Music Review: Jerry Lee Lewis - 25 All Time Greatest Sun Recordings

Jerry Lee Lewis is the last man standing among his famous Sun labelmates. Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash are all gone, but old Jerry Lee rocks on. He is also one of the last of a rapidly vanishing list of 1950s superstars who helped form the foundation of rock 'n' roll. His career has now reached the 55-year mark. He has produced dozens of pop and country hit singles, and his albums have sold tens of millions of copies. He has toured constantly for over a half century and been married seven times (including once to his 13 year old cousin once removed, which almost ruined his career). He has been elected to the Rock And Roll and Rockabilly Halls Of Fame.

While his career has moved in many directions and included rock, country, and rockabilly styles of music, it was his time with the legendary Sun label that has defined his career. 25 All Time Greatest Sun Recordings is a fine short overview of his almost seven years with the label. If you have the cash and the inclination, there is always the Bear Family label's Classic: The Definitive Edition Of His Sun Recordings 1956-1963, which covers 244 tracks spread over eight CDs. If that box set is overkill, then this single disc compilation should do just fine.

The sound is just about as clear and pristine as its going to get, given the age of the songs and the recording equipment of the day. The producers wisely went back to the original source tapes and used modern technology to enhance the quality as much as is possible. Most fans of early rock 'n' roll should be very familiar with his better known songs. If you fall into that category but don't have any of his early material in your collection, then this is a good place to start. If you are unfamiliar with his music, then this album will be a real treat. 0His biggest hits are some of the finest to emerge from the 1950s. "Great Balls Of Fire," "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," "Breathless," and "High School Confidential" are essential to understanding the early evolution of rock music. The energy and underlying sexual tension have remained an essential part of rock's make-up. Add his pumping piano and showmanship to the mix and you have some of the best high octane rock of its era. As with any compilation album, there will always be controversy as to what was included and what was left out. Once you get past his essential hits, there are any number of songs that could have been included. The material chosen tended to be somewhat haphazard, which worked well as it gave a taste of the many sides of his early career. There are rock covers ("Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Good Golly Miss Molly"), country covers ("Crazy Arms" and "You Win Again"), and the somewhat obscure ("Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee" and "Lewis Boogie"). Jerry Lee Lewis has always considered himself the greatest musician in rock history. Many of these tracks show that he was very close to being right.

Album details:

Digitally remastered by Dan Hersch (Digiprep, Hollywood, California).

25 ALL-TIME GREATEST HITS is an extremely well chosen anthology of Jerry Lee Lewis' early work. This music is as extreme as '50s rock gets. After all, as Allan J. Weiner puts it in his excellent liner notes, if rock & roll had a voice, attitude, and performing style, it would very closely resemble Lewis'. Among these epochal, reverb-drenched blasts, one finds all of Lewis' hits-"Great Balls of Fire," "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On," and "Breathless." Many of the less familiar tracks are just as potent. Lewis' leering, rockabilly version of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" and his country boogie take on Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart" are especially good. As one-CD Lewis best-of selections go, this disc is pretty hard to beat.

Includes liner notes by Allen J. Wiener.
Liner Note Author: Allen J. Wiener.
Recording information: 1957-1978.
Producers: Sam Phillips, Jack Clement, Bill Justis, Billy Sherrill.
Compilation producer: Cary E. Mansfield.

1. Crazy Arms  
2. End of the Road  
3. Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On  
4. Great Balls of Fire  
5. You Win Again  
6. Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee  
7. Breathless  
8. Down the Line  
9. High School Confidential  
10. Fools Like Me  
11. Lewis Boogie  
12. Break-Up  
13. I'll Make It All up to You  
14. Lovin' up a Storm  
15. Baby Baby Bye Bye  
16. What'd I Say  
17. Cold Cold Heart  
18. Save the Last Dance for Me  
19. Sweet Little Sixteen  
20. Good Golly Miss Molly  
21. Invitation to Your Party  
22. One Minute Past Eternity  
23. I Can't Seem to Say Goodbye  
24. Waitin' for a Train (All Around the...)  
25. Love on Broadway

Review by David Bowling,

<< 09/2011 >>


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