Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-06-24


Jerry Lee Lewis: "Live" at the Star Club, Hamburg (Rhino, 1992) Assembled from two shows recorded in one night in 1964, released in Europe shortly thereafter but in the U.S. not till a 1986 Mercury LP that's barely a rumor, this legendary 37-minute performance is our last and clearest glimpse of Jerry Lee as a young world-beater. Not only has he bulled his way past the incest 'n' bigamy tour of 1958 and the drowning death of his son in 1962, he's some kind of hero in a Europe rediscovering '50s rock and roll via Beatlemania. Without cracking the charts or drawing crowds commensurate with his ego on the endless tour that is his life, he believes so profoundly in his pact with the devil that he remains unbowed. Here that faith is both made manifest and recorded for posterity, which otherwise never happened on the same night. Admirers attribute this ungodly miracle to one emotional resource or other, but I find Lewis so impenetrable psychologically that I hesitate to put a name on it. Instead I'll list a few technical attributes. Both performance and recording are very clean. Tempos are speedy, and the backing band--the Nashville Teens of "Tobacco Road" renown--keep up manfully. "Mean Woman Blues" and "Money" are definitive. And the piano kills. A

Wire: 14 September 2002, Metro, Chicago (Pinkflag, 2010) "The best rock show I've seen in years," I crowed to my diary about their visit to the Bowery Ballroom on 6/27/03, when they were still flogging the same '02-'03 Read and Burn/Send material they detonate here. The cruder, broader, louder live versions are executed in precisely the same arrangements as the studio originals, and after the seven-minute buildup of "99.9," every song they choose to play rocks. Avant-garde dabblers who counted punk among their disciplines, they made their decision to define the concept of unrelenting and moved on. Just this year, at the Bowery 4/6/11, their formalism was equally uncompromising. But it treated rock as the one option among many it is. I was disappointed. A-

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