Monday, March 24, 2008

Last Man Standing by Jerry Lee Lewis (duets)

The title of Jerry Lee Lewis's new album refers to his legacy as one of the original founders of rock 'n' roll. The legendary Sam Phillips's Sun Records studio was the launching pad of many of the greats: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Roy Orbison. Of that stellar group, Lewis is the Last Man Standing — that is, he is the only one still alive.

But don't let the morbidity of the album's title put you off, because Last Man Standing showcases "The Killer" at his best. Even at 71, he still knows how to, in the words of Chuck Berry, "keep a-rockin' that pi-a-no."

Despite a guest list that reads like the membership rolls of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Last Man Standing is a "duets" album in name only — this is a Jerry Lee Lewis album through and through. Lewis has an amazing ability to make people like Jimmy Page (on "Rock and Roll"), Bruce Springsteen (on "Pink Cadillac"), John Fogerty (on "Travelin' Band"), and Mick Jagger (on "Evening Gown") look like unwelcome guests on songs that they wrote.

Lewis, who proclaimed himself one of only four great stylists in music history (in company with Al Jolson, Jimmie Rodgers, and Hank Williams), plays them as if he wrote them, and it often seems like he did, with rhythm and melody changes suiting them more to his individual style. It's like he's saying to his fellow legends, "Last Man Standing is my album, and you're lucky to be on it."

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