The Mountain Times

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Leone’s Legends: Seven from Heaven, the must-have albums of early rock ‘n’ roll

Well, I'm back with my Legends column in the realm of rock 'n' roll, a subject I've been known to pontificate on endlessly for the past 30 years or so. Whether it's a "stranded on a desert island" scenario or suggestions to a new found friend who is an E.T., here are my suggestions for the best early rock records that "ya gotta have."
#1. Chuck Berry "The Great 28"
Even though there are more complete and definitive collections, I think this compilation is one I've owned and enjoyed for many years. It focuses on the singles Chuck released during the 50s on the Chess label. Yes, it has classics like "Johnny B.Goode" and "Maybeline" but also some lesser known tunes like "Havana Moon" and "Carol."
#2. Buddy Holly "The Buddy Holly Collection"
This amazing CD has 50 of Buddy's most important recordings encompassing his early recordings with the Crickets as well as some his more produced and lesser known tracks. A few of my favorites from this collection are "Well… Alright," "Oh Boy" and a great stereo version of "True Love Ways."
#3. Elvis Presley "Elvis at Sun"
Some may say that Elvis's later recordings are better produced and that the song writing is better, I agree with both, but the first recordings made by Elvis for Sam Phillips' Sun label really show the greatness of this much misunderstood artist. The lack of production and formula songs puts the focus on the raw talent that was Elvis Aaron Presley. I particularly love his version of "Mystery Train" and "When it Rains it Really Pours."
#4. Little Richard "The Very Best of Little Richard"
In this 2008 reissue CD the music of Mr. Richard Penniman is presented in the way it should be, re-mastered but not re-conceptualized. This 25-song compilation has all the songs you're going to want in a Little Richard collection and a few more. The songs from this era also highlight the great band that Little Richard toured with, a rarity indeed.
#5. Eddie Cochran "Twenty Flight Rock"
There are some that might say that Eddie was somewhat of an Elvis clone, and in some of Cochran 's early performances you can see the "Kings" shadow looming over him. But it didn't take this great artist very long to carve out a niche of his own. Cochran combined a versatile vocal sound and style, some really tasty guitar work as well as some Chuck Berryesque song lyrics (that spoke to young rock 'n' roll fans way better then Elvis ever did) to legitimatize his space in rock 'n' roll history as a genuine pioneer. He also brought elements of country music into rock, something we see today.
#6. Link Wray "The Best of Link Wray"
This original rebel of rock was every parent's nightmare, a dark saint with slicked back hair and an uncompromising sound that was raw and totally original. Link was not a singer, he was a guitar slinger, but unlike slingers that were to come he was not a traditional lead player. He strummed chords with a distorted sound and arpeggiated the notes creating really simple but hooky melodies. Upon listening to these songs you will no doubt understand Quentin Tarantino's allure to Links music.
#7. Ike Turner "Rocket 88 the Original 1951-1960 recordings"
Ike Turner (better known as Tina Turners husband) is vastly overlooked as one of the architects of early rock 'n' roll. It is now well accepted that Ike's production of Jackie Brenston's 1951 recording of "Rocket 88" is touted as the "first rock 'n' roll record" ever made, well I dunno about that, but this compilation does stand among the top. The bluesy, rockin' sound of these records will remind you of cats like Bruce Springsteen who also utilized the ensemble sound of piano, electric guitars and tenor sax.
So in wrapping up, I will suggest a few more records that didn't make the cut, "Louis Jordan Rock and Roll," Jerry Lee Lewis "The Best of Jerry Lee Lewis" and the "Best of the Ventures."
Yeah, I'm an old guy and I'm okay with it. Please check out some of this great foundational rock music!
Peace, Joey