By 1967, Jerry Lee Lewis was closing in on a decade without a major hit single, after his meteoric rise in 1957 and subsequent fall from grace a year later. While the period wasn't a complete bust sales-wise -- the 1961 version of "What'd I Say" did, in typical Lewis fashion, make the pop, country and R&B Top 30 charts -- his discography from after the first Sun hits until his "conversion" to country features a dizzying array of stylistic variations in an attempt to hit it big. Soul My Way was the last album released before his triumphant domination of the country charts began in 1968.
While the idea of a soul album by Jerry Lee Lewis may seem somewhat strange on the surface, the R&B current in his music was always strong. His ability to combine that feeling with country -- a large piece of the basis of rock 'n roll -- is part of what made him one of the best performers of the 20th century. Bill Haley may have crashed the pop charts first, and Elvis may have exploded the form, but Jerry Lee did it best.
Parts of Soul My Way do take Jerry Lee in a straight R&B direction, but no more so than many of his singles for Smash over the preceding few years. In fact, a few songs here are leftovers from earlier unreleased sessions and singles sides to pad the album to 11 tracks, a clear sign of growing label disinterest after his relatively conceptually unified Memphis Beat album of 1966.
Those older tracks stand out. As on the new ones, Jerry Lee's piano is buried in the mix, if there at all, as most feature organ and/or electric piano (or no keys). It's easy to interpret the front cover shot of Lewis, marooned among some tall weeds and looking pissed off, as the Killer's reaction to this situation.
However the album came together, there's still plenty of good music here. "Turn on Your Love Light" and "Treat Her Right" seem tailor-made for the Jerry Lee treatment, and the Lewis original "He Took it Like a Man" and "Shotgun Man" are both good rockers. The album even includes the original version of "Just Dropped In," predating the First Edition hit.
While the rest of Lewis's pre-country Smash albums have been reissued on CD, to my knowledge this album has been unavailable in its original form since its initial release. (Smash, 1967)