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These Are My Songs!

Otis Blackwell

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Album Review

Given that the discography of Otis Blackwell is limited to a scant few items, These Are My Songs takes on great singular historical significance in the annals of rock & roll. Blackwell is the author or co-author of several well-known hits that launched the careers of many seminal rockers, not the least of whom was Elvis Presley. Blackwell himself can be easily compared to Screamin' Jay Hawkins vocally, while in many ways is near to the sounds of Chuck Berry stylistically. This 1976 recording has Blackwell re-creating his songs in the manner of Elvis, his singing paralleling that distinctive hunka-hunka drawl. There are also tunes from others who Blackwell wrote for and influenced, with a backup band of musicians who sound much more contemporary in the electric Memphis blues and R&B of the Stax studio sound. While based in the soul music of the '50s, this is rock & roll at its finest, stoked by high powered beats, the animated singing of Blackwell, and the steel cased guitar work of Gordon Inyard. Though Blackwell is depicted on the album cover playing piano, he does not play keyboards on the recording, leaving that to Chris Townes. While the band itself is relatively undistinguished, they provide plenty of propulsion and fire to keep Blackwell's fires burning.

And make no mistake — Blackwell is smokin' hot, on the classic R&B/swing/rock classic "All Shook Up" and "Return to Sender," the most famous hits of Elvis that bookend the session, where he phrases exactly like Presley. "Don't Be Cruel" strays a bit from the original, but is quite typical in most respects, and faithful to its core values. Then there's the super fast "Great Balls of Fire" with Townes flying in a tribute to the man who made it a bigger hit, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Blackwell more animated. "Handy Man" was a hit for the falsetto voiced Jimmy Jones, but Blackwell does it more like Elvis, with off-putting whistling included, and "Hey Little Girl," made famous by Dee Clark, has a definite choogling Bo Diddley style melted into it. The only non-Blackwell composition is Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller's "Searchin'," initially from the repertoire of the Coasters, less like Elvis and hearkening back to his pure soul roots. A snake-like guitar riff and thick drum beats during "Fever" — also not written by Blackwell — lends to its sultry feel juxtaposed against his screaming upper volume singing, while a looser approach identifies the more obscure tunes like "Back Trail" and "Let's Talk About Us" that someone could easily update. The best track, "Daddy Rollin' Stone," is pure Blackwell, a sly and nasty, sexy and dirty blues that oozes with seductiveness, with Inyard's repeat riffs building the intrigue and dark shadows à la cavernous vampire or voodoo inferences. Blackwell is certainly a neglected figure, and where the royalty money for these songs went is anyone's guess, but they are finally available on CD for all to admire and treasure. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Biography

Born: 16 February 1932 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s

Few 1950s rock & roll tunesmiths were as prolifically talented as Otis Blackwell. His immortal compositions include Little Willie John's "Fever," Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel" and "All Shook Up," Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls...
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These Are My Songs!, Otis Blackwell
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