Sunday, 19 October 2014

Jerry Lee Lewis 'Rock and Roll Time' album review and 'The Knox Phillips Sessions' album review

The cover of Jerry Lee Lewis' new album
Rock and Roll Time finds him outside the
Sun studios where he first recorded 58 years ago.
Dig those flip-flops, Killer!

Goodness gracious, there’s a whole lotta Jerry Lee Lewis around this autumn, including a brand new album, an album of previously unrecorded material from the 70s and an authorised biography.

I’ve had all three for a while now and can say Lewis fans are in for a treat!

The new album, Rock and Roll Time, which comes out at the end of this month is one of the best Jerry Lee has ever recorded. It’s a taut 30 minutes of verve and energy up there with his 2006 duets album Last Man Standing and older classics such as his eponymous Elektra album from 1979. You’d never think the Killer was pushing 80. He sounds no different to he did aged 45 as he hammers into one of the greatest songs he’s ever cut, a blues number by Bob Dylan called Stepchild.

Other album highlights include the title song, a beery anthem penned by Kris Kristofferson, an energetic romp through Sick And Tired and an inspired cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Mississippi Kid.

A growling Blues Like Midnight continues the strong thread of blues tunes while the double time piano on Chuck Berry’s Promised Land takes us out on a high.

Blasts from the past!
A private stash of previously unreleased
Jerry Lee Lewis music from the 70s
on new CD The Knox Phillips Sessions.
The album of previously unreleased songs is called The Knox Phillips Sessions and dates from the early 70s. At the time, Jerry Lee was riding high on the country charts and playing sold-out shows all over the world but that wasn’t enough to satisfy his insatiable appetite for making music. So after recording country songs in Nashville by day, he’d book Knox Phillips’ studio at midnight to record a wider variety of music for fun.

The opening Bad, Bad Leroy Brown may prove too wild for some tastes. The Killer was playing for fun, making things up as he went along and probably never expected the track to be heard. It might have been a rehearsal or just something to vent his unedited creativity on.

As the album progresses, things get a lot tighter. A medley of Chuck Berry songs - Johnny B. Goode and Carol - rocks on the very edge of control. A mash up of Music! Music! Music! (“put another nickel in the Nickelodeon”) and the instrumental Canadian Sunset, meanwhile, show a previously unseen side of Lewis’ musicality.

Best track is the closing Beautiful Dreamer which Jerry Lee turns into a narration, telling the story of 19th century composer Stephen Foster between singing snatches of one of his most famous songs. This song should have been on one of Lewis’ country albums of the time and we can be grateful to Knox Phillips for finally making it available.

I’ll be reviewing the new book, Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story in a forthcoming issue of Country Music People, so will save my comments on it till then.

Until then I can barely say how much I’m enjoying Rock and Roll Time. I gave it a 5-star review (the maximum stars) in this month’s Country Music People, but really it deserves even more than that. Ten gold stars, perhaps. I haven’t stopped playing the album at least two or three times a day for the past month and it gets better every time.

I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of Stepchild. But then Sick And Tired really rocks. And Blues Like Midnight... aw, every track is brilliant!

One girl who’d really love Rock and Roll Time is Natty Smalls, the bullet-bra-wearing rockabilly heroine of Polka Dot Dreams by Julia Douglas. Click here to read the customer reviews of this vintage clothes-clad rockabilly romance.

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