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The Rill Thing and 1971’s King of Rock and Roll

Written by Randy Patterson

LittleRichardEarly70slpcoversThe Rill Thing and 1971’s King of Rock and Roll

Little Richard

Label: Omnivore Recordings

Release Date: September 18, 2020

Most recording artists are lucky to enjoy one successful comeback. As befit a rock ’n’ roll pioneer on his exalted scale, Little Richard waged several. Once upon a time, when he was racking up a non-stop string of mid-’50s smashes for Specialty Records producer Bumps Blackwell with his blistering New Orleans-cut “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” and “Rip It Up,” the Georgia Peach was deemed too uninhibited and unpredictable for TV variety shows to present to the nation.

On September 18, 2020, Omnivore Recordings will proudly release new expanded versions of two of Little Richard’s key comeback albums, 1970’s The Rill Thing and 1971’s King of Rock and Roll. The albums feature bonus tracks, new liner notes by Bill Dahl, photos, and ephemera.

Little Richard returned in 1970 with The Rill Thing for Reprise Records. Instead of sticking around his adopted home of Los Angeles, Richard set out for Rick Hall’s FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala. to record the album for Reprise, joined by Bumps, who was now his manager.

The opening track, “Freedom Blues,” hit #28 on the charts. “Greenwood Mississippi” made a Billboard appearance. The marathon title track (running a whopping 10 minutes and 20 seconds) was an intense funk jam that was captured in one take. The album also featured covers of the Beatles and Hank Williams — it was a sound far different from the savagely rocking attack Little Richard had ridden to fame like a rocket close to a decade-and-a-half earlier, but in key ways, it was every bit as lethal.

This reissue features the complete comeback release, plus the single-only “Shake a Hand (If You Can)” – originally recorded by Richard in 1959 and later covered by LaVern Baker, Elvis Presley, Paul McCartney, and others — and more. Packaging contains new liners from Bill Dahl, photos, and ephemera.

The Rill Thing bore the slogan “The Little Richard Sound” on its labels. “He was at his peak with his vocals on there,” says guitarist Travis Wammack admiringly. “He was just singing his booty off!”

No one expected the success of Little Richard’s return in 1970 with The Rill Thing. The following year’s King of Rock and Roll helped demonstrate that it was no fluke. This time, instead of handling the production and arranging duties himself, Richard handed those responsibilities off to the multi-talented H.B. Barnum, a widely-respected actor, musician, vocalist, arranger, and producer who was on call for the Supremes, Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Aretha Franklin, and Lou Rawls, among others.

From originals to covers of Motown classics, the Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Hank Williams, and Hoyt Axton’s “Joy to the World” (made famous by Three Dog Night), there was no doubt who sat on the throne of popular music. This time around, “Green Power” was selected as the single, with its flip “Dancing in the Street,” but no chart action was to be had. (Though Don Peterson’s striking cover photo likely attracted more than one taker browsing the record stores in ’71.)

This reissue features the remastered album plus six bonus tracks (including session material, and more), and packaging containing new liners from Bill Dahl, photos, and ephemera.

This album nicked Billboard’s pop album charts in November of ’71, and underscored the obvious: The King of Rock and Roll was back!

Little Richard died May 9, 2020, in Tullahoma, Tenn., his passing inspiring tributes and accolades from around the globe.

Track Listings:

  1. Freedom Blues
  2. Greenwood, Mississippi
  3. Two-Time Loser
  4. Dew Drop Inn
  5. Somebody Saw You
  6. Spreadin’ Natta, What’s The Matter?
  7. The Rill Thing
  8. Lovesick Blues
  9. I Saw Her Standing There

Bonus Tracks:

10. Shake A Hand (If You Can)

11. Radio Spot A

12. Radio Spot B

13. I Saw Her Standing There (Single Edit)

King Of Rock And Roll

  1. King Of Rock And Roll
  2. Joy To The World
  3. Brown Sugar
  4. In The Name
  5. Dancing In The Street
  6. Midnight Special
  7. The Way You Do The Things You Do
  8. Green Power
  9. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
  10. Settin’ The Woods On Fire
  11. Born On The Bayou

Bonus Tracks:

12. In The Name (Version 2)

13. Why Don’t You Love Me

14. Settin’ The Woods On Fire (Instrumental)

15. Mississippi (Instrumental)