While Little Richard Penniman is well known for his Specialty, Mercury, Veejay, and Modern recordings (though many of the sides on the latter two labels were merely redos of his Specialty hits), he is little celebrated for these wonderful sides recorded for Okeh in 1966 and 1967. The Little Richard on these sessions is a seasoned R&B singer whose feet are deeply rooted in modern-era Southern soul. That said, there are a few traces of Motown that creep in as well despite the fact that the material was all recorded in Hollywood.
For Okeh, Little Richard recorded devastatingly fine versions of “Function at the Junction,””I Don’t Want to Discuss It,” Berry Gordy’s “M-O-N-E-Y,””Poor Dog,””Hurry Sundown,” and Sam Cooke’s “Well All Right” to mention a few. To help him pull it all off this was seen as a last-ditch survival effort for the singer. Little Richard’s sidemen for these dates include Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Larry Williams, Eddie Fletcher, and Glen Willings a crack studio band if there ever was one.
In sum, the Okeh material yielded one fine, 11-track album ”The Explosive” Little Richard released in 1967, and three issued B-sides for its singles. Appearing on this comp. for the very first time are three leftover tracks that include smoking raw versions of Fats Domino’s “Rocking Chair” and Leiber & Stoller’s “Hound Dog.” There isn’t a loser in the bunch, and these performances are truly inspired, burning from start to finish; they are startling even today. [Thom Jurek]
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