June 11, 1984 12:00 PM

Jerry Lee Lewis

He was never any threat to Mario Lanza or Pavarotti in the first place, but medical, legal and financial problems (not to mention six wives) seem to have taken something of a toll on old Jerry Lee, 48. His voice gets quavery once in a while, and even when he lets loose with one of his gut-busters, he sounds like something less than the rampager we’ve come to know. What he’s lost in technical strength, he has made up for in tonal character. His voice seems full of the wisdom of the ages, and a good ration of the folly too. When he sings Mickey Newbury’s melancholy That Was the Way It Was Then or the defiant/ defensive title tune, written by Ken Lovelace and Bill Taylor, he shows how he can personalize a song as few performers do. This LP, Lewis’ first since 1982, also includes a tender reworking of the Platters old hit Only You, a rockabilly updating of I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover and a standard rouser, Honky Tonk Heart. While Lewis may not always be the most endearing of public figures, he still can be 100 percent entertainer when he sets his mind to it. (MCA)

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