The Best Of Johnny Rivers

Johnny Rivers

Capital 1990

Review by David Bowling


Johnny Rivers rose to fame as the house band/artist at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go Club in Los Angeles during the mid 1960’s. During the next 15 years he would sell 30 million records, place nearly two-dozen songs on the Billboard Top 100, and establish his own record label.

River’s albums were better than the norm for his era, but it was his single releases that set him apart. His ballads and up-tempo pop songs were perfect confections for AM radio play. His songs have been re-released in a number of forms but the best introduction to his music is the 1990 release The Best Of Johnny Rivers. It gathers together most of his hit singles to create a picture of mid-1960’s-to early 1970’s pop music. He may not have changed the course of American music but he made it a lot more enjoyable.

His early releases were mostly covers. Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” and “Maybelline” are re-imagined as pop tunes with a thumping bass section. Harold Dorman’s 1960 hit “Mountain Of Love” follow the same formula.

It was his own songs, however, that solidified his career. “Secret Agent Man” from the TV series and “Seventh Son” are perfect light weight sixties radio fare.

Despite the energy of his up-tempo material, it was his ballads that were his most popular songs. “Baby I Need Your Lovin.'” “Summer Rain,” “The Tracks Of My Tears,” and the number one “Poor Side Of Town” remain good listens a half-century after their release.

The final two hits of his career were rockers. Covers of Huey Lewis’ “Rockin’ Pneumonia” and Carl Perkins “Blue Suede Shoes” brought some life to these often covered classics.

Johnny Rivers has been playing the oldies circuit for year and is mostly remembered by the generation that matured in the 1960’s and 1970’s. His music remains his lasting legacy and when the best of his recordings are gathered together, it remains a memorable listening experience.

Rating: ****