Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Little Richard The Rill Thing 1970

Little Richard had one strange career. His earliest work was some of the rockingest music of the fifties, equally as seminal and important as Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis or Buddy Holley. Any of his hits collections from the fifties is worth owning. He went back and forth between spiritual and rock music several times over the years, so there were many come-backs, and most of them didn't go that well. This one was something else.

A deep soul R&B Muscle Shoals sound pervades the record. The stomping Freedom Blues kicks things off in fine R&B style, and Richard is screaming at the top of his game to a great hook. It was Little Richard's first single to break into the top 50 in over ten years. Greenwood, Mississippi follows, and it is Creedence-sounding swamp rock done right. Two-Time Loser is built on a great guitar riff, with another stellar vocal. Dew Drop Inn sounds like it could have been recorded in his fifties heyday, with a hot sax break and wild piano. Somebody Saw You digs a deep groove, and Richard keeps the thing on fire with his singing. Spreadin' Natta, What's The Matter? ends the first side with another fine vocal over a rocking guitar figure, and another deep groove, almost James Brown-like.

And there's another side. The title cut is a 10-minute instrumental funk groove that cooks pretty well and stays mostly interesting in a Sly Stone way. It either gets you dancing or it's too long, but as ten minute funk tunes go, it's solid. Lovesick Blues is a Hank Williams country blues that Richard does with grace, but it doesn't really work for him that well. The album ends with Richard getting completely funky all over Lennon and McCartney's I Saw Her Standing There, with great horn charts and another vocal highlight. A surprisingly good cover of a song that never had much soul before this version. 

Recorded in Muscle Shoals, the sound is magnificent in an old-school way. Twang on the guitar helps it cut through the mix. Snap on the drums does the same. The bass has that thick yet somehow tight sound that the best sixties southern soul shared. The horns sound great, too. And Little Richards sings like a man possessed, right out front in the mix.

I am certainly not all that familiar with Little Richard's output, but I am sure this is one of his better ones after his early work. And it seems to me that The Rill Thing could be a rare and unusual find for a soul, R&B, or funk lover that's never heard it.

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