The Best of Louie, Louie

ImageThis blog entry is a little different from the others in that I’m not reviewing a band but rather a song. The Best of Louie, Louie is a compilation album released on Rhino Records in 1983 containing various renditions of the classic garage rock song, “Louie, Louie.” I’m not usually a fan of compilations, best ofs, etc. but I thought that this one might be kind of fun. In fact, it is. The album explores various styles and variations of the classic song over a 30-year period from Richard Berry’s original in 1955 to 80s covers by bands like Black Flag and The Last. Of course, The Kingsmen’s 1963 version which would go on to make the song a super hit is included. There are five versions of the song that seem to naturally progress: Richard Berry to Rockin’ Robin Roberts to The Kingsmen to The Sonics to Black Flag. Richard Berry’s original version is more of a doo-wop song, reliant on soothing vocals and an easy Caribbean beat. Rockin’ Robin Roberts’s version adds that beautiful electric guitar solo and brings the doo-wop beat toward a Chuck Berry classic rock ‘n’ roll sound. Then the infamous Kingsmen cover distorts the lyrical sound, propelling the song into a whirlwind of controversy and success, ultimately cementing its status as a super hit. The Sonics’ version strips down the sound and gives it a protopunk feel. This version also strengthens the vocals by making them harsher and louder. Finally, Black Flag’s version is a full throttle hardcore punk variation. Black Flag’s version speeds up and strips down the sound even further. It also includes improvised and darker lyrics. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite of these five. They are all spectacular though for different reasons. In addition to these five mainstream editions, the album also contains a number of vastly different variations. For example, Rice University Marching Owl Band covers the song in an ensemble fashion. I enjoy this version a lot because of the zealous horn section. I don’t really care for other versions like The Sandpipers’ quiet, 60s easy listening style. The Last and Les Dantz and His Orchestra perform covers that are quintessentially 80s. The Last has a power rock/gothic rock sound reminiscent of The Cure. Les Dantz and His Orchestra uses way too much synthesizer for me. The album is wrapped up with an a cappella song called The Hallelouie Chorus by The Impossibles. It’s a little bizarre to me; I could definitely do without it. Overall, I like this album. I like the concept of dedicating an album to such a classic song. I can even appreciate that the album includes experimental variations of the song. I just wish they’d be experimental in a way I find pleasing. If you want something different and can find it pretty cheap, then I’d recommend picking it up.  B