Specialty Records — an imprint of Concord Bicycle Music — is pleased to announce the release of Mono Box: The Complete Specialty and Vee-Jay Albums: a deluxe, 5-LP box set that celebrates one of the most influential entertainers in popular music history, Little Richard. The collection includes the entire output of studio albums that Little Richard had recorded for both the Specialty and Vee-Jay labels, spanning 1957–1965. The albums, each featuring original label and jacket art, have been meticulously remastered from analog tapes and are presented in their original mono mixes. Completing the collection is a 16-page booklet featuring new liner notes by journalist Bill Dahl, plus era-specific photos.
In the early ’50s, Little Richard Penniman combined the spirit of church music, the bawdiness of blues and the swing of New Orleans jazz and turned it into something altogether new — rock ’n’ roll. When the Macon, Georgia native signed to Art Rupe’s Specialty Records, Little Richard began to develop his signature sound and flamboyant persona. His legendary debut album, Here’s Little Richard (1957), is a bold introduction to the artist, featuring the iconic tracks “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally.” His 1958 follow-up, Little Richard, finds the singer on his rise to superstardom, with hits like “Lucille,” “Good Golly Miss Molly” and the title track of Jayne Mansfield hit flick The Girl Can’t Help It, in which Little Richard appeared. The artist’s third and final album for Specialty, The Fabulous Little Richard (1959), was released soon after Richard had traded in a life of fame to focus on spreading the gospel. The LP featured standout tracks from Richard’s 1955-57 Specialty sessions, including “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On,” “Lonesome and Blue” and “Kansas City.”
Having taken several years out of the spotlight to focus on religion, Little Richard returned to his rock ’n’ roll roots in the early ’60s. This period kicked off with a successful European tour, followed by a new record contract with Vee-Jay Records. His first release with the label was 1964’s Little Richard Is Back — a triumphant collection of old favorites and new tunes, with a backing band that featured a young Jimi Hendrix on guitar. Richard’s second and final studio release with Vee-Jay was 1965’s His Greatest Hits. Despite the name, this album is not a compilation, but rather features the singer revisiting his classic hits nearly a decade later, introducing new arrangements and instrumentation. In his liner notes for the Mono Box, musicologist Bill Dahl writes, “As the end of the decade grew near and the first rock and roll revival loomed, Richard emerged at its forefront, his outrageous image earning him overdue network TV exposure.” Indeed, by the end of his tenure on Vee-Jay, Richard had firmly cemented his status as a rock ’n’ roll legend. Dahl continues, “It’s impossible to imagine how the genre would have developed if not for his massive innovations.”
Mono Box: The Complete Specialty and Vee-Jay Albums will be released July 15th on Specialty Records. (To pre-order on Amazon, click here.)