Thursday, January 3, 2008

No. 308: The Sun Records Collection

Band: Various Artists
Album: The Sun Records Collection
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Possibly the most important record label of all-time, this three-disc set compiles all the early songs from Sam Phillips' legendary label.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Well, compilations are generally sketchy (they're not really albums), but necessary for an era like early rock and roll. This being the documents of that period makes me think it should be higher.
Best song: Many of the old blues records on here were pleasant surprises, but, of course, Elvis' first single ("That's All Right") is the best thing on here.
Worst song: The Five Tinos' "Sitting by My Window" isn't very good.
Is it awesome?: Yes.

What surprised me about this collection is the amount of blues on it. I didn't know that Sam Phillips was so involved in getting blues out there on Sun. We all think of Sun as the label of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, but Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King and Rufus Thomas all have songs on here.


Sun Records, of course, is the label that brought rock and roll to white people. This was Sam Phillips' stated goal and for that, Sun is one of the cornerstones of rock and roll. When Phillips wanted to switch more towards the new genre of rockabilly and signed legendary songwriter (before he was that) Sam Perkins, crazed Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and an eyeliner-wearing truck driver from Tupelo named Presley, the label exploded. Rock and roll was here.

Many of the records sound dated -- they are dated as these songs are more than 50 years old -- but they're great just the same. This set is a little much as three discs is overkill in my eyes. But, everyone should have at least one of the many Sun compilations out there.

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