Frankie Lymon: Rock ‘n’ Roll

Teenager steps out for 1958 solo debut

After two successful years fronting the Teenagers, vocalist Frankie Lymon stepped into a surprisingly unsuccessful solo career with this fine 1958 studio album. Having lost his childhood soprano to adolescence, his 16-year-old voice still had plenty of punch, and continued to leap from the grooves. His out-of-breath delivery of “Waitin in School” has an adolescent everything-is-happening-at-once fervor that Ricky Nelson’s cool-cat style didn’t match. It doesn’t hurt to have an ace guitar player – Mickey Baker, perhaps – tearing thing up in the breaks. Producers Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore double the vocals on “Wake Up Little Suzie,” creating a more saucy mood than the Everly’s original, and though covers of the Rays’ “Silhouettes” and the Coasters’ “Searchin’” aren’t particularly inspiring, there’s still plenty here to impress. Lymon’s adolescence adds a note of sweet longing to Nat King Cole’s “Send for Me,” and the R&B “Next Time You See Me” and “Short Fat Fanny” give Lymon a chance to really wail. Most impressive are original approaches to “Jailhouse Rock” and “Diana” that pay each song its due without imitating the hits. Several of these tracks were released as singles, but none had the success of the early Teenagers’ sides; worse, with a heroin habit eating away his abilities, Lymon was dropped by Roulette in 1961. He’d record a few sides for other labels, but this album and a handful of non-LP singles for Roulette (that should have been included here as bonus tracks) represents the end of Lymon’s run as a bright thread in the rock ‘n’ roll tapestry. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

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