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- Leone’s Legends: Seven from Heaven, the must-have albums of early rock ‘n’ roll
Wed, Feb 5, 2014 08:06 PM
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
#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
#2. Buddy Holly "The Buddy Holly
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
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
#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
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
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!