Live at Gilley's

Mickey Gilley

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Live at Gilley's Review

by Thom Jurek

Live! At Gilleys is the second live album to be recorded in 1985. The other, released later, was on Atlantic's Q subsidiary, but this one was released during Mickey Gilley's heyday. Interestingly, even though they both open with Gilley's classic "Don't the Girls All Look Prettier at Closin' Time," they are entirely different in presentation. Immediately following here is the Kenny Rogers monster "Blaze of Glory," but Gilley's version is a honky tonk stomper. In typical fashion, Gilley tempers these two jumpin' numbers with a ballad, and this one, "I Was Born a Dreamer," showcases his gift of a voice in a way few of his records do. He goes for the upper range of his register and delivers it all clear as a bell and dripping with emotion. The end of side one closes with a version of cousin Jerry Lee Lewis' signature hit, "Great Balls of Fire," and Gilley wails through it in just over two minutes -- and he's not foolin' around. It's rock & roll burning with honky tonk fever. The second half of the set is marked by three things: first is the smokin' rendition of "My Affection" with Gilley kicking ass all over the piano, criss-crossing left and right hands complimented by a horn section. The next is a medley of Gilley singles for theater -- all ballads done in a dramatic fashion that is almost overpowering. Again, Gilley the singer is devastating with a love song; he's smooth and unhurried, pronouncing each syllable as if it is the only one left in his world. "Your Love Shines Through," "Tears of the Lonely," "Lonely Nights," and "Put Your Dreams Away" stand together as one of the finest centerpieces of any Gilley record, and here the way he says "thank you" at the end of each song as it segues into the next -- as if it's a surprise he'd be acknowledged -- is part of his humanity as well as his charm. Finally, the entire album ends with a Cajun anthem that echoes Gilley's Louisiana roots. This version of "Diggy Diggy Lo" (complete with Fats Domino-style sax break) may not be as consciously emotional as Doug Kershaw's, but it rocks one hell of a lot harder, leaving the audience -- and the listener -- wanting more.

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