In the early '60s, rock 'n' roll architects such as Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard found themselves hitless and beached. In 1964, Little Richard, undeterred, walked into a Chicago studio and cut "I Don't Know What You Got (But It's Got Me)," seamlessly transitioning from the whop-bop of his Specialty hits to the sensuously slow, pleading soul music that was on the horizon. He was ahead of his time again, even if it would be a decade before anyone would know about it, and he owed that in large part to the song's author, the musician and writer Don Covay.
Now Ace, the U.K. Reissue label, has given Covay more of his due with a collection of his soul songs cut from the late '50s to the early '70s by artists such as Solomon Burke, Aretha Franklin and The Staple Singers. Even in that company, the Little Richard cut stands out: No one else has ever sounded so melodically desperate. The CD has the added bonus of letting you hear a chunk of work by Covay, one of the great if little-known soul writers. And if you like that, you've got to hear Covay's own recordings.