Voices at Large

The Architect In Action

03 JUN 08 DAVID VIENNA

When Little Richard took the stage at this year's Avila Beach Blues Festival, the gray clouds hovering low over the seaside event parted and the sun broke through, leading to clear blue skies and warm weather for the entirety of his set. I'm sure he'd say he had something to do with that.

On July 29, Specialty will release a comprehensive collection of songs by the self-proclaimed "Architect of Rock 'n' Roll," a title that I don't think anyone would argue with if only because it's meaning is so vague. But that, of course, is the charm of Little Richard.

At the Avila Beach event, he unabashedly packed his set with classic like "Tutti-Fruitti" and "Good Golly Miss Molly." At one point, he invited "big, fat juicy" women up on stage. Once it was jammed with eager fans, he broke into a rollicking series of songs that had everyone moving.

During his substantial set, Little Richard never dared to dip into a ballad. His entire career is built on fast rockers and that's what we got -- as exuberantly frenetic as when they were first recorded. And at 75, he has more energy than many of the young artists he influenced.

All the bragging aside, Little Richard truly is one of rock's treasures. He was doing rock before it was called rock, before Elvis and the like got hold of it. Artists as disparate as Pat Boone and Creedence Clearwater Revival have covered his songs. In that, I guess the "Architect" thing makes sense. Hilariously egotistical, his current catchphrase is "I'm not conceited. I'm convinced." After seeing him in action, I am, too.

Jeff Lorber - Hacienda