The architect of rock ’n’ roll’s 1970 return complete with four bonus tracks
Some successful recording artists are lucky to enjoy a lengthy career and perhaps one successful comeback after their popularity wanes over time. Rock ’n’ roll pioneer and absolute legend, Little Richard, achieved several. In the ’50s he racked up a non-stop string of smashes for Specialty Records with producer Bumps Blackwell like the blistering cuts, “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, but the records were undeniable hits. He was clearly, an artist far ahead of the culture and times.
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 opening track, “Freedom Blues,” was released in April of 1970 and hit #28 on the charts. The second cut, “Greenwood Mississippi,” was also released as a single in August and also made a Billboard appearance. The marathon title track (running a whopping 10 minutes and 20 seconds) was an intense funk jam that was captured in one take. The album also featured covers of tunes by The Beatles and Hank Williams—it was a different sound by far than the savagely rocking attack he’d ridden to fame like a rocket at Specialty close to a decade-and-a-half earlier, but it was every bit as effective.
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. Packaging contains new liners from Bill Dahl, photos, and ephemera.
The Rill Thing bore the slogan “The Little Richard Sound” on its labels. “He was at his peak with his vocals on there,” says guitarist Travis Wammack admiringly. “He was just singing his booty off!”
Freedom Blues Greenwood, Mississippi Two-Time Loser Dew Drop Inn Somebody Saw You Spreadin’ Natta, What’s The Matter? The Rill Thing Lovesick Blues I Saw Her Standing There Shake A Hand (If You Can) Radio Spot A Radio Spot B I Saw Her Standing There(Single Edit)