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JERRY LEE LEWIS –TOGETHER * LIVE AT THE INTERNATIONAL, LAS VEGAS * IN LOVING MEMORIES – THE JERRY LEE GOSPEL ALBUM * KEEPS ROCKIN’ (BGO Records) 2 CDs

 

www.bgo-records.com

 

Four LPs on two cds make great value, especially when you take it into account you not only have the ‘killer’ Jerry Lee Lewis but also his sister, Linda Gail Lewis. Linda when asked, performed good ol’ southern country soul (and gospel) and the sass to go with it! Such is the chemistry between the 

siblings I am prompted to question why didn’t they do more together. Or why didn’t Jerry Lee record more duets? When it came to singing a heartfelt country song there wasn’t too many who could match never mind outdo the Ferriday, Louisiana-born, piano playing legend. During this collection you will, I am sure enjoy ol’ Jerry Lee’s efforts.

 

Taken from recordings made during 1969 and 1970, and of almost a decade later he was back performing rock’n’roll with Keeps Rockin’. In title alone it pretty much informs the listenrt where Lewis’ heart was at that moment in time. As Lewis has always been prone he flipped from country, r&b country to rock’n’roll (and gospel too) from a tender age. I guess, his upbringing and at times colourful marriages would also have been a persuasion. Lewis’ showmanship likewise had a bearing on the material as he would take a song, both live, and in the studio and turn it on its head. 

 

On the song / album front his venture (Together) with his younger sister, Linda Gail Lewis the chemistry works, perfectly. This as they run through a bunch of made to meas

ure fare. Ranging from a worthy cover of the Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash hit duet “Jackson”, “Don’t Let Me Cross Over” as Linda Gail opens, impressively on lead vocals (as she does on “Secret Places”). While with a nice touch on fiddle (Kenny Lovelace) “Gotta Travel On” they kick up a storm. On showing his tender side, JLL performs a stellar version (vocally and on piano) of “We Live In Different Worlds”, while “Roll On Beethoven” does little for me they did have a good time recording it!

 

Live At The International, Las Vegas comes from six shows and not one. As a great deal of editing is done. With Lewis now into country and western music as he likes to call it his core of rock’n’roll numbers are shelved in favour of country fashioned tunes. While the record isn’t a true reflection of his shows, but one focussing on what was successful at the time for him as he made inroads into the country market. The album opens with his version of Mickey Newbury’s “She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye” before such uplifting songs as Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya” and Bob Wills’ classic “San Antonio Rose” (complete with a ton of pedal steel and dazzling piano) and a strong version of his hit “Once More With Feeling”. While with Linda joining the fun you have “When You Wore A Tulip And I Wore A Big Red Rose”,  and she also performs a version of another Williams’ favourite “Take These Chains From My Heart”.

 

One song more than any other surprised me on the recording, and that was his version of Tom T. Hall’s “Ballad of Forty Dollars”, and what a great version he does. Liner notes from Andrew McRae are once again, superb. Although I tend to differ on the worth of the content of the live album. For one it is good to hear songs outside his core of rock’n’roll favourites in preference to his country fare (balanced or not).

 

In Loving Memories —The Jerry Lee Lewis Gospel Album includes a bunch of standards, and with Lewis sympathetic handling the listener can’t fail but savour the beauty of the lyrics. Among his finest renditions you have “Too Much To Gain To Lose”, a rousing (as ever) “I’ll Fly Away”, and on displaying great tenderness “The Old Rugged Cross” and “I’m Longing For Home” plus with his sister, Linda Gail in top form “I Know That Jesus Will Be There”. Likewise could be said of Jerry Lee on the sombre “In Loving Memories” (the latter two songs are written by Linda Gail and her then husband, Cecil Harrelson) plus the likes of “The Lily Of The Valley” and “My God’s Not Dead” as he gets to perform something bright ‘n breezy.  

Keeps Rockin’ opens with a Waylon Jennings-esque backbeat as he eases into “I’ll Find It Where I Can” and with the likes of Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes” and Sonny Throckmorton’s timeless composition “Last Cheater’s Waltz” there is a good balance to the album. He also plucks out a 'killer' version of “Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes”. The album was Lewis’ last for the label, and with stories of the album little other than a contractual offering there are admittedly the   occasion where the record lacks the spark associated with his work. Then again, Jerry Lee wasn't always in perfect shape when he walked into the recording studio.

 

                                                Maurice Hope 

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