This groundbreaking release contains the most rocking recordings of Billy Lee Riley. In addition to selections of his best work on Sun -obvious inclusions on a set like this - it includes a stack of releases on other labels, many of which were not on Bear Family's previous sets, 'Classic Recordings', which did not go beyond 1960, and 'The Mojo Albums...Plus'. Tracks on Brunswick, Mojo, Crown, Home Of The Blues, Enterprise, Rita and Hightone all feature. In addition we get recordings which were not released under Billy's own name, on Checker (The Megatons), Jaro (The Spitfires, with Roland Janes) and Myrl (Darren Lee). I'd like to think every NDT reader is familiar with the Sun material. Listening again to the 706 Union Avenue selections confirms that Riley
was responsible for two classic rock n roll recordings, namely 'Red Hot' and 'Flyin' Saucer Rock & Roll'. With the exception of 'She's My Baby', an inferior 'Red Hot', the others are very strong. Personally, I would have omitted 'She's My Baby' (which Billy never wanted releasing in the first place -they were just goofing about in the studio), and found a place for 'Wouldn't You Know', the flip of 'Baby Please Don't Go'. I only have Riley on Sun, thanks to Charly's 2004 'Red Hot' CD, so outside 706 Union Avenue his work on other labels has been a mystery to me. I was interested to see if there was anything compar-able to his best on Sun. The answer is a resounding 'Yes' and I'll admit to being pleasantly surprised.
The tracks underline his great versatility and range. He had many different voices and even man-ages to sound like Joe Turner on a powerful rendition of 'Flip Flop And Fly'. The covers of other familiar titles, 'Barefootin" (previously unreleased), 'Teenage Letter', 'Mean Woman Blues' and 'Searchin", are equally solid. The jazzy 'Arkansas Traveller', more basic 'Long Gone', strolling 'Catfish' and bluesy 'Shimmy, Shimmy Walk' are purely instrumental and merit their place in the set. 'Rockin' On The Moon' and 'The Little Green Men' are close cousins to 'Flyin' Saucer Rock & Roll' and the bluesy version of 'Red Hot' with harmonica is nice enough in its own right. 'The Way It Was Back Then', from 1994, is a rock n roll history lesson underpinned by a Bo Diddley beat. 'I've Been Searching' and 'Is That All To The Ball (Mr. Hall)' are both decent, brassy rockers. 'Open The Door Rich-ard', 'Everybody's Twisting', the silly 'Nightmare Mash' and odd 'Speed Lovers' are not in the same class as the others. It's always a pleasure to review a Bear Family CD as they invariably go the extra mile.
The digipak comes with a superb 40-page illustrated booklet with authoritative liner notes by Bill Dahl and discography by Colin Escott, Bill Millar and Nico Feuer-bach. I would urge anyone out there lacking a Billy Lee Riley CD to snap this one up pronto. Harry Dodds