CD & LP Reviews #18



(Bear Family)

This album is part of the on-going ‘Juke Box Pearls’ series, this time the spotlight is on legendary rocking blues pioneer Ruth Brown which is richly deserved. The 31 tracks  from 1953 to 1962. The earliest being ‘Wild Wild Young Men’ it’s a jazzy blues precursor to rock n roll and subsequently recorded by young rockabillies, most vaunted the version with Johnny Carroll with a gender reversal. If that track left the listener in no doubt that this songstress was no wall flower, the feisty strong woman rocked and rolled her way through the decade, hurling herself enthusiastically into raucous rock n roll as the 1950’s progressed along with a brief diversion into Mambo, and less salaciously of course with  gospel and soul. It’s no shock she found her way to the top of the R&B charts, helped by the backing of some top notch musicians and the clout of Atlantic records, it’s fitting she’s not forgotten, the only surprise being she’s only just gracing this series.

Simon Nott




Yes, the Sun label, endorsed by John Singleton, the president of the Sun Entertainment Corporation. Johnny Earl, started out as an artist under his birth name of Johnny Dumper and fronted ‘The Louisiana Hayride’ a band that covered only music that emanated from Sun in their set. Johnny Earl soon stepped out in his own right to some success the pinnacle of which he fronted ‘The Blue Moon Boys’ namely Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana, recording and touring as well as sharing a bill with Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. Fast forward to 2020 and leapfrogging a country music, song-writing and film score career Johnny is back and rocking, what a return it is too. The record was recorded in John O’Malley’s studio with him on lead guitar, he’s done a marvellous job of recreating the essence of the original Sun Sound. One the CD version there are 14 tracks all self-penned by Johnny Earl, and it’s just stomper after stomper, the 10” vinyl version has 10. The authenticity lyrically equals that of the music and sure as Sun records were mostly yellow, each and every track wouldn’t have sounded out of place at 706 Union. If you love the Sun Sound but there’s only so many times you can listen to the classics, this really is for you, absolutely stunning.

Simon Nott




This is official Sun EP 118, 117 was Johnny Cash. ‘So Doggone Lonesome’ EP from 1960. That’s the regard Johnny Earl is held by the current Sun Records. Side one of this EP, pressed in super-thick vinyl features the classics ‘That’s All Right’ ‘Blue Moon Of Kentucky’ and ‘Mystery Train’. It’s not one of those contrived efforts of the past all done with digital trickery, this is Johnny Earl actually recording live with Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana. Needless to say, there’s little effort made to stray from the originals, the amazing thing is how Johnny managed to still sing as those instantly recognisable legendary licks twang forth from the late and lamented Scotty Moore’s guitar. Tracks on Side Two are Johnny Earl rockabilly originals taken from the album ‘Where This Cat Rocks’ and are very much of the Sun sound with John O’Malley at the helm. It’s a lovely release, quality period glossy card sleeve topped with sleeve notes from Sun Records authority John Boija.

Simon Nott




This is another of the 10” vinyl ‘Bear Family Vinyl Club Exclusives’ limited to just 500 copies and pressed on red wax collector’s edition, only directly from the Bear Family Shop. It’s a sympathetic re-release of the rare British Mercury 10inch LP from 1957 faithfully reproduced. The album is the soundtrack of the Rock ‘n’ Roll movie of the same name. The music ranges from Rhythm & Blues, Doo-Wop and Jazz to Rockabilly and Rock & Roll most notably featuring The Platters and The Blockbusters. It would be fair to say that by 1957 when this hit the shelves the music, although top notch, may have been seen as a little primitive and rough around the edges compared to what was hitting the charts, time had moved fast but retrospectively it’s cracking stuff to listen to in this format. This comes with the original sleeve artwork with poster insert. The film is on YouTube, watch it then listen to this album again, it comes to life!

Simon Nott




Bear Family have already released the definitive Jerry Lee Lewis at Sun boxset with ‘The Complete Works’ but this compilation of 27 Sun ballads is a justified one. It really does shine a spotlight on a what a talented all-round artist he was. What we have here is Jerry singing his favourite songs, it sounds spontaneous in that effortless way of his but including a couple of duets, ‘Sail Away’ with Charlie Rich and ‘Seasons Of My Heart’ with Linda Gail Lewis, they are a welcome aside rather than a necessary musical interlude, you’re never going to get bored with this set. It’s the later tracks that struck me as quite poignant. For example, ‘Love On Broadway’ was recorded at the Phillips studio on 639 Madison in August 1963, the song was co-written by former rockabilly wild man Ronnie Self, featured Scotty Moore and Roland Janes on guitars, was produced by Sam Phillips and was the last session Jerry Lee ever recorded for Sun. Truly the end of an era.

Simon Nott.

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