Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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LITTLE RICHARD
Get Down With It: The Okeh Sessions
Epic/Legacy

Rock's first piano wizard adapts to changes in R&B

The legend of Little Richard is based entirely on the sides he cut with Bumps Blackwell for Specialty Records between September 1955 and January 1957. This was pure rock & roll: lewd, feral, prophetically fast, prophetically funky and beset by the identity confusion of a man who never did figure out if he was gay. All that's accomplished by his other recordings is to demonstrate that his power howl and crazed piano triplets are equal to but not ideal for gospel, kiddie novelties, whatever's requested--on these mid-'60s sessions, the soul-R&B cusp. Their sole revelation: four previously unreleased tracks produced in London by Norman Hurricane Smith, at least three of which could sneak onto the Specialty box that pure rock & rollers treasure.

Blender, Apr. 2004