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Review: Jerry Lee Lewis: A Half Century of Hits

The Time-Life Box Set

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Jerry Lee Lewis: A Half Century of Hits

Jerry Lee Lewis: A Half Century of Hits

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There are already a number of multidisc sets out there covering Jerry Lee Lewis' alternately tragic and triumphant (and always controversial) career. In fact, many casual fans are still unaware that he had two separate stages of his career after his scandalous marriage to cousin Myra Gale Brown. This new three-disc set from the Time Life vaults attempts to tell the basic story from start to finish.

About this CD

A three-disc CD box set covering Jerry Lee Lewis' greatest hits from his stints at three labels: the legendary Sun recordings (1956-1962), and eventual comeback as a country artist on the Smash and Mercury labels (1963-1978) and his current career, including stints on Elektra and Sire. Includes three unreleased live and studio tracks, as well as Jerry Lee Lewis' first two recordings, made at New Orleans' J&M studios in 1951. The packaging features rare photos from the collection of Lewis' daughter, Phoebe, as well as an overview of Lewis' career, compiled from interviews with Lewis himself, by Grammy award-winning musical biographer and historian Colin Escott.

Pros

  • The first box set to fully cover all stages of Jerry Lee Lewis' career.
  • Time-Life's selection and sound quality are, as always, superb.
  • Features just enough rarities to be intriguing to the casual fan.
  • The packaging is lush, as befits the scope.

Cons

  • Not every one of Jerry Lee's charting country singles are included, although their omission helps keep quality high.
  • No session info is present in the liner notes.

My review

Killer fans who remember 1993's two-disc retrospective All Killer, No Filler or Hip-O's single-disc greatest hits comp The Definitive Collection may wonder about the necessity of another look back at Jerry Lee Lewis' career (especially since the Hip-O CD, which also covers his entore chart career, was released only two months before this one). But you should never count out either Jerry Lee or Time-Life, because they'll keep surprising you until they're gone -- just as The Killer readies his latest comeback for September 2006, the universal copyright mavens over at this label have thrown enough money around to assemble the ultimate look at Jerry's turbulent career, which, despite the legend, did not end in 1959 when Lewis married his 13-year-old cousin.

All the important Sun tracks are here, as well as his biggest country hits from the late Sixties and early Seventies -- everything up to 1982's "I'd Do It All Again," which just missed the Country Top 40. But there's also the legend's first two recordings, three live cuts from an early-Eighties Opryland show, and most revealing of all, Lewis' infamous studio argument with Sam Phillips during the making of "Great Balls of Fire." Blasphemer? Maybe. Living legend? Absolutely.

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