Jerry Lee Lewis

Gift Guide

Box Sets

Jerry Lee Lewis

A Half Century of Hits (Time Life)

He's the only living name from Sun Records' Million Dollar Quartet (Lewis, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash) and he's going nowhere without a fight. At 71, Jerry Lee Lewis punched through the lines of contemporary music this year with the appropriately named Last Man Standing. Inside, there's a postcard for A Half Century of Hits, a 3-CD, 65-song anthology that pays the Killer his ivory due with mostly hits and a few misses. While the first disc crackles with Lewis' blazing youth and reckless style ("Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On," "Great Balls of Fire," "High School Confidential"), disc two is uneven, balancing the schlocky ("Green, Green Grass of Home," "Meat Man") with the sainted ("What's Made Milwaukee Famous," "No Headstone on My Grave"). Yet even minor Jerry Lee Lewis is a lesson in interpretation since he's always been the performer and seldom the composer. Disc three offers the much vaunted "Don't Stay Away ('Til Love Grows Cold)" and "New Orleans Boogie," Lewis' first recordings, making Half Century a completist's must-have. The big mistake was not opening the set with the track of a religious quarrel between Lewis, all hellfire and brimstone, and Sun owner Sam Phillips. It's all the Jerry Lee Lewis you need to know.


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