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TBTS Reviews: Loud, Fast & Out of Control: The Wild Sounds of the 50’s

November 29, 2010

Rhino’s excellent compilation Loud Fast & Out of Control aims to counter arguments by those who would claim that 50’s music was too tame or reflective of that decade’s conformist, repressive legacy. Restoring relevance and more than a little credibility to the artists of that time, the four-disc set proves that the music was risky, risqué, and damned revolutionary. With plenty of songs about sex, death, and violence, clearly the 60’s didn’t corner the market on counterculture. What comes as a surprise is how explicit the tracks are (Wynonie Harris’ “Lovin’ Machine”), how absolutely dangerous (Phantom’s “Love Me”). No references to sock-hops, no sickeningly sweet novelty tunes. Just raw, frenetic rock and roll.

As with any collection of music from this era, and fittingly, Elvis Presley factors in (“Jailhouse Rock,” “My Baby Left Me”). But, surrounded by his peers, the first thing you notice is that he doesn’t overwhelm them. You begin to understand that, while he was a talented performer and good singer, his enormous success had more to do with good looks and being in the right place at the right time. In fact, many of the tracks that Presley would make hits sound as good or better in the hands of others, as with original performer Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes.” Sorry, Elvis, but Perkins could actually play his guitar, and he owns this song in every sense. Still, I’ll never get the appeal of Wanda Jackson, whose vocals on “Let’s Have a Party” sound a bit too much like Alvin of The Chipmunks fame.

Loud, Fast & Outta Control reminds us that rock’s early days were anything but cute and safe. As represented here, the music is visceral, controversial, and a hell of a lot of fun.

Recommended listening:
“Rave On” — Buddy Holly
“The Girl Can’t Help It” — Little Richard
“Lovin’ Machine” — Wynonie Harris
“Raw Hide” — Link Wray and the Wraymen
“Who Do You Love?” — Bo Diddley
“Honey Don’t” — Carl Perkins
“Somethin’ Else” — Eddie Cochran
“Honey Hush” Johny Burnette Trio
“Love Me” — Phantom
“Maybellene” — Chuck Berry

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