Living Blues - pp.71-72
"[T]heir music has stood the test of time and belongs in every blues collection."
Liner Note Authors: Steve Cropper; Tony Rounce; Billy Vera.
Although this compilation does indeed contain both hits and rarities, it has more value to the collector looking for rarities than it does to the more general fan looking for the best "5" Royales anthology. While some of their biggest hits and most well-known songs are here (particularly "Think," "Dedicated to the One I Love," and "Tell the Truth"), it's missing some of their R&B chart singles. Nor does it have any of the material (including a few R&B smashes) they recorded in the early 1950s for Apollo, being wholly devoted to sides they cut between 1954-60 for King. So Rhino's Monkey Hips and Rice still gets the nod as the best "5" Royales retrospective, but for those who want more, the 26-track It's Hard But It's Fair: The King Hits and Rarities is a good collection. It's dominated by songs that don't usually make "5" Royales' anthologies, and though it does have a lot of material (both hit and non-hit) that almost anyone who buys this will already have, those hits and other highlights actually do make the CD more listenable as a whole. And while some of the rarities here are routine, others are very good, and about as good an illustration of the group's importance in aiding R&B's transition to soul as their better-known sides are. Particularly satisfying are those cuts that spotlight Lowman Pauling's guitar playing, which got more uninhibited, slashing, and bluesy as the group neared the end of their King stint in the late '50s. True, most of the best of those -- not just "Dedicated to the One I Love" and "Think," but also the relatively obscure "The Slummer the Slum," "Say It," and "I Know It's Hard But It's Fair" -- do appear on Monkey Hips and Rice. Many of the other songs on this CD, however, don't, including some of the better ones, like "I Need Your Lovin' Baby," the obviously early James Brown-influenced "I'm With You," and "Don't Give No More Than You Can Take," which opens with some of Pauling's most explosive guitar licks. ~ Richie Unterberger