The Vinyl Junkie
by Cub Koda
Hey! Look what I found .. .
CDs CARL PERKINS The Classic (Bear Family BCD 15494)
My favorite thing (in theory, mind you) about boxed sets is that there's a finality to them. Ostensibly, what you're plunking down all that hard earned cash for is the ultimate collection, all the good stuff in one place, one frame of reference that you reach for every single time when that's the sound you're looking for. Yeah, that boxed set.
Of course, it ain't like that in the real world, we know that. But when a boxed set comes along that's as nearly perfect as this, then it's time to flip the wallet open and go for it.
No one puts out boxed sets with such a kamikaze style as Bear Family. Great, big LP-sized boxes, with knock-out booklets, discographies, liner info and pictures galore. This time their attention turns to Mr. Blue Suede Shoes, Carl Perkins, and his legacy is served well by this box, indeed.
Rather than just rounding up what was on Charly's excellent three-record boxed set of Sun stuff, Bear Family outdoes itself (as usual) by collecting up all the Sun (including some very interesting alternates that didn't make the Charly box) stuff, then adding the Columbia sides that came right after it, finishing up with the Decca sides Perkins cut in England with the Nashville Teens. In other words, everything hot on Carl Perkins you're ever gonna want to hear is right here, nice and clear.
Needless to say that highlights abound throughout the five to six listening hours, especially when plowing through the Sun stuff. Great alternate takes of "All Mama's Children," where you can hear the arrangement really evolve, a couple of barnburner alternates of "Put Your Cat Clothes On" (with and without Jerry Lee Lewis) and my real favorite, an alternate of "Sweethearts Or Strangers," on which Perkins- sounds crazed, fueled with the energy of a thousand demons. Right where it sounds like the track's gonna end, Carl lets out a rebel-cry admonishment to keep going and off they go for another couple of choruses. Plenty of mistakes, plenty of feeling.
The Columbia sides start with the early attempts by that label to replicate the Sun sound (the results of which formed Carl's early singles and the Whole Latta Shakin' LP) and head on into Perkins's move toward the Nashville mainstream of the time. While not as revelatory as the Sun stuff, it makes a perfect complement to it. Carl never stopped rockin', even if the engineers and producers at Columbia had no other criteria for producing him other than "turn up the echo," thus making it pretty obvious when you're listening where the Sun tracks stop and the Columbias begin.
But great rockin' moments abound in both the Columbia and later sides with Decca, the U.K. session with the Nashville Teens providing some scorching guitar outa Carl along with some impassioned vocals as well. On-the-money liners from Colin Escott, photos and newspaper clippings galore (the front cover box photo from the early Columbia days is a true classic . ..they just don't make jackets like the one Carl's wear-ing anymore and you can't buy 'em, neither), par excellent sound, packaging. you know, the usual A+ job from Bear Family. The best of Carl Perkins, indeed. Save your pennies and dimes, this one's worth it, you bet.