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Ghost Canyon

Title - 4 Little Richard Expanded CDs from Omnivore Record
Artist - Little Richard

For those not in the know, Omnivore Recordings continues its series of expanded reissues of Little Richard’s ’70s and ’80s albums, firstly with key comeback albums, 1970’s The Rill Thing and then 1971’s King of Rock and Roll (out September 18th, 2020), with 1972’s The Second Coming and 1986’s Lifetime Friend both set for release on October 23rd, 2020.

These four (4) collections continued the rocker’s successful album career, which followed his explosive, genre-launching run of late ’50s singles on Specialty Records: 'Tutti Frutti,' 'Long Tall Sally,' 'Rip It Up,' 'Lucille,' 'Keep A-Knockin’' and more, as well as his gospel recordings in the ’60s.

Packaging for all four (4) titles features photos, ephemera, and a new essay from Bill Dahl.

Most recording artists are lucky to enjoy one successful comeback. As befit a rock ’n’ roll pioneer on his exalted scale, Little Richard waged several.

Once upon a time, when he was racking up a non-stop string of mid-’50s smashes for Specialty Records producer Bumps Blackwell with his blistering New Orleans-cut 'Tutti Frutti,' 'Long Tall Sally,' and 'Rip It Up,' the Georgia Peach was deemed too uninhibited and unpredictable for TV variety shows to present to the nation.

Little Richard returned in 1970 with The Rill Thing and instead of sticking around his adopted home of Los Angeles, Richard set out for Rick Hall’s FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama to record the album for Reprise, joined by Bumps, who was now his manager.

The Rill Thing: Expanded Edition
1. 'Freedom Blues'
2. 'Greenwood, Mississippi'
3. 'Two-Time Loser'
4. 'Dew Drop Inn'
5. 'Somebody Saw You'
6. 'Spreadin’ Natta, What’s The Matter?'
7. 'The Rill Thing'
8. 'Lovesick Blues'
9. 'I Saw Her Standing There'
10. 'Shake Your Hand (If You Can)' [Bonus Track]
11. Radio Spot A [Bonus Track]
12. Radio Spot B [Bonus Track]
13. 'I Saw Her Standing There (Single Edit)' [Bonus Track]

Had Little Richard's rock `n' roll career ended with his 1957 turn to the ministry, he'd still be remembered as a powerful, flamboyant singer who reeled off a string of unforgettable, incendiary singles for Art Rupe's Specialty Records.

His early `60s return to rock, fueled in part by attention from the British Invasion, resulted in some good sides in his signature style, but it wasn't until his 1970 signing with Reprise that he really found an updated sound that made the most of his gospel power and rock `n' roll fire.

Recorded in Muscle Shoals, the rhythm section on these sessions is propulsive and the electric guitars swampy. Richard's gospel-based belting turns out to be a perfect fit for the solid rhythms, heavy bass lines and superb sax solos.

A couple of tracks, notably Esquerita's 'Dew Drop Inn' (kicking off with the drum riff that opened 'I Hear You Knockin''), capture the abandon of Richard's 1950s sides, but others, such as the album's lead-off single, 'Freedom Blues' and the Allman-styled blues 'Two-Time Loser' are funkier and deeper in message.

Richard is in stellar voice throughout, adding a testifying edge to Travis Wammack's swampy 'Greenwood, Mississippi' and belting out the original 'Spreadin' Natta, What's the Matter?'

A New Orleans' styled cover of 'Lovesick Blues' is almost unrecognizable as the song Hank Williams took to the top of the charts, and the closing arrangement of the Beatles' 'I Saw Her Standing There' adds horns and a Southern sound.

Indeed, the album's 10-minute title track is a Crusaders-styled instrumental with Richard on electric piano backed by horns, guitar and a punchy rhythm section.

This reissue features the remastered comeback album, plus the single-only 'Shake A Hand (If You Can)' — originally recorded by Richard in 1959, and later covered by LaVern Baker, Elvis Presley, Paul McCartney, and others — radio ads, and more.

The Rill Thing: Expanded Edition CD - Official Purchase Link

No one expected the power of Little Richard’s return in 1970 with The Rill Thing. The following year’s King of Rock And Roll helped demonstrate that it was no fluke.

This time, instead of handling the production and arranging duties himself, Richard handed those responsibilities off to the multi-talented H.B. Barnum, a widely-respected actor, musician, vocalist, arranger and producer who was on call for the likes of the Supremes, Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Aretha Franklin and Lou Rawls among others.

King of Rock and Roll: Expanded Edition
1. 'King Of Rock And Roll'
2. 'Joy To The World'
3. 'Brown Sugar'
4. 'In The Name'
5. 'Dancing In The Street'
6. 'Midnight Special'
7. 'The Way You Do The Things You Do'
8. 'Green Power'
9. 'I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry'
10. 'Settin’ The Woods On Fire'
11. 'Born On The Bayou'
12. 'In The Name (Version 2)' [Bonus Track]
13. 'Why Don't You Love Me' [Bonus Track]
14. 'Still Miss Liza Jane' [Bonus Track]
15. 'Open Up The Red Sea' [Bonus Track]
16. 'Mississippi' [Bonus Track]
17. 'Settin' The Woods On Fire' [Bonus Track]

From originals to covers of Motown classics, The Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Hank Williams, and Hoyt Axton’s 'Joy To The World' (made famous by Three Dog Night), there was no doubt who sat on the throne of popular music.

This time around, 'Green Power' was selected as the single with its flip, 'Dancing In The Street,' but no chart action was to be had. Though Don Peterson’s striking cover photo likely attracted more than one taker browsing the record stores in ’71.

This is a more flamboyant and self-celebrating affair than its predecessor, from the album's title track to the lengthy, self-aggrandizing introduction he gives himself on the cover of Hoyt Axton's 'Joy to the World.'

In fact, those who remember Richard's television appearances in the 1970s ("Shut up!") will recognize the character here.

As great as were the brassy, bass-heavy arrangements of The Rill Thing, Barnum's production update doesn't work. Richard's belting vocals sound out-of-time against the flaccid, near-disco arrangements of the aforementioned 'Joy to the World' and 'Brown Sugar.'

Better are the funky, hyperventilating reinterpretation of 'Dancing in the Street' and the soul shout of 'Midnight Special,' though here again the early `70s backing vocals are dated.

Richard's original 'In the Name' is sung in a compelling croon, and 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry' works well in its Stax-styled arrangement.

The album's closing cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's 'Born on the Bayou' fits nicely enough, but it reveals more about Richard's impact on John Fogerty than it provides an opportunity to create something new.

That all said, Richard does sound engaged, but his producer wasn't able to craft a compelling showcase for his vocals, nor help him select material that offered the best vehicles for interpretation.

This reissue features the remastered album plus six bonus tracks, (including session material, radio ads, and more).

King of Rock And Roll: Expanded Edition CD - Official Purchase Link

Naming his third album for Reprise The Second Coming may have been pushing the outrageousness a bit far, but considering his previously LP was titled King Of Rock And Roll it was clear that humility was not Little Richard’s strongest attribute.

However, it was more a nod to the concept of the album, than the ego of the artist.

Reuniting with Robert “Bumps” Blackwell and a host of studio musicians from the ’50s, the studio team was met by some of the top session players of the early ’70s at The Record Plant in Los Angeles to cut the album.

Notable players like Lee Allen, Jim Horn, Earl Palmer, Chuck Rainey, and Sneaky Pete Kleinow were on hand for the proceedings.

The Second Coming: Expanded Edition
1. 'Mockingbird Sally'
2. 'Second Line'
3. 'It Ain’t What You Do, It’s The Way How You Do It '
4. 'The Saints'
5. 'Nuki Suki'
6. 'Rockin’ Rockin’ Boogie'
7. 'Prophet Of Peace'
8. 'Thomasine'
9. 'Sanctified, Satisfied Toe-Tapper'
10. 'Money Is' [Bonus Track]
11. 'Do It – To It' [Bonus Track]
12. 'Mockingbird Sally (Single Edit)' [Bonus Track]
13. 'Money Is (Single Edit)' [Bonus Track]

After the Muscle Shoals swamp-rock of 1970's The Rill Thing and the misfire mélange of `50s rock and `70s R&B on 1971's King of Rock And Roll, Richard third's and final album for Reprise splits the difference.

The rock `n' roll sides, recorded with many of the New Orleans players who backed Richard's 1950s sessions, are shorn of the dated neo-disco touches H.B. Barnum added to the preceding album, and though the grooves never cut as deep as the earlier Muscle Shoals session, there's a good helping of funk here.

Indeed, Lee Allen provides fat sax tone, and Earl Palmer anchors the second line beats with greatest of ease.

Producer Bumps Blackwell's work is more husky here than on his and Richard's seminal mid-50s sides, mixing the funky jazz sounds of New Orleans with a bit of Stax soul.

As on the Muscle Shoals sessions, Richard sounds comfortable, if not always as energized. 'When the Saints Go Marching In' is ignited by Richard's revival-pitch vocal and superb playing by both Palmer and Allen, and the funk continues on the mostly instrumental 'Nuki Suki,' with Richard's clavinet and the saxophone's yelps giving way to short, lascivious vocal breaks.

A wah-wah-and-bass groove provides the foundation of 'Prophet of Peace,' and the closing 'Sanctified, Satisfied Toe-Tapper' is a seven-minute instrumental.

The album's most unusual track is a co-write with Sneaky Pete Kleinow, 'It Ain't What You Do, It's the Way You Do It,' featuring Kleinow's steel guitar.

Richard and Blackwell's original rock `n' roll grooves show themselves on 'Rockin' Rockin' Boogie' and 'Thomasine.' While this isn't as inventive or forward thinking as The Rill Thing, it's a great deal more solid than King of Rock `n' Roll, and deserved larger commercial success at the time.

This reissue contains the original release, plus single edits, and tracks from the 1971 film $ (starring Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn), composed by Quincy Jones.

The Second Coming: Expanded Edition CD - Official Purchase Link

After the 1984 release of his autobiography, The Quasar Of Rock And Roll, Little Richard decided to come out of retirement.

It had been seven years since his last record, the gospel-focused God’s Beautiful City, and over a decade from his 1970s return album run on the Reprise label (The Rill Thing, King Of Rock And Roll, and The Second Coming, plus the one that Reprise shelved at the time, Southern Child).

For the new album, Richard went overseas to record in London with a powerhouse band including Billy Preston, Muscle Shoals guitarist Travis Wammack, bassist Jesse Boyce, and drummer James Stroud with producer Stuart Colman at the helm. Warner Bros., unleashed Lifetime Friend in 1986.

With ten tracks of rock ’n’ roll mixed with spiritual lyrics (and even an early rap appearance), the release was another return to form. His third coming, one could say!

The album’s blistering opener 'Great Gosh A’Mighty' (co-written with Billy Preston) would even be recut by Richard for the film Down And Out In Beverly Hills, nearly cracking the Top 40.

Two other tracks, 'Operator' and 'Somebody’s Comin’,' would both also make chart appearances in the UK.

Lifetime Friend: Expanded Edition
1. 'Great Gosh A’Mighty'
2. 'Operator'
3. 'Somebody’s Comin’'
4. 'Lifetime Friend'
5. 'Destruction'
6. 'I Found My Way'
7. 'The World Can’t Do Me'
8. 'One Ray Of Sunshine'
9. 'Someone Cares'
10. 'Big House Reunion'
11. 'Operator (Single Edit)' [Bonus Track]
12. 'Operator (Extended Mix)' [Bonus Track]

Little Richards' previous Gospel recordings were traditional, with the exception of the incredible, uptempo 'He Got What He Wanted (But He Lost What He Had)', which was really traditional meets the big beat.

Funnily enough, as a side note, whilst Richard was headlining for The Beatles in 1962, it was a Top 40 UK hit!

Well, that record did not make the charts at home, and like a lot of his non-secular material, did not make it onto an album either, including the original version of this album.

For my money, 'I Found My Way' is a simply terrific rap-meets-rock arrangement, with inspirational lyrics toboot, along with an exhilarating 'Destruction,' which is yet another exciting, uplifting number.

Sadly, it is well known now that Richard had a terrible automobile accident about halfway through the sessions and apparently flew back home to film a part in a TV show; all whilst still being plagued by those injuries until his dying day.

As a result, some cuts are more powerful than others. But the underlying fact is that Richard sounded good to great on these enjoyable, excellent numbers.

That said, a wee bit too much over-production really hurts the medium-tempo 'Operator,' which was one of the tracks recorded before the accident and it's been said that his soaring voice - here covered with trendy techno effects of the time - were totally unnecessary.

However, his version of 'Great Gosh A-Mighty' is not the same recording as the one found on the soundtrack to the movie Down And Out In Beverly Hills,' just so you know, as that one is a ballbuster, for sure!

It's a more driving, rough sound (believe it or not) and despite running a tad too long, and featuring a sax solo inhibited by a presumptive dishrag lodged inside, it's a fine effort, nonetheless.

Overall though, Producer Stuart Coleman did a very good job here, mixing the best of the old and new, providing a bright showcase for a great singer with several very respectable and relevant tunes still to showcase.

This reissue adds both the single edit and an extended mix of the single 'Operator,' and the packaging contains photos, ephemera, and new liner notes for Bill Dahl.

As Dahl writes in his liners, “Rock ’n’ roll never had a better friend than Little Richard Penniman. He devoted most of his life to it."

"Lifetime Friend was his last great recorded statement, and even if Long Tall Sally, Miss Molly, and Lucille weren’t in the choir, Richard gave the album his heavenly best.”

Lifetime Friend: Expanded Edition CD - Official Purchase Link

Official Little Richard Trailer