Top positive review
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We all know it's here to stay, but when did it all start...?
on 23 December 2011
It's not only rock'n'roll, but I like it all! Probably, ever since the mid-1950s, music fans have argued long into the night, about which was the first rock'n'roll record. Popularly, it is considered generally to be 'Rock Around the Clock' by Bill Haley and His Comets. This excellent three-CD set includes two different versions of Rock Around the Clock, curiously one credited to two or three writers, while the other version is considered to be 'anonymous'. It must be the old payola roll blues... I set each of the three CDs playing in different rooms around the house on random and shuffle and left them playing for days on end, a worthy testament to this excellent set. It includes tracks going as far back as, believe it or not, 1916 and, right up to the early- and mid-fifties. 80-odd tracks, vying to be the first rock'n'roll record! I don't think it answers the question, 'Which was the first rock'n'roll record?', but it certainly generates a lot of discussion. Rock'n'roll was a fortuitous mix of many different musical styles coming together, and, 50 to 60 years on I don't think we can ever answer the question but it is interesting to discuss it. Here we have blues, jazz, rhythm-and-blues, Western swing and country music, Honky Tonk, Boogie, and even a little bit of Woogie! You could spend hours arguing about the difference between honky tonk, barrel house, and juke joint blues, nearly as long as discussing the different purposes of these mysterious and alluring buildings. I have memories from the late seventies talking about music, with an old man, who could remember being chastised by his mother in the mid-1930s for listening to rhythm music or as she put it '...that rock'n'roll music...' so even the phrase is hard to date. Alan Freed may have popularised it, but I doubt he named it.
I have long considered the 1947 recording by Hank Williams, 'Move it on Over', to be a strong contender for the first rock'n'roll record, and equally so Fats Domino's 1947 recording 'The Fat Man'. Recently I heard the same tune recorded in the very early 1940s, as 'They call me the Junk Man', by Champion Jack Dupree, absent here but equally plausible. 1952's Rocket 88, by Jackie Brenston is another much-mooted contender. Anyone who has found this review will be overwhelmed by the scope of this collection, and any music fan will love arguing for or against the inclusion of every single track. The compilation of this set must have been a labour of love, based on a long out-of-print book discussing the same subject. It's very hard to fault this collection, but purely for balance, it is a little difficult to read the extensive sleeve notes booklet, due to the choice of colours, and also a few more early 1950s records by white artists would have been welcome. Any of 10 year-old Larry Collins' vibrantly youthful contributions, along with his searing twin-necked guitar would not have been out of place. (Check him out, ably supporting his elder sister Laurie, one-time girlfriend of a young Ricky Nelson) Take my advice, buy this set and put one CD on in each room, as I did and, while we'll never know which was the first rock'n' roll record, be assured that rock'n'roll is here to stay.
Martin H. Watson