Acclaimed Albums – Live At The Star Club, Hamburg by Jerry Lee Lewis

Like I mentioned with the switch over to the Top 1000 list, there are a number of older albums that I listened to as part of a previous blog. This was back in 2009 … and I think my views on music have changed somewhat. Or maybe not, but hey it’s good to keep crossing these off so for these three weeks will be playing a game of catch-up.

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 308/1000
Title: Live At The Star Club, Hamburg
Artist: Jerry Lee Lewis
Year: 1964

For the purposes of this review I would like you to use your imagination to put yourself in the shoes of Mr. Jerry Lee Lewis. This is just a little exercise in creative thinking that I would like to do. Right, your career is in tatters since you married your 13 year-old cousin and you have been essentially black-listed on the radio in your native country of America with your tour dates in Britain all being cancelled right before your eyes. Ok, while it can be appreciated that this is a very unusual set of circumstances this is exactly what happened to today’s artist. So what did he do? He went underground and made a highly influential live album.

His voice may sound like a more countrified Elvis but make no mistake ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is the second true rock n’ roll album on this list. This may be a big claim seeing that this is a genre that has appeared years ago in the guises of Elvis Presley and The ‘Chirpin’ Crickets but this is one I will stand by completely. Which was the other album I hear you ask? Well that honour belongs to none other than Here’s Little Richard which I reviewed well over a month ago. But why is Live At The Star Club, Hamburg a true rock n’ roll album while the first two I mentioned are simply pale imitations?

Well this is a relentless live rock n’ roll extravaganza that immediately grabs your attention, shakes you around, might steal your wallet, place you back down and then makes you beg for more. There is no point during this album where you are not in awe of the amazing piano-playing and general performance ability of Jerry Lee Lewis, as the voice is where the similarities to Elvis end. That and the fact that he tries his hand at some Elvis standards such as ‘Hound Dog’ where he not only raises the bar but well and truly shows how this should be done.

As most of my reviews may have stipulated it is when albums go saccharin that I lose interest and start barraging my laptop with insults (see: Elvis Is Back!). But none of these qualms plague this album, in fact the almost complete absence of ballads is probably where Live At The Star Club, Hamburg derives it’s greatest strength for there is no real point where the momentum comes to a crashing halt. In fact this momentum just carries on throughout the entire run through the album leaving the listener breathless, so lord knows how either the audience, Jerry Lee Lewis or his backing band The Nashville Teens were able to cope with it.

If I were to pick out the highlight tracks of this album I think that the honour falls to the first two tracks of both vinyl sides. All four of these tracks (‘Mean Woman Blues’, ‘High School Confidential’, ‘Great Balls of Fire’ and ‘Good Golly, Miss Molly’) summarise brilliantly why this album succeeds, fire. There is such a passion in the performance of Jerry Lee Lewis that this has now eclipsed that of Sam Cooke’s Live At The Harlem Square Club who I was highly phrasing not too long ago. Don’t feel too bad for Sam Cooke for this quick taking for the crown for he was all too quick to grab the highest rated album title from Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You.

I may be talking around in circles, I blame my cold, but this album is really that good. May in fact be the best live album that I have ever encountered. Maybe I am getting softer on the ratings as I go along, or maybe the albums really are getting better. As after a long list of albums where none have been given a full rating here is the third one in a short spate of time to garner such a rating. This is well worth it. It makes you want to dance even when you have a horrid cold that makes you dream about being stranded at an airport. I should know, that’s my current position.

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