March 23, 2010
Bear Family Records
Blues, Early R&B, Jump Blues, Rock & Roll, Electric Blues, New Orleans R&B

Album Review

There have been a number of Smiley Lewis compilations over the years, including some fine ones: the signature EMI release of The Best of Smiley Lewis, the Proper Introduction to Smiley Lewis, the two-volume Smiley Lewis Story, and Bear Family's definitive four-disc box set Shame, Shame, Shame, that collected every side he ever cut. That said, other than their original box set, none of them comes close to Bear Family's single-disc Smiley Lewis Rocks comp. Rather than merely present 36 chronologically recorded sides for Colony and Imperial from 1950-1958, it contextualizes them. Though Lewis began recording in 1947, his biggest years were the '50s, those in which he recorded his regionally popular “I Hear You Knocking” and “One Night” (whose later sanitized and vastly inferior versions were recorded by Gale Storm and Elvis Presley, respectively, with greater success -- yes, you read right, Presley's version of “One Night” utterly pales in comparison with the Lewis’ original. Of the rest, “Shame, Shame, Shame” and “Bumpity Bump” are here, as well as versions of “Blue Monday," “Rootin’ and Tootin,” "Lillie Mae," and many other New Orleans standards. Yet, it’s not simply track selection that makes this set so righteous: it’s the sound of Cosimo Matassa's New Orleans studio at work with the musicians that played on these sides that made them so unique: drummer Earl Palmer, saxophonists Lee Allen and Herbert Hardesty, and trumpeter and bandleader Dave Bartholomew -- who wrote or co-wrote the majority of these tunes. The players' spontaneity to capture on tape whatever was happening is apparent on this set. At the heart of it there’s Lewis’ voice, an enormous and expressive instrument capable of transferring so much to the listener: from raucous joy and wildness to tenderness and heartbreak, seemingly without effort. His guitar playing exemplifies the Crescent City sound, full of rhythmic invention and tough, R&B groove. The liner notes by Bill Dahl are peerless for their historical authority. The digitally remastered sound is better than any previous collection on the market; it's full, warm, and immediate. For anyone interested in rock & roll’s real roots, New Orleans music, or jump blues and classic R&B, Smiley Lewis Rocks is indispensable.
Thom Jurek, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Shame, Shame, Shame
  2. Big Mamou
  3. Ain't Gonna Do It
  4. Down the Road
  5. The Bells Are Ringing
  6. Can't Stop Loving You
  7. Ooh La La
  8. My Baby Was Right
  9. Blue Monday
  10. Dirty People
  11. Jailbird
  12. Where Were You
  13. Real Gone Lover
  14. Bumpity Bump
  15. I Hear You Knocking
  16. Sad Life
  17. Come On
  18. Bee's Boogie
  19. Queen of Hearts
  20. Lillie Mae
  21. One Night
  22. Caldonia's Party
  23. Nothing But the Blues
  24. She's Got Me Hook, Line & Sinker
  25. Rootin' and Tootin'
  26. Please Listen to Me
  27. Down Yonder We Go Ballin'
  28. No Letter Today
  29. Mama Don't Like
  30. Play Girl
  31. Go on Fool
  32. Goin' to Jump and Shout
  33. Bad Luck Blues
  34. School Days Are Back Again
  35. Lil Liza Jane
  36. Shame, Shame, Shame!
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