Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Jerry Lee Lewis: Last Man Standing

Jerry Lee Lewis - Last Man Standing

4 out of 5 stars.

Truth be told, my first introduction to Jerry Lee Lewis was the movie "Great Balls of Fire" with Dennis Quaid playing Jerry Lee, and Winona Ryder his sweet cousin. And that convinced me that Jerry Lee Lewis was cool. No matter that I was way too young to know who he really was. The braggadocio, the piano on fire, I was fascinated.

Years later, I've heard Jerry Lee's music, I understand his place in rock and roll history. And, I'm fortunate enough to hear his new album, a collection of duets (the word being used loosely, since he refused to let anyone overshadow him on these tracks, classically himself) with rock, country, and blues titans.

Opening with a remake of Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" is an excellent touch, as the point of the album is so clearly to show Lewis's impact on the genre. Both icons of rock, and inspirations to many, and Jerry slays anything Jimmy Page brings to the table on this song. This Southern-bred monster plays the piano today like he did 50 years ago. And he takes other people's songs, and shows how he can play them better. Quite unlike Bob Dylan, whose songs are often better when covered by another band (try "Maggie's Farm" by Rage Against The Machine). On "Pink Cadillac" Jerry takes Bruce Springsteen's song and runs away with it, leaving Bruce to crow in the background. Jamming with Neil Young on "You Don't Have To Go" is one of the album's best true duets, and apparently The Killer gives Neil some respect and they cut loose together.

Some of the best moment's are Jerry's signature yelps, and his ad lib hootin' and hollerin' and cat-calling his collaborators. Lewis talks trash. He sets pianos on fire. He will tell you he's the best. He will eat a bucket of nails for breakfast and, two hours later, will give you a platinum-worthy record. And if you give him enough time in a room with Buddy Guy, like on "Hadacol Boogie" where the piano smokes just as much as the guitar, he just might convince your kids that the blues, country, and rock wouldn't be the same without him. And you might ditch the guitar for piano lessons.

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