At this cushy Ravinia gig with Little Richard the odds are good that Jerry Lee Lewis, about to turn 60, will heed the lines of his 1969 country hit “Once More With Feeling”: “We’re just going through the motions of the parts we learned to play.” On the other hand, few participants in the history of rock ‘n’ roll have reinvented themselves as often as the Killer, so you just never know what to expect with Jerry Lee. Young Blood (Sire), his first new album in a decade, is anything but flawless. Produced by Andy Paley, the fellow behind some of Brian Wilson’s recent solo work, the album is muddied by gobs of rockabillyish reverb that cloud over the rhythm section, guitars, and even Lewis’s patented boogie-woogie piano machinations. Yet his voice drips experience–both pathos and joy–and an undeniable energy persists in the affecting, aching yodel on “Miss the Mississippi and You,” the lascivious appropriation of Roy Orbison’s famous growl on the title track, and the breathless whirl he delivers on a romp through Hank Williams’s “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive,” a tune that–like all those in rock ‘n’ roll’s vast library of songs of excess–seems to have been written expressly for Lewis to sing. Paley’s “It Was the Whiskey Talkin’ (Not Me)” probably was written with Lewis in mind–they recorded it originally for the Dick Tracy sound track–and makes a nice complement to “My Life Would Make a Damn Good Country Song.” Booze, pills, guns, marrying kin, perpetual IRS problems–none of these things have been able to douse the flame that burns inside Jerry Lee Lewis. Sunday, 7 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 728-4642.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Kent Barker.