Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Little Willie John - Complete Hit Singles A's and B's

Little Willie John was an R&B singer in the 50's/early 60's who had several hits with songs like "All Around the World", "Need Your Love So Bad" and "Fever". This 2-CD collection has these and tons more, covering a good portion of his career, which was unfortunately cut short in 1968 by a heart attack while in jail for manslaughter. A colorful character indeed!

His soulful take on "All Around the World" opens here, followed by an earnestly rendered "Don't Leave Me Dear" and the bluesy hit "Need Your Love So Bad". More groovy blues in "Home at Last" which leads into his fantastic "Fever". "Letter From My Darling" is slow, sultry ballad, as is "Do Something For Me" and then "My Nerves" is more jumpin', with cool horns and a swingin' beat. He gets a bit mellower with the doo-wop-ish hit "Talk To Me, Talk To Me", wilder in the early rock'n'roll of "Spasms", back to quiet in "You're a Sweetheart" and boppin' again in "Let's Rock While the Rockin's Good". More strong blues in "Tell It Like It Is", r'n'r in "Don't Be Afraid to Call My Name", "Leave My Kitten Alone" could've easily been a Coasters hit and CD one closes with another soulful ballad, "Let Nobody Love You".

With CD 2 we get into some later stuff, which generally - not always - gets a bit more sweet'n'smooth, as with the string-laden "Let Them Talk" and while "Right There" is a bit more upbeat, it is also covered with backing vocals, rendering it less strident. Another string ballad in "A Cottage For Sale", but then we get the fantastic, start'n'stop blues wailer "I'm Shakin'" that the Blasters had to pull out for themselves back in the early 80's. This feel continues in "Heartbreak", that also has some church-y organ and a wild sax break, and then "Do You Love Me" is positively frantic, with stutterin' vocals and poundin' piano backing another cool sax solo. Back to the sappy schmaltz in "Sleep" with its strings and roller-rink keys, a bit of doo-wop/early r'n'r/r'n'b influence in "There's a Difference" and "Walk Slow", some more blues with stingin' guitar work in "You Hurt Me", more pop ballads in "The Very Thought of You" and "I'm Sorry" and a bit of smooth-edged R'n'B in "Spring Fever". The strings are almost overpowering in "Flamingo", but "Now You Knows" fairs better as a slow-but-steady r'n'b number and the whole comp finishes with a cool rocker "Take My Love".

I didn't really know LWJ other than "Fever" before this, but although there are a few snoozers here, overall this is a fine R'n'B collection of a gent with a sweet, soulful voice that could croon or belt 'em out with the best. Totally worthwhile!