Two albums to listen to: A controversial legend and an ominous pop record

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Editor’s note: In this recurring column, music writer Chris Duncan suggests two albums to listen to this week. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @chr_dunc, and your pick might appear in next week’s article.

Live at the Star Club, Hamburg — Jerry Lee Lewis

Known in the 1950s rock and roll scene for his impulsive and wild live performances, Jerry Lee Lewis has an odd folklore surrounding his personality — including a rumor that Lewis lit his piano on fire to upstage rock legend Chuck Berry.

Offstage, Lewis had a tumultuous personal life. He hid it well from the public until 1958 when a news reporter learned Lewis’ third wife, Myra Brown, also happened to be Lewis’ 13-year-old cousin. The resulting public uproar caused a cancellation of Lewis’ European tour and a blacklist from U.S. radios.

In 1964, the public largely ignored his live performance at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany, especially because legal issues prevented its U.S release. But many fans consider the performance to be Lewis at his best. The recording was simple and poorly mixed, but each sound captures Lewis’ energetic performance style and spontaneous personality. The concert feels like one swift movement as the band flows in and out of each song, making this a must-listen for any early rock and roll fans.

Tracks to listen to: “High School Confidential,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”

 

Forever Changes — Love

When music fans think of late 1960s Los Angeles, they might picture Jim Morrison and The Doors. But the era’s true sound comes from rock band Love’s third album, Forever Changes.

Released during the summer of 1967, the height of psychedelic music, Forever Changes is almost nothing like previous sharp and direct Love releases. This album takes a more careful and meticulous approach to the construction of a song, producing a haunting feeling throughout the album.

At the core of each song is an acoustic guitar and orchestral combination, but the brass section shines through these core elements producing a melodic but hard-hitting sound. Together, these organic-sounding elements announce the end of a golden age of music and accurately predict a counterculture movement in the years to come. Images of violence, war, failed romance and hard drug use bring the entire album together to make one powerful piece of music.

Tracks to listen to; “Alone Again Or,” “A House Is Not a Motel,” “Old Man”