I first heard this album on vinyl about 20 years ago and have been searching for it on CD format for ages. If you like raw, original, Southern Rock'n'roll/hillbilly bop, then look no further. This is simply the best female Rockabilly artist around; and she still sounds great in a live show.
Janis Martin truly is one of the great Rock 'n' Roll performers of 50's era and this collection is superb.Her vocal abilities combined with witty lyrics and backing band consisted from Nashville sessionist's that Elvis used on some of his most famous hits are guarantee for first class enjoyment.This is absolute must for any serious Rock 'n' Roll collector.
Janis Martin signed for RCA records in 1956 at the ripe old age of 15, two months after Presley had signed for the label in the full glare of publicity. She recorded her first session for them in March that year, three weeks before her sixteenth birthday, and that was the session which produced the professional sounding rockabilly of "Drugstore Rock'n'Roll" and the bluesy country ballad "One more year to go", a performance that I'd reckon the late Patsy Cline would have been proud of. For a variety of reasons including personal problems, Janis recorded very little more of note in her lifetime - she died of cancer in 2007. However in 1995 she appeared on Rosie Flores "Rockabilly Filly" album and was reportedly working with Flores on an album shortly before her death.
Bear Family released this album of her RCA material in 1987. I've already reviewed an alternative compilation of the RCA tracks, the Snapper "Cracker Jack" album which delivers 22 tracks for a bargain price. This one covers exactly the same period, her years with RCA from 1956 to 1960, but gives us a magnificent 30 tracks. In the main the difference between the two is the number of unreleased tracks which Bear Family have seen fit to include and it has to be said that the quality on these tracks is no different to the released material. Janis and her producers - Chet Atkins and Steve Sholes - only produced classy stuff.
For a run down on what tracks came from which sessions please see my review on the other album - Bear Family haven't helped us by not putting the tracks in session order - why can't compilers manage this simple task? Suffice to say that studio sessions switched between Nashville (produced by Atkins) and New York (Steve Sholes). A number of familiar names appear on the sessions particularly those from Nashville. Grady Martin, Hank Garland and Chet himself appear on guitar, Floyd Cramer has the piano stool and Buddy Harman is behind the drum kit.
Quite apart from the fact her music is often evocative of Presley's, which is hardly surprising given the producers and session musicians used, though I'd hasten to add there's no vocal imitation from Janis, the progression of her music shows a distinct similarity to that of Elvis. Country inflected rockabilly to start with, then the addition of more grandiose backings with prominent supporting vocals much like those from the Jordanaires. And the music moving in 1957 to more general pop sounding stuff though still maintaining some relationship to the blues - "Blues Keep Calling", an unreleased track from that year is an excellent example as is "I don`t hurt anymore" from later in the year. Rock'n'roll didn't entirely disappear as exemplified by "Bang Bang" from `58. I have to add that RCA were not unique. This "dumbing down" of rock'n'roll was happening all over the place. Whether this was what the public actually wanted or what the big labels wanted the public to buy we'll probably never know.
As a postscript I would point out that the later Bear Family release on Janis, "Masters & Studio Outtakes", does put all the released tracks in session order then goes on to include the unreleased tracks (which may also be in order - I don't know). The overall number of tracks is the same as on this one and quick comparison suggests that the contents are the same. The price is pretty similar so I guess you pays your money and take your pick.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com:4.3 out of 5 stars 20 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 starsThe Female Elvis15 Jun 2004
By Martin 13 - Published on Amazon.com
This is fine example of polished rockabilly from the 50's! Janis Martin rocks with Nashville session players like Chet Atkins (on guitar), Floyd Cramer (on Piano), Grady Martin (on guitar), Murray Harman, Jr. (drums), Bob Moore (bass),... Same musicians who were playing for Elvis. Sessions were produced by Steve Sholes, who was Elvis' producer too. Good rockabilly and nice country ballads!
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 starsJanis Martin - smooth voice, great guitar28 July 2004
By nebula42 - Published on Amazon.com
Well, I just started my Rockabilly collection, and this looked like one to definitely have. I bought this with Wanda Jackson's Queen of Rockabilly CD. I am thoroughly enjoying both. Janis Martin has a very smooth voice, less edgy than Wanda Jackson's. This CD is excellent and provides some great classic Rockabilly guitar sounds, and Janis' voice is just great. I'd definitely recommend this to Rockabilly fans. I personally prefer Wanda Jackson's Rockabilly style (a little more edgy and wild) to Janis Martin's, but both are excellent examples of women who knew how to rock and roll in the 50s/60s.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars5 isn't enough.!!!16 July 2002
By "sethlox23" - Published on Amazon.com
This is such a great album, simular to bad girl Miss Wanda Jackson, but mellow almost like a patsy cline style, well mix em up and there you have Janis Maritn. She's absolutley great and you will not be dissapointed! They don't say the female Elvis for nothing;)
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 starsA true rockabilly babe!8 May 2004
By 57Lincoln-Man - Published on Amazon.com
I saw her recently and she has lost nothing as far as her singing and energy level is concerned. This cd gather all her classic recordings from the 50's, and unlike Wanda Jackson(as great as she is), and every other gal rockabilly philly from the era, Janis may be the only gal who didn't have a western accent, or that didn't sound liek a country singer, she sounds more liek a r&b singer(think Ruth Brown), she realyl can bop, and shows how hard she rocks and swings on numbers like Drugstore Rock'n'roll and My Boy Elvis. A great cd that needs to be in every rockabilyl fans cd colelction. ESSENTIAL listening.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 starsShe SWINGS baby!8 Mar 2004
By fall-on-your-butt - Published on Amazon.com
This is a great cd, a PERFECT TEN, on a scale from one to ten. Janis swings hard, and plays great, and her voice is cool and swingin'. Janis has a nice clear diction, and is the quintessential female rockabilly singer. If you like jazz, blues or swing music, you will enjoy this cd.