Monday, 2 April 2012

Review: Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis – A Whole Lotta Jerry Lee Lewis: The Definitive Retrospective (Salvo)
Salvo, bless their cotton socks, release some excellent box sets (check out The Move and Stiff boxes), and they’ve surpassed themselves with this one. Comprising of four discs, over a hundred tracks and with a playing time just a few minutes short of five hours, this is the most comprehensive collection currently available. It also comes with a 72 page booklet, which includes a 10,000 word essay and plenty of great photos and memorabilia.

I got the chance to see Jerry Lee Lewis a few years ago. Obviously frail and long past his best, he was physically helped to his piano, and the omens weren’t good. But as soon as he started playing, it was plain to see there was nothing wrong with his fingers, and there was enough magic to make you feel like you’d been born 40 years to late. Working through the discs here, the feeling of missing out is less pronounced. Although the early rockabilly cuts - “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On, Great Balls Of Fire”, “High School Confidential”, etc. – are all bursting with energy, there’s so much quality in the later recordings, whether they’re rock ‘n’ roll or country cuts, there’s surely never been a bad time to listen to Jerry Lee. Not that many of them sold well. After he married his 13-year old cousin his career crashed, though he always remained newsworthy. Incidents with guns, drugs and booze, and the deaths of later wives and sons meant a life lived in newspapers and on TV news channels; it’s just a shame that his records were ignored.

There’s been something of a renaissance of late with both his “Last Man Standing” and “Mean Old Man” albums selling well, and this beautifully constructed collection deserves no less. For beginners and fans alike, there’s a lotta wonderful music here to be enjoyed for the first time or rediscovered and enjoyed anew.
Rob F.

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