation of R&B and rock & roll released on the estimable King label (and its affiliated imprints Federal and Deluxe) between the late '40s and the early '60s. It couldn't be considered a definitive best-of King R&B/rock retrospective, if for no other reason than the absence of any material by the most successful King artist, James Brown. It's also unfortunate there's nothing by Freddy King, even if some would consider him more a blues artist than a rock or R&B one. It's still a pretty solid and stylistically wide-ranging mix of famous classic hits and interesting rarities, some of which might be unknown even to many rock & roll experts. As for the classics, there's Wynonie Harris' 1948 R&B chart-topper "Good Rockin' Tonight," covered years later on one of Elvis Presley's first singles; the Dominoes' early doo wop (and number one R&B) single "Have Mercy Baby"; the Midnighters' "Work With Me Annie," one of the first rock & roll songs to cross over from the R&B chart to the pop one; the Charms' "Hearts of Stone"; Little Willie John's "Fever"; Bill Doggett's monster instrumental hit "Honky Tonk, Pts. 1-2"; the "5" Royales' "Think," though James Brown's cover is more famous; Boyd Bennett's "Seventeen," one of the first big rock & roll hits by a white artist; the Chanters' memorable sassy uptempo doo wop hit "No, No, No"; and Hank Ballard & the Midnighters' original version of "The Twist," a number one hit when covered by Chubby Checker. The best lesser-known items include Johnny "Guitar" Watson's amazingly futuristic 1954 instrumental "Space Guitar"; the Sheiks' non-charting 1955 version of "So Fine," a big hit four years later for the Fiestas; and Otis Redding's early (1960) Little Richard imitation "Shout Bamalama." There are also scarce early 45s by Trini Lopez and Joe Tex; rockabilly by Mac Curtis and Charlie Feathers; a 1962 Chuck Berry sound-alike effort by Eddy Clearwater, "A Real Good Time"; and the forgotten 1955 Top Twenty hit by Bonnie Lou, "Daddy-O," an early mix of hillbilly, pop, and rock & roll. ~ Richie Unterberger

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