Felix Hernandez Presents: The Rhythm Revue
TVT Records - Promo Sampler, 1997
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/30/1998
When I was a young child, my father listened constantly to the oldies stations -- in the late '70s, Dick Bartley was one of the best-known Chicago DJs to spin the oldies. (He's since gone on to nationwide acclaim -- deservedly so.) Being exposed to the music of my father's generation as often as I was, I not only developed a liking for it, but also got to know a lot of the songs and artists quite well -- so well, in fact, that I could often name them more accurately than my dad. (He still hates that I can do this.)
Another noted disc jockey, Felix Hernandez, has made a career of keeping rhythm & blues in the public eye. Mixing such well-known artists like Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett in with others who otherwise would have been forgotten by time, Hernandez has developed a very strong following. Now, Hernandez brings the music of his radio show into your home with The Rhythm Revue, a three-disc box set featuring 53 songs that will, if you're like my dad or myself, bring back a flood of memories.
For once, however, I am at a disadvantage, in that I have not had the privilege to hear the entire box set, though through the courtesy of a twelve-song sampler, I have a really good idea about the quality of the rest of the box set. And the condensed version's vote: it's really tasty.
Among the big names featured on this set are Aretha Franklin ("Respect", "Think"), Archie Bell & The Drells ("Tighten Up" - both parts, no less!), James Brown ("Lost Someone") and Pickett ("In The Midnight Hour"). And while it's always good to hear these hits, one has to admire Hernandez for not always taking the easy route - he could have just as easily picked a Brown song that everyone knew like "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag".
The second level of artists featured here are those whose songs you may recognize when they're played, but you'd be hard-pressed to name them. Among these are Fontella Bass ("Rescue Me"), Bessie Banks ("Go Now"), The Impressions ("It's All Right" -- still a better version than Huey Louis & The News' cover) and Cliff Nobles ("Love Is All Right (The Horse)" -- wasn't this also out as an instrumental at one time?).
Rounding out the coverage on The Rhythm Revue are the artists whose legacy Hernandez has been preserving. Artists like Laura Lee ("Since I Fell For You"), Billy Stewart ("I Do Love You"), Mighty Sam ("Sweet Dreams") and Linda Jones ("Hypnotized") are just a few of the artists I believe I heard for the first time. Admittedly, this portion of the sampler is the most hit-or-miss, as some performances are a tad disappointing ("Since I Fell For You" comes to mind immediately), but they are small educating moments for the uninitiated. I do have to admit I am curious about how some other songs I don't recognize sound, like "No Man Is An Island" by The Van Dykes, either of the Gene Chandler cuts, and Betty Wright's "Clean Up Woman".
Hernzndez is to be commended for his hard work and careful selection of songs which appear on this set -- and could very well have created one of the few box sets that can be called a "must-own." One wonders if a sequel can be far off -- I wouldn't mind seeing Rufus Thomas or Ray Charles, for example, grace the track listings in the near future.
I only got a small taste spoon of The Rhythm Revue set... you, the consumer, can get the full half-gallon. My advice: grab it, and devour it in one sitting. Much less fattening than Ben & Jerry's, it's also more satisfying.