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Wanda Jackson

Rockin' With Wanda – 2002 (Capitol)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by Wanda Jackson

This sterling pair of reissues, an eponymous 1958 debut and a 1960 compilation of her 1950's rockabilly sides, show just why Wanda Jackson is so highly regarded by both rockabilly aficionados and straight-ahead country fans. Her self-titled debut shows the brilliance with which she was able to straddle multiple styles, and the rockabilly collection solidifies her reputation as one of the genre's legends. These discs are treasures, each sporting original cover art, a half-dozen bonus singles and B-sides, detailed liner notes and period photos.

Jackson's debut showcased her country side, including covers of Kitty Wells ("Making Believe") and Jim Reeves ("Just Call Me Lonesome"). She tackled everything from an early Don Everly ballad ("Here We Are Again"), to top-40 ("Happy Happy Birthday," a hit for the Tune Weavers) and sophisticated standards ("Let Me Go Lover," previously waxed by Peggy Lee).

She turned uptempo for a trio of scorchers, including a pair of 1950's standards ("Long Tall Sally" and "Money Honey"), and the incendiary anthem, "Let's Have a Party." Bonus tracks include the first-ever recording of "Silver Threads and Golden Needles" and a cover of Chuck Willis' bluesy "Let Me Explain."

1960's "Rockin' With Wanda" cherry-picks 18 sides waxed between 1956 and 1959. Included are the iconic rockabilly hits "Fujiyama Mama," "Honey Bop," "Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad" and the self-penned "Mean Mean Man" and "Rock Your Baby." In contrast, "You've Turned To A Stranger" is sung as a twangy country ballad, and "I Gotta Know" splits its time between rockabilly and waltz (as does "I Wanna Waltz" on the debut). Bonus tracks include pure country B-sides "Sinful Heart" and "Reaching," and the cool soul of "Savin' My Love."

Backed by world-class picking from Buck Owens, Joe Maphis and Ralph Mooney (among other luminaries), Jackson is utterly authoritative on everything from country weepers to stops-out rock 'n' roll. Choosing between these two discs is really a question of how to afford both.