Greatest Hits

Johnny Rivers

Greatest Hits

Johnny Rivers rose to fame as an interpreter of tunes by Chuck Berry, Leadbelly, Mose Allison and other musical innovators. He stood apart by putting his own dynamic stamp on familiar material, combining forceful, slightly twanging vocals with a hard-driving guitar attack. This greatest-hits package reveals why Rivers’ formula was so appealing four decades ago. Early hits like “Memphis” and “Maybelline” were recorded live at Hollywood’s trendy Whisky a Go Go and benefit from the interplay between Johnny and his energized audience. Later recordings took him into Motown territory; his cover of “Baby, I Need Your Lovin’’” nearly bests the Four Tops version. Tracks like “The Poor Side Of Town” give a taste of his convincing abilities as a romantic balladeer. Most memorable of all is his rendition of P.F. Sloan’s “Secret Agent Man,” a rollicking anthem for would-be international spies everywhere. Rivers enjoyed continued success into the ‘70s with New Orleans-style rock and soft-pop tunes. But the mid-‘60s were his glory days, as this well-selected collection amply demonstrates.

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