At eight discs, including numerous alternate takes all presented in sequential order, Bear Family's thorough retrospective of Jerry Lee Lewis' Sun recordings on Classic is a monumental, even exhausting experience, even for those serious listeners prepared to immerse themselves in this music. Not that the music itself is taxing; it's among the very finest music of its time, probably of the 20th century. The key is the presentation: When these takes are strung together in the sequence of their recording (which can mean that the master is sandwiched between alternates), it may be possible to hear Lewis' approach develop, but the impact of his Sun recordings -- the core mastertakes -- becomes diffuse because it's impossible to hear those, as a body of work, without significant tweaking. Of course, this approach does enhance appreciation of Jerry Lee's music (there was serious craft behind it, as well as a staggering amount of raw talent), but it does make it the province of scholars and dedicated fans. Even with these problems -- the fact that this does not make for easy listening -- it's still an essential part of a comprehensive rock & roll, country, or American music collection, because Jerry Lee's music is that good. As he said, he was one of the master stylists, and years later, that is more evident than ever.
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