Little Richard, Little Richard Is Back

Ed Ward

By Ed Ward

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Little Richard Is Back

Little Richard
A bizarre album from the father of rock ‘n’ roll.

It was 1965, and Little Richard had screwed up. Quitting rock and roll at the height of his fame to become a minister, he'd sat out the decline of the music only to be shocked to hear himself when the Beatles appeared, bearing his "Wooooo!" (which he'd appropriated from Alex Bradford). Returning from a tour of England, he assembled a band, got a record deal with Vee-Jay, and made this bizarre album. Its highlight is really a highlight: "I Don't Know What You've Got (But It's Got Me)" is a classic of soul music, thanks to co-writer Don Covay. The gospel guitar on the track — and much of the other lead guitar on the rest of the album — was by a young guitarist he'd found named James Marshall Hendrix, whom he'd soon fire for upstaging him. Although musically this record is something of a footnote, it's got its fascination, from Hendrix 'intro to "Midnight Special" to Richard's flailing attempts to revive past successes. Too bad he didn't do a whole album with Covay.