The twentieth of October 2022, was the occasion of American singer Wanda Jackson’s eighty-fifth birthday. To celebrate this milestone, Bear Family Records have compiled a vinyl album of Jackson’s highly regarded Rock ‘n’ Roll period in the late 1950s, and early 1960s. Comprising twelve tracks recorded between 1956 and 1962, is this album by “the queen of Rockabilly” worth picking up?
Wanda Jackson is a name I was familiar with, thanks to excellent written features in Vintage Rock magazine, but much of her material hadn’t graced my ears. Originally in the Country world, Wanda transitioned to the rockier side of music in the late fifties after Elvis hit the big time. It is fair to say the rip-roaring goodness of Let’s Have a Party is her most well-known record of this period; The song has graced many a best of Rock and Roll compilation.
Much of the material on this album features Wanda’s uniquely heightened raspy delivery. Examples of this vocal style include Fujiyama Mama, Long Tall Sally and Tongue Tied. Her style which might not suit everybody, but it definitely helps get the foot tapping along with the expert instrumentation; Which features musicians including Buck Owens, Joe Maphis, Roy Clark and Big Al Downing.
Wanda would transition back into Country music after this period, her roots in the genre evident in parts. While her energetic Rock and Roll vocal lifted the dance floor at any juke joint that happened to hear it, something can also be said for songs where Wanda relaxes into her natural tone. Funnel of Love, Savin’ My Love, and Cool Love are examples that signal, where Wanda could go after the era, had died down; And wonderful they are too.
The sound quality of this album is exceptional. It sounds like the masters have been kept in good condition. Playing through my speaker setup, the sound was pristine and crisp; Wanda’s voice tearing through the instrumentation.
A Little Something Extra…
The album comes on a nicely presented 10-inch vinyl featuring one of Bear Family’s vintage-style logos. The package also features a picture postcard of Wanda and an extensively researched twelve-page booklet written by Bill Dahl. Also featured across the entire package are rare photographs and illustrations. As usual, everything looks crystal clear and is clearly sourced from high-quality libraries. There is also a nicely researched discography at the back of the booklet.
The only thing missing is the presence of an accompanying CD, a feature of many of Bear Family’s previous releases. Having that extra CD with the album plus bonus tracks gives extra value to a package, but I have an idea as to why it’s missing here. The absence of a CD means the focus is on the vinyl; The medium these recordings were intended to be heard on.
- Baby Loves Him
- Long Tall Sally
- Cool Love
- Tongue Tied
- Honey Bop
- You Don’t Know, Baby
- (Let’s Have A) Party
- Mean Mean Man
- Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad
- Fujiyama Mama
- Funnel of Love
- Savin’ My Love
Bear Family Records have created a compilation, on vinyl no less, that celebrates the Rock and Roll period of Wanda Jackson. While there were many sides that could have made this collection, I appreciate they focused on the upbeat numbers; It really creates a party atmosphere across the whole album. If someone only knew Let’s Have a Party, this would certainly set them straight. The presentation, including the booklet, packaging etc, is second to none. If you’re a fan of Wanda’s music, this is going to be something you’re going to pick up to complete your collection.
Wanda is an artist with many eras. This seems like a great starting point for discovering the best of her rockin’ era. Happy Birthday, Wanda Jackson.