19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Could have been better, but ...,
This review is from: A Whole Lotta Jerry Lee Lewis (Audio CD)Let me say straight off that I haven't purchased this set but I am the owner of more than 90 per cent of the contents - and that's without counting - many of which tracks I have on both vinyl and CD. I think that gives me at least some credibility in attempting a review. The presence of existing positive reviews from Uncut, Mojo and even the Daily Telegraph leads me to believe that there's likely to be very little wrong with the sound quality. Nor is there anything wrong with the packaging. Uncut awards 8/10 for what it quaintly calls "Extras", in other words, the 70 page booklet including rare photos, biography and full track details. This is just the sort of packaging that I would expect to get with a retrospective but then I was spoilt by the 2006 Snapper "Sun Essentials" 4 CD set from the Killer.
Although the appearance in the aforesaid reviews is of a new look back at the Lewis career, Amazon's headline description of the album includes phrases like "Collector's Edition" and "Extra Tracks" which rather suggests that this is but an updated version of an existing retrospective. I have to admit to ignorance on whether or not this is the case but several aspects about the contents do rather confirm the impression.
Chief among these is the woefully short list of tracks from that glorious Sun period. I can understand any compiler's problem here. In the great man's youthful period - I originally wrote "pomp" but that would have been wrong - every individual song was attacked with flair, gusto and above all, imagination leading to an unbelievably high and consistent quality of output. Just what would you leave out? What we are left with on Disc 1 is 12 tracks only, these largely being the hits which doesn't do any justice to the terrific volume of material he recorded in the timeframe. Indeed there is a higher proportion of music on Disc 1 from the initial Smash/Mercury period (which yielded zero hits) prior to the man's country breakthrough. This does seem slightly against the grain even if this music is well worth hearing, which it is of course.
Disc 2 focuses on that country breakthrough and, it has to be said, makes a sterling job of covering the period. This particular disc plus a few of the tracks on Disc 3 does as good a job of summarising Jerry's country phase as I've seen anywhere. The only major omission is his reading of Kristofferson's "Help me make it through the night" which should have been present. Set against that is the inclusion of some tracks which don't often appear in collections.
The above evidence does suggest that this set was originally compiled by those folks at Smash/Mercury, or whichever conglomerate has swallowed them up now, with earlier tracks purchased since I'd guess this was prior to all the Sun material coming available in the public domain.
Regardless of the above the key question is still, does this set do the job as a "Definitive Retrospective" which is what it claims to be?
I'd say that the answer has to be a hesitant yes but with quite a few negatives which I've listed below. To the best of my knowledge there is no other set which attempts to cover the career of Jerry Lee from his Sun days up to roughly, 1980, so this isn't a bad start and maybe a later update might be even better.
So, the negatives ...
- Even though the set contains plenty of pre-country Smash material it doesn't have his great covers of the two Cookie & the Cupcakes numbers, "Mathilda" and Got you on my mind". Nor does it have his take on George Jones' "I Still Care" which has always been a favourite of mine.
- There's nothing from the recently re-released "Live at the Star Club, Hamburg" album, a candidate for best live rock'n'roll album ever.
- I would have liked one or two more of his versions of Mickey Newbury songs in addition to "She even woke me up to say goodbye". I always felt Jerry was one of the few artists to make a real fist of Newbury songs.
- From the Elektra period, which is otherwise well covered, the near autobiographical "I'd Do it All Again" doesn't appear and this is a serious omission. The good news is that they do retain his marvellous "Over the Rainbow".
- There's nowhere near enough from the "Killer Rocks On" album - I'd have had more of these tracks and less of the London session.
- I'd also have liked to have had "Born to be a Loser" from the "Southern Roots" album which is another one that's under represented.
- There's nothing from the 1995 "Young Blood" album which had a mixed critical reception though as I stated earlier, I guess the set stops somewhere in the eighties. Needless to say there's nothing from the more recent, Rubin style, "Last Man Standing" or "Mean Old Man" albums.
With the exception of the near minimal presence of Sun tracks, all the above could be viewed as gripes from a Lewis fanatic who's never going to be satisfied with any best-of, even one as relatively all embracing as this. And I have to add that, if you complemented this set by one of the longer Charly/Snapper albums from the man, you would have a pretty good picture of the Killer's oeuvre.
The vast majority of people only know Jerry from his Sun sides and only the better known hits at that. What this set does do is more than balance this perception of Jerry's output. I refused to use the word pomp earlier when mentioning the Sun period. And that's because Jerry's rarely not been in his pomp (and that's ignoring his own opinion of himself!). Even when he was really churning out country stuff like there was no tomorrow there was almost invariably the odd track per album where he rose above the sometimes mundane material he was given. And every now and then he'd pull out an absolute beaut - give a listen to "Don't Boogie Woogie when you say your prayers tonight" which leads off Disc 4 for a typical inflammatory example. Of all the fifties rockers and that's including his great rival Elvis, Jerry continued to make inspired records even up to yesterday ("Mean Old Man"). His voice may not be quite what it was but it's still a lot better than Dylan's!
I was going to drop a star because of the lack of many key Sun tracks but if I'm honest the material here deserves the full monty even if, for a definitive retrospective, it could have been better. However anything that continues to boost the appreciation of Lewis as a major figure in American music who has put on record superb performances in blues, R&B, country, gospel, country soul and even standards, rather than just a caricatured rocker has to be applauded.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Apr 2012 18:39:47 BDT
Stevie Dal says:
I'll be getting this as i'm a fan of Jerry Lee's country period but only have 2 comps of it. Also , i love Mickey Newbury. Which of his other songs has JLL recorded , and what albums were they on ?
PS a superb review !
In reply to an earlier post on 14 Apr 2012 23:07:47 BDT
Dangerous Dave says:
In chronological order:
"Just Dropped In..." which was on "Soul My Way" released in 1967 & I don't know whether this album ever got released on CD.
"Why you been gone so long" on "My Fingers Do the Talkin'" in 1982.
"That was the way it was then" on "I am what I am" in 1984.
For me the last one was the best of this lot.
I actually thought there were more until I checked. It's just possible I may have been getting Jerry mixed up with Waylon Jennings who recorded even more of Newbury's stuff.
And it's good to hear from another Newbury fan. Between roughly 5 and 10 years ago I thought the man had been totally forgotten. There were country reference books which didn't include him etc. Thankfully that situation has now been rectified.
P.S. One of Jerry's best individual country albums, in my view, was the one which featured "She even woke me up to say goodbye" and had that as the title.
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