Monday, November 03, 2014

Jerry Lee Lewis - Old Time Religion

Jerry Lee Lewis has always been a religious, god-fearing man, but he generally accepts that he is damned to hell and just lives his life with this realization. But, for a few weeks in 1970, he gave himself over to the lord, in an attempt to save his marriage to Myra. This recording was done just 2-1/2 weeks after his baptism and in Myra's church, with a congregation that seems unsure how to react to this r'n'r madman who has descended into their midst. At first, they don't appear to be reacting at all, with no applause or sounds of any kind after he finishes a tune. They do start to loosen up a bit with "Life's Railway to Heaven", but are still reserved and do not really acknowledge the end of the song.

For his part, Jerry still seems a bit profane and of this world, despite his preachin' - he catches himself calling the service a show, he laughs a lot, he asks the people to react a bit more and he generally gets a bit carried away - not that that is necessarily a bad thing in a Baptist church! But he tries to remain in a churchly mode. The songs do breath with a bit of JLL fire, but generally have more of a country tinge to them - he was leaning more in that direction at the time, as the C&W people were a bit more accepting of his style that the hippies then. There are a number of slower tunes, several with the church's choir singing along with him, which gives them a bit more of a holy tone (such as "If We Never Meet Again").

He cajoles the audience, shouts a bit, calls for an "Amen", throws out some "Hallelujahs!" and get the people clapping along with "Down the Sawdust Trail", a particularly country-ish number, down to its fiddling. When introduces the band, he makes some jabs at the bass player for making mistakes and at his son, Jerry lee Lewis, Jr. (on the drums) for his long hair! He does do some convincing preachin' when he tries though and sounds like he almost believes it himself - maybe I'm cynical, but I hear just a little bit of hesitation in belief in his voice (even though he claims that he is more determined than ever). He's most successful musically and in reaching the audience with his more upbeat gospel numbers, such as "I'm in The Gloryland Way" and "I'll Fly Away", though he plays quite a few moderate ones - maybe he feels that is more appropriate for the church. He does insert himself into the songs, as he does in his r'n'r numbers, and his version of "Amazing Grace", while not fast, is mighty raucous. He extols the virtues of the "old time religion" and then busts into "On the Jericho Road" and "I'll Fly Away", which brings the people in, as well."My God Is Real", "When Jesus Beckons Me Home" and "I Won't Have to Cross Jordan Alone"eases the pace again and the organ is added into the mix a bit more, for a more gospel feel, though, of course, Jerry Lee gets his licks in! He finishes up strong with "Keep On the Firing Line", which gets the people clapping along again and diggin' the vibes!

I still love the man's rock'n'roll more than anything, but this is a great memento of the time that Jerry Lee was saved!