15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Good Value Anthology,
This review is from: The Essential Jerry Lee Lewis (Audio CD)
This for my money is one of the better JLL R & R collections on the market, and let's face it, there are quite a few out there. The main problem Joe Public has, is that Jerry Lee made umpteen remakes on umpteen different labels. For the uncommitted casual buyer, my suggestion would definitely be to listen to his Sun output above all others, and that's what's covered here (though not comprehensively of course - there are other collections which do the job on this - it depends how hard you want to hit your bank account).
Lewis's music grew out of Rhythm & Blues, Gospel, C & W and the earthy nightlife of the Deep South. He developed into a brash performer, and eventually parlayed his way into the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis. He told them he "played the piano like Chet Atkins played the guitar". This got their attention and he hit the lower reaches of the charts with "Crazy Arms" - Country more than Rock, but soon he was into the big time with "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and the incomparable "Great Balls Of Fire". This last number won him a spot in the classic 1957 R & R film "Jamboree". The country-flavoured blues had given way to a hard-driving,boogie-woogie style which earned Jerry Lee his place as a pioneer of Rock 'N' Roll.
For me it was no coincidence that Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins had also made their names through Sun - the common denominator was the sound created by producer/entrepreneur Sam Phillips.
There was a sociological connection as well. At the time the record charts in the U.S. (especially in the South) were segregated along racial lines, the Black audience generally being associated with R & B and Gospel, and the White side had Country and Mainstream Pop. Phillips was shrewd enough to see that Jerry Lee could neatly fill a niche as competition for piano-playing Black vocalists like Fats Domino and Little Richard, who were having great success on the crest of the R 'N' R wave.
Phillips' formula was based on three-or four-piece bands and the vocals were liberally laced with slap-back echo. To listen to Jerry Lee's "Well"s, "Oohs" and "Ahs" as he went through his routine is to hear the seminal sounds of 1950's R 'N' R. Gene Vincent was another great exponent of this, and there were many lesser imitators. Lewis's instrumental work was superb - dynamic and flamboyant with the boogie riffs pushing things neatly along. Fats and Little Richard must have been looking over their shoulders.
As the 1960's came around, Phillips expanded to a bigger studio and the slap-back echo now became a more respectable reverb - and for me, at least, that magical Sun ingredient was lost. The tight, crisp sound on "Little Queenie" gave way to a booming, cavernous sound on "Save The Last Dance For Me".
Come 1963 The Beatles changed everything and Jerry Lee left Sun. He eventually "crossed over" into Country and (IMHO) bland mediocrity.
He left a great legacy from the Sun days, however, and I still love to listen to things like the above-mentioned "Little Queenie" (which for me, eclipsed the Chuck Berry original by a mile); "Good Rockin' Tonight", (the piano solo captures him at his frantic best); "Lovin' Up A Storm", "Breathless", "Milkshake Mademoiselle", "Sixty Minute Man" - to my mind this is the authentic Jerry Lee Lewis.