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The Roots of Rock 'n' Roll: 1946-1954

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4/13/2004

Review

Of the numerous various-artist compilation CDs that have attempted to anthologize the recordings of the late '40s and early '50s most crucial to planting the seeds for rock & roll, this three-CD, 60-song set is probably the most definitive. Most prior collections along these lines have failed to present a truly comprehensive picture of rock & roll's roots, whether due to both licensing restrictions and/or track selection that fails to recognize the entirety of the wide spectrum of rock & roll's roots. While you'd need at least a ten-CD box set to approach inarguable definitiveness, The Roots of Rock 'n' Roll: 1946-1954 hits about as many of the key bases as possible within three CDs, including pivotal songs by Lionel Hampton, the Delmore Brothers, Louis Jordan, Hank Williams, Lloyd Price, Howlin' Wolf, the Drifters, Bill Haley, Big Joe Turner, Hank Ballard, and Muddy Waters, to start with just the most well-known artists included here. There are also famous songs by somewhat lesser-known artists that have been cited as proto-rock & roll, like Wynonie Harris' "Good Rockin' Tonight," Jimmy Preston & His Prestonians' "Rock the Joint," Stick McGhee's "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee," Jackie Brenston's "Rocket 88," Big Mama Thornton's original version of "Hound Dog," Junior Parker's "Mystery Train," Hank Ballard & the Midnighters' "Work With Me Annie," Wild Bill Moore's "We're Gonna Rock, We're Gonna Roll," Arthur Crudup's original version of "That's All Right," and the Chords' "Sh-Boom." Also, to its credit, while this compilation is R&B-heavy, it doesn't ignore the major contributions of key white performers like Bill Haley (represented by his first major hit, "Crazy Man Crazy"), Merle Travis, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Hank Snow. Too, its focus goes beyond the standard R&B and electric blues -- cited by many historians as rock & roll's primary fountain of inspiration -- to include proto-doo wop vocal groups like the Ravens and the Clovers; pop (Johnnie Ray's huge hit "Cry"); R&B-influenced '40s jazz (Lionel Hampton, Louis Jordan); and even gospel-R&B (Sister Rosetta Tharpe's "Up Above My Head, I Hear Music in the Air"). There's also a smattering of tracks that might be unfamiliar even to rock experts, like Little Richard's pre-"Tutti Frutti" 1953 recording "Little Richard's Boogie"; Pee Wee Crayton's "Texas Hop"; the Larks' R&B hit version of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Eyesight to the Blind," the same song the Who adapted on Tommy; and Little Willie Littlefield's "K.C. Loving" (the basis for Wilbert Harrison's 1959 chart-topper "Kansas City"). Certainly scholars might have some very minor quibbles with the songs picked to represent a few giants; Fats Domino's seminal "The Fat Man" is passed over in favor of his lesser-known "Please Don't Leave Me," for instance, and Tiny Bradshaw's cut is "I'm Going to Have Myself a Ball" rather than his far more celebrated original version of "The Train Kept a-Rollin'." Too, a few of the most famous pre-1955 rock & roll-type songs are absent, like Elvis Presley's "That's All Right" and John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen." It's also true that the liner notes could have been more detailed and offered background on the specific tracks and performers (although original release date, label, and chart info is here). That's all small potatoes compared to the riches supplied by this well-chosen overview. It's essential musical history and, at least as importantly, a roaring good listen. ~ Richie Unterberger
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  1. # Track Artist Length
  2. 1 Hey! Ba-Ba-Ra-Bop Lionel Hampton & His Orchestra 3:20
  3. 2 R.M. Blues Roy Milton & His Solid Senders 2:58
  4. 3 Freight Train Boogie The Delmore Brothers 2:44
  5. 4 Choo Choo Ch'boogie Louis Jordan 2:43
  6. 5 That's All Right Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup 2:54
  7. 6 Move It on Over Hank Williams 2:45
  8. 7 Merle's Boogie Woogie Merle Travis 3:2
  9. 8 We're Gonna Rock, We're Gonna Roll Wild Bill Moore 2:39
  10. 9 Bobby Sox Blues T-Bone Walker 2:40
  11. 10 Good Rockin' Tonight Wynonie Harris 2:45
  12. 11 Cornbread Hal Singer 2:59
  13. 12 Ol' Man River The Ravens 3:0
  14. 13 Up Above My Head, I Hear Music in the Air Sister Rosetta Tharpe & Mary Knight 2:29
  15. 14 Texas Hop Pee Wee Crayton 3:6
  16. 15 Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee Sticks McGhee & His Buddies 3:14
  17. 16 The Hucklebuck Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams 3:9
  18. 17 Saturday Night Fish Fry, Pts. 1 & 2 Louis Jordan 5:32
  19. 18 Boogie at Midnight Roy Brown & His Might-Mighty Men 2:51
  20. 19 Rock the Joint Jimmy Preston 2:33
  21. 1 Cupid's Boogie 2:37
  22. 2 Bald Head Roy Byrd & His Blues Jumpers 2:29
  23. 3 Please Send Me Someone to Love Percy Mayfield 2:54
  24. 4 I'm Movin' On Hank Snow 2:49
  25. 5 I Almost Lost My Mind Ivory Joe Hunter 3:12
  26. 6 Shotgun Boogie Tennessee Ernie Ford 2:35
  27. 7 Teardrops from My Eyes Ruth Brown 2:59
  28. 8 I'm Going to Have Myself a Ball Tiny Bradshaw 2:43
  29. 9 Rocket 88 Jackie Brenston 2:48
  30. 10 How Many More Years Howlin' Wolf 2:42
  31. 11 I Got Loaded Peppermint Harris 2:29
  32. 12 Sixty Minute Man The Dominoes 2:31
  33. 13 Glory of Love The Five Keys 3:8
  34. 14 Pink Champagne Joe Liggins 3:2
  35. 15 Eyesight to the Blind The Larks 2:53
  36. 16 Night Train Jimmy Forrest 2:59
  37. 17 Cry Johnnie Ray 3:4
  38. 18 Booted Rosco Gordon 3:4
  39. 19 Lawdy Miss Clawdy Lloyd Price 2:31
  40. 20 One Mint Julep The Clovers 2:28
  41. 21 I Don't Know Willie Mabon 3:8
  42. 22 Hound Dog Big Mama Thornton 2:49
  43. 1 Money Honey The Drifters 2:57
  44. 2 Little Richard's Boogie 2:51
  45. 3 Let Me Go Home, Whiskey Amos Milburn 2:49
  46. 4 Mystery Train Little Junior's Blue Flames 2:27
  47. 5 Shake a Hand Faye Adams 2:53
  48. 6 Crying in the Chapel The Orioles 3:4
  49. 7 Please Don't Leave Me Fats Domino 2:41
  50. 8 Crazy Man Crazy Bill Haley 2:39
  51. 9 K.C. Lovin' Little Willie Littlefield 2:40
  52. 10 The Clock Johnny Ace 2:59
  53. 11 Baby Don't Do It The "5" Royales 2:46
  54. 12 Honey Hush Big Joe Turner 2:43
  55. 13 I Feel So Bad Chuck Willis 2:56
  56. 14 Things I Used to Do Guitar Slim 3:2
  57. 15 You Upset Me Baby B.B. King 3:2
  58. 16 Riot in Cell Block #9 The Robins 2:59
  59. 17 Sh-Boom The Chords 2:24
  60. 18 Work With Me Annie Hank Ballard 2:42
  61. 19 (I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man Muddy Waters 2:50

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