Thursday, August 25, 2011
Forgotten Music Thursday: Various Artists - The Legendary Story of Sun Records (2002)
This very interesting and mostly listenable release has a number of huge, early rock 'n roll hits. Jerry Lee Lewis does "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" and "Great Balls of Fire." Carl Perkins’ original "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Matchbox" (later covered by the Beatles) are here too, as well as Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," but the real treasures lie with the more obscure tracks that are featured in abundance. Some are rarities, some were regional hits, and there are even a few "B" sides. Due to the diversity of stuff Sun released it is possible that you will not like every track here but, in order to fully understand owner Sam Phillips' influence on rock music, it is important for you to listen to all sixty remastered tunes. I guarantee that the songs you do like will outnumber the ones you don’t.
Little Junior's Blue Flames check in with the original "Mystery Train," (1953) one of the songs Elvis Presley recorded for Phillips that helped the singer acquire his RCA recording contract less than two years later. Little Junior's real name was Herman Parker. He once was a sideman with Howlin' Wolf.
A vocal quartet whose members were all serving long stretches in Tennessee State Penitentiary, dubbed The Prisonaires, were brought to Sun Studio in shackles to record the hit single, "Just Walking in the Rain."
Rufus Thomas had a hit with with "Bear Cat," a response to Presley's "Hound Dog." Phillips lost a lawsuit claiming this record was too similar to Big Mama Thornton's original. One listen tells you why the plaintiff won.
Neither of the two discs have any solo Presley recordings. His Sun sessions have been covered extensively throughout the years on his own retrospectives, most recently on the excellent Elvis at Sun, a nineteen song collection featuring all of his best singles for Phillips. However, The King is here on three tracks as part of the Million Dollar Quartet, the group recordings he made for the label with Lewis, Perkins, and Cash. You could count them as a very early supergroup, way before the term ever came into our lexicon in the late sixties.
In addition to those artists listed above the lineup on this set includes Roy Orbison, Howlin' Wolf, Charlie Rich, bluesman Little Milton, Earl Hooker (John Lee's first cousin), Sonny Burgess, Bill Justis, Anita Wood (Elvis's pre-army girlfriend) and many, many more.
The liner notes include a history of Sun and each song title is accompanied by a brief story about its creation. The remastered sound is excellent. If you want to know what Sun Records was all about there are a lot of rewards for you to sample on this outstanding compilation.
The Legendary Story of Sun Records is available at Amazon.