With his recent passing, the career and importance of Earl King is an appropriate topic for examination. Earl King was born Earl Johnson. He was one of the important personalities of the distinctive New Orleans sound that was developed and recorded in the 1950’s, helping to define both rock and roll and R&B. Other artists of note from the Crescent City include Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, Little Richard, Bobby Charles, and Huey "Piano" Smith.
Various independent record labels in New Orleans created and perfected a sound that would cross over from black to white audiences and vice versa. Earl King's work at both Specialty (home of Little Richard and Lloyd Price) and Ace (home to Frankie Ford and Huey "Piano" Smith) were nothing short of outstanding, but it was his work at Imperial (home to Fats Domino) with Dave Bartholomew that truly stands out. That is the subject of a new complete exploration on Okra Tone/Rooster Records.
Included on this retrospective are King’s Imperial hits “Come On (Parts 1 and 2)” (also known as “Let the Good Times Roll,” the motto of New Orleans), “Trick Bag” and “Always a First Time.” All of these sound as fresh and vibrant as the day they were released in the early 1960’s, displaying Bartholomew's exquisite touch and King's keen execution.
Also included in this collection are other historical recordings plus tracks that were never released. The April 13, 1961 sessions, which featured the great pianist James Booker plus Bartholomew and Wardell Quezergue, are particularly enjoyable. These recordings include “You Better Now,” “Mama and Papa,” plus the unreleased “It’s Wrong” and “Case of Love.”
While this is an excellent collection of a sometimes overlooked but unquestionably important artist, the producers sequenced the music in order of its recording date. This subtracts from a natural flow and makes it feel sometimes more like a historical document than a record. But that does not detract from the overall power and enjoyment you will feel when you press play.