Johnny Rivers – Rivers Rocks The Folk (1965)

OriginalFC1Johnny Rivers is a unique figure in the history of rock music. On the most obvious level, he was a rock star of the 1960s and a true rarity as a white American singer/guitarist who made a name for himself as a straight-ahead rock & roller during the middle of that decade. Just as important behind the scenes, his recordings and their success led to the launching, directly and indirectly, of at least three record labels and a dozen other careers whose influence extended into the 1970s, 1980s, and beyond. (by Bruce Eder)

When the folk-rock ship arrived, Rivers was ready to jump aboard, with assistance from producer Lou Adler (then also handling Barry McGuire and the Mamas and the Papas). “Twelve Greatest Folk Songs in His A Go-Go Style” reads the subtitle, and it’s an accurate description of a set dominated by some of the most familiar folk songs of the era: “Tom Dooley,” “Michael (Row the Boat Ashore),” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Green, Green,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “If I Had a Hammer,” and “500 Miles.” More contemporary material gets a nod via versions of Donovan’s “Catch the Wind” and Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Basically, however, it sounds like a mid-’60s Johnny Rivers album: nearly unvarying mid-tempo, easy-to-handclap-along-with rhythms, soulful female backup harmonies, and easy-rocking lead vocals.


Quality folk-rock took the best of both genres to create something greater than the sum of the parts, but Rivers just laid his own (pretty derivative) commercial pop/rock style on a set of folk material. That means this LP lacks the imagination necessary to rate as interesting folk-rock, though it’s adequately pleasant. A historical curiosity, it bears some similarity to the first hit albums by Trini Lopez, though with a heavier rock feel. That similarity is not unexpected given that drummer Mickey Jones had played with Lopez (and, in a more surprising twist, would soon go on to play with future Band members in the group that backed Bob Dylan on his famous 1966 world tour). (by Richie Unterberger)


Chuck Day (bass)
Mickey Jones (drums)

Johnny Rivers (guitar, vocals)

Alternate frontcover:

01.Tom Dooley (Traditional) 2.47
02. Long Time Man (Traditional) 3.33
03. Michael (Row The Boat Ashore) (Traditional) 2.13
04. Blowin In The Wind (Dylan) 2.46
05. Green, Green (McGuire/Sparks) 2.07
06. Where Have All The Flowers Gone (Seeger) 3.55
07. If I Had A Hammer (Hays/Seeger) 3.00
08. Tall Oak Tree (Burnette) 2.24
09. Catch The Wind (Leitch) 2.59
10. 500 Miles (West) 3.01
11. Mr. Tambourine Man (Dylan) 3.32
12. Jailer Bring Me Water (Darin) 2.19



More Johnny Rivers:

Johnny Rivers – Rewind (1967)

FrontCover1Rewind is the third studio album by the American musician Johnny Rivers, released in 1967 by Imperial Records. The album includes cover versions of “Baby, I Need Your Lovin'” and “The Tracks of My Tears”. Produced by Lou Adler with arrangements by Jimmy Webb, who wrote eight of the songs, the album peaked at #14 on the Billboard albums chart.

With a big, clean production, and quality L.A. session musicians, Rewind is a great collection of blue-eyed soul and rock. The album’s two Motown covers, “Baby I Need Your Loving” and “Tracks of My Tears,” are more similar to tributes than attempts to outshine the originals. Rivers sounds like a well-adjusted Southern hipster on tracks like “The Eleventh Song,” which makes him sound like a cooler version of Sonny Bono. “Rosecrans Boulevard” showcases superb vocal harmonies and horn playing. The most interesting track would have to be “Sidewalk Song/27th Street,” which is pretty mediocre as a song, but are the bizarre sound clips possibly attacking commercialism? No one really knows. Produced by Lou Adler, arranged by Jimmy Webb, featuring Joe Osborne on bass, Larry Knechtel on piano, and Hal Blaine on drums, this record is a solid, tight recording, with excellent production and inventive arrangements provided by Webb. (by Zach Curd)


Hal Blaine (drums)
Mike Deasy Jr. (vocals)
Mike Deasy Sr. (guitar)
Larry Knechtel (piano)
Joe Osborn (bass)
Johnny Rivers (vocals guitar)
unknown orchestra + choir


01. The Tracks Of My Tears (Moore/Robinson/Tarplin) 2.57
02. Carpet Man (Webb) 3.06
03. Tunesmith (Webb) 3.14
04. Sidewalk Song (27th Street) (Webb) 2.28
05. It’ll Never Happen Again (Hardin) 3.30
06. Do What You Gotta’ Do (Webb) 2.26
07. Baby I Need Your Lovin’ (L.Dozier/Holland/E.Holland) 3.12
08. For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her (Simon) 2.50
09. Rosecrans Boulevard (Webb) 2.35
10. The Eleventh Song (Webb) 2.28
11. Sweet Smiling Children (Webb) 2.15



Johnny Rivers …And I Know You Wanna Dance (1966)

FrontCover1.jpg…And I Know You Wanna Dance was Johnny Rivers’s sixth official album, and was his 4th live album . It was recorded live at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles, California. The album reached #52 on the Billboard Charts and included the most famous recording of “Secret Agent Man” which peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. (by wikipedia)

One of the most underrated rockers of the 1960s, Johnny Rivers was a guy who served up the big beat strong and simple — on most of his best records, he set up at the Whisky A Go-Go in L.A. with a crack rhythm section and rolled tape as he let rip on a set of classic R&B tunes and pop hits, with his sturdy but passionate voice and no-nonsense guitar work doing the talking. And I Know You Wanna Dance was Rivers’ fourth live album, and if it sometimes sounds like the work of a bar band, in this context that’s a compliment — Rivers was a guy who played to rock the party, and if he’s playing what the audience wants to hear on this disc, he also did it very well indeed, and his covers of “Uptight (Everything’s Alright),” “Every Day I Have to Cry,” “Respect,” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” are potent blue-eyed soul with lots of feeling and no unnecessary fuss.

Johnny Rivers 1966.jpg

Rivers could also dig deeper into the blues bag when he felt like it, and while “The Snake” and “Foolkiller” are uptempo rockers, their tough roots shine through bright and clear. Rivers’ sharp, efficient lead guitar is on point throughout the album, and his bandmembers — including Mickey Jones on drums and Larry Knechtel on keys — are tight and tasty without getting in the way. Johnny Rivers may not have been the hippest guy on the charts, but he played real-deal rock & roll the way it was meant to sound, and And I Know You Wanna Dance is a lot more fun to listen to than a lot of other albums with much higher hipster cred. (by Mark Deming)


Chuck Day (guitar, bass)
Mickey Jones (drums)
Larry Knechtel -(organ)
Joe Osborn (guitar, bass)
Johnny Rivers (vocals, guitar)


01. The Snake (Brown, Jr.) 3.04
02. I Can’t Help Myself (Holland/Dozier/Holland 3.05
03. You Must Believe (Mayfield) 3.20
04. Uptight (Everything’s Alright) (Wonder/Moy/Cosby 3.07
05. Respect (Redding) 1.47
06. In The Midnight Hour Wilson (Pickett/Cropper) 2.32
07. Secret Agent Man (Barri/Sloan) 3.07
08. Every Day I Have To Cry(Alexander) 2.43
09. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (Mann/Spector/Weil) 5.59
10. Foolkiller (Allison) 3.24
11. Run For Your Life (Lennon/McCartney) 2.29
12. You Dig (***) (Day/Jones) 2.10


Johnny Rivers & His L.A. Boogie Band – Last Boogie In Paris (1974)

FrontCoverTheCompleteConcert1Johnny Rivers was no stranger to live albums by the time he released this 1973 show taped at the close of a European tour. His first four albums were all recorded live at the Los Angeles club the Whisky A Go-Go in the mid-’60s, and from those albums five singles went into the national Top Ten. After 1967, Rivers’ recording career basically dried up for five years, until he returned to the Top Ten with a cover of Huey “Piano” Smith & the Clowns’ “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu.” He was probably hoping that another live album would rekindle some of that earlier magic on the LP chart, but it wasn’t to be: Last Boogie in Paris failed to land in the Top 100. It’s not that it was a bad album, not by any means: Rivers still had a gift for making just about any song he covered his own, and for this tour he backed himself with some of the finest musicians the West Coast had to offer, dubbing them the L.A. Boogie Band for the occasion. Although he had scored hits with some of his own compositions by this time, Rivers’ stock-in-trade was still the cover version, and he mixed his influences well here, applying his voice to material by Curtis Mayfield (“It’s Alright”), Holland-Dozier-Holland (the Four Tops’ “Baby, I Need Your Lovin’,” a 1967 number three hit for Rivers), Little Richard (“Long Tall Sally”), Lennon-McCartney (a spirited “I’ve Just Seen a Face”), Van Morrison (“Brown Eyed Girl”) and others. “Summer Rain,” one of Rivers’ finest ballads, is a highlight of the set, and he reprises Chuck Berry’s “Memphis,” which had provided him with his first hit in 1964. Although the show is sung and played in an engaging, professional manner — Rivers’ guitar playing rocks; he was always underrated in that department — the album, possibly because he used studio pros on the road, never quite captures the manic party atmosphere that characterized those earlier Whisky recordings. And the album-ending “John Lee Hooker ’74,” a Rivers-penned tribute to the bluesman, seems endless and draggy. This Shout! Factory reissue is an expanded edition that adds ten songs to the original album’s eight, presenting for the first time the complete concert. As a historical document it’s a valuable upgrade, but as a sampling of Rivers at his live best, it’s nowhere near those first few Whisky records. (by Jeff Tamarkin)

Recorded live at the Olympia Theater, Paris, on May 23, 1973


Jack Conrad (bass)
Chuck Findley (flugelhorn, trumpet)
Jim Gordon (drums)
Jim Horn (saxophone)
Michael Melvoin (keyboards)
Dean Parks (guitar)
Herb Pedersen (guitar, background vocals)
Johnny Rivers (vocals, guitar)
Johnny Rivers - Last Boogie in ParisTracklist:
01. Sea Cruise (Ford/Smith) 2.34
02. Over The Line (Omartian/Dalhstrom) 3.48
03. Barefootin’ (Parker) 3.25
04. Summer Rain (Hendricks) 3.38
05. Long Tall Sally (Johnson/Penniman/Blackwell) 3.15
06. Walkin’ Blues (Griffin) 5.10
07. Rock Me A Little While (Holland/Dozier/Holland) 4.04
08. John Lee Hooker (Rivers) 10.43