Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Jerry Lee Lewis - The Killer Live!

This three CD set gives a good overview of Jerry Lee's career through a series of live sets, including the legendary, maniacal romp'n'stomp rumble in Germany's Star Club. Of course, this set is all fantastic!

Since it is so legendary, of course, this compilation starts with the Live at the Star Club, Hamburg set, also the earliest concert here. This 1964 set has Jerry backed by members of the Nashville Teens and he is absolutely ferocious! He certainly had a chip on his shoulder by this time, having been dragged through the mud for marrying the (very young) girl that he loved, and being passed over by the new British Invasion - he wasn't even as recognized and celebrated as many of the other 50's rockers - maybe due to his lack of songwriting, or because the new breed were guitar oriented instead of piano pounders. Regardless, this gig shows what rock'n'roll has always been about - wild abandon and furor, with Lewis obviously having the time of his life while playing exceptionally, with crazed teenagers chantin' his name and goin' insane! Truly one of the wildest live shows ever recorded. Essential!

Incredibly, he label decided not to release this in the States - at the time it was only available in Germany and later in England - so they taped a domestic gig with his own group and it came out as The Greatest Live Show on Earth. Not as great as the Star Club, despite the title, but excellent, regardless. Enthusiastic crowd here, as well, but nowhere near the mayhem of Hamburg. And while he performed "Your Cheatin' Heart" previously, he shows his movement into C&W a little more here with "Who Will the Next Fool Be" along with Buck Owens' "Together Again", done in his own inimitable style. But there's plenty of JLL's r'n'r here and he closes out with "Long Tall Sally" and, of course, "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On".

We move up a couple more for By Request: More of the Greatest Live Show on Earth, that continues in a similar vein - a mix of 50's r'n'r covers (he does three Chuck Berry tunes here - he tends to do more of other artists' hits than his own) and a number of country numbers, such as "How's My Ex Treating You", "Green, Green Grass of Home", "You Win Again" and "Cryin' Time". It is funny how he recycles his stage patter - not unusual or surprising, just amusing, since it does come off pretty spontaneous. The is especially apparent in his take on "What'd I Say", where he adds a long monologue about making out in the middle of the tune - much to the appreciation of the audience. As usual, he ends up with a couple ravers, "Money" and "Roll Over Beethoven".

By 1970 and Live at the International, Las Vegas, the Killer had gone pretty straight-ahead country, with steel guitar, fiddle and back-up singers and, while his energy still shines through, a little more gloss and shine than I prefer with JLL. Regardless, this is fine C&W work, played by some great instrumentalists. Jerry's sister, Linda Gail Lewis, duets and even sings lead on a tune, apparently in order to put some variety into the Las Vegas revue. Again, he wisely chooses an upbeat finale, this time "Flip, Flop and Fly".

The third disc features outtakes from the previous two shows, including some wild ones like "Blue Suede Shoes", "Lovin' Up a Storm", "Mean Woman Blues" and a lewd a lascivious "What'd I Say" from By Request. The Las Vegas outtakes have even more numbers, from "Move on Down the Line" (with Linda Gail helping out), "Shoeshine Man", the country "Invitation to Your Party", the upbeat honky-tonk "San Antonio Rose" and "Homecoming", the somewhat mellower "One More Time With Feeling", "Stagger Lee", a steel-guitar-driven ballad duet with Linda, "Got You on my Mind Again", before the proceedings all come to an end with "Great Balls of Fire" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On".

Honestly - you need this one - get it!