Jerry Lee Lewis’ new album

Still alive, performing and recording, though his live shows are a very pale imitation of those from years ago. He now performs from a set-list which only varies slightly from show to show, and his stage act has all but disappeared. Sometimes he makes a half-hearted attempt at the end to stand and kick the piano stool back, or play a few notes standing up, but all the other trademarks have long gone.

The length of his live shows tend to be about 45 minutes on average, which is considered very short nowadays. In the 1950s and 1960s when there were lots of support acts and two shows a night, the main act would only do about 30 minutes. Now two hours is more the norm. In the 1970s and 1980s, when Jerry Lee included many of his Country hits and album tracks, also launching into Gospel, Blues, etc. as well as rock’n’roll his shows were often 90 minutes or so.

However he did have his biggest selling album ever in 2006, the ‘Last Man Standing’ CD featuring duets with many other artists. This album flopped in UK due to lack of promotion, distribution, etc. but was a roaring success in the USA where it was promoted on all the big chat shows and has sold over half a million copies, earning Jerry another gold disk.

Now he is releasing a similar CD called ‘Mean Old Man’ after the Kris Kristofferson title track, released as a single last year, then on a so-called EP, and now released yet again by i-tunes as a single – the fifth from the album due to be released in the US on September 7th and in UK about a month later.

Whether he can repeat the success of  ‘Last Man Standing’ remains to be seen, and many fans feel he should have done a solo album this time, not another CD with guest artists. Also many of the tracks he has recorded previously.

A European tour scheduled for July had to be postponed due to Jerry’s ill-health at the time (exact details never specified, but shingles was mentioned among other things). He is now scheduled to do some Continental European dates in October and November. A show planned for London on October 26th has been cut from the schedule. He last appeared in London two years ago when he did two gigs here.

I’ll wait and make a judgment on the new album once I hear it in its entirety (there are ‘bonus’ tracks available as with ‘Last Man Standing’). As someone on the fan club sites remarked, however, the real test of an album is time – fans often think the latest album is good, but if they rarely play it years later that is perhaps the real test.

Jerry Lee turns 75 on September 29th this year, but has not worn his age very well. He can still play piano and sing, but now looks like the old man he is, unsteady on his feet, and his enthusiasm for live shows seems to have long gone – they now appear something of a chore.

I’d go and see him again if he were to do a show in London, or somewhere I was on vacation, but his live shows no longer thrill me as they once did because of their predictability and the fact that he often seems to be on automatic pilot cruising thru a set-list.

I always order his new albums, and this one’s no exception. Just wish there was more new material on it which he hadn’t recorded many times before. For instance, one track is ‘Middle Age Crazy’, a Top Ten Country hit for him in 1977 when he’d just turned 42. Very appropriate at that time as it was about a man who’d just turned 40. Is it appropriate, however, for a man of 75? ‘Mean Old Man’ is of course more appropriate, but it is not one of Kristofferson’s best songs as it is very repetitive, and I would have thought they could have come up with more new songs appropriate for a man in his 70s to sing, rather than once again inviting Beethoven to roll over, and singing about a man of 40 trying to prove he can still attract young women.

Oh well, we’ll see what fans and the CD buying public make of it this time compared with ‘Last Man Standing’. If he can repeat the success of that it will be some achievement, and frankly I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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