Mickey Gilley

Gilley's Smokin'

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It was 1976 and Mickey Gilley was still kickin' it for Playboy Records. And Gilley's Smokin' is kickin' it, period. Produced by Eddie Kilroy -- the only man who ever got Gilley's piano sound right -- and Gilley, the recording lays out ten tracks of piano-pumpin' rock & roll, honky tonk tunes, barroom weepers, and an R&B tune or two. Opening with his "Don't the Girls All Get Prettier at Closin' Time," the tone is set for a classic. Moving into Billy Sherrill's "There's a Song on the Jukebox" and tinkling the ivories from honky tonk to cocktail lounge on Bert Kaempfert's "L-O-V-E," and with that pedal steel whining in the background, it doesn't sound a damn thing like Wayne Newton. If there was any doubt at all, Bert was probably rolling in his grave when he heard it on the country airwaves. Side two is the real shiner, though, with tunes by Sam Cooke and Lloyd Price alongside Larry Gatlin, Vic McAlpin, and Gilley and Kilroy themselves. The country fiddle string section and Gilley laying into the right-hand runs on his piano for full soul effect make the reading of "Bring It on Home to Me" astonishing. The honky tonk classic "How's My Ex Treating You" is smooth as silk, with Gilley's vocal slipping through the dense mix to deliver a sad song in a good-time style. But it's "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" that hammers as hard as the opener. Gilley's pullin' Jerry Lee piano runs on this mother and striding the hell out of that boogie-woogie like Albert Ammons. The set ends with the classic "I'll Fly Away," a country gospel tune that feels like a sinner's barroom anthem and rocks like one, too. In all, this is the Gilley set to find. [Now available on CD as part of a two-fer on Audium (with the album Room Full of Roses, another classic) in gorgeously remastered sound. The new issue includes one bonus track, the single version of "Roll You Like a Wheel." This is a country aficionado's two-fer, but is also the only place to start when it comes to Gilley.]

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