Carl Perkins

The Sun Story, Vol. 3: Carl Perkins

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If Carl Perkins really wanted to protect his blue suede shoes, he could hide them under his discography. Nobody would ever find them there, under the weight of so many confusing repackagings, more than one branded with the Sun Records label, as that recording house itself was a quality trademark for roots rock, rockabilly, and country music, bar none. What called itself Sun for this '70s series of slim LP releases was actually the Sunnyvale Records outfit, operating under the corporate umbrella of GRT. One gets the impression someone was offered a bonus to get these packages out fast. For a series that brags it will tell "the story of the legendary Sun label of Memphis, Tennessee," there is precious little text above the most obvious details on any release in the series, which also includes music by Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Tracks were programmed as if whatever came out of the box first was what came next, once the obvious kickoff track of "Blue Suede Shoes" was dispensed with. It would have made more sense, especially in the context of what this series is pretending to be, to present the tracks in the order they were recorded. Factors such as this have lowered the rating, yet it is the music itself that tells the story.

Perkins came up with a tantalizing blend of country, rock, and jazz that rivals Chuck Berry for happy virtuosity and had an even bigger effect on '60s pop culture, seeing as how George Harrison took at least half his guitar licks off him. Also, one can see Perkins as a model for a more versatile type of rock artist who was supposed to be able to play R&B, country & western, and doo wop numbers as well as rockabilly, a concept that again had a big influence on groups such as the Beatles. His most famous song is hardly the best. Much more enjoyable is "Boppin' the Blues," a ditty that feels like it could make a sunny day out of a cloudy one. "Glad All Over," "Honey Don't," and "Dixie Fried" represent the fine wine of rockabilly, and it is hard to even imagine the existence of groups such as Southern Culture on the Skids without songs such as the latter number paving the way, or should one say wetting the dirt road down with musical moonshine. "I Let the Jukebox Keep on Playing" is tense, intimidating country complete with fiddle and pedal steel. Other listeners find a funny favorite in "Tennessee," a song as well as a state connecting country & western and nuclear weapons once and for all. This not particularly generous collection of songs is worth a snatch if the tariff from the used record pile is low enough, but all this material is available on better-researched and packaged collections.

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