Choice Souvenirs of Jerry Lee Lewis : Plenty of Choices Among Musical Souvenirs of Jerry Lee Lewis’

Times Pop Music Critic

If you l-o-v-e “Great Balls of Fire,” the new film about Jerry Lee Lewis’ notorious beginnings in rock, PolyGram’s sound-track album serves as a colorful musical souvenir.

The 12-song, 35-minute package includes eight re-recorded versions of Lewis’s classic numbers, including “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On” and the title tune, plus such R&B; extras as Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88" (the original 1951 recording) and a version of “Big Legged Woman” that is performed in the film by Booker T. Laury.

But if you want to hear the actual recordings that made Lewis one of the half-dozen most exciting artists among rock’s pioneer ‘50s crop, there are plenty of choices.


Sun Records, the small but enormously important Memphis label that released Lewis’ early hits, has been inactive since the ‘60s. However, both Santa Monica-based Rhino Records and London-based Charly Records--two of the most trusted names in CD rock retrospectives--have released Lewis “greatest hits” packages under licensing agreements with Sun.

But beware of Smash Records’ “The Golden Rock Hits of Jerry Lee Lewis,” which--like the sound-track album--features re-recordings of the original tunes (the Smash versions were recorded in the ‘60s after Lewis left Sun Records). While Lewis’ remakes on both “Golden Rock” and the sound track are credible (Lewis remains a wonderfully stirring vocalist), there is no reason to settle for them when the originals are so widely available.

Rhino’s “Jerry Lee Lewis / 18 Original Greatest Hits” and Charly’s “Ferriday Fireball” both contain the essential hits, but Charly’s collection has a more generous supply of supporting tunes: seven additional songs, totaling nearly 20 extra minutes.

The two labels are also competing with rival CDs devoted to rare Lewis tracks--with again Charly offering the most music. Charly’s “Rare and Rockin’ ” package also features 25 songs and runs 60 minutes, while Rhino’s “Rare Tracks” contains 18 tunes and runs 45 minutes. Surprisingly, however, there is little overlap. The Charly CD has lots of alternative cuts, while the Rhino disc includes such special oddities as a twist version of “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

For Lewis collectors, Rhino has also just released Lewis’s first two Sun albums in CD. The debut album is titled simply “Jerry Lee Lewis” (containing the ever-present “Whole Lot of Shakin’ ” and “High School Confidential,” plus Lewis’ version of “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Jambalaya”), while the second album is titled “Jerry Lee’s Greatest” (it was highlighted by “Great Balls of Fire” plus renditions of the R&B; hit “Money” and Hank Williams’ country standard “Cold, Cold Heart”).

ON THE WAY: Capitol Records will release a salute to the Band on Sept. 13. Titled “To Kingdom Come, the Definitive Collection,” the two-disc set was put together with the assistance of Band leader Robbie Robertson and will feature three previously unreleased tracks, including live versions of Chuck Berry’s “Back to Memphis” and the Four Tops’ “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever.” . . . Capitol, meanwhile, has set an Oct. 17 release date for the “The Concert for Bangla Desh,” a two-disc set of the 1972 benefit concert at Madison Square Garden that featured George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton. The album won a Grammy as best album of the year.