The Essential Jerry Lee Lewis:
The Sun Sessions

Jerry Lee Lewis

Love him, hate him or fear him there is no mistaking that Jerry lee Lewis is an American icon and original. Legacy's The Essential Jerry Lee Lewis: The Sun Sessions features music recorded between 1956 to 1963 at the famous Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and, of course, Jerry Lee Lewis all did some of their most seminal work. Lewis was The Killer with a reputation for lighting pianos on fire, but he also made some classic music and these 40 tunes are evidence.

The rolling "Crazy Arms" is an early single featuring a loudly recorded vocal, a stride piano and a paper- thin snare sound. We hear electric guitar from Roland James in the even quicker "End of The Road." It's a good lead with some fine drumming from J.M. Van Eaton. That stop-and-go staccato of "Sixty Minute Man" already sees a matured Lewis who's gained control of his wild vocal style by this time.

"Whole Lot Of Shakin' Goin' On" is here and it's still one of the best rock and roll songs ever. Just listen to Lewis' left hand - wow! "It'll Be Me," which is next, was something that gave the band so much trouble that Lewis halted its recording to run through "Whole Lot Of Shakin" as an offhand exercise - a fact I learned from the booklet included in this set. A popping "When The Saints Go Marching In" features a weird, wanky guitar sound to the striding "Urbangi Stomp." On to "You Win Again," featuring another great vocal, and "Great Balls of Fire" with that wild, echoey liquid sexy vocal.

The mid-tempo love lament "Hello, Hello Baby" features Lewis laughing and singing. "Put Me Down" has a buried, buzzing bee-like electricity and that usual striding left hand of Lewis. "High School Confidential" is from the movie of the same name. In fact, Lewis performed it in the movie and it's worth a look on YouTube for sure. It almost doesn't sound like Lewis as he beeps and bops his vocal on the boppin' "Big Blon' Baby."

"Lovin' Up A Storm" simply rocks, while "Hillbilly Fever" gives us a look into Lewis' gravitation toward country music in the later 60s. The chunking guitar and Lewis' right hand really smoke on Ray Charles' "What'd I Say," and his cover of Hank Williams "Cold Cold Heart" features a sparkling rich vocal. He may be The Killer, but The Essential Jerry Lee Lewis: The Sun Sessions is an essential collection from an important period in Lewis' life, in rock 'n roll, and in popular music, in general.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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