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Happy Hosting, Happy New Year - Rob Ellen
Piano pumping rock’n’roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis has made a mountain high number of records, and as heard here a host more good stuff awaiting release. Some, at the time thought to be surplus or not the finished item as he swaggered (a little too much on occasions in the studio), but in truth some of his best work was when he was loose, performing ‘off-the-cuff’ and on occasions outrageous stuff as you will hear on these late 1970s recordings, thought to be mainly after he had left Mercury records. The material here is a little different because Jerry Lee was in Knox Phillips studio at his own request, restless and wanting to be there making music.
Opening with a ‘killer’ version of Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown” Jerry Lee is in top form, full of add-libs as his ego trip is warmed in harmonica, fiddle, guitar and his own piano as he speaks of ol’ Leroy and him and fiddle player, guitarist, Knox’s cousin band leader Kenneth Lovelace being rougher than a razor-back hog. Moving on through the songs Lewis takes a few liberties as he reshapes some lyrics to his advantage. “Ragged But Right” becomes “Rugged But Right”. Another guy who used to sit with Lewis in the studio was songwriter, Mack Vickery who supplies “That Kind Of Fool” and some harmonica too at one of Knox’s late night, early morning sessions. Others to be given the JLL treatment include a rare rocking version of “Harbor Lights”, Fanny Crosby’s “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour”; an amazing talent, Crosby who was blind all but for a few of her 94 years wrote over 8,000 hymns, poems, libretti and patriotic songs. In more recent times recently deceased ambassador for country music, George Hamilton IV recorded an album of her work. Chuck Berry's “Johnny B. Goode”, Goerge Morgan hit “Room Full Of Roses” and even “Music! Music! Music! believe it or not.
Lewis’ has rarely sounded as creative and free rolling as he does here. His latter-day work with Mercury it has been said would have him turn up in bad shape, incapable of doing himself justice. But, this isn’t the case here. Just take a listen to his intriguing take of Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer”, one where Vickery does a monologue intro and Lewis (at times too gives an insight into arguably, America’s greatest writer) and on bringing a little of his earliest influences from Mississippi’s neighbouring state, Louisiana “Lovin’ Cajun Style” too stirs the pot. Is there more like it awaiting release Mr Knox Phillips? Some older stuff maybe from your father’s days on Sun Records, because in the words of Vickery he could take a piece of crap-like song and make it not a piece of crap song! Lewis is certainly an original, a good one too!
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