Various Artists

The Sun Rock Box

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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Sam Phillips loved the blues and he recorded plenty of country at Sun Studios -- these two genres are documented on the appropriately titled The Sun Blues Box and The Sun Country Box, respectively -- but rock & roll is what made his legend. He wanted to find a white vocalist who sang with a black feel, convinced that he could find his fortune there, and when he found Elvis Presley, he found an artist who exceeded all his wildest dreams. Phillips released five Elvis singles on Sun before selling Presley's contract to RCA, thereby earning money that he needed badly to keep Sun afloat. Not long afterward, Elvis had his first smash hit on RCA with "Heartbreak Hotel," thereby kickstarting the rock & roll revolution of which Sun was a commercial beneficiary as Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes" went all the way to number two in 1956.

The Sun Rock Box -- a greatly expanded eight-CD, 255-track version of the original Bear Family vinyl set of the same name that appeared in the mid-'80s -- documents the early years (aka the rise of Elvis) and all the rockabilly that came afterward, rounding up all the major movers and shakers and rockabilly cats Phillips recorded between 1954-1959. Those big names -- Presley and Perkins, along with Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Charlie Rich (there are none of Johnny Cash's rockabilly records here) -- are sometimes represented by alternate takes and do not have all their Sun hits here. In some ways, their presence is even downplayed: a cult figure like Ray Smith winds up with ten songs, which is just as many as Carl Perkins and twice as many as the Killer, but that isn't a flaw of the box, it's an attribute. This, more than either its Blues or Country cousins, digs deep into the wild, forgotten corners of Sun, placing such widely heralded but still relatively unknown acts like Sonny Burgess, Billy Riley, Carl Mann, Gene Simmons, and Warren Smith on equal level to the titans, then spending even more time with lesser-known rockers as Harold Jenkins, Kenny Parchman, and Vernon Taylor. If there are some very clear reasons why these singers never had a hit -- perhaps the singers are a little too bug-eyed, perhaps the music is a little too raw, perhaps the songs are just three-chord raves -- when they're combined here with the mythic Sun rockers, along with pretty wild one-shots from everyone from Mack Self to Mickey Gilley and Charley Pride (here doing a cool laid-back stroll), it's hard to deny the deep power of this rock & roll explosion. By concentrating so much on the lesser-known rockers in the Sun stable, The Sun Rock Box recaptures the kinetic thrill of the birth of rock & roll, so this winds up as history that seems alive.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Elvis Presley Amazon
2 Elvis Presley Amazon
3 Elvis Presley Amazon
4 Elvis Presley Amazon
5 Carl Perkins Amazon
6 Carl Perkins Amazon
7 Carl Perkins Amazon
8 Carl Perkins Amazon
9 Carl Perkins Amazon
10 Carl Perkins Amazon
11 Carl Perkins Amazon
12 Carl Perkins Amazon
13 Carl Perkins Amazon
14 Carl Perkins Amazon
15 Carl Perkins Amazon
16 Jack Earls Amazon
17 Jack Earls Amazon
18 Jack Earls Amazon
19 Jack Earls Amazon
20 Jack Earls Amazon
21 Glenn Honeycutt Amazon
22 Glenn Honeycutt Amazon
23 Glenn Honeycutt Amazon
Glenn Honeycutt Amazon
25 Ray Harris Amazon
26 Ray Harris Amazon
27 Ray Harris Amazon
Ray Harris Amazon
29 Ray Harris Amazon
30 Ray Harris Amazon
Ray Harris Amazon
32 Ray Harris Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Johnny Bernero Band Amazon
Johnny Bernero Band Amazon
3 Johnny Bernero Band Amazon
Johnny Bernero Band Amazon
Johnny Bernero Band Amazon
Kirby Sisters Amazon
Kirby Sisters Amazon
Kirby Sisters Amazon
9 Barbara Pittman Amazon
10 Barbara Pittman Amazon
11 Barbara Pittman Amazon
12 Barbara Pittman Amazon
13 Barbara Pittman Amazon
14 Wade & Dick Amazon
15 Wade & Dick Amazon
16 Wade & Dick Amazon
17 Wade & Dick Amazon
18 Dick Penner Amazon
19 Dick Penner Amazon
20 Bum Dick / Dick Penner Amazon
21 Dick Penner Amazon
22 Roy Orbison Amazon
23 Roy Orbison Amazon
24 Roy Orbison Amazon
25 Roy Orbison Amazon
Hayden Thompson Amazon
Dean Beard Amazon
Dean Beard Amazon
29 Johnny Carroll Amazon
30 Johnny Carroll Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Kenny Parchman Amazon
2 Kenny Parchman Amazon
3 Kenny Parchman Amazon
4 Kenny Parchman Amazon
5 Kenny Parchman Amazon
6 Kenny Parchman Amazon
7 Kenny Parchman Amazon
8 Bill Bowen Amazon
9 Luke McDaniel Amazon
10 Luke McDaniel Amazon
11 Luke McDaniel Amazon
12 Luke McDaniel Amazon
13 Luke McDaniel Amazon
14 Harold Jenkins Amazon
15 Harold Jenkins Amazon
16 Harold Jenkins Amazon
17 Harold Jenkins Amazon
18 Harold Jenkins Amazon
19 Mack Self Amazon
20 Mack Self Amazon
21 Jimmy Williams Amazon
22 Jimmy Williams Amazon
23 Jimmy Williams Amazon
24 Jimmy Williams Amazon
25 Jimmy Williams Amazon
26 Jimmy Williams Amazon
27 Jimmy Williams Amazon
28 Jimmy Williams Amazon
29 Jimmy Williams Amazon
30 Jimmy Williams Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 4

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Gene Simmons Amazon
The Miller Trio Amazon
3 Gene Simmons Amazon
4 Malcolm Yelvington Amazon
5 Malcolm Yelvington Amazon
6 Malcolm Yelvington Amazon
7 The Miller Sisters Amazon
8 Rudi Richardson Amazon
9 Rosco Gordon Amazon
10 Rosco Gordon Amazon
11 Sonny Burgess Amazon
12 Sonny Burgess Amazon
Sonny Burgess Amazon
14 Sonny Burgess Amazon
15 Sonny Burgess Amazon
16 Sonny Burgess Amazon
17 Sonny Burgess Amazon
18 Sonny Burgess Amazon
19 Sonny Burgess Amazon
20 Sonny Burgess Amazon
21 Warren Smith Amazon
22 Warren Smith Amazon
23 Warren Smith Amazon
24 Warren Smith Amazon
25 Billy Riley Amazon
26 Billy Riley Amazon
27 Billy Riley Amazon
28 Billy Riley Amazon
29 Billy Riley Amazon
30 Billy Riley Amazon
Billy Riley Amazon
32 Billy Riley Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 5

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Gene Simmons Amazon
2 Gene Simmons Amazon
3 Gene Simmons Amazon
4 Gene Simmons Amazon
5 Gene Simmons Amazon
6 Gene Simmons Amazon
7 Gene Simmons Amazon
8 Gene Simmons Amazon
9 Gene Simmons Amazon
10 Gene Simmons Amazon
11 Hayden Thompson Amazon
12 Hayden Thompson Amazon
13 Hayden Thompson Amazon
14 Hayden Thompson Amazon
15 Hayden Thompson Amazon
16 Jimmy Wages Amazon
17 Jimmy Wages Amazon
18 Jimmy Wages Amazon
19 Jimmy Wages Amazon
20 Jimmy Wages Amazon
21 Hannah Fay Amazon
22 Hannah Fay Amazon
Jerry Lee Lewis Amazon
24 Jerry Lee Lewis Amazon
25 Jerry Lee Lewis Amazon
26 Jerry Lee Lewis Amazon
27 Jerry Lee Lewis Amazon
28 Jesse Lee Turner Amazon
29 Charlie Rich Amazon
30 Charlie Rich Amazon
31 Charlie Rich Amazon
32 Charlie Rich Amazon
33 Charlie Rich Amazon
34 Charlie Rich Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 6

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Ernie Barton Amazon
Ernie Barton Amazon
3 Narvel Felts Amazon
4 Narvel Felts Amazon
5 Patsy Halcomb Amazon
6 Patsy Halcomb Amazon
7 Patsy Halcomb Amazon
8 Magel Priesman Amazon
9 Rudy Grayzell Amazon
10 Mack Vickery Amazon
11 Mack Vickery Amazon
12 Mack Vickery Amazon
13 Andy Anderson Amazon
14 Cliff Thomas Amazon
15 Bobbie & The Boys Amazon
16 Tommy Blake Amazon
17 Tommy Blake Amazon
18 Tommy Blake Amazon
19 Tommy Blake Amazon
20 Tommy Blake Amazon
21 Tommy Blake Amazon
Tommy Blake Amazon
23 Tommy Blake Amazon
24 Edwin Bruce / Bruce Edwin Amazon
25 Edwin Bruce Amazon
26 Edwin Bruce Amazon
Edwin Bruce Amazon
Edwin Bruce Amazon
29 Dickey Lee Amazon
30 Dickey Lee Amazon
31 Dickey Lee Amazon
32 Dickey Lee Amazon
Dickey Lee Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 7

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Ray Smith Amazon
2 Ray Smith Amazon
3 Ray Smith Amazon
Ray Smith Amazon
5 Ray Smith Amazon
6 Ray Smith Amazon
Ray Smith Amazon
8 Ray Smith Amazon
Ray Smith Amazon
10 Ray Smith Amazon
Mack Allen Smith Amazon
12 Mack Allen Smith Amazon
13 Mack Allen Smith Amazon
14 Mack Allen Smith Amazon
15 Carl Mann Amazon
16 Carl Mann Amazon
17 Carl Mann Amazon
18 Carl Mann Amazon
19 Tracy Pendarvis Amazon
20 Tracy Pendarvis Amazon
21 Tracy Pendarvis Amazon
22 Tracy Pendarvis Amazon
23 Tracy Pendarvis Amazon
Vernon Taylor Amazon
25 Vernon Taylor Amazon
26 Vernon Taylor Amazon
27 Vernon Taylor Amazon
28 Vernon Taylor Amazon
29 Vernon Taylor Amazon
30 Vernon Taylor Amazon
31 Vernon Taylor Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 8

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Mickey Gilley Amazon
Mickey Gilley Amazon
3 Mickey Gilley Amazon
4 Danny Stewart Amazon
5 Eddie Bond Amazon
6 Cliff Gleaves Amazon
Charlotte Smith Amazon
8 Roy Hall Amazon
9 Roy Hall Amazon
10 Curtis Hobock Amazon
11 Charley Pride Amazon
12 Johnny Powers Amazon
Alton & Jimmy Amazon
14 Bill Justis Orchestra Amazon
15 Bill Justis Orchestra Amazon
Bill Justis Orchestra Amazon
17 Bill Justis Orchestra Amazon
18 Bill Justis Orchestra Amazon
19 Bill Justis Orchestra Amazon
20 Bill Justis Orchestra Amazon
21 Bill Justis Orchestra Amazon
22 Bill Justis Orchestra Amazon
23 Bill Justis Orchestra Amazon
24 Roland Janes Amazon
Roland Janes Amazon
26 Roland Janes Amazon
27 Martin Willis Amazon
J.M. Van Eaton Amazon
Ace Cannon Amazon
30 Ace Cannon Amazon
Ace Cannon Amazon
32 Brad Suggs Amazon
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