Reviewed by Ken Tucker
CARL PERKINS The Classic Carl Perkins (Bear Family ****)
A revelation: If all you know about Carl Perkins is "Blue Suede Shoes," "Honey Don't" and maybe the great "Dixie Fried," you may have Perkins pegged as a limited artist, the least interesting of the first generation of Sun Records rockers. That's how I felt until I spent time with this five-compact-disc collection, which demonstrates Perkins' range, inspiration and surprisingly subtle sense of humor.
All the hits are here — in multiple takes. (Only obsessives will want to hear all three ver-sions of "Blue Suede Shoes"; on the other hand, I treasure the two takes of the honky-tonking "Let the Jukebox Keep on Playing.") Perkins recorded some powerful, unheralded country material (including a great version of Jimmie Rodgers' "Sweethearts or Strang-ers"), some dreadful pop ("Pink Pedal Pushers" — ugh) and lots of blues-inflected, idiosyncratic rock. When he tried to push his success into a hipster's formula ("Put Your Cat Clothes On" was the limit for me), he failed artistically, but there are a lot of commercial flops here that sound terrific today. (