LITTLE JUNIOR PARKER
RIDE WITH ME BABY The Singles 1952-1961 (2CD)
Fantastic Voyage (FVDD138)
55 tracks including Drinkin' And Thinkin', Driving Me Mad, That's Alright, Peaches, Dangerous Woman, Sweet Home Chicago, How Long Can This Go On?, Barefoot Rock, Sitting And Thinking, Seven Days, Sittin' At The Window, The Next Time, Five Long Years etc etc.
Junior Parker seems to have been forgotten in blues history, despite the fact that he was an adventurous harmonica player, a great songwriter and the premier vocalist of his time and, apart from an occasional inclusion in the odd blues compilation, he was virtually ignored in the blues boom of the sixties - so to my mind, it's about time we got a proper Junior Parker set! Here are fifty five tracks from the first ten years of his career when he was ripping out hits with Modern, Sun and Duke Records in the company of some of the blues best session men around like Pat Hare, Ike Turner, Matt Murphy, Red Holloway, James Booker and Wayne Bennett.
This collection covers all the excitement of his first recording at Modern, his hit-making experience at Sun and then the move to Duke where he developed a more sophisticated big band soul/blues sound. He never forgot his country roots though and even when he was making brassy blues like In The Dark and Driving Wheel he'd still come up with true-blues-small-combo rockers like Dangerous Woman and the beautiful harmonica-led That's Alright.
When you hear these tracks you'll wonder why he isn't up there with John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, BB King and the rest. In his heyday he was hugely successful, scoring Billboard top ten hits like Next Time You See Me, Driving Wheel, In The Dark and Annie Get Your Yo-Yo while regularly registering in the top thirty with material which still inspires musicians today. Remember Magic Sam's great version of Feelin' Good and Elvis Presley's hit Mystery Train? Even Bob Dylan included Junior's I Wanna Ramble on his ‘Knocked Out Loaded' album.
Junior Parker was one of the most versatile bluesmen of all time recording gospel tinged ballads, scuffling little jump blues, polished big band R&B as well as tough, down-home numbers where his raucous country harmonica playing was always outstanding. In his early days, he spent a few months as a sideman in Howlin' Wolf's first band - and it shows!
Hopefully, Fantastic Voyage will follow this up with a compilation of his Mercury recordings and those on its rock/blues subsidiary Blue Rock but meanwhile, this wonderful collection is a most welcome and excellent tribute to one the finest.
Review Date: March 2012