Monday, November 3, 2014
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: JERRY LEE LEWIS - ROCK & ROLL TIME
This ain't supposed to happen. These old-stars-with-guests albums are all usually crap, Look back at my review yesterday of Smokey Robinson's latest, for instance. And Lewis has made some of these before. 2006 saw Last Man Standing, with stars such as Springsteen and Jagger on hand, and 2010's Mean Old Man had Jagger again, with Keith and Ronnie and Slash and Clapton and Fogerty, etc, etc. This time though, the celebs take a back seat. They are here, for sure, with Richards and Wood, Neil Young, Robbie Robertson, Nils Lofgren, Daniel Lanois and lots of sterling players on hand. But they are playing, not singing for the most part, not doing manufactured duets.
That leaves Lewis to get at it, to get that still-effective drawl around some great rock and roll numbers, new and old. Kris Kristofferson contributed the title cut, co-written by Roger McGuinn and Bobby Neuworth, and it could have been The Killer's theme song if he had done it back in '58. Wood and Richards know Chuck Berry's Little Queenie inside out, a beloved Stones cover, and it's a natural for Lewis too. Then there's a real surprise, a rare, unreleased Bob Dylan track, a number called Stepchild that was played live on tour back in 1978. Here it comes alive, no guests needed, just Jerry Lee doing it southern style, probably much to Dylan's satisfaction.
There are a couple of duets, including a nice one with Shelby Lynne on another Kristofferson song, the sentimental country number Here Comes That Rainbow Again (kids, candy, truck drivers, waitresses). Neil Young's appearance is on the Jimmy Reed number Bright Lights, Big City, which he's recorded before, a bit too laid back for its own good, making it a throwaway.
Hats off to everybody's favourite drummer, session great Jim Keltner, who produced this gem. Instead of letting the sessions become star-sightings, we get a bunch of great players supporting one of the very best. Lewis plays and sings wonderfully, and a core group of Keltner session-pro buddies help make a very respectable album.