Various Artists

The Sun Story [Rhino]

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Summing up the history of one of America's most important record labels in 20 songs is a task that borders on the impossible, and The Sun Story is hardly the final or definitive word on the subject of Sam Phillips and the nearly seismic impact his label wrought on popular music. While Sun Records is usually cited for (a) giving birth to rock & roll, (b) creating a home for rockabilly, or (c) bringing Elvis Presley into the recording studio for the first time, producer and label founder Sam Phillips had a broader vision than any of those descriptions would imply, embracing in one way or another the full range of the music of the American South -- blues, R&B, hard country, gospel, and even a dash of pop. Rhino Records' original two-LP vinyl edition of The Sun Story offered a solid introduction to the superb and eclectic roster of talent that recorded for Phillips' little label; sadly, the current single-CD version shortchanges Phillips' vitally important R&B recordings (Jackie Brenston, Roscoe Gordon, and the Prisonaires) in favor of the better-known rock & roll performers who followed them. But as a convenient and affordable collection of Sun's best-known hits and better-known also-rans, The Sun Story more than fills the bill, packed to the brim with great, groundbreaking music from Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Billy Lee Riley, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, and many others. As is the norm with a collection from Rhino, the remastered audio is superb (something that hasn't always been the case with earlier Sun reissues), and the liner notes are informative, intelligent, and entertaining. The Sun Story is hardly the complete Sun story, but it's not bad as a starter, and if you're looking for a disc with some of the greatest and most satisfying American rock & roll ever committed to tape, this is just what you need.

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