The Killer Live (1964-1970)

by: Jerry Lee Lewis

Hip-O Select's triple-disc 2012 set The Killer Live (1964-1970) fills a bit of a gap in Jerry Lee's archival discography by rounding up his four officially released live albums for Smash and Mercury: Live at the Star Club, Hamburg and The Greatest Live Show on Earth, both released in 1964; By Request: More of the Greatest Live Show on Earth from 1966; and Live at the International, Las Vegas in 1970. The Killer Live expands these four LP by adding 16 bonus tracks, ten of which are previously unreleased, all of which are equally as good as the finished albums -- and that means they're terrific, as good as rock & roll music gets. That is particularly true of Live at the Star Club, by many measures a serious contender for the best live album ever made, and if the other three records aren't quite as galvanizing as this furious set -- so heated that the Killer berates his backing band the Nashville Teens for not quite keeping up -- well, that's an unfair comparison as so few sets could measure up. The two Greatest Live Show on Earth LPs and Live at the International showcases are different affairs. The Greatest Live Show LPs are a shade less frenzied but in a similar vein to Star Club -- they're hard rock & roll albums tempered with a bit of R&B and country. Conversely, the Vegas LP appropriately showcases a Killer with a bit more showbiz pizzazz, rooted in country -- his big hits are bypassed in favor of his honky tonk late-'60s hits and his covers, both classic ("San Antonio Rose") and contemporary (Tom T. Hall's "The Ballad of Forty Dollars"), are country -- but given a slightly splashy rocking spin, all sounding unmistakably like Jerry Lee, just like the harder-rocking boogie of a few years earlier does. There's not a bad performance here -- it's all on a sliding scale from great to transcendent, so don't let the transportive stuff let you overlook the merely excellent music. Just bask in the glory of the Killer and enjoy every precious note on this superb set. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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