Carl Perkins was one of rock & roll's first bona fide guitar heroes, a fine songwriter and an engaging and heartfelt singer, and if he didn't have quite the same magnetism of his one-time labelmates Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, that doesn't change the fact that he made a handful of great records and was still picking strong up until his passing in 1998. However, there have been precious few career-inclusive compilations exploring Perkins -- most folks don't seem interested in much beyond his early sides for Sun (admittedly they do represent his greatest work), with his later material recorded for a number of labels usually getting short shrift. Leave it to the folks at the German Bear Family label to finally fill this void -- Carl Rocks is an excellent 31-track collection that begins with one of Perkins' first sessions for Sun in 1955 and closes with a terrific cover of John Hiatt's "Memphis in the Meantime" cut for Mercury in 1990. Carl Rocks is anchored by Perkins' Sun masters, and when you have songs like "Honey Don't," "Dixie Fried," "Matchbox," and "Put Your Cat Clothes On" in your catalog, it's no wonder you'd want to lead with them, but the lesser-known cuts such as "Rockin' Record Hop," "Jive After Five," and "Sittin' on Top of the World" prove that Perkins didn't need Sam Phillips to make a good record. And this collection lives up to its name -- Carl hits a solid rockin' groove throughout this compilation, and if you're looking for a Perkins set to get a party started, this will do the trick. Along with classic tunes and great audio remastering, Carl Rocks features an outstanding package with plenty of rare photos and superb liner notes from Hank Davis and Colin Escott -- this is as strong a single-disc Carl Perkins set you can buy, and along with offering a more complete view of his history than most packages available, it's lots of fun and a potent reminder of just how strong he was at the top of his game.
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