Many people believe that the rock 'n' roll era began May 5, 1956 when the album, Elvis Presley, reached Number One on the National charts for the first of ten weeks. It was a far different sound than the other best selling albums of the day which included Belafonte by Harry Belafonte, The Man With The Golden Arm soundtrack, and Songs For Swingin' Lovers by Frank Sinatra.
Realistically Elvis did not invent rock 'n' roll. Bill Haley recorded 'Rock Around The Clock' as the B side of a single in 1954. Haley came out of the country swing side of music and added a sax and guitar to that sound. In 1955 'Rock Around The Clock' was added to the opening credits of the movie Blackboard Jungle. The record quickly became the most popular single in the country staying at number one for 8 weeks. Chuck Berry was also in the studio adding his unique guitar sound to his rhythm and blues roots. Elvis' musical legacy can be found in the rockabilly side of country music. Elvis, however, had something that no other artist of the time had and that was a charisma that would give him mass commercial appeal and quickly make him a lasting cultural icon.
Elvis Presley was a popular southern country artist when his contract was bought by the RCA label for the unheard of sum of $35,000. Elvis quickly went into the studio to record in early 1956. The results were several single releases and his first long playing album. Seven songs from these sessions and five unreleased tracks from his Sun label days were combined to create Elvis Presley. Interestingly the number one single, 'Heartbreak Hotel', was left off the album because RCA did not want the LP to interfere with its sales.
Elvis Presley is essential to rock 'n' roll history and in a wider context to the understanding of the youth culture of the late 1950s. In many ways Elvis went far beyond just being a popular artist. He was worshiped by millions of teenagers. Very few artists ever attain that status. Only Frank Sinatra in the 1940's and The Beatles in the 1960's would equal Elvis in popularity.
Elvis' first album reached into many types of music for its songs but all were interpreted and transferred to a rock setting. My favorites are the R&B hits 'I Got A Woman' and 'Money Honey' which are removed from their roots and become all out rockers. 'Blue Suede Shoes' and 'Tutti Frutti' were hits of the day and Elvis mainly copied what was popular. I tend to prefer the Little Richard version but feel sorry for Carl Perkins as Elvis gives a classic performance of his biggest hit. 'I Love You Because' and 'Just Because' find Elvis secure in a country setting. 'One Sided Love Affair' was written for this album and eventually all his records would feature many newly created songs.
I usually just review the original release of an album but in this case I am going to recommend the CD reissue. While it will take you away from the intent and impact of the original album, included are six additions that are classic Elvis. The single releases 'Heartbreak Hotel' and 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You' only add to the quality of the listening experience. Also added are 'I Was The One', 'Lawdy Miss Clawdy', 'Shake, Rattle And Roll' and 'My Baby Left Me' which take Elvis back to his raw rockabilly roots.
The music of Elvis Presley has been released in many forms over the years and has been re-packaged in a hundred or so different ways but if you really want to understand him and his musical legacy, this is the place to start.
Elvis Presley CD LPM-1254 - Tracklist:
I Was the One
Blue Suede Shoes
I'm Counting on You
I Got a Woman
One-sided Love Affair
I Love You Because
Tryin' to Get to You
I'm Gonna Sit Right down and Cry (Over You)
I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin')
Shake, Rattle and Roll
My Baby Left Me
Lawdy Miss Clawdy
I Want You, I Need You, I Love You
Review - Elvis
Elvis Presley released his second long playing album, Elvis, on October 9, 1956. Elvis was then a star. His first album, Elvis Presley, and the single Heartbreak Hotel had sold millions of copies. In the late summer and early fall of 1956 the double hit single Hound Dog/Don't Be Cruel had topped the American charts for close to two months. In fact Hound Dog would be the first song to top the pop, country and rhythm and blues charts at the same time. Elvis was even reported to be dating Natalie Wood. He had it all - voice, looks, popularity, wealth and charisma.
Eleven of the 12 tracks contained on Elvis were recorded during a three-day period. This album was a tad different than the first. The songs were again selected from rock, country and rhythm & blues but Elvis was settling into his classic and unique vocal style. The rockabilly roots were giving way to straight rock and Elvis was now confident enough to record a number of ballads. RCA continued to leave his big single hits off of his albums as the label wanted them to have a commercial life of their own. Thus there was no Hound Dog, Don't Be Cruel or Love Me Tender. The CD release of this album would contain these tracks plus Playing For Keeps, Anyway You Want (That's How I'll Be) and Too Much. These tracks serve to make a very strong album better.
The first two songs are very different yet set the tone for what will follow. Little Richard's classic song, Rip It Up, is given the full Elvis treatment as he tears through it with frenetic energy. 'The ballad, Love Me follows and provides a wonderful counterpoint. His female fans would always flock to this type of Elvis performance.
Elvis had the confidence to cover three classic country songs. While he remained true to the songs' structures and form, it is his voice that changes them and makes them uniquely his own. Elvis had one of the best vocal instruments in rock music and was able to take almost any song and transform it into his own definitive creation. Bluegrass originator Bill Monroe's When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again, Red Foley's Old Shep and Webb Pierce's How Do You Think I Feel all find Elvis exploring his country roots and then transforming and ultimately transcending them.Other songs such as Reddy Teddy, Long Tall Sally and Paralyzed are all solid. Paralyzed gives the writing credit to Otis Blackwell and Elvis. Elvis would only take a writing credit on a small number of songs during his career. It is a testament to his integrity that he would never force this issue.
Elvis has a good feel to it and shows some musical movement and an increasing maturity. This second excellent album by Presley is another critical stop in his musical journey and a fine example of '50's rock 'n' roll.
Rip It Up
When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again
Long Tall Sally
First In Line
So Glad You're Mine
Anyplace Is Paradise
How's The World Treating You
How Do You Think I Feel
Playing For Keeps
Don't Be Cruel
Any Way You Want Me
Love Me Tender
I have been collecting vinyl records for over forty years and my collection is approaching 50.000 records. My wife Susan and children, Stacey and Amy, have learned to humor my passion. I am now settled in beautiful Whispering Pines, North Carolina where I read, listen to music, and live off the fat of the land -- David Bowling
Review - Loving You CD
So what does a young, charismatic, and good looking singer, who is the most successful musical artist in the country do for an encore? He heads to Hollywood to star in a movie of course.
Loving You was a pieced together affair which included songs from the movie, previously released tracks from an EP, plus a couple more from the studio. It all added up to a very good album but ultimately not of the quality of his first two ground breaking LPs. (As above) Nevertheless, released in July of 1957, Loving You would remain the number one album in the country for ten weeks. Even my mother had a copy of this album.
The cover does Elvis justice. Even at seven years old, I am quite sure I sensed that I was not that good looking. My wife would probably agree today. All right eliminate the word probably.
Elvis would make a seemingly unending string of mostly forgettable movies. They would contain some excellent songs and a lot of what can best be described as filler. Elvis would never have a song nominated for an academy award, even though there were certainly songs from many of his films that should have been so honored.
The album starts out on a strong note. 'Mean Woman Blues' is an all out rocker in the classic Presley tradition. '(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear' is the first of what would become an Elvis performance that would be halfway between rock and pop. It featured a catchy melody with a great smooth vocal and would hit number one on the singles charts. 'Loving You' was an effective ballad, both in the movie and on its own. 'Got A Lot Of Living To Do' was another driving up-tempo song.
Elvis does as well as he can with 'Lonesome Cowboy' and 'Hot Dog'. The songs are weak and would be forerunners of his future film material. Elvis' manager, Colonel Tom Parker, hired writers to churn out material for Elvis' movies. He would retain some of the rights and make millions.
The second half of the album finds Elvis experimenting with material from different styles of music. 'Blueberry Hill' is a cover of the great Fats Domino song and while Elvis give a good performance, I miss Fats. 'Have I Told You Lately That I Love You' had been recorded by The Sons Of The Pioneers and Bing Crosby among others. Here Elvis takes this old warhorse in a country direction and gives a wonderful performance. 'I Need You So' by Ivory Joe Hunter and Cole Porter's 'True Love' are average performances for Elvis.
Loving You will be forever associated with Elvis' movie material. Taken on its own, however, it does have some excellent moments and is still worth a listen now and then.
Loving You CD - Tracklist:
Mean Woman Blues
Got a Lot o' Livin' to Do
Don't Leave Me Now
Have I Told You Lately that I Love You?
I Need You So
I Beg of You
All Shook Up
That's When Your Heartaches Begin
Tell Me Why
Is It So Strange
When It Rains, It Really Pours
I Beg of You (Alternate Master)
Loving You (J-16 End Version)
Party (A-7 Alternate Master)
Loving You (K-03 Main Version)
Loving You (Hx-14 Farm Version 2)
Got a Lot o' Livin' to Do (R-13 Finale)
Mean Woman Blues (Bx-07 Version 2)
Loving You (Kx-21 Main Version 2)
Loving You (Hz 12 Farm Version 3)
Blueberry Hill (From Acetate)
Got a Lot o' Livin' to Do (D-17 Main Version From Acetate)
Loving You (All Mono Farm Versions Takes)
Loving You (KX All Mono Main Version Takes)
Loving You (KX Take 1-15 binaural main version takes)
Review - King Creole
King Creole was directed by the legendary Michael Curtiz. He won the Oscar for best director for the film Casablanca. He also directed such films as White Christmas, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Captain Blood, and Yankee Doodle Dandy. This proved that with capable and creative direction, Elvis could make good movies.
The film, King Creole, also produced another interesting story. Elvis' female co-star was Dolores Hart who also starred in the film, Loving You. She would leave acting in the 1960's and enter a cloistered convent as a nun. Today she is a Mother Superior but remains a voting member of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and gets to vote for the best picture Oscar each year.
Elvis' manager, Colonel Tom Parker, continued to produce many of the songs for Elvis' films from his own writing factory. He hired writers to churn out songs which would hurt the overall quality of the films. Parker maintained an iron hand over Elvis Presley's career and would reject any ideas, no matter how good, that would threaten that control.
The soundtrack album to King Creole was above average but not a superior effort. It is also one of those soundtrack albums that require the listener to be familiar with the film. Many of the songs come off better when they can be placed in context. There are three superior songs contained on this album. The title song 'King Creole', and 'Trouble' were both written by Leiber and Stoller and not Parker's lackeys. Both are rockers and 'Trouble' would remain an Elvis concert staple for years. 'Hard Headed Woman' remains a classic Elvis song and would be a number one single release.
'Steadfast, Loyal and True' was another Leiber-Stoller creation and 'New Orleans' has a nice bluesy feel to it. However, such songs as 'Lover Doll', 'Crawfish', 'Young Dreams', and 'Dixieland Rock' may fit within the context of the film, but taken on their own they are the first in a long line of filler songs that would grace Elvis' soundtrack albums.
King Creole has some good and some not so good. While I recommend the movie this soundtrack is not an Elvis Presley classic. When I want to play some Elvis on the old stereo system King Creole does not come to mind.
King Creole CD - Tracklist:
As Long as I Have You
Hard Headed Woman
Don't Ask Me Why
Steadfast, Loyal and True
King Creole (take 18)
As Long as I Have You (movie version, take 4)
Lover Doll (undubbed)
Steadfast, Loyal and True (movie version M take 6)
As Long as I Have You (movie version N take 8)
King Creole (take 3)
Review - Elvis' Christmas Album
Elvis' Christmas Album can be divided into three parts. The first side of the original LP contained six secular Christmas songs. Two traditional carols began side two, and were followed by four gospel songs which were taken from a previously released EP. The EP or extra play single was a 45 rpm size record that contained 4-6 songs. It also came in a cardboard jacket that was similar to an LP. This form never really caught on in the United States although Elvis did reach the top ten with a number of these releases. This format was very popular in Great Britain and Europe as they cost less than a complete album.
This was a very controversial album at the time of its release. The thought of Elvis swiveling his hips to Christmas songs was more than many people could stand. Even Irvin Berlin requested that radio stations not play this album and particularly his song 'White Christmas'.
All of this uproar was unnecessary as Elvis was always respectful to gospel and religious music. These two types of music would eventually form an important part of the Elvis legacy. Even in the latter part of his life when he was just going through the motions many times, he would always mean it and be sincere when it came to his sacred music releases.
'Santa Claus Is Back In Town' was written especially for this album by the great songwriting team of Leiber and Stroller. It was just about a perfect song for Elvis who takes it in a somewhat blues direction. The song remains a secular Christmas classic.
Elvis gives 'White Christmas' a rhythm & blues treatment rather than a pop presentation which Irving Berlin may have preferred. 'Here Comes Santa Claus' was an old country song by Gene Autry that Elvis modernized in an uptempo pop direction. 'I'll Be Home For Christmas' is stripped down to its basics with just piano, bass and drums. This is a song that proves just what a marvelous voice Elvis Presley possessed. Elvis reaches into his country roots again for the Ernest Tubb song, 'Blue Christmas'. While this song has been covered hundreds of times, this Elvis version is definitive.
The two Christmas carols are presented in a traditional style. I prefer 'Silent Night' over 'O Little Town Of Bethlehem,' and while both are fine, they pale a little against the rest of the album. The gospel songs that conclude the original album are top notch. I have not heard many better gospel presentations than 'Peace In The Valley' than this one by Elvis Presley. The vocal, the timing, and the overall presentation retain the song's spiritual nature. 'Take My Hand Precious Lord' is another song that fits Elvis' vocal style. His rich vocal and sincerity shine through. Another country song, 'It's No Secret (What God Can Do),' originally recorded by Stuart Hamblen, is updated in a pop direction yet retains its original intent.
Elvis' Christmas Album was a different direction for Elvis and ultimately a smart career choice. He attracted millions of new fans, with many being outside his teen base. It was also an excellent release that helped cement the Presley legacy, and remains listenable over fifty years later.
Elvis' Christmas Album - Tracklist:
Santa Claus Is Back in Town
Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)
I'll Be Home for Christmas
Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me
O Little Town Of Bethlehem
Peace in the Valley
Take My Hand, Precious Lord
It Is No Secret (What God Can Do)