Elvis' musical style, as a musician and impact as a vocalist and stage performer
February 18, 2009 - 7:21:40 PM
Elvis Articles, Elvis Interviews, Elvis Biography, Elvis News
i) Music editors, producers, arrangers, songwriters and disc jockeys, ii) Record company CEO's, iii) Music professors and preservationists, music publishers, musicologists and commentators; iv) Recording sound engineers, audio tecnhicians and reviewers; v) Musicians, and singers in the Classical, Opera, Pop, Blues, Gospel, R&B, Soul, Rock, Metal, C&W and Latin-American music fields; vi) Voice teachers and coaches; vii) Theatre and television critics and broadcasters; viii) Rock and Popular Music historians, aficionados and ix) Writers on the Humanities, the Arts, as well as on Social, Racial, Religion, Literary, Copyright-Law and more.
'Elvis Presley has been described variously as a baritone and a tenor. An extraordinary compass- the so-called register-, and a very wide range of vocal color have something to do with this divergence of opinion. The voice covers two octaves and a third, from the baritone low-G to the tenor high B, with an upward extension in falsetto to at least a D flat. Elvis' best octave is in the middle, D-flat to D-flat, granting an extra full step up or down. Call him a high baritone. In 'It's now or never', (1960), he ends it in a full voice cadence (A, G, F), that has nothing to do with the vocal devices of R&B and Country. That A-note is hit right on the nose, and it is rendered less astonishing only by the number of tracks where he lands easy and accurate B-flats. Moreover, he has not been confined to one type of vocal production. In ballads and country songs he belts out full-voiced high G's and A's that an opera baritone might envy. He is a naturally assimilative stylist with a multiplicity of voices - in fact, Elvis' is an extraordinary voice, or many voices'. (Henry Pleasants, in his book 'The Great American Popular Singers' 1974).
The Vocal Range of Elvis Presley (12:20)
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'I suppose you'd had to call him a lyric baritone, although with exceptional high notes and unexpectedly rich low ones. But what is more important about Elvis Presley is not his vocal range, nor how high or low it extends, but where its center of gravity is. By that measure, Elvis was all at once a tenor, a baritone and a bass, the most unusual voice I've ever heard' (Gregory Sandows, Music Professor at Columbia University, published in 'The Village Voice').
'I am reminded of a comment made shortly after the death of Elvis Presley by a musician he had worked with. He pointed out that despite an impressive vocal range of two and a half octaves and something approaching perfect pitch, Elvis was perfectly willing to sing off-key when he thought the song required it. Those off-key notes were art'. (Patrick H. Adkins, The Dream Vaults of Opar).
'On his live versions of songs like 'How Great Thou Art' (1975), 'Unchained Melody' (1976) and 'Hurt' (1977), you will be able to hear how high he can go; but, it is essentially on 'What Now My Love' (sang live at his 'Aloha from Hawaii' global telecast, which reached 1 billion viewers when first aired in 1973), where he goes up three octaves at the end of the song, that you can really hear his true vocal power'. (Cory Cooper, vocal connaisseur, on Elvis Presley's vocal range).
'He got even more maturity in his voice as he got older; I was often amazed at his range, just as one singer listening to another. He could sing anything. I've never seen such a versatility, and in fact I don't see it today. Usually a voice can sing one way, but he had that ability about him, and he helped me to learn the importance of communication with an audience. He had such great soul. He had the ability to make everyone in the audience think that he was singing directly to them. He just had a way with communication that was totally unique' (Gospel tenor Shawn Nielsen, who backed Elvis' recordings both with the 'Imperials' and with the group 'Voice', at the studio and in concert, from the late sixties until Elvis' death in 1977).
'Presley brought an excitement to singing, in part because rock and roll was greeted as his invention, but for other reasons not so widely reflected on: Elvis Presley had the most beautiful singing voice of any human being on earth. Presley, for some fans, was primarily a balladeer. 'Don't Leave Me Now' (1957), is a love song given distinctiveness by Elvis' twangy enunciations, and sustained by the guitar and rhythm sections designed perfectly to complement the balladeer, filled out towards the song's end - as with so much of Presley - , with what one conveniently calls the heavenly choir, which wafts him home but never overwhelms the country lilt Presley gives his music'. (William F. Buckley, Jr., in his article 'The Crooner, R.I.P.: Perry Como and the casual mode').
'He would probably be considered a baritone, but he could reach notes that most baritone singers could not. Much of his abilities emanated from a very intense desire to execute a song as he wanted to do it, which meant that he really sang higher than he would normally be able to. When the adrenalin is going, and the song is really pumping, you can get into that mode where you can actually do things, vocally, that you couldn't normally do. So he had a tremendous range because of his desire to excel and be better, and that's why he could do a lot of things that most people couldn't'. (Terry Blackwood, lead singer of the Gospel group, the 'Imperials').
'Elvis' initial hopes for a music career involved singing in a gospel male quartet. His favourite part was bass baritone, and he himself had an almost 3-octave vocal range ... Yet to posterity's surprise, such a superlative and magnetic natural talent always remained humble --perhaps too humble to keep performing forever'. (Review of his appearance in Frank Sinatra's 1960's 'Welcome Home Elvis' TV special).
'Along with the rest of 'Deep Purple', I once had the chance to meet Elvis. For a young singer like me, he was an absolute inspiration. I soaked up what he did like blotting paper. It's the same as being in school - you learn by copying the maestro. His personality was also extremely endearing, his interviews were very self-effacing (and), he came over as gentle and was generous in his praise of others. He had a natural, technical ability, but there was something in the humanity of his voice, and his delivery. Those early records at the Sun Records label are still incredible and the reason is simple: he was the greatest singer that ever lived'. (Ian Gillan, lead singer and frontman of the UK hard rock band 'Deep Purple', interviewed by Classic Rock magazine, explaining why Presley belongs in the list of rock icons).
'Perhaps the only other voice to touch me (Luciano Pavarotti's voice being the first), was the voice of Elvis Presley; to watch him perform as I did along with Carl (Palmer), and Keith (Emerson), both in 1971 and again later in 1976 was an absolutely awesome and breathtaking experience; like Pavarotti, Presley had the power to reduce most people to tears very quickly and indeed to move them to think very carefully about their inner spiritual beliefs; as far as singing is concerned, the human voice is a matter of the expression of passion in the understanding of the human condition and, upon seeing both of them perform, I very quickly came to realise that they were each capable of expressing more feeling, with their voices, than I had ever thought possible'. (Greg Lake, lead singer and bass player for the UK progressive rock super-group 'Emerson, Lake and Palmer').
'In Elvis, you had the whole lot; it's all there in that elastic voice and body. As he changed shape, so did the world. His last performances showcase a voice even bigger than his gut, where you cry real tears as the music messiah sings his tired heart out, turning casino into temple. I think the Vegas period is underrated. I find it the most emotional. By that point Elvis was clearly not in control of his own life, and there is this incredible pathos. The big opera voice of the later years -- that's the one that really hurts me'. (Bono, lead singer of U2, for Rollingstone Magazine, as published in their April 15, 2004 edition).
'In any case, there's something beautifully uncomfortable at the root of the vocal style that defines the pop era, the simplest example coming at the moment of the style's inception, i.e. Elvis Presley: at first, listeners thought that the white guy was a black guy and it's not too much of an exaggeration to say that when Ed Sullivan's television show tossed this disjunction into everyone's living rooms, American culture was thrilled by it, but also a little deranged, in ways that we haven't gotten over yet; ultimately, the nature of the vocals in post-Elvis popular music is the same as the role of the instrumental soloist in jazz; that's to say, if it isn't pushing against the boundaries of its form, at least slightly, it isn't doing anything at all; so, we judge popular vocals since 1956 by what the singer unearths that the song itself could never quite, and (this) explains why Elvis is always rock, even when singing 'Blue Moon'. (Excerpted from the lead article by Jonathan Lethem, as published in RollingStone magazine's December 2008 issue, honoring the 100 greatest singers in the Rock era, in an article entitled 'What Makes a Great Singer').
'Elvis was my first musical influence; his was a-once-in-a-lifetime voice which, if one were to classify it in pitch, was that of a lyrical baritone; the F-4 in the classic opening to 'Hurt' (1976), with its B-4 ending on various live versions of the song (1976-77), the G-4's in 'It's now or never' (1960), 'Unchained melody' (1977), and 'Rags to riches' (1971), the latter with its B-4 ending, when sang live in 1977, the A-4's at the end of 'Surrender' (1961), 'How great thou art' (1975), and 'American trilogy' the latter with its G-4 landing at various times from 1973 onwards, and, finally, the sustained C-5's on 'America the Beautiful' (1976), and on the live version of 'Big Boss Man', his highest note ever, in 1975, are very powerful, Elvis as his best, at the higher registers' (Tobias Sammet, lead singer, vocal virtuoso, and primary songwriter of the German Power Metal band 'Edguy', as well as the creator of the metal opera 'Avantasia').
'Sam Phillips originally drafted Elvis to replace an absent ballad singer but, after pairing him with ambitious guitarist Scotty Moore and his upright bass-playing friend Bill Black, the music quickly veered in another direction entirely; the SUN Sessions began as an impromptu jam, the absence of drums being purely incidental given it was a small studio, but the light echo the producer used to compensate, inadvertently had an effect on Presley's own voice which was far more interesting; Elvis himself was a raw talent, but his singing prowess was immediately apparent, with a vocal range of roughly three octaves, perfect control and ability to jump between bass, baritone and tenor with the greatest of ease; over fifty years after the fact, we can see that what teenagers saw in him, was a genuinely brilliant vocalist that could just as easily convey a soft ballad, as it could a wild rock song; as a rule, the importance of an album is completely separate from its actual quality but, invariably, albums this influential are influential because they're genuinely great recordings, and 'The Sun Sessions' , though not formally compiled until 1976, were certainly great, great classic recordings'. (Dave De Sylvia reviewing 'The Sun Sessions', and Elvis' vocal abilities, for SPUTNIK Misic, on June 1, 2006).
'The young Elvis Presley, without any doubt'. Kiri Te Kanawa, top New Zealand opera star and soprano's answer to UK show-host Michael Parkinson (who probably expected her to name Luciano Pavarotti, or Maria Callas), when asked whose was the greatest voice she had ever heard.
'I grew up playing sports and listening to Elvis Presley, whose music I favored, along with that of Pat Boone; in fact, when an opera singer came on the 'Ed Sullivan Show', I'd think 'Turn this off'. (Samuel Ramey, the world's top bass-baritone, as told to 'Opera News', and published in ENotes.Com).
'Presley was very classically orientated with his voice, and diction, and very sincere and wanting to get everything perfect' (Welsh world renowned bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, citing one of the reasons why Elvis is the only soloist whose music he listens to his iPod, as told to NYT's Classical Music critic Vivien Schweitzer).
'People will often say that opera singers sound too stiff and operatic when singing contemporary music. This is because the vowels in an operatic style tend to be more open, whereas in a rock style singers tend to thin out the vowel. There is nothing wrong, and everything right, in opening the vowel in the higher register so that the higher notes can be sustained. Elvis Presley was very open in his singing style even though he was 'the' rock and roller'. (Brain Gilbertson, world-famous voice teacher).
'Elvis' lowest effective note was a low-G, as heard on 'He'll Have To Go' (1976); on 'King Creole' (1958), he growls some low-F's; going up, his highest full-voiced notes were the high-B's in 'Surrender' (1961) and 'Merry Christmas Baby' (1971), the high-G at the end of 'My Way' (1976 live version), and the high-A of 'An American Trilogy' (1972); using falsetto, Elvis could reach at least a high-E, e.g, as in 'Unchained Melody' (1977), so, it was very nearly a three-octave range, although more practically two-and-a-half' (George Barbel, as a follow up to a question on what was Elvis' range).
'The voice is so melodious, and - of course, by accident, this glorious voice and musical sensibility was combined with this beautiful, sexual man and this very unconscious - or unselfconscious stage movements. Elvis Presley's registration, the breadth of his tone, listening to some of his records, you'd think you were listening to an opera singer. But…it's an opera singer with a deep connection to the blues'. (Jerry Wexler, co-founder of Atlantic Records, whose bid of US$30,000 came up short of the US$35,000 offered by RCA, for the purchase of Elvis' contract with SUN Records in November of 1955).
'I taught him some lyrics in Spanish and he learned them. I wrote it for him the way it was sung (phonetically). He was very talented. It was very difficult Mexican music'. (Manny Lopez, RCA vibraphone recording artist known as the 'King of the Cha Cha', explaining how, under his tutelage, Elvis sang the Mexican standard, 'Guadalajara', (1963) in Spanish, like an authentic Mariachi, as published in Las Vegas'The Desert Sun', on March 16, 2007).
'Elvis Presley's talent as a musical artist was double barrelled and more; his voice, on the one hand, was extraordinary for its quality, range and power, as well as being a unique stage performer with instinctive natural abilities in both areas; he was the master of a wide and diverse range of vocal stylings and ventriloquist effects, from the clear tenor of his C&W heroes, to the vibrato of the Gospel singers he loved, his voice invariably possessing an aching sincerity and an indefinable quality of yearning virtually impossible to pigeonhole'. (From the U.S Department of the Interior's paper on criteria for greatness as a vocalist, which, together with all aspects of his life and legacy, led to the inclusion of his home, Graceland, in the National Register of Historic Places, in 2006).
'I am indebted to Scott W. Johnson, my fellow at the Claremont Institute, for many things over the years, but not many rate higher than his 'introducing' me to Elvis Presley. I came of age (i.e., reached the 9th grade), just in time for the 'British Invasion' and, despite my childhood memories, soon came to think of him as the ultimate in passe; so, I was astonished when Scott told me, a year or two ago, that in his opinion Elvis Presley was the greatest male vocalist of the 20th Century; I had never thought of him in that light, to put it mildly, but that conversation caused me to realize that I had never actually 'listened'; starting then, I did - with the aid of Scott's encyclopedic music collection -, so if you have never gotten past a cartoon image of Elvis, do yourself a favor and 'listen'. (John H. Hinderaker, of the Claremont Institute, a Harvard Law School Graduate and expert on public policy issues, including income and race, as published in Power Line, on January 09, 2007).
'When healthy and serious, he was flat-out the world's greatest singer. In his voice, he possessed the most beautiful musical instrument, and the genius to play that instrument perfectly; he could jump from octave to countless other octaves with such agility without voice crack, simultaneously sing a duet with his own overtones, rein in an always-lurking atomic explosion to so effortlessly fondle, and release, the most delicate chimes of pathos. Yet, those who haven't been open (or had the chance) to explore some of Presley's most brilliant work - the almost esoteric ballads and semi-classical recordings -, have cheated themselves out of one of the most beautiful gifts to fall out of the sky in a lifetime. Fortunately, this magnificent musical instrument reached its perfection around 1960, the same time the recording industry finally achieved sound reproduction rivaling that of today. So, it's never too late to explore and cherish a well-preserved miracle, as a simple trip to the record store will truly produce unparalleled chills and thrills, for the rest of your life; and then you'll finally understand the best reason this guy never goes away'. (Mike Handley, narrator and TV/radio spokesman, in the 'The Jim Bohannon Show', airing on 600+ radio stations on the Westwood One Network).
'I spoke to over 140 songwriters whose work Presley recorded, and most remarked about his uncanny ability to capture the essence and make it his own; like a musical geneticist, he drew from every strand of DNA in a songwriter's work, which ultimately helped shape his own distinctive personal interpretation; just listen to the wide stylistic swath of genre-hopping material he recorded during his career - from Junior Parker's amphetamine-paced rockabilly classic 'Mystery Train' and the poppin-perfect panache of Otis Blackwell's 'All shook up', to the down and dirty blues swagger of 'Reconsider baby' and the operatic grandeur of 'It's now or never'-; and then there were more controversial and socially conscious anthems ('If I can dream' and 'In the guetto'), and introspective 70's fare like 'Separate ways' and 'Always on my my mind'; right away, you can hear the breath of a master stylist who breathed new life into every song he cut'. (Author Ken Sharp, in the introduction to his book, 'Writing for the King: The songs and writers behind them').
'He closes with a song called 'If I Can Dream', a late contribution from vocal arranger Walter Earl Brown -- a plea for peace and understanding that in the murderous year of 1968 had a timely urgency --; dressed all in white, planted before his name in lights forty feet high, he folds his body into the song as if in pain, a pain he means to kill with hope; it is as raw and real as any performance I've ever seen. (Robert Lloyd, staff writer for the Los Angeles Times in his article entitled 'The night Elvis reclaimed his crown', published on March 11, 2008, on the eve of the 40th Anniversary of his 1968 TV Special, and its special screening at Los Angeles' high Cinerama Dome).
'Number one for me and no one else comes close; ignore for a second that Presley was the most beautiful human being of all time and that he was easily the most electric performer ever; in his prime, he could sing anything (rock, opera, metal, soul, blues, country – no problem); all the wonks will tell you he did his best work at Sun Records, but for me his immense '50s RCA output is so explosive that it puts everyone else to shame; it's not just that Elvis had an amazing instrument, no one ever had so much fun putting it to use; whirling back and forth from low to high, from raspy to angelically pretty, the only singer ever that could take any song and transform it into something that sounded like it came from somewhere else, a galaxy or two away. (Brad Laidman, music writer for BLOGCRITICS, reviewing RollingStone Magazine's listing of the 100 'Greatest Singers of all time', as published on 17 November, 2008).
'The greatest voice of all time'. '(Q' Magazine Judging panel's laud of Elvis Presley, from a poll published on their March 4, 2007, issue).
'Q Magazine bravely attempted to name the best and worst singers ever. They did a good job, wisely going big with Elvis as the top choice' (Rollingstone Magazine's online edition, published on 5 March, 2007).
'He had a musically textured rhythmic voice that had emotional intelligence; concentrate on his voice: sweet, remorseful, defiant, suggestive'. (Eileen Battersby, literary correspondant, citing the reasons for her being hooked on Elvis after 'discovering' him inadvertently as she changed the dial looking for her favourite classical music radio station, as published in the 'Irish Times' in August of 2002).
'A singer, at work, is usually thinking only about making it through the song without flubbing it. Look what's involved:breathing plausibly, remembering the lyrics, nailing the high notes, staying with your band or chorus, maintaining a soulful facial expression and looking good. You might also be whacking a guitar. And -- because Presley did -- you also have to move, oscillate, arm-wrestle with the microphone, throttle it, skid across the stage on your knees, fling your head back and spread your arms; and then you want to salt it with what you possess of art...he flings his voice up beyond the grip of gravity, and then surrenders, like a skater in a leap'. (Catherine Rankovic, poet, essayist, instructor, as well as manuscript editor and music and writing coach, as excerpted from her review of Presley's live performance of 'I want you, I need you, I love you' , in the 'Steve Allen Show', (1956), and as published in 'The Missouri Review', Volume XXIV, Number 2, 2001).
'That the prime exponent of this new style of music should be a singer who possessed no prior professional experience was an anomaly; (in fact), not only were most of the mannerisms that would define his vocal style present at the creation - from the sudden swoops in register to the habit, derived from gospel singing, of starting his lines with a throat-clearing 'well' that gave whatever followed the feeling of a retort, but what was even more impressive was the extent to which his first professional recording was marked by the trait that has characterized every great popular singer: the absolute assertion of his personality over the song; from this, it might be concluded that Presley was simply a 'natural'., but the truth, as ever, was more complex than that'. (Jonathan Gould, on his Beatles-inspired book, 'Can't buy me love'. referring to Presley's early SUN Records label recordings and their influence on the Liverpool rock and roll scene' 2007).
'Presley's voice was remarkable in the sense that, through it, he touched people in a way only great artists can do. (In fact), the people he touched are as diverse as humanity itself and, because of that his popularity has transcended race, class, national boundaries, and culture. There is no simple answer about why that is so, all I can say is he had that magic. When Elvis Presley was first popular, many people said that he did not have a good voice. Almost everyone, today, knows that he did, but more people today should see him not simply as a performer, but as an artist with a great soul. (John Bakke, professor emeritus of the University of Memphis, in an interview with the US State Department, transcripted by UNUSINFO on July 18, 2006 on the legacy of Elvis Presley).
'The first line of the record is sung without accompaniment, punctuated at the end by two beats, two chords on the piano. Exquisite. And this pattern is repeated through the verse, a cappella singing, piano crash, more a cappella singing; and then Elvis sings the chorus backed only by the beautiful, lonesome sound of a walking electric bass. The risk - only a great voice can hang out there that naked - is impressive and the payoff is phenomenal. None of which would matter, I suppose, if it weren't that the voice that this perfect and daring bit of accompaniment supports is nothing short of awesome; spirit is walking throughout this recording. Just put it on the phonograph, and the room fills with ozone. Darkness and gloom drip joyfully from every rafter. This 'Heartbreak Hotel' voice is an instant old friend; it intimately and unforgettably announces the arrival of something big'. (Songwriter, record producer and actor Paul Williams, writing about Elvis' 'Heartbreak Hotel', which ranked in fourth place in Crawdaddy Magazine's list of 'The 100 best singles of all time').
'Each singer (of the so-called folk variety), is recognized as much from its characteristic sound, as from what they actually sing or play, and they manipulate tone colour with a virtuousity that owes nothing to either the classical, or the Tin Pan Alley tradition; one thinks, for example, of the voice of Elvis Presley, an expressive vehicle, shifting from high to low tones, groaning, sluring, and producing breathless changes of rhythm; to many listeners, the voice may have seemed crude, but its folk inmediately resided in its crudeness'. (Christopher Small, in his book 'Music, Society, and Education', published in 1996).
'There comes a point when the voice starts to wash over you. You get inside of it, start to really hear what he's doing, and you realise his singing has this extraordinary, effortless quality to it. Sometimes it's like listening to a stream of honey. It's a very smooth ride, the voice of Elvis Presley. I don't think you focus on the words when he's singing. I think he's doing what bel canto singers do - you don't listen to the words, 'just' to the beauty of his voice-. When I say 'just', that makes it sound as if he's denying you something else but, actually, that's quite enough'. ('The Scotsman', review of the album 'Love', as published in its 25 June, 2005 edition).
'I fell in love with this song, mostly because of Elvis' superior voice, not really thinking about the true meaning behind the lyrics, but rather how the title relates to the music genre I play as DJ house music'. (Progressive Italian DJ Spankox, on his re-mix of Elvis' classic 'Baby Let's Play House' (1955), as published on an UPI wire relayed worldwide on the day of the song's release, June 3, 2008).
'As sound leaves the body, it needs to resonate against something specific. There are options – you can direct that flow of sound to the nose, the throat, the jaw or to the sinus cavities in the face-, but I think what Elvis did – as evidenced by his lip curl – was to aim the vibration stream right at his teeth'. (Renee Grant-Williams, voice coach, and author of 'Voice Power: Using Your Voice to Captivate, Persuade, and Command Attention', explaining where some of the power to please the ear, in Elvis' voice, may have come from, as published in Newsreleasewire.com, on December 12, 2006).
'Elvis' range was about two and a quarter octaves, as measured by musical notation, but his voice had an emotional range from tender whispers to sighs down to shouts, grunts, grumbles and sheer gruffness that could move the listener from calmness and surrender, to fear. His voice can not be measured in octaves, but in decibels; even that misses the problem of how to measure delicate whispers that are hardly audible at all'. (Lindsay Waters, Executive Editor for the Humanities at Harvard University Press, in his essay 'Come softly, darling, hear what I say').
'In 1956, even the youngest of his fans knew that the 21-year-old Elvis Presley was unquestionably the whole package; and, obviously, his great three octave tenor voice, with a lower register close to bass, seemed to vibrate on the inner scale of every teenager in America; they loved the high tenor, but when he 'got down' with that lower register, fans exploded; Elvis translated this into his moves on stage, so it was a 10.0 assault on the senses'. (Sugarpi Productions' essay on Elvis Presley, as published in Clay's. Daily.Double.com).
'It has something for everyone, except perhaps Irving Berlin, who attempted to get Elvis's recording of 'White Christmas' banned from radio play, deeming it 'vulgar and disrespectful'. And it was, which is part of the reason why the drastically rearranged tune is so memorable, as the then-young singer masticated the contemporary classic, adding his idiosyncratic dynamics and trills ( the so-called educated yodls of one's vocal chords); equally irreverent and just as riveting is the King's gritty take on Leiber and Stoller's 'Santa Claus Is Back in Town', one of the most sexually suggestive holiday tunes ever, and his rollicking 'Here Comes Santa Claus'. And who can forget the song that changed the hue of Yuletide, 'Blue Christmas', or his wistful, definitive version of 'I'll Be Home for Christmas', which cemented his reputation as pop's top dreamboat. Along with Phil Spector's 'Christmas Gift for You', this is arguably the finest Rock & Roll Christmas album of all-time, a seasonal yet essential recording belonging under any Christmas tree'. (Jaan Uhelszki and Bill Holdship, reviewing 'Elvis Christmas Album).
'The headline news of 'Platinum', which can be appreciated by fans, scholars, critics and religious fanatics alike, is the inclusion of a newly discovered 1954 demo of the unsigned Elvis singing a lilting wisp of a pop song called 'I'll Never Stand in Your Way'. His unsophisticated performance is mesmerizing; clearly indebted to the style of the 'Ink Spots', Elvis' airy tenor floats delicately above his own guitar accompaniment, aching and somewhat pinched in its feeling; you sense the singer itching to cut loose, to really swing the lyric, open it up; it is in those moments, when the pentimento of the blues vocalist reveals itself, that the melding of styles that soon would change the course of popular music is on fleeting display; it's rare when a single song can be said to make a pricey box-set worthwhile, but this particular 'Rosetta stone' of a rare cut, does precisely that. Big time. (David McGee, reviewing the 'Platinum A Life In Music' box-set for RollingStone Magazine).
'Heartbreak, jealousy, loneliness-, Elvis Presley gave luxuriant voice to these less than cheerful emotions, but did you ever think of him as a balladeer of the unbearable bleakness of being, of the horror of existing without purpose in a godless universe? In the improbably vivacious London-born production of 'Woyzeck', vintage Elvis recordings provide much of the background music for Daniel Kramer's adaptation of Georg Büchner's great, prophetic drama of existential emptiness from the 1830's. Dolly Parton and, more predictably, Beethoven, make aural guest appearances but it's the voice of the Pelvis that sets the rhythm of life. And if the 'wedding' of Presley and Büchner is more shotgun marriage than natural love match, at least you leave the theater feeling less suicidal than you normally do, after two hours with one of the grimmest heroes in Western literature. (Ben Brantley, Chief Theater critic for The New York Times, in his article 'Where Existential Despair Meets Elvis', published on November 18, 2006).
'It is when Guralnick shows how young Elvis made his way through this cultural briar patch, that we get what we need. He got voluptuous phrasing and ecstatic self-confidence from gospel, wit and menace from the blues, homespun sincerity from country and, from what we can now call gay theatrics, he got glamour and self-parody. He played the outlaw and the good son. How he flirts with his audiences, first being casual, fervent, sneering, then inviting us to laugh at, or with him. 'As you desire me', he is saying, 'so shall I be'. Was he a great performer? Yes and yes again. He galvanized rock-and-roll and made you feel the fun and the risk and all the contradictions. That's self-invention, and that's entertainment'. (Margo Jefferson, reviewing Peter Guralnick's biography of Elvis Last Train to Memphis, The Rise of Elvis Presley for The New York Times (26 October, 1996).
'Sam Phillips used what we call 'slapback' or 'tape delay', which lent an otherworldly patina to Presley's voice. And I don't know if Sam was really conscious of it at the time, but if you listen to old pop and country records back then, the voice was always so much farther out from the music; Sam kept Elvis' voice close to the music, so, in essence, Elvis' voice became another instrument'
Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley's lead guitarrist from 1954 until 1968, as published in The 'Virginia Pilot', in an article entitled 'The rising of Sun Records cast music in new light', as written by Sue Smallwood.
'He rarely over-sang when recording, delivering a vocal to suit the song. So, he can loudly accuse in 'Hound Dog' (1956), rasp and rage for 'Jailhouse Rock' (1957), bare his soul and beg on 'Any Day Now' (1969) and sound quietly, sadly, worldly-wise on 'Funny How Time Slips Away'. (1970). This gift may explain why his music endures so powerfully and why his performances remain so easy to hear'. (Paul Simpson, in his book 'The Rough Guide To Elvis').
'With the way he was marketed, he didn't even need to be able to sing the way he could. But Elvis had talent, plain and simple. The guy had a thousandth-octave range, and a variety in his vocal styles and approach, he could make more vocal tones, with just his voice, than a guitar player with 50 pedals and gadgets. If you never even saw the guy, you could plain feel, not just hear, the emotion and passion in his voice, and you are immediately taken in, one hundred percent. On the merit of vocals alone, he had more talent in the barbecue stuck in his teeth than the singers who sell millions of records do today'. (Country singer Roger Wallace, in the web's 'Soapbox').
'It's our responsibility as musicians to keep pushing each other, to keep competing with each other. It's a really great competition. I see here artists like Beyonce and Alicia Keys and Rihanna and Chris Brown and Chris Martin, all in the same room, and we're going to push this music to the point where it was like in the 1960s and '70s, when the talk was about Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix, and the Beatles. We (all) will be the new Beatles. We (all) will be the new Hendrix; (in fact ) in any other industry, they'll tell you that you're supposed to do better than those in the past, so when you say, 'I want to be Elvis', they say, 'What's wrong with you?' Well, I wanna be Elvis'. (R&B superstar Kanye West, in accepting Best Album honors in the Rap & Hip-Hop category, at the American Music Awards, on November 23, 2008).
'A great, obscure, bluesy ballad that builds in intensity to a powerful ending, the song remains a hidden treasure in Presley's vast catalog; in 1968, while preparing for his comeback television special, he re-cut it, and that's some indication that he recognized the song's quality and his own affinity for it'. (William Ruhlmann, reviewing the Charlie Daniels/Bob Johnston composition 'It hurts me' , the only ballad from Presley's mid 60's repertoire he himself deemed worthy of a second try at a recording studio).
'That night at the 'Eagle's Nest', I remember, he was playing a D-18 Martin acoustic guitar and he was dressed in the latest teen fashion, but the thing I really noticed though, was his guitar playing. Elvis was a fabulous rhythm player. He'd start into 'That's All Right' , with his own guitar, alone, and you didn't want to hear anything else'. (Johnny Cash, in 'Cash, the autobiography', recalling the first time he saw Presley perform, at the 'Eagles Nest', in Memphis (1954).
'Elvis had a center of gravity that was low, but also set back and deep; his sexiest moves – legs lolling back and forth, smooth like jelly, hips rolling and tossing everywhere – were performed as if there were a paperweight on a string tied around his waist, and hung from his lower back; with his own weight adjusted to the back, he could free one leg to twist, pop, and jerk while maintaining perfect balance; Elvis' glory was in the shifting of his weight; when he gets going fast, the force of the shifts make his shoulders jerk so hard he looks like he is being electrocuted'. (New York Sun columnist Pia Catton explaining the reasons for Elvis' star quality, as a stage performer).
Elvis' early vocals, was a witches' brew of gospel swoops, falsetto shrieks, growls, howls, and scat...an anthem to human cockiness, to the healing, transcendent powers of the life-force. (Edwin Howard, of the 'Memphis Press-Scimitar', on Elvis' first recordings at the Sun Records label.)
'Elvis was big for me, even from a very young age; That was the music that was around my house; I love that stuff, great songs and, as a singer, he was 'The Great' rock and roll singer'. (Rogers Stevens, guitarist for the rock band Blind Melon, answering Ben Bounds's question as to whose artist influenced him the most, and the earliest, as published in the Starksville Daily news on 11 August 2008).
'I was always mesmerized by strong, pure, beautiful voices, (and) Elvis' voice, the emotion in it, was unbelievable; I'd never heard anything like it, and I was listening to my parents' records, like 'Heartbreak Hotel' and all the '50 s stuff, the real raw Elvis ... and that's how I gravitated into Patsy Cline, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris'. (Tricia Yearwood, Country music superstar, telling Martin Bandyke of the Detroit Free Free Press who are her four biggest influences, as published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, on 27 May 2008).
'We can even hazard a little analysis as to what made his voice so appealing. 'That curious baritone', one critic called it. Actually, that is inexact. The voice had mixed propensities, hovering between tenor and bass and everything in between. Even a convincing falsetto lay within his range. One thing he was not, ever, was 'Steve-'n-Edie', the polished, professionally accomplished Vegas artistes who once pronounced on an afternoon interview show (Mr. Lawrence enunciating the sentiment for himself and his partner/wife, Ms. Gorme), 'We don't really think of Elvis as a singer. But he was a star'. It is only when, years later, one gets past the indignation of hearing such apparent ignorance, that the sense of the observation becomes clear. A singer is someone like Steve Lawrence rolling effortlessly (and meaninglessly) through a shlock-standard like 'What Now, My Love?'. More or less like doing the scales. A star is the persona in whom one invests one's vicarious longings, a being who is constantly hazarding - and intermittently succeeding at - the impossible stretches that every soul wishes to attempt but lacks the means or the will to. It's not a matter of virtuosity'. (Jackson Baker, in 'Memphis Magazine', July 2002 issue).
'He never understood the artistic claims that were made for him, probably thought very little of the nature of his appeal or his music; yet, as author Greil Marcus points out in 'Mystery Train', it is possible to see (all that) as a positive factor; Presley viewed 'rock and roll' as for the body, not the mind, so he recorded and performed accordingly; and, if much of his rock music sounds superficial, it was thanks to his undoubted vocal talent and extraordinary charisma that, at least, it was all gloriously superficial and celebratory; he knew better than to take it seriously and, in doing so, he become the consummate rock figure, one that defined its spirit by delighting in its very limitations'. (Stephen Barnard, in his book 'Popular Music, Volume I: Folk or Popular?).
'The voice of Elvis Presley is perhaps the most contested acoustical phenomenon in modern culture. I can understand why some listeners may prefer the original versions (of R&B artists) to Presley's covers, but it is more difficult to claim that these were immoral or unethical. In terms of vocal style and instrumental arrangement, Presley actually borrows relatively little, his appropriations (being) more straightforward, taking from the materials already protected by copyright: lyrics and melody. So, unless he can be criticized for not imitating an original R&B artist's rendition, we have to reevaluate Elvis' transgressions'. Joanna Demers, in her book 'Musical appreciation, musical meaning and the Law', published in 2007).
'I was about 10 years old, the first time I heard Elvis Presley's voice, pouring from my father's car radio, in East St. Louis, Illinois; I can't recall the song, whether it was a ballad or a rocker (but), what I remember is how his voice, that smoldering rumble of a voice, made my skin tingle; I don't know why, but I just loved his voice, his sound just did something to me'. (Ilva Price, an African American now living in West Memphis, TN, recalling how her father, angry about rumours (later found by 'Jet' magazine to be fabricated), that Presley had stolen their music and was a racist, quickly turned off the radio when he noticed her daughter's reaction to his voice, then called him a 'cracker', a racial epithet as disgusting as any other, as told in an interview with Boston Globe staffer Renee Graham, and published in that paper on August 11, 2002).
'In the end, though, it is his voice above all, that lives on; from the very beggining as a bright and eager youngster capering around the SUN studios, exitedly hammering together two musical styles to create an unforgettable allow, all of his own, right up until the later years, spent booming out ballads in the massive auditoria that were his domain during the seventies - even during the frequently written-off Hollywood years-, his voice never let him down; it is impossible from this perspective to imagine a world without Elvis, his voice booming out from radios and computers, from spaceships circling the further reaches of the galaxy, his voice echoing back; (in fact), it is almost inconceivable that any single individual could have made such a mark'. (Patrick Humphries discussing Elvis' voice, in his introduction to his book ' The Secret History of the Classics').
'It is a weakness of the mind to preconceive a judgment of your thought, before the act is done. Despite the acid hemlock stirred by the SUN, Mr. Presley will survive and live to sing some more. Perhaps this cat should have studied grand opera, or the fiddle (but), I don't join that school of thought. You see, he's a natural and any dope knows what a natural is. His vocal is real and has a hep to the motion of sound, with a retort that is tremendous. Squares who like to detract their imagined misvalues can only size a note creeping upstairs after dark; this cat can throw them downstairs, or even out the window, with a depth of tone that can sink deeper than a well. He can wilt into a whisper faster than a gossipmonger can throw down a free drink and he really makes them cry. Presley's voice is that of American youth looking at the moon and wondering how long it will take to get there, something new coming over the horizon, all by himself, and he deserves his ever-growing audience. Yep, this boy's sails are set and he's got wind. Good luck and the best of everything. I hope they hold you over! After all, ten million cats can't be wrong'. (Ed Jameson, President and CEO of Bancorp, Las Vegas, writing a letter to the Editor, as a then teenager, and as publshed in the 'Las Vegas SUN', on May 12, 1956).
'The success of posthumous duets is often indirectly correlated to the respect with which the dearly departed is treated: the higher the pedestal, the less convincing the result. Wisely, the female country stars on 'Christmas Duets' try to match Elvis Presley's mood, whether it's Carrie Underwood's tenderness on 'I'll Be Home for Christmas' (1957), or Wynonna Judd's brawn on 'Santa Claus Is Back in Town.' (1957), On a wild eight-minute 'Merry Christmas Baby', (1971), Gretchen Wilson saunters up to the song, full of attitude, before giving in; it sounds as if she's flirting with Mr. Presley just across the bar'. (Jon Carmanica reviewing the 'Christmas Duets' album for the New York Times).
'Elvis loved gospel music, he was raised on it, and he really did know what he was talking about; we would jam with him for an hour, and he had a feel for it and was 'tickled' to have four 'church sisters' backing him up; he was singing Gospel all the time, (in fact), almost anything he did had that flavour. You can't get away from what your roots are'. (Gospel singer Cissy Houston, mother of Whitney Houston, and a founding member of the 'Sweet Inspirations', one of the Gospel Groups who backed Presley in his live performances, from 1969 until his death, as told to Jerry Helligar in an interview published in 'True Believer', at classicwhitney.com, on Aug 10, 1998).
'Certainly the most famous performer to be attached to a tongues-speaking fellowship was Elvis Presley; shortly after the Presleys arrived in Memphis, from Tupelo, a First Assembly of God bus swung through their rundown neighborhood, so they climbed aboard and became regulars of Pastor James Hamill's congregation; Hamill remembers Elvis attended Sunday school and was exposed there to the best in Pentecostal music; in 1957, after he achieved international acclaim, Presley said 'We used to go to these religious sing-ins all the time, and there were these perfectly fine singers nobody responded to, but there were also these other singers who cut up all over the place, jumping on the piano, moving every which way, and all of which the audience liked, so I guess I learned from them'; uninhibited Pentecostalism gave young Elvis ideas about music and performance and, from then on, he was sometimes called the 'Evangelist' by his inner circle of friends'. (Randall J. Stephens, American Religion historian, recounting how Elvis got attached to Gospel and Christian Music, years before he decided to take up a music career, albeit heavily influencing it, as excerpted from in his book 'The Fire Spreads: Holiness and Pentecostalism in the American South', published in 2008).
'Blues, country, pop, rock and roll, gospel, and beyond, this man could sing anything. From the rockabilly of the Sun Sessions to the MOR of 'Wooden Heart'(1960), to the later day 'Burnin' Love' (1972), Elvis proved that he had the skills as a vocalist that few have, or will ever have'. (Rob Jones, Canadian musicologist, writing in 'Helium: Where knowledge rules').
'I remember Elvis as a young man hanging around the Sun studios. Even then, I knew this kid had a tremendous talent. He was a dynamic young boy. His phraseology, his way of looking at a song, was as unique as Sinatra's. I was a tremendous fan and had Elvis lived, there would have been no end to his inventiveness'. (B.B. King, King of the Blues).
'In the collective memory of his fans, he reigns as the sleek musical genius who soaked up the multiple influences of America's vernacular music -gospel, country swing, rhythm 'n' blues - , and made them his own; Bob Dylan, one of pop's favorite poets, put it best: Elvis, he said, was 'the incendiary atomic musical firebrand loner who conquered the western world'. (Gwen Gibson, in his article 'The Top 10 Pop Stars, Ever', published in the AARP's May 2003 edition).
'Once upon a time, all we knew about Elvis was that he sang like a motherfucker; and that was all that mattered; you know, when you gas up and you go to pay inside the gas station and you hear Elvis singing Surrender, (1961), you know that the mystery of that guy, was everything; the voice, and the mystery, and the not knowing; and I think the great thing about anything that you hear over the waves is, you don't want to know too much, you know?' (Robert Plant, lead singer of Led Zeppelin, explaining to critic Rub Trucks why he loves the mystery of the southern United States, and his debt to Elvis, whose music influenced him the most).
'Elvis Presley did more to change the course of popular music and youth culture than any other entertainer in the twentieth century, beginning with his meeting Sam Phillips in 1954, at the Sun Records label, in Memphis. In 1956, for Presley's first single at RCA, producer Steve Sholes was adamant that Phillips' sonic treatments be adhered to, as closely as possible. So, in attempting to recreate the Sun echo sound, Sholes relied on the ambience of RCA's then-cavernous recording studio in Nashville, rather than the tape-delay method; the major problem facing Sholes was Presley's tendency to get carried away with the music and wander away from the microphone; so, rather than spoil the singer's fun, Sholes decided to position three microphones around Presley to capture his quivering voice, no matter where he strayed; the results were breathtaking'. (Columbia University's 'History of Record Production' (Part II of syllabus).
'In the mid-60s, when Elvis was making those godawful movies and my friends and I were buying albums by the Stones and the Yardbirds, a mate and I would always go to see Elvis on the big screen; we knew the formula and always used to laugh about them afterwards, but what I also remember is what used to happen in the cinema: not long after the opening credits the audience would start talking and laughing through the dialogue - but the second Elvis sang everyone would stop and listen; Elvis' voice had that effect, even when he was considered as a joke by a generation grown up on tougher music and rock musicians who seemed much more rebellious, dangerous and innovative; so, for me, it has always been about the music and even when he was all but lost to us, in those final years, you can still hear that raw passion flare up; and I defy anyone, knowing that he had just separated from his wife and was heartbroken, to listen to 'Always on my Mind' and 'Fool', and not be moved; you can hear a man whose heart is breaking. Listening to the best of his music, whether it be raw rock'n'roll or those genuinely heart aching ballads, confirms for me that Elvis has never left the building'. (New Zealand Herald's columnist and writer Graham Reid, on his recent visit to Graceland).
'Elvis manages to pull off exponential, seismic shifts in energy, unleashing hoards of it through his voice whilst, within the space of a second, racing up the highest, most absolute vocal intensity; it's almost voyeuristic to see a single performer put so much energy; you look around to see if it's really possible; the voice just becomes a big tank panzering through the screen, punching in chorus after driving chorus and it is insanely, inexplicably thrilling seismic TV, bigger than the moon landing, a one-man volcano of energy; he makes it seem so damn effortless and, despite all the waiting and expected attention during the solo numbers, he always puts in an on-performance, the three unflagging takes of 'If I can Dream' all intense, committed; and he does this through vocal performance alone, not moves; this is probably one of the few times where the vocals mattered most to him, and it shows; after days of intense singing, he hardly even loses his voice; I challenge any current pop singer to match this three-day heavy intensity, this sheer rock and roll energy'. (Francis K. Green, as excerpted from his review of Elvis' TV Special, shot at the NBC Burbank Studios over three days in the summer of 1968, and as published in slowreview.com)
'There was no model for Elvis Presley's success; what Sun Records head Sam Phillips sensed was something in the wind, an inevitable outgrowth of all the country and blues he was recording at his Union Avenue studio; enter Presley in 1954, bringing with him a musical vocabulary rich in country, country blues, gospel, inspirational music, bluegrass, traditional country, and popular music -- as well as a host of emotional needs that found their most eloquent expression in song; his timing was impeccable, not only as a vocalist, but with regard to the cultural zeitgeist: emerging in the first blush of America's postwar ebullience, Presley captured the spirit of a country flexing its industrial muscle, of a generation unburdened by the concerns of war, younger, more mobile, more affluent, and better educated than any that had come before; (as such), the Sun recordings were the first salvos in an undeclared war on segregated radio stations nationwide. (Rollingstone Magazine, focussing on the importance of Elvis' Sun Records label recordings.)
'Arguably some of the most important tracks in the history of Rock and Roll, Elvis' SUN recordings demonstrate what a dynamic and talented vocalist he was; the young, raw, unadulterated Elvis whom musicologist Francis Davis once called 'the greatest white blues singer'; I'm not one to argue with Mr. Davis'. (Art's Strange World review of the CD 'The Sun Sessions', as published on August 15, 20070.
'From the darkest of backgrounds, Elvis' voice emerges with such realism that you could take singing lessons, his vocals so irresistible and smooth, and with such startling definition, that the clearest and most concise way I can describe the experience, is that I never felt as though I was listening to a recording'. (Danny Kaey, a top audio & music writer, reviewing the Duke loudspeakers, as he listened to 'Fever', a track found on the 'Elvis Is Back' album, and as published in Positive Feedback, Online).
'Elvis Presley's incendiary vocal performance of 'Baby Let's Play House' (1955), hails from rockabilly's formative era, when the rules hadn't yet been cast in stone, and Elvis was still experimenting in overdrive, searching for the compelling sound that would catapult him to icon status in little over a year. Presley's slapback, echo-laden hiccuping - briefly rendered 'a cappella' before the snarling low-end guitar of Scotty Moore enters -, segues into an irresistibly lascivious declaration of lust, and a not-so-subtle hint of violence. Both of Scotty Moore's immaculately conceived, and executed solos were monstrously influential to the rockabilly idiom, copied by countless Southern axe-wielding teens. And Bill Black slaps his thundering upright bass so percussively, that no drummer was necessary'. (Bill Dahl, reviewing Elvis' fourth release at the Sun Records label, for AllMusicGuide.com).
'Take 'My baby left me' (1956) by Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup, the black Mississippi sharecropper whose 'That's All Right' had literally been Elvis' first recording, in 1954. Crudup kept his blues in a bucket; Elvis put the lid on, and cooked; bar by bar, the song comes together; first comes D.J. Fontana's rapped-out drum riff, then a top-to-bottom run from Bill Black's stand-up bass, then the controlled gallop of Scotty Moore's lead guitar; then, last of all, Elvis singing in that imperious velvet growl of his, 'Yes, my baby left me! Never said a word'; it is the most underestimated song in the canon; there is lightning in that bucket, and it could drive a train, any train. It literally took us into a new age. Endow a university! Elvis was a university. Whoever those mystics are who teach that the universe began with sound could use him as their full curriculum'. (Jackson Baker, as published in 'The Memphis Flyer', August 8-14, 1996 edition).
'You have no idea how great he is, really you don't. You have no comprehension - it's absolutely impossible. I can't tell you why he's so great, but he is'. (Phil Spector, record producer, the originator of the 'Wall of Sound' technique).
'I wanted to look at Elvis the non-saint, as well as the nature of songs from the '50's, all that postwar optimism; he's iconic, a wonderful singer with an amazing body of work, but he's a bit like Billie Holiday, you're not 'allowed' to be critical'. (Barb Jungr, UK-based singer, composer, and writer of Czech and German parentage, explaining why she fell in love with the voice of Elvis Presley, went searching for the essence of a dozen of her Presley favourites, as well as her particular predicament in choosing the right ones for her album 'Love me tender', as published in the Herald, Glasgow, on August 5, and on the April 13-20, 2005 issue of 'Time Out, London').
'From the first quavering notes of the song, it was obvious that there was something different about him -- you could detect his influences, but he didn't sound like anyone else. There is a quality of unutterable plaintiveness as Elvis, in 1953, sings 'My Happiness', a pop hit,in 1948, for Jon and Sandra Steele, and a sentimental ballad that couldn't have been further from anyone's imaginings of rock-and-roll. It is just a pure, yearning, almost desperately pleading solo voice reaching for effect. The guitar, Elvis said, 'sounded like somebody beating on a bucket lid', with an added factor of nervousness that Elvis must surely have felt. But even that is not particularly detectable -- there is a strange sense of calm, an almost unsettling stillness in the midst of great drama. When he finished, the boy looked up expectantly at the man in the control booth. Mr. Phillips nodded and said politely that he was an 'interesting' singer. 'We might give you a call sometime'. (Description of the-then 18-year-old Elvis paying $4 to make a personal record at Sam Phillips's Memphis Recording Service in 1953, as published by the New York Times on October 9, 1994).
'Elvis was a (Gospel) singer par excellence. On 'Milky White Way', (1960), he' got the strength of a bassman and the sweetness of a tenor. The heritage we have in Elvis' gospel music is a gift to the world'. (Paul Poulton, as published in 'Cross Rhythms Magazine').
'What he actually did was take 'black' and 'white' music and transform them into this third thing; (in the final analysis), no one sang so many different kinds of music - rock, gospel, country, standards -, as well as Presley sang them, at such a high level, and for such a long time'. (Greg Drew, world famous voice coach whose clients include Lenny Kravits, Avril Lavigne, and Corey Glover, as quoted in Mike Brewster's 'The Great Innovators: Birth of a Rock star', published by Business Week in its September 24, 2004 issue).
'I discovered the blues in a funny kind of a way, from the age of seven when I was listening to my father's war-time collection of big band jazz. It had that thing about it – I didn't really know what it was –, that set the pulse racing a bit; and then I heard echoes of it again, with early Elvis Presley'. (Ian Anderson, singer, flautist and leader of Jethro Tull, explaining to G.Brown, of the Denver Music Examiner, his first experience with hearing the blues, starting at the age of 7).
'But it was on the gospel numbers, such as the stunning 'How great thou art', (1977) that Presley showed the awesome power of his voice. The fact that he has one of the greatest voices in popular music has been obscured by the mystique that has surrounded him'. (Steve Millburgh, writing for the 'Omaha World Herald', on one of Presley's last concerts, on 19 June 1977).
'The point of Elvis Presley was that, after a dismal eight years on the screen, he returned to the stage where he always belonged and to the grinding treadmill of being on the road, which has killed so many of America's artists; he may not have pushed the boundaries of music farther but when he opened his mouth to release that baritone - the only white voice that could ever match the blues. All you could feel was his longing. and your own stirrings'. (Adrian Hamilton, writing for 'The Independent', on August 14, 2002).
'Elvis was one of the prime architects of rock and roll music. As such, he influenced several generations both musically and socially. The urgency in Presley's voice is just one part of the equation, and the ease with which he swings tells the rest of the story. Equal parts balladeer and rockabilly king, Elvis played both sides of the fence. He was both tender-love-man and hard-hitting rebel. As this collection proves, his genius was in the way he made it work'. (UK Channel 4's review of 'Elvis Golden Record, Volume II').
'He treats the song as a private meditation, full of pain and the yearning to believe. Though the lyrics speak of hope, Elvis turns them into a cry, as if reaching for one last sliver of light in engulfing darkness. 'I am alone', he seems to be saying. But maybe, just maybe, we can find someone or something to cling to. In his case, it's God. But each of us, hearing him, reaches for our own salvation; if great art needs nakedness (then), those few minutes of Elvis alone at the piano amount to the most naked performance I've ever witnessed'. (Nick Cohn, commenting on Elvis Presley's rendition, totally alone at the piano, of 'You'll never walk alone', as witnessed by a full house of 17,500 gathering at the second of his two shows at the Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY, on 19 July, 1975, as published in the Guardian's Sunday edition, on January 21, 200)7.
'When in true form, he was fabulous, his voice and vocal pitch a lot more remarkable than it ever came off on record; in fact, Elvis was a much better singer than could ever be captured; you know, some singers' voices are just too big, and Elvis' was like that'. (Myrna Smith singer of the gospel group 'The Sweet Inspirations', who performed with Elvis for a number of years in the last phase of his career, as published in an article entitled 'Elvis, musical prodigy' in www.elvis.com.au, on 6 July 2008).
'Elvis Presley caught the public's imagination through two things: his unique ability to synthesize all American music styles and his fantastic interpretive qualities as a vocalist; that he managed to keep the public's attention after the music began to suffer, is due to his remarkable charisma, an unparalleled force that was stronger than any ten other men in his peer group; (while) it's the charisma that allowed him to get away with covering substandard songs like 'A Little Less Conversation', (1968), it's his musical ability alone that elevated it to a status it didn't deserve, creating something so endearing that the simplest of remix jobs could make it sound contemporary, a quarter-century after his death; he may always be a punchline to some people, but the continuing evolution of our fascination with the King has to do with his ability to reinvent himself every time he's heard; even, apparently, from beyond'. (Robert Fontenot, music historian and critic at www.about.com, commenting on JXL's re-mix of 'A little less conversation', which topped the world's charts in 2002).
'As a vocalist, Elvis Presley possessed the rare ability to give the melodramatic a genuine authenticity; it's easy to take Elvis Presley for granted and yes, we all know that Elvis had a huge role in defining rock in the beginning, but few of us really know what that means; but then there's that voice, which Elvis uses to cut through to the most complex meaning of the song - the meaning that the song's writers might not even know exists - and lay it bare. On 'From Elvis In Memphis', he takes the longing sentiment in 'Any Day Now' (1969), his voice lending it a certain buoyancy that most artists would never even think belongs, and in doing so he embeds a deceptively simple pop song with depth and mystery, all through inflection; a craftsman at heart, his experimentation didn't manifest itself in innovation, but in refinement of his already incomparable technique; as a result, 'From Elvis In Memphis' documents what happens when an artist who instinctively personalizes the songs he sings decides to get even more personal; the outcome is raw, stripped of all pretense, and dedicated to the idea of the song, his voice bringing with it a grave amount of weight; if you want an indication of why Elvis deserves a place in current pop culture, pick up 'From Elvis In Memphis'; the music speaks for itself; authenticity never goes out of style. (Marty Brown, music critic for CultureCartel.com, reviewing 'From Elvis in Memphis', on 15 August 2002).
'Lesson #1 is that rock music is in the fighting spirit, not in the amperage of the guitars; indeed, some of the toughest rocking has come from all, or mostly acoustic bands; Elvis presented a primer lesson from the famous Sun sessions, with a simple blues song through the most famous faux false start in rock history; he and the boys start out all slow and bluesy, before stopping the band cold and calling it out like the hippest beat poet: 'Hold it fellas. That don't... move me. Let's get real, real gone for a change'. Then they did, let it loose, turned every bit of intensity in their beings into a jumping arrangement, much faster and more rhythmically nuanced a performance than the opening. Much of the intensity is in the fast and furious, but precisely laid out detail work; there is a strong sense of spontaneity and discovery, but what ultimately makes this a hall-of-fame performance is the vocal performance; Elvis doing tricks, making sudden octave wide jumps. 'If you see my milkcow..'. There is a charismatic determination of spirit that Nietzsche would no doubt have recognized as the will to power; when the King got through with it, it was no longer anything to do with a high calcium drink, but about the singer's assertion of his place in the universe'. (Review of 'Milkcow Blues' (1954), Elvis third single for the Sun Records Label, by MoreThings.com).
'It was just before Christmas 1962 and as I was driving from El Paso to the East Coast, I began forming the idea that would become this song; not very long afterwards my long-time friend Bob Johnston invited me to Nashville, and we finished this one together; Bob did a demo on it and when Elvis came to town, he picked it up and held it for almost a year in what was then called his portfolio; so, anyway, he recorded it and it was by far the biggest thing that had ever happened to me in my life'. (Country rocker Charlie Daniels, explaining how the power ballad 'It hurts me' came into being, and what it meant to him, as published in SONGFACTS.com).
'Without preamble, the three-piece band cuts loose. In the spotlight, the lanky singer flails furious rhythms on his guitar, every now and then breaking a string; in a pivoting stance, his hips swing sensuously from side to side and his entire body takes on a frantic quiver, as if he had swallowed a jackhammer; his loud baritone goes raw and whining in the high notes, but down low it is rich and round. As he throws himself into one of his specialties - 'Blue Suede Shoes' or 'Long Tall Sally', his throat seems full of desperate aspirates or hiccuping glottis strokes, but his movements suggest, in a word, sex'. (Time Magazine's review of an early 1956 concert and entitled 'Teeners' Hero', as published on May 14, 1956).
'Had Presley never sung a note he might have still caused a stir, but sing he did. Watershed hits such as 'All Shook Up' (1957) or, for instance, 'Are You Lonesome Tonight', (1960), were eminently Presley's from the moment he put his stamp on them. His jagged, bubbly highs, and Southern baritone jump from those recordings like spirits from a cauldron. Elvis crooned romantically, then screeched relentlessly, always pouring his heart into the lyric and melody. After Elvis, the male vocalist could no longer just sing a song, especially in the new world of rock-n-roll. The 'feel' of a performance far out-weighed the perfection of the take'. (James Campion, in his book 'The 25 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century', published in 1996).
'Steve Sholes, who produced the session, said, 'Roll the tape.' And I said, 'But I haven't heard the song yet!' And he said, 'Roll the tape, Bill!' and I look and the studio is totally black out there. I can't see a thing. I said, 'You're kidding!' He said, 'No, roll the tape!'. So, I roll the tape and I don't know what's going to happen. And a guitar starts off, and then a bass comes in, and Elvis starts singing. And I still can't see a thing in the studio. And I'm afraid to turn any mikes off because somebody may come in and start playing. All of a sudden, Elvis stops singing and just starts talking. And I say to myself, 'This is awful!' because you don't normally put a lot of echo on dialogue. And I thought, next take I'll just turn it down, so we just did the take all the way through. If you listen to the dialogue, the echo matches the effect, because he says, 'And the stage is bare, and I'm standing there…'. Later, I said, 'How about that echo?'. Sholes said, 'Screw the echo, that's a hit!'. And it was done in one take..'. (Bill Porter, RCA's foremost recording engineer and one of the creators of 'The Nashville Sound', explaining to Michael Fermer how 'Are you lonesome tonight' (1960) came into being, with the lights totally turned off, at Elvis' insistance so as to create the best atmosphere possible, but without Porter knowing about it).
'But it is Presley's singing, halfway between a western and a rock 'n' roll style, that has sent teen-agers into a trance; they like his wailing in a popular song like 'Blue Moon' or such western tunes as 'I'll Never Let You Go', but they go crazy over the earthy, lusty mood of such rock 'n' roll numbers as 'Money Honey'; and the reason is simple enough: Presley sings with a beat; and you can be certain that there'll always be music with a beat and that, whether you like it or not, there will always be an Elvis Presley'. (Helen McNamara, Canadian Music writer, and book author, writing on Presley's future impact, as published in the June 9, 1956, issue of 'Saturday Night Magazine').
'Then, in mid 1968 he taped a television special in a black leather suit, in front of a select live audience, opening with 'Guitar Man' and closing with a mild social-conscience song, 'If I Can Dream'. But it wasn't until Greil Marcus brought out the recording of that performance for me, almost three years later, that I realized how significant it had been. Marcus has spent as much time listening as anyone who is liable to be objective, and he believes Elvis may have made the best music of his life that crucial comeback night. It's so easy to forget that Elvis was, or is, a great singer. Any account of his impact that omits that fundamental fact amounts to a dismissal'. Robert Christgau, Dean of American Rock critics, in his 1973 book 'Any old way you choose').
'We are startled, on the amazing 'Blue Moon',(1954), by his trick of shifting, in a heartbeat, from saloon baritone to pants-too-tight wailing and by his near Hawaiian avoiding of consonants ('Ya-hoo A-know Ah can be fou'/ Sittin' home all alo'), from 'Don't Be Cruel' (1956), a song that comes close to redefining the art of the pop vocal; So, what's left? A terrific crooner who was closer, in intonation, vocal virtuosity and care for a song's mood, to Bing Crosby, than to any top singer of the rock era. Toward the end, he still had it as a Gospel ballader, the choir-soloist power of the hymn 'He Touched Me' (1971) - his voice breaking poignantly at the end of the hymn, as if he had just seen Jesus - still thrills and haunts. So does his desire to please an audience of kids and grandmas, instead of comfortably occupying a niche, as almost every pop star has done since'. (Richard Corliss, TIME magazine's Music Editor, reviewing the 'Platinum', box-set, as published in the magazine's January 8, 2003 edition).
'During my long career in broadcasting, I've had the chance to interview lots of famous people; it was late summer in 1976 when I was sent out to the Arena to cover some sort of special announcement from manager Bob Kunkel, whose look, as soon as we entered the room, told us that this was no hunting and fishing extravaganza he was promoting but an Elvis Presley concert; before leaving, I cornered him to ask about helping arrange an exclusive interview; he laughed and said, 'Good luck with that'; so, instead, I managed to get six tickets, at 15 dollars each, with each of our daughters having to come up with five bucks each, on their own, to help cover the cost; the show itself was memorable for the music, and his voice was strong but he looked tired and not well. A few months later, Elvis was back; this time, his voice was even stronger but he looked worse; two months later, he was dead and that's when my family and I went to see him, one last time, in a memorable trip where we and thousands of others, walked slowly through those gates to view his grave. That 'show' was for free. (Doug Lund, Director of KELO/TV, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, recalling his sad, albeit memorable experience of not being able to interview Elvis twice, and his attending his funeral, all in a period of less than nine months, as published on 23 March, 2007 in keloland.com).
'Arguably the finest recording found in all the Sun sessions, 'Trying To Get To You' (1955), is a song that Presley made his own due to his hugely committed vocal, and the simple carefree abandon with which he performs it; at first, it feels like a classic country song with simple, elegant lyrics; but it is at the bridge - where Elvis really lets fly -, that the song is transformed from a lovely country lament, into deep blues; although the 1955 version is magnificent, Elvis manages to better it on his '1968 Comeback Special', in which he sings the song with so much intensity, it prompted critic Greil Marcus to exclaim 'this is probably the finest rock and roll ever recorded'. (Thomas Ward's review, for AllMusicGuide.com, of 'Trying To Get To You', whose original version has now been confirmed, by BMG/RCA (which owns all the Presley Sun catalogue), as having been sang and recorded by Elvis while simultaneously playing the piano, with Sun Records' Sam Philips immediately arranging the mix so that his rather loud (and then still amateurish) piano playing could not be heard in the final master take).
'He had an incredible, attractive instrument that worked in many registers; He could falsetto like Little Richard, his equipment was outstanding, his ear uncanny, and his sense of timing second to none; (in short) he could sing..'. (Jerry Leiber, who with Mike Stoller, co-wrote some of the greatest R&R and Pop hits).
'In the early going at the Charlotte Coliseum, there were scattered notes here and there that made you wonder if finally he was gonna do it but, always, he would pull up short, rely on the grins, the charisma and the legend, until finally a little before 10:45, he came to the gospel classic, 'How Great Thou Art'-. And that was it. As he came to the part where he belts out the title, he sounded like Mario Lanza with soul, cutting loose a series of high notes that would tingle the spine of even the diehard skeptic; but crecendo came on a song called 'Hurt'; it's an old song that Elvis didn't record until a couple of years ago, and the key ingredient is its range, an awesome collection of notes that could leave a normal set of vocal chords in shreds; he finished in what seemed his most potent style, but wasn't satisfied, and mumbled to the band, 'Let's do that last part again'.; he did, and if there was anyone among the packed-house crowd who had thought Elvis was a fluke, they no doubt came away converted. (Frye Gaillard, reviewing his February 20, 1977 show at the Coliseum, for the 'The Charlotte Observer').
'Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman's 'Viva Las Vegas' (1963), was custom-written as the title song for Elvis Presley's 14th film, a rollicking tribute to the city of gambling given a spirited performance by Presley and his session musicians; strangely, it remained an underrated Presley song for a long time, finally beginning to gain some recognition from an unexpected quarter when the 'Dead Kennedys' recorded it in 1980, their radical recontextualization of it helping the song to an independent life beyond its origins; on its own, it can now be appreciated as a tribute to Las Vegas that probably deserves to be the city's official anthem. (William Ruhlmann, reviewing 'Viva Las Vegas' for AllMusicGuide.com, before the Office of the Mayor of Las Vegas requested Elvis Presley Enterprises to allow it to become the city's official song; the price demanded by EPE was too high, so Las Vegas remains, to this date, without an official song).
'Even in his laziest moments, Presley was a master of intonation and phrasing, delivering his rich baritone with a disarming naturalness. And when he caught a spark from his great T.C.B. Band, Presley could still out-sing anyone in American pop. You can hear it here on inspired versions of Muddy Waters'Got My Mojo Working' (1971), Wayne Carson's 'Always on My Mind'(1972), Chuck Berry's 'Promised Land' (1975), McCartney's 'Lady Madonna' (1970), Percy Mayfield's 'Stranger in My Own Hometown'(1969), Dennis Linde's 'Burning Love' (1972) and Joe South's 'Walk a Mile in My Shoes' (1970). (Geoffrey Himes, reviewing the 'Essential 70's masters' box-set).
'Riding a streamlined rock-and-roll beat, the singer's vocal swoops, slurs, hiccups, moans and growls added up to a new pop singing vocabulary that was instantly memorized by scores of imitators. The antithesis of a relaxed conversational crooning, Presley's style was fraught with tension and animated by an attitude of self-conscious melodrama, woving the whole unwieldy spectrum of pop singing - country-blues, Italianate crooning, Gospel, soul shouting, and honky-tonk yodeling - into an integral personal style. His crowning touch was to accentuate the spontaneously exuberant humor that had always been an ingredient of country, and the blues, but singing it in a way that seemed to poke fun at his own accomplishment'. (Stephen Holding, in the article 'A Hillbilly who wove a rock and roll spell', published by the New York Times).
'Even as a young man, that's what Presley sounded, like a man. I wasn't of a culture nor a region that found Presley appealing, and I've never seen a Presley movie through but, a few years ago when in a tribute to him various modern singers covered some of his originals, followed, or enclosed by, his versions of the same songs, I was struck by how much fuller, deeper, and richer his were'. (Al Spike, explaining to North Africans why Presley's manly baritone rang true, in the web's 'Chicago Boyz').
'This is the best way to hear Elvis the Superstar, with 'Hound Dog', (1956)', - ,All Shook Up',(1957), 'Are You Lonesome Tonight' (1960), and the ever zany 'Suspicious Minds' (1969), still sounding fresh and immediate - impressive given how many times most the world has heard them, and showing off the diversity of Elvis' singing, from the purity of his gospel falsetto to his rock and roll purr'. (Josh Tyrangiel, reviewing 'Elvis 30 Number One hits', for TIME magazine's 'The All Time best 100 albums', as published in its November 13, 2006, edition).
'Take a track like 'One Sided Love Affair' (1956), and really examine every nuance of his voice, every caress, every tease and every growl that he lets loose for the song's duration, and you'll you come to understand that the reason Presley's voice has been so often imitated is because it was unique and, furthermore, fuckin' great; no phony piano intro, not even a puerile lyric could have ever stopped him from turning this song into a real classic; imagine, then, how great it is when Elvis gets to sing material that is up to his standards - like on the Sun Records label song 'Tryin' To Get You' (1955) - , probably the bluesiest song on this record, where Presley shows a sense of determination, not just a combination of nobleness and sex, but an expression of guts as well; quite simply, this is a guy who knows what he wants, and knows he's gonna get it, and his confidence - never arrogance -, is so contagious that by the end of the song, you believe it too. (Daniel Reifferscheid, reviewing Elvis' first album, for Toxic Universe.)
'But the last side, recorded during rehearsals for his 1968 television special, is another treat, as fine and tough and overflowing with heart and soul as any of his 50's recordings. Playing an electric guitar, rather than his customary acoustic model, he traded fluid rhythm and lead parts with Scotty Moore, their interplay almost telepathic. And with his original drummer, D. J. Fontana, stoking the fires, this music moved, from the ferocious version of Rufus Thomas's Sun Records label blues 'Tiger Man' to Jimmy Reed blues shuffles, to smoldering New Orleans triplet-style blues-ballads like 'Lawdy Miss Clawdy' and 'One Night'. This is rock and roll as good as it gets. (Robert Palmer, reviewing Elvis' boxed set, 'A Golden Celebration' , for the New York Times on Nov. 18, 1984).
'During his rendition of 'Hurt', (1976), he was in even better voice, singing in a register that gave more impact to his phrasing, and even hitting notes that could cause a mild hernia. And, after they drew a good crowd reaction, he offered them in a reprise that was tantamount to masochism'. (Mike Kalina, reviewing Elvis' 1976 New Year's concert for the 'Pittsburgh Post-Gazette', January 1, 1977).
'A double voice that alternates between a high quaver, reminiscent of Johnnie Ray at his fiercest, and a rich basso that might be smooth if it were not for its spasmodic delivery. 'Heartbreak Hotel', yelps the high voice, is where he's going to get away from it all. Answers the basso: 'he'll be sorry'. (TIME magazine's review, of the then recently-issued single, 'Heartbreak Hotel', (1956), April 02, 1956 issue).
'Listening to these songs today, their most remarkable feature is Presley's voice itself. He takes the Platters' Tony Williams's techniques, and any other predecessor's, to new, uncharted pinnacles. For a singer who was only just encountering widespread popularity, his singing resonates with amazing fortitude and confidence, especially on 'Heartbreak Hotel', (1956), where Presley alternately shouts words with full lungs, then gulps the following back, as if under water but without missing a beat. In 'Loving you' (1957), Presley's baritone on this, the ultimate slow dance number, is almost too powerful, virtually rumbling the floor..'. (David N. Townsend, in his essay 'Changing the World: Rock 'n' Roll's Culture and Ideology').
'While he sings in a lower voice than ever -and what I liked about the early records was that beautifully vulnerable high voice-, he opened his Boston concert (1971) with 'That's Alright Mama' (1954), singing it with enough verve to scare the unsuspecting. It was his very first record, and although it doesn't sound quite the same as when he did it 17 years ago at the Sun studios in Memphis, I was moved by the fact that he was doing it at all. It was a tour de force of theatrics, professionalism, and, happily, music. (In fact), he sings so well, the audience hesitates to press him for more, his purpose being to please himself by pleasing them, never to please them by pleasing himself'. (Jon Landau, for 'Rolling Stone' magazine, reviewing his November 10, 1971, concert at the Boston Garden).
'I don't really think Elvis' voice was significantly lower than those of any other baritones. The colour of the voice and the sense of warmth and richness of tone gave the sense that the voice was much deeper. Elvis, in fact, did not force his lower register, comfortable as he was with it, which in turn gave the impression that it was lower than those of other baritones'. (Brian Gilbertson, world-famous voice teacher, explaining the deepness of Elvis' lower registry).
'(In Rockabilly), the vocal is another important aspect. It should be rough cut and edgy, but also sweet enough to milk the honey from a honey comb at times. Elvis could span several octaves with his voice, thus leaving almost no desires left towards the key of the song'. ('The High Noon').
'In 'T.R.O.U.B.L.E', (1975), his baritone was still as solid as ever, with its humorously cavernous bottom and its nasal vibrato on top. When he is putting out, reaching for the top notes and shaping phrases with the same easy individuality that has always marked his best work, he is still the King'. (John Rockwell, reviewing one of his two 1975 concerts at the Nassau Coliseum for the 'New York Times').
'Elvis'Love Me Tender' (1956), is a timeless classic that his fans return to, time and again, when choosing their favorite love song, but why is this early recording such a favorite? It could be the simplicity of the lyric, that wonderful vocal which quivers with an understated power and beauty, or the honest, pure sentiment of a song that has touched millions. Two minutes and 40 seconds have never been used more beautifully'. (An RCA/BMG spokesman commenting on the song being voted Presley's favorite song).
'Elvis' songs can be heard everywhere worldwide, which is perhaps why everyone is familiar with his voice. When you hear a deep tuneful voice with a Southern drawl in a rock 'n' roll song, it can't be anyone but Elvis (in spite of that voice actually being that of someone else 'successfully' mimicking him). (Matthew Simpson, in his article 'The Top 10 distinct voices in music', for ask.men (2007).
'In 'Hawaiian Wedding song', (1960), Elvis takes particular advantage of his voice's strong lower middle and higher note registers, made particularly difficult because of the need to sing in cascading notes. Elvis meets the challenge on every occasion, his performance being absolutely meticulous, with not a hint of vocal strain'. (BMG's' review of his album 'Blue Hawaii').
'The accompaniment is ornamented with bells, horns, and female choir, but it is Elvis' voice upon which the words depend for their dramatic effect. In a departure quite uncharacteristic of country music, there is a fierce, almost shocked indignation and passionate intensity in his voice, transforming a fairly ordinary song into a vehicle for savage social protest'. (Rolling Stone magazine's review of 'Long Black Limousine', found on the CD From Elvis in Memphis (1969).
'But the core of the album, and perhaps the core of Elvis' music itself, are the soulful gospel-flavored ballads. Well, it's often seemed as if Elvis bore more than a passing resemblance to soul singer Salomon Burke. The way in which he uses his voice, his dramatic exploitation of vocal contrast, the alternate intensity and effortless nonchalance of his approach, all put one in mind of a singer who passed this way before, only going the other way. And here he uses these qualities to create a music which, while undeniable country, puts him in touch more directly with the soul singer than with traditional country music. It was his dramatic extravagance, in fact, which set him apart from the beginning, and it is to this perhaps, as much as anything else -- to the very theatrics which Elvis brought to hillbilly music --, that we can trace the emergence of rock & roll'. (Author Peter Guralnick, who, inter-alia, wrote major biographies on Robert Johnson, Sam Cooke and Elvis Presley, reviewing the album Elvis Country (1970), for Rolling Stone Magazine in 1971).
'Without preamble, the three-piece band cuts loose. In the spotlight, the lanky singer flails furious rhythms on his guitar, every now and then breaking a string. In a pivoting stance, his hips swing sensuously from side to side and his entire body takes on a frantic quiver as if he had swallowed a jackhammer'. (Time Magazine, May 15, 1956).
'His kind of music is deplorable, a rancid smelling aphrodisiac...It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people'. (Frank Sinatra, 1950's).
'There have been many accolades uttered about Elvis' talent and performances through the years, all of which I agree with wholeheartedly. I shall miss him dearly as a friend. He was a warm, considerate and generous man'. (Frank Sinatra, 1977).
'It isn't enough to say that Elvis is kind to his parents, sends money home, and is the same unspoiled kid he was before all the commotion began. That still isn't a free ticket to behave like a sex maniac in public'. (Eddie Condon, Cosmopolitan, December 1956).
'I wanted to say to Elvis Presley and the country that this is a real decent, fine boy'. (Ed Sullivan, During Elvis' third appearance on his show, January 6, 1957).
'As the lad himself might say, cut my legs off and call me Shorty! Elvis Presley can act...Acting is his assignment in this shrewdly upholstered showcase, and he does it'. (Howard Thompson, Review of King Creole, New York Times, 1958).
'A Presley picture is the only sure thing in Hollywood'. (Hal Wallis, Producer of nine of Elvis' films).
'There is something magical about watching a man who has lost himself find his way back home...He sang with the kind of power people no longer expect from rock 'n' roll singers'. (John Landau, Review of Elvis, (1968 TV Special).
'It was the finest music of his life. If ever there was music that bleeds, this was it'. (Greil Marcus, From his book, Mystery Train, remembering the 1968 TV Special).
'There are several unbelievable things about Elvis, but the most incredible is his staying power in a world where meteoric careers fade like shooting stars'. (Newsweek, August 11, 1969, Review of Elvis' Las Vegas engagement).
'...a style and panache that come close to pure magic. Lithe, raunchy, the sweat pouring down his face, he now moves with the precision of an athlete, the grace of a dancer...flamboyant and flashy, sexy and self-mocking, he works with the instincts of a genius to give poetry to the basic rock performance'. (W.A. Harbinson, From his 1975 book, The Illustrated Elvis. A passage reflecting upon Elvis' 1969 Vegas engagement).
'So what it boils down to was Elvis produced his own records. He came to the session, picked the songs, and if something in the arrangement was changed, he was the one to change it. Everything was worked out spontaneously. Nothing was really rehearsed. Many of the important decisions normally made previous to a recording session were made during the session. What it was was a look to the future. Today everybody makes records this way. Back then Elvis was the only one. He was the forerunner of everything that's record production these days. Consciously or unconsciously, everyone imitated him. People started doing what Elvis did'. (Bones Howe, Recording Engineer - As quoted in Jerry Hopkins' 1971 book, Elvis, A Biography).
'A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man's music when in fact, almost every black solo entertainer copied his stage mannerisms from Elvis'. (Jackie Wilson).
'You have no idea how great he is, really you don't. You have no comprehension - it's absolutely impossible. I can't tell you why he's so great, but he is. He's sensational'. (Phil Spector).
'Elvis is the greatest cultural force in the twentieth century. He introduced the beat to everything, music, language, clothes, it's a whole new social revolution - the 60's comes from it'. (Leonard Bernstein, 1960s).
'Elvis Presley's death deprives our country of a part of itself. He was unique, irreplaceable. More than twenty years ago, he burst upon the scene with an impact that was unprecedented and will probably never be equaled. His music and his personality, fusing the styles of white country and black rhythm and blues, permanently changed the face of American popular culture. His following was immense. And he was a symbol to people the world over of the vitality, rebelliousness and good humor of this country'. (President Jimmy Carter, 1977. His official statement following Elvis' death).
'Elvis had an influence on everybody with his musical approach. He broke the ice for all of us'. (Al Green).
'...At Sun Studio in Memphis, Elvis Presley called to life what would soon be known as rock and roll with a voice that bore strains of the Grand Ole Opry and Beale Street, of country and the blues. At that moment, he ensured - instinctively, unknowingly - that pop music would never again be as simple as black and white'. (David Fricke Rolling Stone, 1986).
'He was an instinctive actor...He was quite bright...he was very intelligent...He was not a punk. He was very elegant, sedate, and refined, and sophisticated'. (Walter Matthau, who co-starred with Elvis in King Creole (1958). From a 1987 interview).
'There have been a lotta tough guys. There have been pretenders. And there have been contenders. But there is only one king'. (Bruce Springsteen).
'...it was like he came along and whispered some dream in everybody's ear, and somehow we all dreamed it'. (Bruce Springsteen).
'When I first heard Elvis' voice I just knew that I wasn't going to work for anybody and nobody was going to be my boss...Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail'. (Bob Dylan).
'A lot has been written and said about why he was so great, but I think the best way to appreciate his greatness is just to go back and play some of the old records...Time has a way of being very unkind to old records, but Elvis' keep getting better and better'. (Huey Lewis).
'Elvis was the king. No doubt about it. People like myself, Mick Jagger and all the others only followed in his footsteps'. (Rod Stewart).
'He was a unique artist - an original in an area of imitators'. (Mick Jagger).
'Before Elvis, there was nothing'. (John Lennon).
'This boy had everything. He had the looks, the moves, the manager, and the talent. And he didn't look like Mr. Ed like a lot of the rest of us did. In the way he looked, way he talked, way he acted - he really was different'. (Carl Perkins).
'I wasn't just a fan, I was his brother. He said I was good and I said he was good; we never argued about that. Elvis was a hard worker, dedicated, and God loved him. Last time I saw him was at Graceland. We sang Old Blind Barnabus together, a gospel song. I love him and hope to see him in heaven. There'll never be another like that soul brother. (James Brown).
'He was the firstest with the mostest'. (Roy Orbison).
'That's my idol, Elvis Presley. If you went to my house, you'd see pictures all over of Elvis. He's just the greatest entertainer that ever lived. And I think it's because he had such presence. When Elvis walked into a room, Elvis Presley was in the f***ing room. I don't give a f*** who was in the room with him, Bogart, Marilyn Monroe'. (Eddie Murphy).
'He was ahead of his time because he had such deep feelings. He had the privilege of deep feelings because he was deeply loved by his mother, Gladys. He was able to appreciate profound beauty in sounds. And he started a musical revolution. They say all revolutions start from love'. (Imelda Marcos).
'It's rare when an artist's talent can touch an entire generation of people. It's even rarer when that same influence affects several generations. Elvis made an imprint on the world of pop music unequaled by any other single performer'. (Dick Clark).
'Elvis Presley was an explorer of vast new landscapes of dream and illusion. He was a man who refused to be told that the best of his dreams would not come true, who refused to be defined by anyone else's conceptions. This is the goal of democracy, the journey on which every prospective American hero sets out. That Elvis made so much of the journey on his own is reason enough to remember him with the honor and love we reserve for the bravest among us. Such men made the only maps we can trust'. (Dave Marsh, From his book, Elvis).
'It's always been my dream to come to Madison Square Garden and be the warm-up act for Elvis'. (Senator Al Gore, Accepting the nomination for vice president at the 1992 Democratic Convention & prior to Bill Clinton's (aka 'Elvis' by his security staff) acceptance of the presidential nomination).
'You know, Bush is always comparing me to Elvis in sort of unflattering ways. I don't think Bush would have liked Elvis very much, and that's just another thing that's wrong with him'. (Bill Clinton, During the 1992 presidential campaign).
'He had total love in his eyes when he performed. He was the total androgenous beauty. I would practice Elvis in front of the mirror when I was twelve or thirteen years old'. (K.D. Lang).
'I'm sitting in the drive-through and I've got my three girls in the back and this station comes on and it's playing 'Jailhouse Rock,' the original version, and my girls are jumping up and down, going nuts. I'm looking around at them and they've heard Dad's music all the time and I don't see that out of them'. (Garth Brooks0.
'Ask anyone. If it hadn't been for Elvis, I don't know where popular music would be. He was the one that started it all off, and he was definitely the start of it for me'. (Elton John).
'It was Elvis that got me interested in music. I've been an Elvis fan since I was a kid'. (Elton John0.
'The first concert I attended was an Elvis concert when I was eleven. Even at that age he made me realize the tremendous effect a performer could have on an audience'. (Cher0.
'Elvis was a giant and influenced everyone in the business'. (Isaac Hayes).
'I learned music listening to Elvis' records. His measurable effect on culture and music was even greater in England than in the States'. (Mick Fleetwood).
'I remember Elvis as a young man hanging around the Sun studios. Even then, I knew this kid had a tremendous talent. He was a dynamic young boy. His phraseology, his way of looking at a song, was as unique as Sinatra's. I was a tremendous fan and had Elvis lived, there would have been no end to his inventiveness'. (B.B. King).
'I don't think there is a musician today that hasn't been affected by Elvis' music. His definitive years - 1954-57 - can only be described as rock's cornerstone. He was the original cool'. (Brian Setzer0.
Read more about Elvis Presley's vocal ability ...
Elvis was a genius. He didn't express himself the way the middle classes do, which is with word play and being able to explain his actions and reactions. He acted on gut instinct and expressed himself by the way he held the microphone, by the way, he moved his hips, by the way, that he sang down the microphone. That was his genius ... I believe the essence of any performer is gut instinct ... Because it's all in you, it's instinct.
'Elvis' lowest effective note was a low-G, as heard on 'He'll Have To Go' (1976); on 'King Creole' (1958), he growls some low-F's; going up, his highest full-voiced notes were the high-B's in 'Surrender' (1961) and 'Merry Christmas Baby' (1971), the high-G at the end of 'My Way' (1976 live version), and the high-A of 'An American Trilogy' (1972); using falsetto, Elvis could reach at least a high-E, e.g, as in 'Unchained Melody' (1977), so, it was very nearly a three-octave range, although more practically two-and-a-half'.
No wonder Elvis is responsible for the sale of so many records, for who could do that, by sounding the same.
Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD + 16 page booklet.
Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever.
This is an excellent release no fan should be without it.
The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people. Highly recommended.