Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Carl Perkins [extended]

  • Boppin' the Blues [Columbia, 1969] B-
  • Original Golden Hits [Sun, 1969]
  • Carl Perkins and NRBQ [Columbia, 1970] B
  • Ol' Blue Suede's Back [Jet, 1978] C+
  • The Survivors [Columbia, 1982] B-
  • Original Sun Greatest Hits [Rhino, 1986]
  • The Million Dollar Quartet [S, 1987] B+
  • The Very Best of Carl Perkins: Blue Suede Shoes [Collectables, 1998] A

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Carl Perkins and NRBQ: Boppin' the Blues [Columbia, 1969]
Sorry, folks, Carl just can't wear them shoes no more; he is an aging country singer and he sounds it. As for NRBQ, they were better first time around. Competent and utterly unexciting, except for the cover, which should win an award. B-

Original Golden Hits [Sun, 1969]
[CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Carl Perkins and NRBQ: Carl Perkins and NRBQ [Columbia, 1970]
This is uniformly pleasant, but Carl can't wear those shoes no more--he's an aging country singer who sounds it. And since he wrote about half of these tunes as well as singing half of them, we might mention that for the most part he's a competent and utterly unexciting composer. As for NRBQ, their jumpy version of that blues-bopping beat merges all too well with the novelty-music aspect of rockabilly--at times this sounds an itty bit cute. Cute and I like them: Terry Adams's hippie pastorale, "On the Farm," and a Perkins guitar showpiece called "Just Coastin'." B

Ol' Blue Suede's Back [Jet, 1978]
Perkins was never an Elvis or a Jerry Lee or even a Gene Vincent, and Ricky Nelson, for instance, put more good rock and roll on record. Young Blue Suede's Original Golden Hits is still in catalogue on Sun, and (for completeness freaks) his entire Sun output is available on three Charly imports. Excepting "That's Alright Mama," nothing on this Nashville we-can-too-rock-'n'-roll session conveys the verve and discovery of even his optional '50s stuff. C+

Johnny Cash/Jerry Lee Lewis/Carl Perkins: The Survivors [Columbia, 1982]
Survivors of what, pray tell. Oh--of whom. We get it. We know you all were trying, too--especially Big Jawn, whose concert it was. So we regret to inform you that you sound dissipated anyway, which has an odd effect on the gospel tunes and makes for the most magnificently thrown-away "Whole Lotta Shakin'" of Jerry Lee's intensely nonchalant career. B-

Original Sun Greatest Hits [Rhino, 1986]
[CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Million Dollar Quartet: The Million Dollar Quartet [S, 1987]
This isn't a phonograph album, it's a documentary--audio verité proof that the great rockabillies called black men "colored guys" and each other "boy." Also that they knew and loved all kinds of music, which always bear repeating. But I guess the immemorial working title of this legendary event misled me. Fine as the three voices overheard by the Sun tape recorder were, I keep waiting for Elvis, Carl, and Jerry Lee to coalesce into a group. And spontaneous as the family sing is, I keep waiting for the session. B+

The Very Best of Carl Perkins: Blue Suede Shoes [Collectables, 1998]
Subtly bopping the essence of blues growl and juke-joint thrust, he was more adult, more regional, and more threatening than the Everlys or Buddy Holly. That's one reason he so quickly became a specialty taste artistically and a Nashville born-againer commercially, beloved by guitar adepts and romanticizers of Dixie-fried fundamentalism but legendary for one definitive song only. The guitar people have a point--while no James Burton, he had more jam than Scotty Moore and would have gotten where he got without Moore or his big boss man. But if that's all there was to him, he'd deserve to be a specialty taste. It's the songwriting that has reach. "Blue Suede Shoes" aside, these ditties seem to be trifles. Say you will when you won't. Put your cat clothes on. Or your pink pedal pushers. So now you try to do it--in 2:46, 2:48, and 2:25 respectively. Fine is the line between a spontaneous throwaway and a miraculous miniature. A

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]