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Great album and perhaps one of the few good things to come out of 1979!
on 18 April 2014
1979 was overall not a very good year for the world. Chaos, war and fascist revolutions in various places, oil price hikes and a drift into worsening conditions in the Middle East is what most will remember about 1979. A year to forget? Well, no! Jerry Lee Lewis had cut one of his finest albums ever to launch the next chapter of his career on a new label.
The opening track, a version of Jesse Stone's R&B classic "Don't let go" is excellent and proof that Jerry Lee can reinterpret a song differently to how he did it before. He had previously cut this great song in the 1960s.The next track, "Rita May", also sounds very like another old R&B standard but it was actually written by Bob Dylan (who, like Jerry Lee, was deeply influenced by the blues sounds he grew up with). The blues ballad "Everyday I have to cry" slowed things down somewhat. Originally recorded by soul singer Arthur Alexander, Lewis personalises it to include the names of his current and previous wives in an additional verse! "I like it like that", a New Orleans R&B song from Chris Kenner, obviously provides Jerry Lee with a style he relishes in and concluded for the moment the cover songs from the album.
While the previous four songs set the pace for what to expect, the next two original songs were to really showcase what this great album was all about. "Number one loving man" was a tough 12 bar blues song that echoes the type of music Jerry Lee grew up on. The bluesy vocal combined with boogie woogie piano playing is pure Jerry Lee Lewis and harks back to the hits that he made his name with on Sun. "Rocking my life away" follows similarly with a blues/rock 'n' roll song. With the two similar performances back to back, one realises that blues and rock 'n' roll are father and son and nobody knows this more than the singer of both songs here! Then, it was into a slow blues styling with a version of the Charlie Rich-penned "Who will the next fool be", which Jerry Lee often did live in concert. Charlie Rich, like Jerry Lee, was another of the 1950s artists whose music style fused blues, rock and country influences.
The last three songs moved away from blues and rock somewhat to demonstrate Jerry Lee's versatility. Jerry Lee has often spoken highly of Al Jolson and Frank Sinatra and on "Personality", we see him master a jazzy pop/swing vocal approach that echoes this era excellently. Most fans are aware that Lewis also excelled as a country music superstar with emotional bluesy country ballads in the 1960s and 1970s. "I wish I was 18 again" was here to prove he still could turn out the best country performances too. The final song "Rockin' little angel" seems to borrow from gospel and rock 'n' roll and reminds one of old gospel songs like "The old ark's a moving along". By now, you will be wanting more and luckily there are two more great albums "When two worlds collide" and "Killer Country" coming up. Jerry Lee's time at Elektra is among the best of his career and this album is an excellent introduction to it.
So, rethink 1979. Sure, way too many horrid world events happened during those 12 months. But this great album also did.