Jerry Lee Lewis, Sun Recordings, vol. 4

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

"Am I to Be the One," an Otis Blackwell composition that rocks and swings simultaneously, with Charlie Rich providing a great, Elvis-like harmony vocal, is the real shoulda-been here. Rich also duets with Jerry Lee on Charlie's own "Sail Away," a masterful meditation on lost dreams, a topic both men knew well. The Killer's raunchy manhandling of Louis Jordan's jump-blues favorite "Caldonia" proves that R&B remained an important touchstone. And as this breakneck "Johnny B. Goode" demonstrates, Chuck Berry had no more emphatic interpreter than Jerry Lee Lewis.

These songs were cut between 1958 and 1960, his leanest years chart-wise (he still did okay on the road), and lyrics like "I'll Make It All Up to You" must have resonated extra heavily with him. Still, all is not lost and Jerry Lee knows it: anyone who can cut a version of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" as stately, fluid and nuanced as this one will always, regardless of his multitude of transgressions, still have God on his side at the very least.