Tag Archives: Jerry Lee Lewis

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.

1001 Songs – 1957

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

What a short year! One more like this and then it’s all going to have to be split posts.

Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On – Jerry Lee Lewis

The first of two Jerry Lee Lewis tracks in a rather short year. We are still in the throes of rockabilly, but that is undoubtedly a boogie woogie piano line going on in the background. As 1950s go this is a bit more on the risqué side. Compared to Elvis he does not have the distinctive vocals, but they’re a lot cleaner and have a lot more energy.

That’ll Be the Day – Buddy Holly & The Crickets

This is the only song that I know by Buddy Holly. Since we are less than two years from the famous ‘The Day That Music Died’ plane crash the title feels oddly ominous. There’s not much to say about this song. Compared to the previous song it actually feels dated.

Little Darlin’ – The Diamonds

First thing to say, goddamn this song puts a smile on your face. These first three songs are all examples of the branches that rock and roll had taken by 1957. This song, a cover from an original by The Gladiolas, is far more on the doo wop side. Doo wop, yet painfully white. Interesting thing to note is the lack of drums (because it was 4am and the drummer had gone home), instead there are castanets and, I think, a cow bell.

Weird thing of note, the spoken word bridge inspired ‘Monster Mash’.

Great Balls of Fire – Jerry Lee Lewis

Not even two minutes long. That’s incredibly strange to note. In fact a lot of the songs that we have coming up are in the 2-3 minute mark. This song feels like a distillation of ‘Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On’ to the point that it just oozes sex. It makes you wonder what music would have been like if we had gone down the more piano driven rock of Jerry Lee Lewis rather than the guitar-driven rock of Elvis.

When I Fall in Love – Nat King Cole

Hands up time. I knew the Celine Dion version of this first, by about 20 years. What can I say – my music taste was very gay back then. It’s not totally straight now, but it’s more bi-curious.

Anyway, don’t listen to the Celine Dion and Clive Griffin version. This works so much better as a solo song (even if the strings are a bit much). Also, you don’t have Cliff Griffin going over the top in his delivery towards the end… despite having a rather weak voice.

Nat King Cole, for me, is Christmas. So hearing other songs from his repertoire is an eye opener. I half-expected ‘The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot’ to be following on from this to be honest.

You Send Me – Sam Cooke

Doing this list, I have begun to notice sea changes. Tracks like ‘Rum and Coca Cola’ stand out because they are different to anything else on the list. ‘You Send Me’ feels like a progression towards something different rather than a development of an established genre.

I like Sam Cooke. I even did a review of Live At The Harlem Square Club, 1963 for a university newsource as a part of ‘Have You Heard…’ section. This is the start of soul. By the time we finish this song list we will have reached the neo soul stylings of Erykah Badu and we’re going to be picking up funk and disco along the way. What a journey it’s going to be.

Progress: 89/1021