I often find it curious that more audiophiles don’t dig into old rockabilly and country recordings to demonstrate the power of their fancy home entertainment systems.
These recordings from the likes of Gene Vincent, Johnny Cash and others of the period often have big acoustic guitars, natural monaural (and sometimes stereo) sound stages, rich analog warmth and more to showcase.
On Black Friday this year (aka Record Store Day #2) one of the albums I picked up was a reissue of Carl Perkins’ 1957 album Dance Album of Carl Perkins on the Sun Records label. Recorded in the same studio where Sam Philips cut legendary sides by Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash, this one is right up there in terms of sound and influence.
Lets talk influence here for a moment. It is a known fact that one of George Harrison’s biggest early influences was Carl Perkins. And the first thing I thought of when listening to this album is that there is no doubt in my mind that George had this very record — or at least all of these singles within, as this is apparently a compilation put out after Carl left Sun Record for Columbia — in his personal collection.
The Beatles recorded no less than four songs found on this album over the years including “Everybody’s Trying to Be my Baby,” “Honey Don’t,” “Matchbox” and “Sure To Fall.” The latter was performed live on the BBC early on in the Beatles career when they also covered Perkins tunes such as “Glad All Over” (both on the Live at the BBC album) as well as “Lend Me Your Comb” (which appeared on The Beatles Anthology 1).
So, listening to this album, it really is remarkable to consider just how much of the Beatle’s early sound came from these recordings. If you are a Beatle fan, you really need to hear these songs on vinyl.
Now I’ll get back to that sound I was talking about earlier. There is something raw and fresh about these recordings. You’ll hear slappin’ acoustic stand-up double-bass cutting through mix in fits and starts. Drums smack you right between the eyes. And that legendary Sun Records reverb just oozes authentic, pure earthy rock ‘n roll rockabilly sound.
This limited edition put out for Black Friday (aka Record Store Day #2 in 2015) was a bit of a surprise to me and a joy to obtain. Only 1500 copies were pressed. The translucent light blue-suede-shoe-colored vinyl is pretty much dead quiet and well centered. My copy sounds pretty great!
As I don’t have all of these recordings in an original format to compare / contrast to (apart from an old 78 and a 45 or two) I won’t judge this too harshly. When I turn up the volume on my amp, I do hear some of that angular crispiness happening which leads me to suspect there was probably a digital transfer made somewhere along the food chain of making this. But all in all it is a real good listen that warrants repeat plays. There is some raw basic fun in this music, making this album a good first place to start exploring Carl Perkins’ music.
Really, this reissue could have been pressed on pink or black vinyl and I would have been just as thrilled. Its about the joy of playing this incredible music in one of the formats it was designed for (ie. mixed for vinyl). Probably the only thing that would be better would be a series of 12-inch singles featuring all the tracks spinning at 45 RPM. Maybe someday we’ll get an uber-audiophile 100-percent analog version (like the Beatles Mono box set) off the definitive first generation master tapes. Until that time or the time when you (and I) find a pristine original pressing (and originals are rare as hens teeth, as they say — I’ve never seen one before, I’ll put it that way!), this fine reissue will keep us rockin’ again to Carl Perkins’ classic songs.
In fact, I’m going to break out some of my scratchy old Carl Perkins singles now.
Excuse me while I go spin “Blue Suede Shoes” on 78 RPM!