Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Chas & Dave: The Classic Albums & Beyond!

I first heard Chas & Dave back in ’78 when they had their first (minor) hit with ‘Strummin’. At the time I thought of them as being very similar to other cockney post-punk acts such as Ian Dury, Squeeze & The Street Band (remember ‘Toast’?); it was only a little later (after Courage started featuring their songs in TV ads) that they really got their more homely knees-up image. By 1981 (while still in my teens) I bought all of their original LPs, & eagerly awaited any new releases over the next few years.

Below I’ve attempted to review all of their original albums, though I’ve generally omitted (a) Compilations, (b) Live Albums (with one notable exception), & (c) Their many sing-a-long collections of medleys. I’ve included both albums made before they started calling themselves Chas & Dave though, as well as Chas’ recent albums without Dave.

Country Pie (1971)

I'm Coming Home / Grits Ain't Groceries / End Of The Road / Spell It Out For Me / Swinging Doors / I'll Sail My Ship Alone / Country Pie / They'll Never Take Her Love From Me / How Many Times / If You Wanna Be My Woman / Hillbilly Music / Right String Baby But The Wrong Yo Yo

A mostly Jerry Lee Lewis-inspired rock ‘n’ roll & country album, this was recorded in one afternoon for a budget label, & features just Chas, Dave & drummer Micky Burt – a line-up that would last for 38 years! Pretty much all the vocals are by Chas, & the many highlights include Jerry Lee’s ‘End Of The Road’, Hank Williams’ moving ‘They’ll Never Take Her Love From Me’, an Appalachian mountain arrangement of ‘Hillbilly Fever’, & Piano Red’s ‘Right String But The Wrong Yo-Yo’. A very enjoyable collection, but also a bit anonymous-sounding, hence the less than top marks: this was before Chas started singing with his own accent, so this album could be by pretty much any competent Jerry Lee Lewis impersonator. 3 / 5

Oily Rags (1974)

Come Up And See Me Anytime / Boiled Beef And Carrots / Time To Kill / Baby Doll / Holy Cow / Silver Dollar / Mailman Bring Me No More Blues / Barefoot Days / Jody And The Kid / Country Boy Picker

By now Chas (who again dominates this set) was almost using his own accent, though without the exaggerated cockney of later years. A mixture of original material & covers, this still barely sounds like the Chas & Dave of later years though: almost every song is performed very slow, with only the closing ‘Country Boy Picker’ reaching medium-pace, & guitars tend to dominate far more than piano. Perhaps most bizarre is ‘Boiled Beef And Carrots’, which instead of being the expected knees-up is performed as a slow country song complete with steel guitar! In fact the whole album is more feet-up than knees-up. Incidentally the name ‘Oily Rags’ derives from cockney rhyming slang for ‘fags’ (“but fags as in snout, not poofters” as Chas later put it!). 3 / 5

Country Pie & Oily Rags on CD

Both of these albums are available in their entirety on Country Pies, Black Claws, & Oily Rags (2007), a CD which also features two songs recorded in 1971 by Chas, Dave & friends under the name ‘Black Claw’ (boogie-blues-rock, far closer to Canned Heat than Chas & Dave) + two fascinating early Chas & Dave demos ‘Clive Of India’ & ‘Mama & Papa Jazz’ (more on those below) which are also featured on the CD re-issue of One Fing ‘n’ Annuver.

One Fing ‘n’ Annuver (1975)

Ponders End Allotments Club / Better get Your Shoes On / Dry Party / Ballad Of The Rich / Deceived / One Fing 'N' Annuver / It's So Very Hard / Woortcha / I Am A Rocker / Old Time Song / Old Dog And Me

Their first album as Chas & Dave, they were now starting write songs about the places & experiences they knew best. Despite this, the album isn’t quite ‘rockney’ yet, that mix of early rock ‘n’ roll (particularly Fats Domino & Jerry Lee), boogie-woogie, country music & English music hall for which they’d soon be famous. Part of the problem is the instrumentation; instead of the sparse later recordings here we have several session players with brass, strings, guitars, dobro, etc, & even the drumming doesn’t sound like Micky on most songs (he was only featured as one of at least two session drummers on this album, not becoming Chas & Dave’s permanent drummer until two years later). There’s some excellent songs though, ‘Ponder’s End Allotments Club’, ‘I Am A Rocker’ (still occasionally performed today), ‘Better Get Your Shoes On’ (played here mid-tempo & backed by a string section), & most famously of all, ‘Woortcha’, an early version of ‘Gertcha’, though at this point it was performed at a far more sedate pace & featured dated ‘70’s wah-wah guitar. 3 / 5

One Fing ‘n’ Annuver on CD:

I have an earlier (1997) reissue, which features slightly different bonus tracks, but the most recent reissue (2003) features bonus tracks Scruffy Old Cow (an early B-side), Lazy Cow (another early B-side), Gambler (not originally released), If I Could Only Play Like That (demo), Mama & Papa Jazz (demo), Clive Of India (demo), Tacky Toppers (previously unreleased demo) & Strummin' (previously unreleased demo). ‘Scruffy Old Cow’ is a laid-back acoustic version, very different from the later live version; ‘Lazy Cow’ (as well as ‘I Can Make It’, only on the 1997 reissue) are big-production in-yer-face rock ‘n’ roll very reminiscent of what Roy Wood was doing with his group Wizzard at the time; 'Gambler' is laid-back country-rock; ‘If I Could Only Play Like That’ is an uptempo rag-time songs with amusing lyrics about Jerry Lee Lewis, & like the mid-paced ‘Mama & Papa Jazz’ are far more palatable than most of the original album with their stripped-down production; & the unique fast acoustic guitar song ‘Clive Of India’ remained unreleased at the time (according to Chas) simply because it didn’t fit with the other material. The demos of ‘Tacky Toppers’ & ‘Strummin’’ aren’t featured on the 1997 CD so they remain unheard by me.

Rockney (1977)

That's What It's All About / Big Fat Rat / Strummin' / Love & Days Gone By / Punchy & The Willer Warbler / Massage Parlour / Billy Tyler / Edmonton Green / I'm In Trouble / Sling Your Hook

This is more like it…at last they’ve pretty much done away with all the excess instrumentation, & they’re now very much Chas AND Dave as Dave’s vocals are featured pretty much equally throughout. The songs were also getting stronger, in particular their first hit ‘Strummin’’, the fast rag-time ‘Big Fat Rat’, long-time live favourite ‘I’m In Trouble’, & ‘Massage Parlour’ whose melody would be used again (at least in part for) ‘Margate’ a few years later. Perhaps best of all though is ‘Edmonton Green’, a slow ballad backed by brass (which fits perfectly this time) which still moves me to tears every time I hear it. 4 / 5

Don’t Give A Monkeys (1979)

Gertcha / Rabbit / The Banging In Your Head / The Sideboard Song (Got My Beer In The Sideboard Here) / What A Miserable Saturday Night / Pay Up And Look Big / Lunatic Asylum / Who'd Ya Think You're Talking To? / Scruffy Old Cow / I'm A Rocker

They were now reaching their peak as songwriters, a peak that would last for the next few years. Part studio (first five songs) & part live, just look at those first four songs; ‘Gertcha’, ‘Rabbit’ & ‘The Sideboard Song’ are still amongst their most famous, and ‘Banging In Your Head’ is also still being performed today. The live songs (side two of the LP) were all recorded at London’s Abbey Road studios in front of an invited audience & capture Chas & Dave at their most exuberant. ‘Pay Up & Look Big’ is a pounding rocker, as are the live versions of ‘Scruffy Old Cow’ & ‘I’m A Rocker’, while ‘Lunatic Asylum’ & ‘Who'd Ya Think You're Talking To’ are amongst their most humorous songs. 5 / 5

Live At Abbey Road (1981)

I Am A Rocker / Gertcha / So Surprising / Scruffy Old Cow / Send Me Some Lovin' / Better Get Your Shoes On / Big Fat Rat / Breathless / Rufus Rastus / Shotgun Boogie / Sea Cruise

Two years after they were taped & after Chas & Dave had left the label to start their own ‘Rockney’ records, E.M.I. dusted off the tapes & released this album. Although repeating two songs from ‘Don’t Give A Monkeys’ this is a tremendous album that captured them just prior to hitting the big time. Curiously ‘Gertcha’ is still performed here at the slower pace though it’s much more powerful than the studio ‘Woortcha’; both ‘Better Get Your Shoes On’ & ‘Big Fat Rat’ are far rockier than the studio versions; & even old rock ‘n’ roll songs are by this point performed with a London accent. My only criticism is that the album tends to fizzle out slightly towards the end (not a problem with the expanded CD reissue), so I’ve just given it a little less than full marks. 4 / 5

It was during this period that ‘Courage’ beers first noticed them & started using their music in commercials, something that greatly helped to push the duo into the big league. For better or worse this led them to feature their musical talents in other projects, including commercially successful collaborations with Tottenham Hotspur football team (which are of little appeal to someone like myself who loathes football) & 1981’s ‘Christmas Jamboree Bag’, the first of many lucratively successful similar albums. I bought this album at the time, but apart from a few live tracks on side two I think I only played it once in it’s entirety.

Rockney / Don’t Give A Monkeys / Live At Abbey Road on CD:

All of these are available on the 2-CD set The Very Best Of Chas & Dave (The EMI Years) (2005), along with the following bonus tracks: ‘Sunday’ & ‘It’s Only The B-Side’ (both B-sides from 1979); ‘12th Street Rag’, ‘Our Old Lodger’, ‘Sunshine Of Your Smile’, ‘When My Dreamboat Comes Home’, ‘Great Balls Of Fire’ & ‘Strummin’’ (all live at Abbey Road); ‘The Sideboard Song’ (alternate take); & last & definitely least, truly awful recent dance remixes of both ‘The Sideboard Song’ & ‘Gertcha’.

Mustn’t Grumble (1982)

Poor Old Mr. Woogie / Bored Stiff / Don't Anyone Speak English? / Turn That Noise Down / Beer Belly / Behave Yourself / Ain’t No Pleasing You / I Miss Ya Girl / Lonnie D. / Wallop / Rabbit

The first Chas & Dave album that I bought as soon as it was in the shops, I played it constantly for months afterwards, & it still remains amongst my all-time favourite albums by anyone. ‘Ain’t No Pleasing You’ remains their biggest hit of course, & most casual fans will be more than familiar with ‘Poor Old Mr Woogie’, ‘Wallop’, ‘Beer Belly’ & ‘Rabbit’ (here in a slightly faster re-recording). It’s amongst the lesser-known songs where the real brilliance of this album lie though: the cockney-funk of ‘Turn That Noise Down’; the strange boogie-woogie riff & time-signatures of ‘Behave Yourself’; the tongue-twisting tribute to Lonnie Donegan in ‘Lonnie D’; the light reggae rhythm of 'I Miss You Girl'; & the lamenting of Americanisms creeping into our language in ‘Don’t Anyone Speak English’. But every song on this album remains very memorable! 5 / 5

Job Lot (1983)

That Old Piano / That's What I Like / London Girls / Give It Some Stick, Mick / No-Body / Flying (instrumental) / Margate / Mustn't Grumble / Word From Anne / Stop Dreaming / Give It Gavotte / Wish I Could Write A Love Song

I’ve always thought that the previous album has a slight edge due to some of the more adventurous lesser-known songs, but this is probably a more commercial album & again is brilliant throughout. Amongst the most famous songs from this album are ‘Margate’; the best song Fats Domino never wrote ‘That Old Piano’ (& also recorded in fine style by Domino-clone Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry); ‘London Girls’, a sort of cockney answer to The Beach Boys’ ‘California Girls’; & ‘That’s What I Like’ with the mentions of Little Richard & (of course) Jerry Lee. Also on this album are some of their most tender ballads, in particular ‘Nobody’, the instrumental ‘Flying’ (later re-recorded with lyrics) & ‘Wish I Could Write A Love Song’. 5 / 5

Mustn’t Grumble & Job Lot on CD:

These are both available on the single-CD Mustn't Grumble / Job Lot re-issue (2005), sadly there’s no bonus tracks this time though.

Well Pleased (1984)

There In Your Eyes / They Kept On Rocking / Did I Feel A Fool / Snakes Eyes Bert / Where Am I Gonna Find Ya? / I Wonder In Whose Arms / Jumpin' The Lights / I'm Going Back / Harry Was A Champion / One O' Them Days / Brother-in-Law

A slight change of direction on this album, with New Orleans-type brass added to several songs, & a slight downplay of the cockney word play of the last few albums. ‘There In Your Eyes’ is another Domino-esque ballad, this type with great brass (Chas & Dave actually toured with a brass section for a while during the mid-late ‘80’s); ‘They Kept On Rockin’’ is (as expected) a rock ‘n’ roll song, mentioning Little Richard, Jerry Lee, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry & Gene Vincent amongst others; & the superb ‘I Wonder In Whose Arms’ is probably as close as Chas & Dave have got to writing a standard (The Crickets, Joe Brown & Jerry Lee’s sister Linda Gail Lewis are amongst those who’ve recorded it). Also memorable are ‘Where Am I Gonna Find Ya’ (I could almost imagine Laurel & Hardy singing this), ‘Jumpin’ The Lights’ (with Chas singing from a woman’s point of view) & the epic ‘Snake Eyes Bert’. Only a couple of less memorable songs earn this album a little less than full marks. 4 / 5

Flying (1987)

England / Punchinello / Sunday / Darlin' I Don't Care / The Diddlum Song / Flying / Exhibition Rag / I Can Get Along Without You / That Telephone Thing / Back In The Soul Days / Miss You All The Time

I must confess that I’d never even heard this album until very recently when I was searching online for CD reissues to replace my worn-out vinyl. I’m not sure why I missed it the first time round: perhaps it was because my interest was waning slightly due to all the sing-a-longs over-shadowing their own material, or maybe I saw the title & assumed that it was a compilation of previously issued material (also I moved from London to Herne Bay in 1985, so it’s possible that I just didn’t see it in record shops). Anyway, it’s mostly yet again excellent! Biggest surprise is the opening ‘England’ with its calypso beat & steel drums (& it works too!), though there’re several other highlights: ‘Sunday’ is a superior re-cut of an old B-side, this time with sympathetic brass, ‘Punchinello’ is about a mythical historical character (later ‘Punch’ as in ‘Punch & Judy’); ‘Flying’ is a beautiful vocal version of an older song; ‘I Can Get Along Without You’ is another Laurel & Hardy-type song; & ‘The Diddlum Song’ is a catchy number that’s still performed today. 4 / 5

Well Pleased & Flying on CD:

All the songs from these albums are featured on the From Tottenham To Tennessee double-CD (2006). In addition (as well as most of their usual hits) there’s a few other songs that weren’t featured on any of their original albums: ‘In Sickness & In Health’ (1985 A-side), ‘Halley's Comet’, ‘Snooker Loopy’ (both 1986 A-sides), ‘When Days Were Long (But Far Too Short)’ & ‘Yesterday’s News’ (both sides of their final single to feature new material, 1991).

Sadly, ‘Flying’ was Chas & Dave’s final album of new self-composed material, though honourable mention should be given to a couple of other albums. Never Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll (2000) is an album I came across on whilst searching for Chas & Dave CD reissues. Strangely not mentioned on either their official website or Wikipedia, this appears to be a US-only release, & features mostly old ‘50’s rock ‘n’ roll covers. Also recommended is the 2005 Greatest Hits collection, which (despite it’s title) actually features seven new recordings made at Abbey Road studios in August of that year. Just check out the musicianship on ‘Somebody Stole My Girl’, ‘12th Street Rag’ & the re-cuts of ‘Poor Old Mr Woogie’ & ‘I Wonder In Whose Arms’, three of the greatest musicians on the planet at the top of their game (what a shame that a full album wasn’t made at this time & with this sound!).

Chas & J.I. (2008)

Lover Please / Here In My Heart / Darlin’ C’mon / Before I Grow Too Old / Lotta Lovin ‘ / Billy Tyler / I Don’t Mind / Honolulu Baby / Tell Me How / Real Wild Child / Till I Waltz Again With You / One Mint Julep / She Belongs To Me / Wear My Ring

Although Dave only dropped out of touring (following the sad death of his wife Sue) in July of this year & officially announced his retirement last week, my guess is that his enthusiasm has been diminishing for some time. Chas has (occasionally) been performing with his own trio for several years now; has written a book on Chas & Dave; and released two interesting albums without his partner, of which this is the first. The “J.I.” in the title is actually the legendary drummer from The Crickets Jerry (Ivan) Allison, though in effect this is a Chas Hodges solo album as J.I. only sings lead vocals during part of one song. This is a fine album though, made with a very homely “organic” feel that perfectly suits the material. Highlights include the ‘50’s rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Darlin’ C’mon’, ‘Real Wild Child’ (which also features J.I. on lead vocals), Bob Dylan’s ‘She Belongs To Me’, Buddy Holly’s ‘Tell Me How’, Gene Vincent’s ‘Lotta Lovin’’, & a revival of Chas & Dave’s own ‘Billy Tyler’. 4 / 5

Chas Hodges (2009)

Didn't Wanna Do It In The First Place / No Set List / I'm Outta Here / The Ghost Is Laid / In Among The Sweet Things / Skinny Cats / Don't Want No Truck / Poor Man Down / Hungarian Rhapsody Rock / Making Up For Lost Time / Nobody's Gonna Pine / She's Turnin' Monkey On Me / Last Kiss

This curiously low-key album actually sounds like a collection of home-recorded demos rather than a finished album, with often very rudimentary backing, in particular the bass & drums. Maybe Chas went out of his way to prevent this from sounding like Chas & Dave? There’re a handful of excellent new songs though: ‘Nobody’s Gonna Pine’ & ‘No Set List’ (with it’s mandolin) are great skiffle tracks that Lonnie D would’ve been proud of; ‘She’s Turnin’ Monkey On Me’ sounds like a lost early Chas & Dave classic; & ‘Hungarian Rhapsody Rock’ is the studio version of a recent live favourite (surely that is not Micky Burt on drums though?). I’m very curious to hear what any future solo albums will be like, but this is a slightly disappointing debut. 3 / 5

As a postscript I saw Chas (without Dave) a couple of weeks ago at The Winter Gardens in Margate, a great evening despite the fact that I was actually working (I’m a doorman there). He played two very entertaining & energetic sets, the 1st featuring mostly Jerry Lee Lewis songs (including less obvious numbers such as ‘I’ll Make It All Up To You’ & ‘What’s Made Milwaukee Famous') whilst telling anecdotes about Jerry Lee over the years, & the 2nd set featuring mostly Chas & Dave classics. Some worked better without Dave than others; songs like ‘That Old Piano’, ‘I Wonder In Whose Arms You Are Tonight’ & ‘Ain’t No Pleasing You’ sounded as passionate as always, but other songs (in particular ‘London Girls’) really needed some harmonies (the new guy Darren whilst an excellent bass player remains almost silent vocally), & anthems like ‘Gertcha’, ‘Rabbit’ & ‘The Sideboard Song’ were played much too fast though Chas coped extremely well singing these all by himself.

Briefly before the show & for a little longer afterwards I chatted to Chas (though I’d also met him both with & without Dave a couple of times previously back in the ‘80’s & ‘90’s). During his ‘Jerry Lee’ set that night he mentioned how he’d backed Jerry while with ‘The Outlaws’ back in 1963; for forty years there were thought to be no surviving recordings from that tour, but then a few years back I managed to find someone who had 3 songs from a Paris ’63 radio broadcast, so I sent a copy to mine & Chas’ mutual friend Terry Adams. Chas was very surprised when it turned out that the doorman he was chatting to had supplied this tape! A great guy, long may he continue to entertain us.

Chas 'n' Pete: backstage at The N.E.C. in Birmingham, 6th December 1992.

Click here for my Chas and Dave DVD list!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Cliff Richard & The Shadows: The UK Singles, 1958-1966

A few quick questions:

Who were one of the first UK acts to release singles & albums of mostly self-composed material?

What group made several highly successful movies notable for their breezy pop tunes & zany humour?

Which UK act was one of the first from the UK to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show?

Who was the first act outside the USA to rival & sometimes surpass Elvis Presley's popularity?

Which musicians inspired thousands of others to start groups, & were imitated worldwide?

And who is the most successful UK singles act of all time?

The answer is Cliff Richard of course, both with & without The Shadows! Yet their place in pop history is almost always downplayed & often completely forgotten. So I'm going to look back at all the singles released during the first eight years of their career, a period when Cliff Richard scored 32 Top 10 UK singles (& The Shadows had another 14 Top 10 singles in their own right). I've also given both A's & B-sides of each disc marks out of 5 (A side / B side).

Lawdy Miss Clawdy / Breathless (Demo only, mid-1958)

Shortly after changing his name from Harry Webb, the newly-christened Cliff Richard & his chums taped this in a tiny studio in London's Oxford Street. Only three original copies were made (& only one of these survives), but fortunately the recordings have been made available officially in recent years, & what a revelation they are! The musicians (including Cliff on rhythm guitar) sound amateurish & out of time, but even as an inexperienced 17-year-old it is obvious that there's a special talent here. Cliff chooses not to perform carbon-copies of records by his two main heroes Elvis Presley & Jerry Lee Lewis but instead makes these songs all his own. 5 / 5

Move It / Schoolboy Crush (August 1958)

There were British rock 'n' roll records before this, but none of them came anywhere near the excitement of this one! From Ernie Shears' classic guitar intro onwards, this is still a strong candidate for the greatest '50's UK rock 'n' roll record of all time, yet this was originally intended to be just the B-side. The original A-side Schoolboy Crush is OK, though a bit "square" to coin a phrase of the time (those backing singers didn't have a clue how to sing rock 'n' roll) & nowadays sounds very dated indeed. 5 / 2

High Class Baby / My Feet Hit The Ground (November 1958)

Apparently Cliff himself hated this record so much he went home & cried after recording it, but though it doesn't quite come up to the high standard of Move It, it's still a pretty good rock 'n' roll record, though the flip side probably has the edge. 3 / 4

Livin' Lovin' Doll / Steady With You (January 1959)

More good rock 'n' roll, though it doesn't really sound much different from his previous single. This probably explains the poor chart position (# 20), despite this being the first single to feature Hank Marvin & Bruce Welch on guitars. Steady With You is a rather drippy ballad & is best avoided. 3 / 2

Mean Streak / Never Mind (April 1959)

Back to the top 10 (just), & another slightly failed attempt at making a rock n' roll record to match the quality of Move It, this is still superior to the previous two releases. Never Mind is another very good rocker, good enough to chart in it's own right in fact, & also the first released recording to feature the classic line-up of Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch, Jet Harris & Tony Meehan, though they were still calling themselves 'The Drifters' at this point. 4 / 4

Living Doll / Apron Strings (July 1959)

Although performed uptempo in his first movie 'Serious Charge', Cliff was dissatisfied with Living Doll so insisted that they try a different approach. The result is this memorable single, & first ballad A-side & his first number one (from this point onwards all of his UK singles up to & including 'The Minute You're Gone' in 1965 would enter the top 10). The B-side is one of his best early rockers. 5 / 5

Travellin' Light / Dynamite (October 1959)

With a top-notch ballad on the A-side & possibly his wildest ever rock 'n' roll performance on the B-side, this was a successful attempt at repeating the formula of the previous single. This was the first single to feature the now re-named The Shadows, who would shortly begin a highly successful chart career of their own whilst continuing to back Cliff on most of his singles & albums. 5 / 5

A Voice In The Wilderness / Don't Be Mad At Me (January 1960)

From his 2nd movie 'Expresso Bongo', this is yet another very strong ballad performance that was enhanced greatly by Hank Marvin's picking. This was the first single to feature a ballad on both sides, though the B-side was rather mediocre. 5 / 3

Fall In Love With You / Willie And The Hand Jive (March 1960)

Yet another ballad A-side, no wonder people at the time were saying that rock 'n' roll was on the way out! While a pleasant enough song, it's not quite as memorable as the previous three hits, though the fabulous Bo Diddley-esque (& live favourite) Willie And The Hand Jive more than makes up for things. 4 / 5

Please Don't Tease / Where Is My Heart (June 1960)

The first uptempo A-side in over a year, Cliff & The Shadows were no longer simply imitating their heroes & instead were creating music that was very much their own! Co-written by Bruce Welch & superbly backed by The Shadows, this pop-rock song was the beginning of a sound that they would continue to develop over the next few years. A very good B-side too. 5 / 4

Nine Times Out Of Ten / Thinking Of Our Love (September 1960)

Did someone say that rock 'n' roll was dead by 1960? They obviously needed to listen to this! This storming rocker again shows off the uptempo Cliff & The Shadows sound at it's very best, with what was probably their most raucous A-side ever, though the B-side was rather forgettable. 5 / 3

I Love You / 'D' In Love (November 1960)

Back to ballads again, & though perhaps not the strongest of singles it still got to number 1, which says alot for just how popular he was at this point. 'D' In Love is a pretty good mid-tempo rocker. 4 / 4

Theme For A Dream / Mumblin' Mose (February 1961)

Although the song is OK, those tuneless girl backing singers make this one of Cliff's worse early singles! Fortunately the frantic Johnny Otis composition on the B-side is far superior. 3 / 5

Gee Whiz It's You / I Cannot Find A True Love (March 1961)

Back to the sound pioneered by Please Don't Tease for this Hank Marvin & Ian ('Move It') Samwell composition which is excellent despite it's title, & the slow-fast rocker on the flip was nearly as great. Both are proof of why The Shadows were regarded by many as the best musicians in the country. 5 / 4

A Girl Like You / Now's The Time To Fall In Love (June 1961)

A light-weight pop song, the A-side wasn't one of Cliff's best. The storming B-side was far better. 3 / 5

When The Girl In Your Arms (Is The Girl In Your Heart) / Got A Funny Feeling (October 1961)

From Cliff's third movie 'The Young Ones', this Presley-esque ballad was his best slower A-side in nearly 2 years, & the mid-tempo B-side wasn't bad either! 5 / 4

The Young Ones / We Say Yeah (January 1962)

Again from the movie of the same name, this is one of Cliff's (or anyone's) most memorable singles, & it inspired an alternative comedy series 20 years later! Much of the credit here should be given to producer Norrie Paramor (the producer of most of the records mentioned here) & his sympathetic string arrangement. Rock 'n' roll it isn't, but the B-side certainly is! And check out those "Yeah Yeah" backing vocals... 5 / 5

What'd I Say / Blue Moon (Export only single) (February 1962)

Although made in the UK for export, this appeared in some UK stores hence it's inclusion here. The A-side whilst pretty convincing inevitably pales compared to earlier versions by Ray Charles & Jerry Lee Lewis. Blue Moon features the kind of over-blown orchestral arrangement that Frank Sinatra would be proud of, making this one of Cliff's weakest B-sides. 4 / 2

I'm Looking Out The Window / Do You Wanna Dance (May 1962)

Cliff's first true double-A-side, I'm Looking Out The Window is a laid-back ballad that's probably not one of his best though I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the song, whilst the B-side is one of the greatest "twist" records ever made! 4 / 5

It'll Be Me / Since I Lost You (August 1962)

By this time there had been a couple of changes in The Shadows, with Jet Harris & Tony Meehan leaving, & Brian 'Liquorice' Locking & Brian Bennett replacing them. The A-side of this record was previously a Jerry Lee Lewis B-side in 1957, & although Cliff's version is a little slower it's equally good (& check out Hank's memorable solo!). The B-side is a forgettable orchestrated ballad. 5 / 3

The Next Time / Bachelor Boy (November 1962)

Another double-A-side, both were from Cliff's fourth movie 'Summer Holiday'. The Next Time is a superior ballad, whilst Bachelor Boy (a mid-tempo waltz written by Bruce Welch) remains another very memorable song. 5 / 5

Summer Holiday / Dancing Shoes (February 1963)

From the movie of the same name, it's impossible not to think of long summer days when hearing this pop classic! Dancing Shoes is another strong song, this time uptempo pop-rock, & both songs were band compositions. 5 / 5

Lucky Lips / I Wonder (May 1963)

A Leiber-Stoller song originally recorded by Ruth Brown, this was criticised at the time for sounding dated though in retrospect it's a wonderful record that is truly timeless! Far less memorable is the ballad flip side. 5 / 3

It's All In The Game / Your Eyes Tell On You (August 1963)

Perhaps another dated record for the time, this version of Tommy Edwards' 1958 smash is still a lovely performance of a beautiful song. More modern-sounding was the flip-side with it's prominent Shadows harmonies which sound almost like a Merseybeat group (Billy J. Kramer with The Dakotas perhaps?). 5 / 4

Don't Talk To Him / Say You're Mine (November 1963)

The A-side with it's simple but memorable 12-string guitar riff (prior to The Beatles using a 12-string on many of their records in 1964) at last sounds more contemporary, as does the bluesy B-side. 5 / 4

I'm The Lonely One / Watch What You Do With My Baby (January 1964)

Highly criticised at the time for sounding too Mersey (there's no pleasing some people!), this is a superb rhythm 'n' blues / beat group song, different from nearly everything else Cliff has ever recorded. The flip-side again is Mersey influenced. This single incidentally was the first to feature new bassist John Rostill. 5 / 4

Constantly / True, True Lovin' (April 1964)

This lush orchestrated ballad (which doesn't feature The Shadows) received a back-handed compliment from P.J. Proby in the UK music press at the time when he said "This is actually the first disc of Cliff Richard's that I've really liked - before that I quite honestly thought he was an atrocious singer!", & while I can't totally agree with Mr Proby's comments this is indeed beautifully & very maturely sung. The flip is back to the Cliff & The Shadows "Mersey" sound! 5 / 4

On The Beach / A Matter Of Moments (June 1964)

From Cliff's fifth movie ' Wonderful Life', this is a return to the breezy pre-Beatles pop sound of 1960-1962 despite the sneaky reference to 'Twist & Shout' during the song! The flip-side with Hank & Bruce's prominent harmonies is very memorable too. 5 / 4

The Twelfth Of Never / I'm Afraid To Go Home (October 1964)

A Johnny Mathis hit from 1957, this sounded very dated for late 1964 despite Cliff's excellent vocals. The atmospheric B-side features very Beatle-esque harmonies throughout. 4 / 4

I Could Easily Fall (In Love With You) / I'm In Love With You (December 1964)

Another song that harks but to the sound of 1960-1962, but still a very commercial-sounding pop song that deservedly did well, while the B-side is a superior ballad. Both of these are from the 'Aladdin' soundtrack, a stage musical that ran for three & a half months at The London Palladium & featured Cliff Richard, The Shadows, Una Stubbs - & Arthur Askey! 5 / 4

This Was My Special Day / I'm Feeling Oh So Lonely (December 1964)

Only available at The London Palladium for those seeing the 'Aladdin' show, this features other cast members singing along with Cliff. 2 / 2

The Minute You're Gone / Just Another Guy (March 1965)

In August 1964 Cliff spent two days recording in Nashville (as well as a couple of less productive days in New York), & of the seven songs recorded no less than four ended up as A-sides + another song as a B-side, & these are the first songs to be released from these sessions. Produced by Billy Sherill & Bob Morgan & backed by session musicians & The Jordanaires on backing vocals, the results were inevitably closer to Elvis' 60s hits than The Beatles, but that's not a bad thing here as the A-side in particular is superb & a much deserved number one. 5 / 4

Angel / Razzle Dazzle (Export only single) (May 1965)

Another record meant for export only but briefly available in some stores, the A-side is again from the Nashville sessions. Also recorded by Elvis (& featured in the 1962 movie 'Follow That Dream'), Cliff's version is much faster & I think has the edge. Razzle Dazzle was taped over three years earlier & is a rockin' version of the Bill Haley & His Comets classic. This single didn't break any new ground but nevertheless it's one of Cliff's best! 5 / 5

On My Word / Just A Little Bit Too Late (June 1965)

Another song from the Nashville sessions, though it wasn't quite as strong as the previous singles, reflected in the number 12 chart placing (the first single not to reach the top 10 since High Class Baby 7 years earlier). The B-side (like many mid-'60's Cliff Richard & The Shadows recordings) is notable for it's prominent harmonies. 4 / 4

The Time In Between / Look Before You Love (August 1965)

Although an interesting song, The Time In Between with it's jazzy chords & bossa nova beat was hardly hit single material, & the public agreed as the number 22 chart placing made this his worst charting single to date. The B-side is a moody beat ballad & would've perhaps made a better A-side. 4 / 4

Wind Me Up / The Night (October 1965)

Yet another song from the August 1964 Nashville sessions, this beautiful ballad at last nearly restored Cliff to the top of the charts (only The Rolling Stones' 'Get Off Of My Cloud' prevented it from reaching number one). The Night is a mediocre mid-tempo song. 5 / 3

Blue Turns To Grey / Somebody Loses (March 1966)

Talking of The Rolling Stones, this superb rock-pop song was written by Jagger-Richards, though apparantly Cliff wasn't aware of this fact when he recorded it (he was highly critical of the group in the UK press at the time so this is probably true, & he probably heard the song via either Dick & Dee Dee's or The Mighty Avengers' version). The B-side is a mid-tempo song with harmonies & nice country-styled picking from Hank. 5 / 4

Visions / What Would I Do (For The Love Of A Girl) (July 1966)

Despite being backed by The Bernard Ebbinghouse Orchestra with The Mike Sammes Singers rather than The Shadows, Visions is a great song that's beautifully sung & remains one of my very favourite Cliff Richard records. The B-side (backed by The Shadows again) should've been an A-side it it's own right, with Hank's almost psychedelic guitar helping to make this the equal of what The Beatles were doing at the time. 5 / 5

Time Drags By / The La La La Song (October 1966)

Highly praised by Paul McCartney in the music press at the time, this laid-back harmony (& harmonica) song is another very strong single that sounded totally up to date. The sing-a-long B-side doesn't quite match this in quality but it's still more than OK. Both songs are from Cliff's sixth movie 'Finders Keepers', almost certainly his most consistently strong movie soundtrack (& the movie itself wasn't bad either). 5 / 4

In The Country / Finders Keepers (December 1966)

From the soundtrack album of another stage musical 'Cinderella', In The Country is a rock-pop song that's every bit as summery as Summer Holiday was nearly 4 years earlier, a truly timeless record! The B-side was the title track of his latest movie & another very strong performance. 5 / 4

...And that was sadly pretty much the end of the original Cliff Richard & The Shadows partnership! They released one final single together two years later just prior to the group splitting up (the mediocre Don't Forget To Catch Me which got to just number 21 in the charts). Of course Cliff Richard without The Shadows went on to have many giant hits, & those over the next couple of years included the good (Hank Marvin's excellent The Day I Met Marie), the bad (the dreaded Congratulations) & the forgettable (the middle-of-the-road orchestrated ballad All My Love). But that run of singles during those first eight years remain amongst the greatest & most successful in pop history.

Most of the A-sides from this era were available on 'Cliff's Hit Album' (1963), 'More Hits By Cliff' (1965) & 'The Best Of Cliff' (1969) & are currently easily available via 'The Singles Collection 6-CD box-set. Many of the B-sides however are often much harder to come by, & although there have been B-sides & rarities collections, some of these great songs are criminally still unavailable on CD or as downloads.

Cliff Richard & The Shadows have had several reunions over the years but they are currently enjoying their highest profile together since the mid-'60's, & even recently re-recorded many of their hits from this era. Whilst Cliff's vocals aren't quite as strong as they once were (he is pushing 70) the results are extremely good indeed, & I for one can't wait to see the forthcoming live DVD!

Click here for my Cliff Richard DVD list!

Click here for my The Shadows DVD list!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Jerry Lee Lewis - The Smash-Mercury Years, 1963-1978

Welcome to my brand-new blog! This will feature occasional music articles & reviews of some of the singers & musicians who inspire me the most.

For my first post I just had to start with Jerry Lee Lewis...

Jerry left Sun records in September 1963 after being with the company for nearly 7 years. He then signed to Smash records where he remained for the next 15 years, though the Smash label was dissolved in 1970 & thereafter all releases were on the parent company Mercury. Below I've attempted to briefly review every non-compilation Jerry Lee Lewis album from this period, as well as list non-album recordings & outtakes. I have not attempted to list any rumoured or "lost" recordings however, nor have I generally listed sessions (demos & concerts) from this period that were not taped by Smash-Mercury. I've also graded the albums with marks out of 5 though this is obviously just my opinion & others may very much disagree!

All albums reviewed are USA releases with the exception of Live At The Star-Club, Hamburg which was originally only released in Europe on the Philips label.

The Golden Hits of Jerry Lee Lewis (1964)

Whole Lotta Shakin´ Goin´ On / Fools Like Me / Great Balls Of Fire / I´ll Make It All Up To You / Down The Line / End Of The Road / Breathless / Crazy Arms / You Win Again / High School Confidential / Break Up / Your Cheatin´ Heart

Re-recording hits from a his previous label might not seem like the ideal way to start a long-term contract but for better or worse this was pretty much standard practice at the time (Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Gene Vincent & Bill Haley were amongst many others who re-cut their big hits during the '60's). The results were mixed: there's far too many musicians on these; the girly backing vocals are often insipid & annoying; & Jerry's voice sounds slightly hoarse in places. At least a few songs compare favourably to the Sun originals though: both Breathless, Break Up & in particular Down The Line are all much more driving & wild than the '50's versions; You Win Again includes all of Hank Williams' verses (not on the Sun single); & Your Cheatin' Heart remains Jerry's best studio version. 3 out of 5

Outtakes: Hit The Road, Jack / Wedding Bells / Just Because / He Took It Like A Man / Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee / Johnny B. Goode / Hallelujah I Love Her So / You Went Back On Your Word / Pen & Paper / The Hole He Said He'd Dig For Me

The two-day September 1963 Golden Hits session produced lots of mostly excellent additional material that was gradually released over the next 4 years. These, together with the session below, would've made a great 1964 studio album (an album that I would definately rate 5 out of 5), but instead they were issued as follows: Hit The Road, Jack & Pen & Paper were released as Jerry's debut Smash single in late 1963; The Hole He Said He'd Dig For Me was released as the B-side of She Was My Baby (He Was My Friend) in 1964; You Went Back On Your Word was released as the B-side of the 'live' High Heel Sneakers 1964 single, & with Johnny B. Goode, on The Return Of Rock; Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee, Hallelujah I Love Her So & Just Because were released on Memphis Beat; Wedding Bells & He Took It Like A Man were released on Soul My Way. In addition, a slower & superior alternate version of Hit The Road, Jack was first released in 1964 on the stereo (though not the mono) version of the various artists All Time Smash Hits album, & an alternate version of The Hole He Said He'd Dig For Me was released on the 1969 European-only compilation I'm On Fire.

Non-Album Session: I'm On Fire / She Was My Baby (He Was My Friend) / Bread & Butterman / I Bet You're Gonna Like It

This February 1964 session produced two great A-sides (I'm On Fire & She Was My Baby (He Was My Friend)), a B-side (Bread & Butterman) & the storming closing rocker on Soul My Way. An alternate take of I'm On Fire was released on 1969 compilation of the same name.

Live At The Star-Club, Hamburg (1964)

Mean Woman Blues / High School Confidential / Money / Matchbox / What´d I Say (Parts 1 & 2) / Great Balls Of Fire / Good Golly Miss Molly / Lewis´ Boogie / Your Cheatin´ Heart / Hound Dog / Long Tall Sally / Whole Lotta Shakin´ Goin´ On

Not released in the USA until many years later, this European album (the French issue is shown above) is rightly often cited as the wildest rock 'n' roll album of all time! Ably backed by The Nashville Teens (with Ramsgate's own Barry Jenkins on drums), here is Jerry's wildest performance ever captured on tape. There's even an excellent forthcoming book (I know this because I proof-read it!) largely based around this land-mark album. I won't even attempt to pick highlights this time as everything on here is beyond amazing! 5 out of 5

Outtakes: Down The Line

Not released on the original album due to the vocals being too quite during the opening seconds, this unbelievably wild version was first issued on the rare German-only various artists Star-Club Show 6 LP.

The Greatest Live Show On Earth (1964)

Jenny, Jenny / Who Will The Next Fool Be / Memphis, Tennessee / Hound Dog / Mean Woman Blues / High Heel Sneakers / No Particular Place To Go / Together Again / Long Tall Sally / Whole Lotta Shakin´ Goin´ On

Although inevitably over-shadowed by the wilder (& better-recorded) Live At The Star-Club, Hamburg, this is still a storming performance. Jerry purposely avoided most of his usual hits & included several new (at least to him) songs. Buck Hutcheson (the guitarist at this concert) can recall the entire band rehearsing these songs with Jerry at his home a few days beforehand, quite a rarity for Jerry to do any rehearsing! Highlights include Who Will The Next Fool Be (later recorded in the studio for Elektra in 1979) & High Heel Sneakers (released in slightly edited form as a single). 5 out of 5

(No known outtakes)

The Return Of Rock (1965)

I Believe In You / Maybellene / Flip, Flop And Fly / Roll Over Beethoven / Don´t Let Go / Herman The Hermit / Baby, Hold Me Close / You Went Back On Your Word / Corrine, Corrina / Sexy Ways / Johnny B. Goode / Got You On My Mind

Anyone who thinks that great rock 'n' roll records stopped being made during the Beatles era should give this a listen! As well as possibly the ultimate versions of rock 'n' roll / rhythm 'n' blues standards such as Roll Over Beethoven, Sexy Ways (previously recorded at Sun as both Cool Cool Ways & Carrying On), Corrine, Corrina (re-recorded during his final Mercury sessions in 1977) & Got You On My Mind, there's several new songs of which I Believe In You (with Jerry's best ever piano solo?) & Baby, Hold Me Close are the best. Without a doubt Jerry's finest studio rock 'n' roll album (great "mix" too!). 5 out of 5

Outtakes: Mathilda / The Wild Side Of Life / Just In Time / Skid Row

Of these outtakes one song was issued a few months later on Country Songs For City Folks & another a year later on the Memphis Beat album. Just In Time & Skid Row were first issued on an early 80's bootleg EP, & then officially via Bear Family a few years later. Skid Row in particular is as good or better than virtually anything on the Country Songs For City Folks LP, a truly remarkable performance & song!

Non-Album Session: This Must Be The Place / Rockin' Pneumonia & The Boogie Woogie Flu / Seasons Of My Heart / Big Boss Man / Too Young / Danny Boy

Unusually taped in New York instead of the usual Nashville or Memphis, this May 1965 session produced the Rockin' Pneumonia & The Boogie Woogie Flu b/w This Must Be The Place single; another song for Country Songs For City Folks; & two more songs for Memphis Beat. The beautiful version of Danny Boy was first issued on a 70s Dutch bootleg, & officially in the mid 80s on Bear Family.

Country Songs For City Folks (1965)

Green Green Grass Of Home / Wolverton Mountain / Funny How Time Slips Away / North To Alaska (with Linda Gail Lewis) / The Wild Side Of Life / Walk Right In / City Lights / Ring Of Fire / Detroit City / Crazy Arms / King Of The Road / Seasons Of My Heart

Most casual observers believe that Jerry Lee Lewis only started giving greater emphasis to his country recordings after the success of Another Place, Another Time in 1968, but he actually released his first country-orientated album three years earlier albeit with a pop-rhythm 'n' blues emphasis (which basically means saxophones & organs instead of fiddles & steel guitars!). Highlights include Green Green Grass Of Home, Detroit City (Tom Jones discovered both songs via this album!), City Lights, & an up-tempo re-cut of his first single, Crazy Arms. The album is only really marred by a couple of songs such as Ring Of Fire & King Of The Road that add little to the great original versions. 4 out of 5

Outtakes: Baby (You've Got What It Takes) (with Linda Gail Lewis)

The one non-album track from these sessions was released on the flip of the Green Green Grass Of Home 45.

Memphis Beat (1966)

Memphis Beat / Mathilda / Drinkin´ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee / Hallelujah, I Love Her So / She Thinks I Still Care / Just Because / Sticks And Stones / Whenever You´re Ready / Lincoln Limousine / Big Boss Man / Too Young / The Urge

Considering that nearly half of the songs on this album are outtakes from previous albums it blends together remarkably well! The song Memphis Beat itself though OK is a slightly contrived combination of Breathless & Chuck Berry's Memphis. Far better are Just Because, Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee (though both earlier & later versions are probably superior), Big Boss Man & George Jones' She Thinks I Still Care. Again there's a couple of unnecessary covers that add little to the originals, particularly Hallelujah, I Love Her So & Too Young (great piano solo though!), & there's the notorious Lincoln Limousine, his "tribute" to John F. Kennedy that sounds more like a car commercial! 3 out of 5

Outtakes: What A Heck Of A Mess / Rockin' Jerry Lee

What A Heck Of A Mess was issued as the B-side of Sticks & Stones, while Rockin' Jerry Lee (one of the stronger rock 'n' roll performances from this era) was first issued on a 70s bootleg & then officially in the late 80s.

Non-Album Session: Memphis Beat / Twenty Four Hours A Day / Swinging Doors / If I Had It All To Do Over

Presumably dissatisfied with the album version, Memphis Beat was re-cut here for a single, backed with If I Had It All To Do Over. Swinging Doors was released on the 1971 Would You Take Another Chance On Me album, & Twenty Four Hours A Day remained unissued until a bootleg EP in the early 80s (& then an official release a few years later). Additionally, an alternate take of Memphis Beat was issued on the 1969 I'm On Fire compilation, & remixes (minus strings) of the other 3 songs were released via Bear Family in the 80s.

By Request: More Of The Greatest Live Show On Earth (1966)

Little Queenie / How´s My Ex Treating You / Johnny B. Goode / Green, Green Grass Of Home / What´d I Say (Part 2) / You Win Again / I´ll Sail My Ship Alone / Cryin´ Time / Money / Roll Over Beethoven

Jerry's third official live album from the '60's & without doubt the weakest. Part of the reason is the relatively poor mix (why on earth couldn't US Smash record & mix as as well as German Philips did with Live At The Star-Club, Hamburg?), & another reason is that Jerry seems a little below form for the period, particularly on side two (compare the Paris 1966 bootleg for example). Having said this there's some very good performances indeed, in particular Little Queenie, How's My Ex Treating You, Green Green Grass Of Home, What'd I Say (Part 2) & I'll Sail My Ship Alone. Others are rather weak, particularly Money (which sounds almost insipid compared to the powerful Star-Club version) & You Win Again. 3 out of 5

Outtakes: Blue Suede Shoes / Crazy Arms / Lovin' Up A Storm / Mean Woman Blues / What'd I Say (Part 1)

A mono acetate of the uncut first show (featuring all songs from the original LP up to & including What'd I Say (Part 2) plus all of the above outtakes) was discovered in the mid 90s & issued by Bear Family. Pretty much all of the outtakes are sensational versions, & if this had been released in 1966 instead then I wouldn't hesitate to give it 5 out of 5!

Soul My Way (1967)

Turn On Your Love Light / It´s A Hang Up Baby / Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream) / Just Dropped In / Wedding Bells / He Took It Like A Man / Hey Baby / Treat Her Right / Holdin´ On / Shotgun Man / I Bet You´re Gonna Like It

Both Sun & Smash had by this point tried pretty much everything over the past 9 years to revive Jerry's career, so this time they tried a (sort of) Soul album with several songs featuring little or no piano! This was complete heresy to many fans (though interestingly it got pretty good reviews in the UK music press at the time), but to my ears some of Jerry's finest ever recordings are on this album. Highlights include the mid-tempo It´s A Hang Up Baby (a song that would probably feature in my top 10 favourite ever JLL recordings), Holdin' On (a slow pop-soul ballad), Shotgun Man (a funky James Brown-type number written by Jerry's life-long friend Cecil Harrelson), Treat Her Right, Turn On Your Lovelight & the rockin' I Bet You´re Gonna Like It. In fact if it wasn't for a couple of mediocre covers (Hey Baby, Dream Baby) I'd give this album full marks! 4 out 5

(No Known Outtakes)

Catch My Soul Studio Session
Although not a Smash-Mercury session, it was probably around this time that Jerry taped a studio session of the songs he performed in the stage play 'Catch My Soul'. Whether these were just rehearsals or recorded for a proposed album is unknown, but two fascinating songs surfaced on a bootleg CD in the early '90's: Lust Of The Blood & Let The Cannikin Clink. More songs are rumoured to exist.

Another Place Another Time (1968)

What´s Made Milwaukee Famous / Play Me A Song I Can Cry To / On The Back Row / Walking The Floor Over You / All Night Long / I´m A Lonesome Fugitive / Another Place, Another Time / Break My Mind / Before The Next Teardrop Falls / All The Good Is Gone / We Live In Two Different Worlds (with Linda Gail Lewis)

Mostly quickly recorded in one day to cash-in on the surprising success of the single of the same name, this album features some of Jerry's best ever country performances with every song being a gem. Amongst the many highlights are What´s Made Milwaukee Famous, On The Back Row (just listen to that soaring vocal!), Walking The Floor Over You, I´m A Lonesome Fugitive, Before The Next Teardrop Falls, All The Good Is Gone, & the first truly great duet with Linda Gail Lewis, We Live In Two Different Worlds. 5 out of 5

(No known Outtakes)

She Still Comes Around (1968)

To Make Love Sweeter For You / Let´s Talk About Us / I Can´t Get Over You / Out Of My Mind / Today I Started Loving You Again / She Still Comes Around (To Love What´s Left Of Me) / Louisiana Man / Release Me / Listen, They´re Playing My Song / There Stands The Glass / Echoes

Another superb country collection (almost but not quite the equal of the previous album), with highlights including the singles To Make Love Sweeter For You & She Still Comes Around (To Love What´s Left Of Me), as well as Today I Started Loving You Again, Louisiana Man & There Stands The Glass. One of the weaker tracks is the re-make of Let's Talk About Us (where's the intro?!), and in fact it wouldn't be until late 1969 when Jerry would again cut a convincing rock 'n' roll performance in the studio. 4 out of 5

Outtakes: Slippin' Around / I Can't Have A Merry Christmas, Mary (Without You)

Slippin' Around was issued as the B-side of She Still Comes Around (To Love What´s Left Of Me), while I Can't Have A Merry Christmas, Mary (Without You) (b/w In Loving Memories) was issued as an A-side in November 1970.

Sings The Country Music Hall Of Fame Hits Vol. 1 (1969)

I Wonder Where You Are Tonight / I´m So Lonesome I Could Cry / Jambalaya / Four Walls
/ Heartaches By The Number / Mom And Dad´s Waltz / Sweet Dreams / Born To Lose / Oh Lonesome Me / You´ve Still Got A Place In My Heart / I Love You Because / Jackson (with Linda Gail Lewis)

Outtakes: (See below)

Sings The Country Music Hall Of Fame Hits Vol. 2 (1969)

I Can´t Stop Loving You / Fraulein / He´ll Have To Go / More And More / Why Don´t You Love Me (Like You Used To Do) / It Makes No Difference Now / Pick Me Up On Your Way Down / One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart) / I Get The Blues When It Rains / Cold, Cold Heart / Burning Memories / Sweet Thang (with Linda Gail Lewis)

The production was starting to sound a little formulaic & predictable by this point (did the backing vocalists really have to join in on the 2nd verse of every song?), but with Jerry's performances & the material being so strong here it doesn't distract too much. It's almost impossible to pick highlights from these two albums, but I'll try: I Wonder Where You Are Tonight, I´m So Lonesome I Could Cry, Mom And Dad´s Waltz, Sweet Dreams, Jackson (with Linda Gail Lewis), He´ll Have To Go, Why Don´t You Love Me (Like You Used To Do), Pick Me Up On Your Way Down, One Has My Name, Sweet Thang (with Linda Gail Lewis)... 5 out of 5

Outtakes: You Belong To Me / My Blue Heaven

Both of the Sings The Country Music Hall Of Fame Hits albums were recorded over three days in late February 1969. You Belong To Me was finally released on Country Class in 1976, while My Blue Heaven wasn't issued until the mid '80's. These are two of Jerry's finest ever recordings, so perhaps the only reason they weren't originally issued is because they didn't quite fit the 'Country Music Hall of Fame Hits' theme?

Together (with Linda Gail Lewis) (1969)

Milwaukee Here I Come / Jackson / Don´t Take It Out On Me / Cryin´ Time / Sweet Thang / Secret Places / Don´t Let Me Cross Over / Gotta Travel On / We Live In Two Different Worlds / Earth Up Above / Roll Over Beethoven

Following a deserved big country hit single with Don´t Let Me Cross Over & the interest over the duets on the Sings The Country Music Hall Of Fame Hits albums, Jerry & sister Linda Gail Lewis recorded a further eight songs in one session in June 1969. Linda Gail still sounded a little inexperienced in places, but highlights include Milwaukee Here I Come, Secret Places & Earth Up Above. The weakest track to my ears is Roll Over Beethoven, though it sounded much better when performed as a duet 'live', & was a minor US pop hit... 4 out of 5

(No Known Outtakes)

She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye (1969)

Once More With Feeling / Workin´ Man Blues / Waiting For A Train / Brown Eyed Handsome Man / My Only Claim To Fame / Since I Met You Baby / She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye / Wine Me Up / When The Grass Grows Over Me / You Went Out Of Your Way (To Walk On Me) / Echoes

Here it is, the very pinnacle of Jerry's country music "come back"! Since Another Place, Another Time Jerry's studio recordings had sounded very "straight" & polished, but now he was starting to loosen up again, improvising & ad-libbing more (by the mid-'70's Jerry's ad-libs would sound rather tiresome but here they sounded fresh & spontaneous). Amongst the many highlights are the hit singles Once More With Feeling & She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye; the hard-rockin' Brown Eyed Handsome Man & the near-rockin' Workin' Man Blues & Wine Me Up; the country-blues Since I Met You Baby; & the beautiful version of Waiting For A Train (a song he attempted several times at Sun). A strong candidate for Jerry's finest ever album. 5 out of 5

Outtakes: Love Of All Seasons / In Loving Memories

A superb Linda Gail Lewis composition, Love Of All Seasons is unlike anything else Jerry's recorded, though it's certainly not country or rock 'n' roll which is probably why it wasn't issued at the time. Nevertheless it would've made a far more interesting album closer than Echoes, a song which was previously released on the She Still Comes Around album. Like many Smash-Mercury outtakes, Love Of All Seasons was finally released in the mid '80's. In Loving Memories was released the following year on the album of the same name, & also recorded at these sessions were inferior early versions of both this song & Once More With Feeling. These were issued in the mid '80's.

Live At The International, Las Vegas (1970)

She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye / Jambalaya / She Still Comes Around (To Love What´s Left Of Me) / Drinkin´ champagne / San Antonio Rose / Once More With Feeling / When You Wore A Tulip And I Wore A Big Red Rose (with Linda Gail Lewis) / Take These Chains From My Heart (Linda Gail Lewis) / The Ballad Of Forty Dollars / Flip, Flop And Fly

Jerry's fourth & final 'live' album to be released while he was with Smash-Mercury, this was compiled from several concerts taped in May 1970. Inevitably the compiler(s) concentrated mostly on Jerry's country material, though the actual concerts featured a far greater variety of music. The individual performances on the album (with the possible exception of Flip, Flop & Fly) are all first-class, but the album lacks excitement & atmosphere despite the fact that some fake audience noise has been added. 3 out of 5

Outtakes: Sweet Little Sixteen / Medley: Jenny Jenny - Long Tall Sally Tutti Frutti / C.C. Rider / High School Confidential / Medley: Down The Line - I'm Movin' On (with Linda Gail Lewis) / Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On / Oh Lonesome Me / Your Cheatin' Heart / Smoke Gets In Your Eyes / Invitation To Your Party / Blue Suede Shoes When The Grass Grows Over Me / Jackson (with Linda Gail Lewis) / Staggerlee / Today I Started Loving You Again (1st version) / One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart) / Shoeshine Man / Great Balls Of Fire / Mean Woman Blues / You Are My Sunshine / Homecoming / Got You On My Mind Again (with Linda Gail Lewis) / What'd I Say / Mexicali Rose (slow & fast versions) / Today I Started Loving You Again (2nd version)

Taped over two nights (six shows) in May 1970, most of the above outtakes were released on a vinyl box-set by Bear Family in the mid '80's (though they've never been released on CD). The exception is an alternate version of Today I Started Loving You Again which has only been issued (unnoticed by most fans) on The Mercury Years Vol. 2 (1969-1972) compilation CD.

In Loving Memories: The Jerry Lee Lewis Gospel Album (1970)

In Loving Memories / The Lily Of The Valley / Gather ´Round Children / My God´s Not Dead / He Looked Beyond My Fault / The Old Rugged Cross / I´ll Fly Away / I´m Longing For Home / I Know That Jesus Will Be There (with Linda Gail Lewis) / Too Much To Gain To Lose / Medley: If We Never Meet Again - I´ll Meet You In The Morning

Gospel music doesn't appeal to everyone but I love this album. Mostly produced by Jerry & Linda Gail & very well mixed (check out how loud the piano is on this album!), this album features a good mixture of fast, medium & slow songs, all performed with great feeling. Highlights include In Loving Memories, He Looked Beyond My Fault, The Old Rugged Cross, I'll Fly Away & I Know That Jesus Will Be There (featuring Linda Gail's greatest ever vocal on a Jerry Lee Lewis recording). 5 out of 5

Outtakes: Cheater Pretend (with Linda Gail Lewis) / Handwriting On The Wall (with Linda Gail Lewis) / Black Mama

Although released first, the bulk of the In Loving Memories album was actually recorded after the There Must Be More To Love Than This album (though there was some cross-over). Handwriting On The Wall was issued as the B-side of Me & Jesus in 1972, while the other two outtakes had to wait until the mid '80's for release. Cheater Pretend is a fine country duet that (if recorded a year earlier) would've fit effortlessly on the Together album, but Black Mama is one of the worse songs Jerry's ever recorded & deserved to remain unreleased! It's to his credit though that he could even make a song like this sound convincing, such was his form during the 1969-1972 era.

Non-Album Session: Jealous Heart / The Last Letter / Meeting In The Air / Where He Leads Me / Living On The Hallelujah Side / A Picture From Life's Other Side

None of this interesting December 1970 Memphis session was released until the mid '80's (though three songs were recut for Mercury). Probably backed by his road band at the time, these have a sparseness missing from the more heavily-produced recordings on his albums during this time.

Church Live Recording: Looking For A City / I'm Longing For Home / Life's Railway To Heaven (also known as Blessed Saviour Thou Wilt Guide Us) / Someone Who Cares For You / Medley: If We Never Meet Again - I'll Meet You In The Morning / Down The Sawdust Trail Peace In The Valley / The Old Rugged Cross / It Will Be Worth It All When We See Jesus / I Know That Jesus Will Be There / I'm In The Gloryland Way / Tomorrow May Mean Goodbye / Amazing Grace / On The Jericho Road / I'll Fly Away / My God Is Real / When Jesus Beckons Me Home / I Won't Have To Cross Jordan Alone / Keep On The Firing Line

Also from December 1970, this live performance (taped by Mercury) again wasn't issued until the '80's. Jerry was reputedly far from happy to see this released, probably because it meant so much personally to him, but it remains one of the most inspired performances ever recorded, absolutely essential listening!

There Must Be More To Love Than This (1970)

There Must Be More To Love Than This / Bottles And Barstools / Reuben James / I´d Be Talkin´ All The Time / One More Time / Sweet Georgia Brown / Woman, Woman (Get Out Of Our Way) / I Forgot More Than You´ll Ever Know / Foolaid / Home Away From Home / Life´s Little Ups And Downs

Another strong album featuring the "looser" JLL that we heard on She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye. No rock 'n' roll this time but the unbelievably fast Sweet Georgia Brown more than makes up for this! Other highlights (as well as the title track) include Bottles And Barstools, I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know & Charlie Rich's Life's Little Ups And Downs. However a couple of weaker & less memorable songs were starting to appear on the albums now, the inevitable result of trying to release 2 or 3 albums of new material per year. 4 out of 5

Outtakes: Alvin

The only outtake from the March 1970 sessions that produced the bulk of the There Must Be More To Love Than This album, this song (supposedly written by Jerry) remained in the can until the mid '80's. Also probably recorded at these sessions was It's The Real Thing, a song for a Coca-Cola radio commercial that's available on a '70's vinyl bootleg LP.

Touching Home (1971)

When He Walks On You (Like You Have Walked On Me) / Time Changes Everything / Help Me Make It Through The Night / Mother, The Queen Of My Heart / Hearts Were Made For Beating / Foolish Kind Of Man / Touching Home / Please Don´t Talk About Me When I´m Gone
/ You Helped Me Up (When The World Let me Down) / When Baby Gets The Blues / Coming Back For More

Another very good album (shown above with the more common 2nd edition sleeve), though it pretty much follows the formula of the previous album with one great rocked-up oldie (Please Don´t Talk About Me When I´m Gone) & a mixture of slower songs both old & new. Other highlights include the superb title track (one of his best), Mother, The Queen Of My Heart, Time Changes Everything & Coming Back For More. Another fan's favourite is Help Me Make It Through The Night though I personally have never been too keen on the song. 4 out of 5

Outtakes: The Hurtin' Part / Another Hand Shakin' Goodbye

These two outtakes were released on the follow-up album Would You Take Another Chance On Me.

Would You Take Another Chance On Me? (1971)

Would You Take Another Chance On Me ? / Another Hand Shakin´ Goodbye / Swinging Doors / Thirteen At The Table / Big Blon' Baby / Lonesome Fiddle Man / Me And Bobby McGee / For The Good Times / Things That Matter Most To Me / The Hurtin´ Part / The Goodbye Of The Year

Jerry's voice changed considerably during the years 1969-1973, getting gradually deeper & thicker, & already he was sounding quite different by this album. There was also a gradual shift towards country-pop ballads, such as the title track & For The Good Times, both of which I personally have never been too keen on. There were some great performances though, in particular the brilliant Me And Bobby McGee, as well as the wild re-recording of Big Blon' Baby, Lonesome Fiddle Man & (resurrected from a 1966 session) Swinging Doors. 3 out of 5

Outtakes: Someday You'll Want Me To Want You / No Honky Tonks In Heaven / I Don't Know Why I Just Do / And For The First Time

No Honky Tonks In Heaven was released 15 months later as the non-album B-side to Who's Gonna Play This Old Piano, whilst the other 3 songs remained in the can until the mid '80's. All four songs are superb, & would've enhanced the original album greatly if replacing some of the weaker issued recordings.

The Killer Rocks On (1972)

Don´t Be Cruel / You Can Have Her / Games People Play / Lonely Weekends / You Don´t Miss Your Water / Turn On Your Love Light / Chantilly Lace / C. C. Rider / Walk A Mile In My Shoes / Me And Bobby McGee / Shotgun Man / I´m Walkin´

By 1972 (following the commercial success of the uptempo Me And Bobby McGee) Jerry felt ready to start recording rock 'n' roll albums again, albeit this time with a very "pop" production (strings, girly backing vocals, etc, which actually works well here). Jerry's performances were almost all superb on this album, with inspired vocals & piano through-out. Highlights include Don't Be Cruel, You Can Have Her, You Don't Miss Your Water & Walk A Mile In My Shoes. Unfortunately they felt it neccesary to revive two songs from Soul My Way which sound very out of place here (far better would've been the more recently recorded Big Blon' Baby & No Traffic Out Of Abilene), hence the less than full marks. 4 out of 5

Outtakes: Think About It Darlin' / No Traffic Out Of Abilene

Think About It Darlin' was issued on the flipside of the Chantilly Lace single (as a double A-side) & then on the Who's Gonna Play This Old Piano album. The superb No Traffic Out Of Abilene was recorded as a proposed A-side that never materialised, & was instead hidden on the patchy Who's Gonna Play This Old Piano album. A real shame, and this over-looked gem remains one of my all-time favourite Jerry Lee Lewis recordings.

Non-Album Session: Me & Jesus (with Linda Gail Lewis)

This was released as an A-side (backed by Handwriting On The Wall) in June 1972, though it was one of the few singles from the early 70s to sell badly. Sadly this was the final studio duet with Linda Gail Lewis.

Who's Gonna Play This Old Piano? (1972)

Who´s Gonna Play This Old Piano ? / She´s Reaching For My Mind / Too Many Rivers / We Both Know Which One Of Us Was Wrong / Wall Around Heaven / No More Hanging On / Think About It, Darlin´ / Bottom Dollar / No Traffic Out Of Abilene / Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow (instrumental) / The Mercy Of A Letter

Again we were getting more & more modern heavily-produced country-pop ballads, but this album features something new: a dixieland horn section! These are only featured on two songs (the title track & Bottom Dollar) but they help liven which is in truth a very mediocre album with relatively few other real highlights apart from the brilliant No Traffic Out Of Abilene (some may also include Too Many Rivers but to my ears Jerry over-does the ad-libbing & spoils an other-wise very good performance). 3 out of 5

Outtakes: Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow (vocal version)

The so-called instrumental version of Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow (which actually features backing vocals) always sounded more like it was meant to have a lead vocal, & this was confirmed when the vocal version was finally issued in the mid '80's.

The Session (1973)

Drinkin´ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee / Music To The Man / Baby What You Want Me To Do / Bad Moon Rising / Sea Cruise / Jukebox / No Headstone On My Grave / Big Boss Man / Pledging My Love / Memphis, Tennessee / Trouble In Mind / Johnny B. Goode / High School Confidential (instrumental, does not feature Jerry Lee Lewis) / Early Morning Rain / Whole Lotta Shakin´ Goin´ On / Sixty Minute Man / Down The Line / What´d I Say /Rock´n´Roll Medley: Good Golly Miss Molly - Long Tall Sally - Jenny, Jenny - Tutti Frutti - Whole Lotta Shakin´ Goin´ On

No doubt inspired at least partly by the successful "In London" albums by Howlin' Wolf & Chuck Berry, this was an attempt to get Jerry to record with many (supposedly) rock "superstars" in London. The results were apparantly a clash of egos, a lack of willingless by Jerry to learn new songs, & his alcohol abuse starting to spiral out of control. So it's not surprising that the resulting double album is a very mixed blessing. The two newly written songs Jukebox & (especially) Music To The Man are excellent, as are Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee (best ever re-make?), No Headstone On My Grave, Johnny B. Goode, Pledging My Love & Trouble In Mind, but some of the other revivals are far less successful musically (I've always found this version of What'd I Say particularly bad). It would've made a 5 star single album, but as a double... 3 out of 5

Outtakes: Goldmine In The Sky / Singing The Blues / (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction / Be-Bop-A-Lula / Dungaree Doll / I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby

These outtakes were first issued in 1986 when The Session was re-released as two single albums by Bear Family. Goldmine In The Sky is a heart-felt slow gospel song which would've sounded very out of place on the original album (though perhaps would've made a nice B-side); (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction & Be-Bop-A-Lula are slowed-down dirges; and both Dungaree Doll & I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby are just brief jams. So only Singing The Blues was perhaps worth issueing originally though that's nothing special either. A few rehearsals & alternate takes from these sessions are available on bootlegs.

Non-Album Session: Jack Daniels (Old Number Seven) / Why Me Lord (with Moetta Hill)

The interesting Jack Daniels (Old Number Seven) was issued as the B-side of No Headstone On My Grave in the USA & as the B-side of Music To The Man in the UK though both singles sold poorly. Why Me Lord remained unissued until the mid '80's. Some very ragged rehearsals & jams that were taped by a fan on cassette (& circulate unofficially) are very likely from this session.

Sometimes A Memory Ain't Enough (1973)

Sometimes A Memory Ain´t Enough / Ride Me Down Easy / Mama´s Hands / What My Woman Can´t Do / My Cricket And Me / I´m Left, You´re Right, She´s Gone / Honky Tonk Wine / Falling To The Bottom / I Think I Need To Pray / The Morning After Baby Let Me Down / Keep Me From Blowing Away

Things were really starting to go downhill by this point. Although Jerry's voice was still good (it would get far worse within a year or two), the material was getting weaker, & for this album & I-40 Country his usual Nashville producer Jerry Kennedy was replaced by Stan Kesler whose production here made Jerry Kennedy seem like Sam Phillips! But if you can get past the production sludge there's several highlights here including Ride Me Down Easy, I'm Left, You're Right She's Gone, The Morning After Baby Let Me Down & I Think I Need To Pray. 3 out of 5

Outtakes: (See I-40 Country)

Southern Roots (1973)

Meat Man / When A Man Loves A Woman / Hold On I´m Coming / Just A Little Bit / Born To Be A Loser / Haunted House / Blueberry Hill / The Revolutionary Man / Big Blue Diamonds / That Old Bourbon Street Church

After the London experiment Mercury decided to try the same again in Memphis, this time with modern soul luminaries. The results were again mixed though, mostly due to a few very unsuitable songs for Jerry. Meat Man, Just A Little Bit, Born To Be A loser, Big Blue Diamonds & That Old Burbon Street Church are all very worthwhile, but When A Man Loves A Woman & Blueberry Hill are embarassing & The Revolutionary Man has the most annoying backing vocals I've ever heard on a JLL recording (with the possible exception of the 1979 Elektra cut of Rockin' Jerry Lee!). 3 out of 5

Outtakes: Honey Hush / All Over Hell & Half Of Georgia / I Sure Miss Those Good Old Times / Cry / Raining In My Heart / Margie / Silver Threads Among The Gold / Take Your Time

All of the above outtakes (plus a faster Hold On I'm Coming, a longer edit of Haunted House as well as several rehearsals & re-mixes) were finally issued by Bear Family in 1987. Most of these are vastly superior to most of the songs on the original album (& in particular Cry, Raining In My Heart & Margie), & could've greatly enhanced a very patchy album.

I-40 Country (1974)

He Can´t Fill My Shoes / Tell Tale Signs / A Picture From Life´s Other Side / I Hate Goodbyes / I´ve Forgot More About You (Than He´ll Ever Know) / Tomorrow´s Taking Baby Away / Cold, Cold Morning Light / The Alcohol Of Fame / Where Would I Be / Bluer Words / Room Full Of Roses

Oh dear. Most of the best material from these sessions was clearly already released on the Sometimes A Memory Ain't Enough album, with the remainder released on this dirge. With a more sympathetic producer there's some OK songs with He Can't Fill My Shoes & Cold, Cold Morning Light being highlights, but as it stands this is without a doubt the worse proper album of Jerry's entire career. 2 out 5

Outtakes: The Gods Were Angry With Me

Apart from two songs taped in February 1974, both the Sometimes A Memory Ain't Enough & I-40 Country albums were recorded over three days in July 1973. The one outtake (released in the mid '80's) is nothing special though at least it's not as over-produced as most of the other issued songs.

Boogie Woogie Country Man (1975)

I´m Still Jealous Of You / A Little Peace And Harmony / Jesus Is On The Mainline (Call Him Sometime) / Forever Forgiving / Remember Me (I´m The One Who Loves You) / Red Hot Memories (Ice Cold Beer) / I Can Still Hear The Music In The Restroom / Love Inflation / I Was Sorta Wonderin´ / Thanks For Nothing / Boogie Woogie Country Man

Jerry Kennedy was back for the first time since the Who's Gonna Play This Old Piano album & the songs were stronger, but unfortunately Jerry's voice had greatly deteriated since the previous sessions. Much of this was due to Jerry's constant "partying", but it was also due to a broken nose that hadn't healed properly, therefore causing Jerry sinus problems. Still there's some very worthwhile highlights on here, including I'm Still Jealous Of You, Jesus Is On The Mainline (Call Him Sometime), I Can Still Hear The Music In The Restroom & the title track. 3 out of 5

Outtakes: Until The Day Forever Ends / Speak A Little Louder To Us Jesus / Honey Hush / No-One Knows Me

Although there was some cross-over during the recording of the Boogie Woogie Country Man & Odd Man In albums, the earlier sessions produced the above four outtakes. Speak A Little Louder To Us Jesus was a live favourite at the time, & Honey Hush is probably the best ever version by Jerry Lee Lewis (he also recorded it in 1957, 1973 & 1980, none of which were issued at the time!). Why these two superb tracks remained unreleased until the mid '80's is a mystery. The other two outtakes are less memorable though still more than OK. Again these remained unissued until the mid '80's.

Odd Man In (1975)

Don´t Boogie Woogie (When You Say Your Prayers Tonight) / Shake, Rattle And Roll / You Ought To See My Mind / I Don´t Want To Be Lonely Tonight / That Kind Of Fool / Goodnight Irene / A Damn Good Country Song / Jerry´s Place / When I Take My Vacation In Heaven / Crawdad Song / Your Cheatin´ Heart

If anything his voice was sounding even worse on this album, & there was now the added problem of hearing a 2nd vocal in the background on some songs, the result of "leakage" when overdubbing. A real pity, as there's not a weak song on this album & Jerry's clearly trying his best. It's also the first real attempt to mix rock 'n' roll & country (plus a little gospel) equally on one album. Highlights include Don´t Boogie Woogie (When You Say Your Prayers Tonight), You Ought To See My Mind, I Don´t Want To Be Lonely Tonight, That Kind Of Fool & A Damn Good Country Song. If it wasn't for the vocal problems I'd give the album 5 out of 5, but instead I'll give it... 4 out of 5

Outtakes: The House Of Blue Lights / Lord What's Left For Me To Do / Great Balls Of Fire / The One Rose That's Left In My Heart

The House Of Blue Lights is my favourite JLL version of the song despite the fact that his voice sounds so hoarse (he went on to cut more versions in better voice in 1986 & 1994), & Lord What's Left For Me To Do is a very good country song. Less essential are Great Balls Of Fire (an interesting "old Tyme" arrangement marred by poor vocals) & an early rejected version of The One Rose That's Left In My Heart. All 4 songs were issued in the mid '80's. Also recorded (& again released in the mid '80's) was an alternate vocal version of A Damn Good Country Song.

Non-Album Session: I'm Knee Deep In Loving You / I Can Help / Slippin' & Slidin' / From A Jack To A King

None of this interesting December 1975 session was released until over a decade later, a pity because the results were largely excellent. There's far fewer musicians than on most of his '70's Mercury recordings, & Jerry sounds inspired & is having fun (& even the rough vocals don't sound out of place here). I'm Knee Deep In Loving You would've made an interesting A-side; Jerry really stamps his signature on two very different takes of Billy Swan's I Can Help; Slippin' & Slidin' is over-long but fun; & the two released takes of From A Jack To A King are less essential but still worth a listen.

Country Class (1976)

Let´s Put It Back Together Again / No One Will Ever Know / You Belong To Me / I Sure Miss Those Good Old Times / The Old Country Church / After The Fool You´ve Made Of Me / Jerry Lee´s Rock´n´Roll Revival Show / Wedding Bells / Only Love Can Get You In My Door / The One Rose That´s Left In My Heart / The Closest Thing To You

In February 1976 Jerry finally had surgery to correct his sinus problem, &, combined with laying off the booze a little, the change in his voice was breathtaking! A few of the songs on this album were recorded prior to the surgery but overdubbed later, but most of them were recorded afterwards live in the studio & without overdubs for the first time in several years. The fact that the 1969 You Belong To Me fit so effortlessly into this album proves just how dramatic the vocal improvement was, the production is sympathetic & restrained, & the songs are without exception excellent. The many highlights include No One Will Ever Know, I Sure Miss Those Good Old Times, The Old Country Church, After The Fool You´ve Made Of Me, The One Rose That´s Left In My Heart & The Closest Thing To You. Probably the only weak-ish track is also the only (restrained) rock 'n' roll song Jerry Lee´s Rock´n´Roll Revival Show, but even that's OK. Jerry's best Mercury album of the '70's. 5 out of 5

Outtakes: I Can't Keep My Hands Off Of You / The Fifties / Harbour Lights

I Can't Keep My Hands Off Of You is a very nice slow modern country song though it's marred by the very hoarse vocals (it was recorded prior to Jerry's sinus operation & was never over-dubbed later); The Fifties is a contrived rocker that's very similar to Jerry Lee's Rock 'n' Roll Revival Show; and Harbour Lights was very nearly released on the original album (at a July '76 performance Jerry even performed the song & announced that it's from his new album!). All three were issued in the mid '80's.

Country Memories (1977)

Middle Age Crazy / Let´s Say Goodbye Like We Said Hello / Who´s Sorry Now / Jealous Heart
/ Georgia On My Mind / Come On In / As Long As We Live / (You´d Think By Now) I´d Be Over You / Country Memories / What´s So Good About Goodbye / Tennessee Saturday Night

The sparkling return to form on Country Class pretty much stayed with Jerry for the final two Mercury albums, this one & Keeps Rockin'. Again there were many highlights, including the country-pop big hit Middle Age Crazy (a song I love on record but I'm not too keen on 'live'), the slow & fast Who's Sorry Now, Jealous Heart, Come On In, the dixieland Country Memories, & the only rock 'n' roll song Tennessee Saturday Night. I can live without Georgia On My Mind (I've always preferred Ray Charles' version) & the mixing could be a little better in places, but otherwise an extremely good album. 4 out of 5

Outtakes: Ivory Tears

The one unissued cut (at least until the mid '80's) is the first of two attempts at recording a beautiful Mack Vickery song.

Keeps Rockin' (1978)

I´ll Find It Where I Can / Blue Suede Shoes / I Hate You / Arkansas Seesaw / Lucille / The Last Cheater´s Waltz / Wild And Wooly Ways / Sweet Little Sixteen / Don´t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes / Pee Wee´s Place / Before The Night Is Over

Like Odd Man In in 1975, this was another attempt to (pretty much equally) combine rock 'n' roll & uptempo songs with slower material, though this album has the edge. Again a very strong track selection, including the modern "outlaw" country I´ll Find It Where I Can, The Last Cheater´s Waltz, Wild And Wooly Ways, Don´t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes, Pee Wee´s Place & the semi-disco(!) Before The Night Is Over. A couple of performances are more pedestrian (in particular Blue Suede Shoes), but overall this was a fine end to Jerry's 15 years at Smash-Mercury. 4 out of 5

Outtakes: The Last Letter / Let's Live A Little / Sittin' & Thinkin' / Corrine Corrina / Life's Railway To Heaven / Ivory Tears / You Call Everybody Darlin' / Lord I've Tried Everything But You / You're All Too Ugly Tonight

With the possible exception of You're All Too Ugly Tonight every one of the unreleased songs from these sessions is superb, & it's a mystery why Mercury didn't release these (along with a few earlier outtakes) as an album after Jerry moved to Elektra in 1979, though perhaps his albums weren't selling so well by this time? As it is they all remained in the can for nearly a decade.

With the exception of The Session (available seperately on Hip-O-Select) the above two Bear Family box-sets include every released Jerry Lee Lewis Smash-Mercury studio recording mentioned in this article!

Click here for my Jerry Lee Lewis DVD list!
I've had the (sometimes dubious) pleasure of meeting Jerry Lee Lewis several times over the years, but below is a photo from the very first time, as Jerry was leaving the UK after a successful European tour at Gatwick Airport on 23rd April 1983.