“The Killer,” Jerry Lee Lewis was a member of Sun Studios’ Million Dollar Quartet. He gained notoriety as the first wild man of rock ‘n’ roll, but the wild man inevitably overwhelmed the rock ‘n’ roll, which would have relegated him to a musical footnote were it not for his genius as a piano player and singer on a few hits.
This album is a collection of Lewis’ early work at Sun Records, recorded between 1955 and 1958, and features work by The Tennessee Two, Luther Perkins on guitar and Marshall Grant on bass, who became music legends backing Lewis’ label mate Johnny Cash.
Coming in at less than 40 minutes the album flies by, but you get to hear the the range of Lewis’ style as he covers all number of genres. His biggest hit on this album is the Grammy Hall of Fame single “Whole Lot Shakin’ Going On,” which he plays with a controlled ferocity. It’s a surprise the piano is in one piece when he’s done with it. He slows it down for the blues number “Big Legged Woman” and country songs such as “Fools Like Me” and “Break Up,” the latter of which was written by future country star Charlie Rich.
Though Lewis only wrote three of the songs, the content is pretty similar throughout, basically lust and heartbreak, but from age 20 to 23, the ages he was when the songs were recorded, that every man’s focus, so it’s not surprising. There’s also an innocence to those complex feelings that is associated with the ’50s. For example, “It’ll Be Me” is a song about man who goes to great lengths trying to get with a woman. The rhymes are catchy and funny, and were obviously written at a time before the word “stalker” made its way to the vernacular.
For some reason two of his most famous songs recorded during this time period, “Great Balls Of Fire” and “Breathless,” aren’t included, so this is certainly not a definitive collection of Lewis’ work, but for the price, it’s a great buy.