The Essential Jerry Lee Lewis: The Sun Sessions

by: Jerry Lee Lewis

RCA/Legacy's 2013 collection The Essential Jerry Lee Lewis: The Sun Sessions digs deep into the Killer's earliest years, offering 40 peerless sides from his time at Sam Phillips' legendary Memphis studio. Anybody just looking for the hits -- "Crazy Arms," "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On," "Great Balls of Fire," "Breathless," "High School Confidential" -- will find this to be too much, but their needs are well-served elsewhere in the countless compilations of these basics. This does something better: it offers a detailed portrait of Jerry Lee's immense talents as an interpreter and song stylist, illustrating how he could bend country, gospel, blues, R&B, and even Elvis tunes to sound like he was the guy who sang the song first. Yes, this could be heard on Bear Family's seminal 1989 box Classic, but that eight-disc box demands effort. At 40 songs and two discs, The Essential Jerry Lee Lewis speeds on by, dazzling listeners with the depth and breadth of the Killer's classic work. This doesn't tell his whole story -- his Smash/Mercury sides are wonderful in a very different way -- but there was a real need for a collection that explored the Sun sessions in a thorough yet invigorating fashion, which this essential Essential surely does. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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