Various Artists

Sun Records: 25 Red-Hot Rockabilly Classics

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Although there is a lot of music on this CD, and a lot of it's good and none of it's bad, it's not the front line of the classic rockabilly produced by Sun Records in the 1950s. There's nothing by Elvis Presley, which is understandable given licensing hurdles, yet there are also no big hits by Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Carl Mann, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, or Johnny Cash, though at least all but Rich and Cash are represented by something on this disc. It's more like a potpourri of rockabilly from throughout the Sun roster, much of it obscure (and some of it unissued at the time), in Varese Sarabande's apparent design to issue a wealth of relatively unfamiliar material from the Sun catalog on the installment plan. If you're in the niche that wants more than Sun's greatest hits but doesn't want to go for the big import Sun box sets, it's a reasonable survey of Sun rockabilly that most likely doesn't yet reside in your collection for the most part. Really, only Carl Perkins' "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" and maybe Billy Riley & His Little Green Men's "Flying Saucer Rock and Roll" are fairly well-known to historically minded rock listeners. Also here are some little-traveled items by Perkins, Lewis (whose "Real Wild Child (Wild One)" is a highlight), and Orbison. The main diet, however, is work by the lower echelons of the Sun team who never got national exposure: Malcolm Yelvington, Luke McDaniel, Warren Smith (represented by the reasonably well-known "Ubangi Stomp"), Ray Harris, Sonny Burgess, Tommy Blake, Hayden Thompson, Johnny Carroll, Rudy Grayzell, Ray Smith, and Carl McVoy. And there's early work by some artists who did get national attention, but not on Sun: Harold Jenkins (later known as Conway Twitty), Gene Simmons, Dickey Lee, and Ed Bruce. Because the Sun house rockabilly sound was itself so good, this is above-average rockabilly, though often similar sounding, as is a pitfall of the genre. This might be underselling the compilation a little; it's pure and invigorating if not quite first-tier rockabilly that testifies to the depth of Sun's efforts. And some of the songs do make it into that first tier, particularly the aforementioned ones by Lewis, Perkins, and Riley.

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