Loud, Fast & Out of Control

Loud, Fast & Out of Control

The Wild Sounds of ’50s Rock

Rhino

No doubt one of the great tragedies of contemporary rock ‘n’ roll (besides our seeming inability to define it) has been music without context. Either artists don’t cite their references, or their references are completely out of whack. Brian Setzer, for example, made a lot more sense mining rockabilly in the ’80s than he does incorporating Louis Prima swing in the ’90s. Or, is Widespread Panic doing much more than mining the Grateful Dead, instead of the Grateful Dead’s influences? Because we don’t where our music’s coming from anymore, God knows where it’s heading.

Worse yet has been commercial radio’s treatment of the early days of rock ‘n’ roll. Oldies stations are just as guilty in their inability to show just how amazing, groundbreaking, and flat-out dangerous those early days truly were. Playing such a limited number of songs from the 1950s robs fans of appreciating just what exactly happened back then. And what happened was a revolution that truly scared people. If you think Marilyn Manson is threatening to parents today, well, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Little Richard were a threat to national security.

Rhino Records corrects all this with Loud, Fast & Out of Control , a four-disc boxed set filled with music that awakened a generation and frightened another. It’s a heady blend of some of the most familiar music of its time and lesser-known gems, all of which fit one simple criterion: They rock. There’s no denying the ferocity of Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” or the blatant sexuality of Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire,” but people tend to forget the magic of Gene Vincent’s “Jumps, Giggles and Shouts,” the raw insistence of Ronnie Dee’s (aka Ronnie Dawson) “Action Packed,” or the frustration of Little Willie John’s “I’m Shakin’.”

And few such compilations show the connection between rockabilly and rhythm and blues with such fairness. It’s really all here. And perhaps the best thing about this collection, besides the typically excellent Rhino packaging and liner notes, is being able to hear each and every song — popular and obscure — in its context. “Golden oldies” sound just as fresh when played alongside the others, and hence, we’re able to understand how the music mattered. If only radio and the record labels of today could be so helpful.

Rhino Records, 10635 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025; http://www.rhino.com

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