Saturday, November 11, 2006

review: JERRY LEE LEWIS: "LAST MAN STANDING"

...is just as feckin' great as I thought it'd be. Seems to me, there's two ways used to rehabilitate lost titans these days: the sympathetic producer with the carefully selected repetoir of covers/originals (Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Solomon Burke) or the duets album (Tom Jones, Ray Charles, etc). This project manages to balance the two approaches, with largely rocktastic results. Woah, baby!

Jerry Lee really had two separate careers, the rockabilly years and the country years, and this album's got both shades in spades. Most duetists have the sense to lie back and compliment Lewis: I think most had the good sense to realize there's no upstaging this explosive, exhibitionist, talent - the man remains in amazing form as both a piano soloist and a vocalist. This atmosphere of deference brings out some great performances. Head on over to iTunes and download Rock And Roll with Jimmy Page (with a great, pure Jerry Lee moment of improvisation, "let me get back, let me get back, let me get back, ... to Louisiana!") to get a sense of how vital a form he's in here. And if you're a sucker for a good bittersweet country ballad, pick up Couple More Years too (with Willie Nelson). After those two, I'm pretty sure you'll want to buy the entire album.

Of course, a duets album is only as good as the consistant standard of the collaborations, and it is the notoriously mercurial The Killer, so it's gotta dip into the stinkin' trough of inconsistency at least a couple of times. And this time? Murdering Van The Angry Little Man Morrison's What Makes The Irish Heart Beat with Don Henley (Don Henley is from Texas; Jerry Lee Lewis, Louisiana). Plus, sentimentality and nationalism make poor musical bedfellows, and there's a knocked out Ol' Glory with some geezer called Toby Keith I've never heard of (though a quick Google of his name seems to imply the guy's some sort of infamously immense asshole). Jerry Lee could probably do a cracking version of Honky Tonk Women on his own, but the one here is ruined by Kid Rock shouting over it like a drunk biker. I'll blame him for bringing along the barking backing vocalists on the track, too.

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