Friday, March 7, 2014

55. Elvis Presley (1956) Elvis Presley




1. Blue Suede Shoes
2. I'm Counting On You
3. I Got A Woman
4. One-Sided Love Affair
5. I Love You Because
6. Just Because
7. Tutti Frutti
8. Trying To Get To You
9. I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You)
10. I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin')
11. Blue Moon
12. Money Honey


Before he ballooned to twice his original size, before he made a string of crap movies, before he became a lounge singer, before he went away and then came back, before deep fried sandwiches, tv shootings and before military service; before all the things that tarnished his reputation, there was this LP. The first ever Elvis Presley album and the first rock and roll album to top the Billboard charts.

This is where it began kids. You can trace a line from this release through the Beatles, The Stones, Cream, David Bowie, The Clash, Queen, Motley Crue, Guns and Roses, U2, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Radiohead and beyond. Anyone who has released an album of Rock and Roll owes a debt to these 12 songs in this format. Rock and Roll stepped out of the clubs and bars and into the recording studio and onto a format that had been reserved for big band sounds. Someone finally made music for young people and had the tenacity to package it in a format that adults regarded as their own.

You can see why this made such an impact. The opening track is Blue Suede Shoes which Carl Perkins had written and recorded earlier but will always be associated with the King. Elvis sings it as if he's just discovered his life calling. His rendition is definitive and as passionate as anything he's ever done. I'm not sure if Elvis has ever actually wore any blue suede shoes but they way he belts this out you could easily believe that he wore nothing else and protected his footwear with his life. Nobody has ever been this committed to what they're wearing on their feet in music history before or since.

Much has been made of the fact that Elvis owes his success to his ability to make black music accessible to white people. There's definitely something in the accusation, there are no originals on Elvis Presley and there are lots of tracks which were hits for black artists but ignored by white america until Presley recorded them. Little Richards Tutti Frutti and Ray Charles' I got a Woman were big songs for their original artists but nobody who got sunburnt was listening. Elvis turned a generation onto music that racism prevented them from appreciating.

But it's not fair to suggest that anyone could have done what Elvis did. Writing him off as just the first white guy to tap into a different market does him a huge injustice. Presley is a dynamic interpreter of other people's material and he makes every song he sings his own. Anyone could have sung the songs on Elvis Presley but only The King could have made them great.

There's some great rock on Elvis Presley but it's not all the Devil's music. Elvis covers old standards like Blue Moon and Just Because which was first recorded way back in 1929. I'll never let you go is a song by Singing cowboy Jimmy Wakely which showed off Presley's love of country and western music.

Listening to Elvis Presley close to 60 years after it was recorded, it's easy to see why it lit such a fire under the music world. Adults were indignant at the idea of "Race Music" getting a respectable face, even if that face was contorted in wild abandon on the cover. It's been pointed out that while the famous cover features Elvis singing and strumming his guitar, the face he's pulling could easily be the result of sexual release. I've never seen Elvis orgasm before but it's not hard to imagine that the face he pulls looks a lot like the one he's producing on the famous cover. Sinatra never looked like that on the front of an album, no wonder people were scared.

For the teenagers however this was exactly that they'd been waiting for, even if they didn't know it. Paul, John, George and Ringo heard these tracks and knew what they wanted to do with their lives. Suddenly music wasn't just something their parents enjoyed, it was their life calling. I got a woman and I'm Gonna Sit right down and cry over you became part of their repertoire thanks to this album and it helped set them on the path they were destined to take.

Sadly it wasn't long before Elvis went from being young and exciting to being middle aged and a bit crap. His fall was quick and ugly and a massive waste of real talent. There's a reason why the only people who listen to Presley movie soundtracks are die hard obsessives. But his early output has something for everyone and this album is definitely one that you should hear if you haven't. It's one of the great voices in rock and roll backed by Scotty Moore and some gun players. It's golden stuff and we have to offer our thanks for the legacy it left us.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "if you were a seeing eye dog, wouldn't you want your name to be elvis? and wouldn't you want your owner to carry around a huge box of milkbones? and wouldn't you want to go out drinkin' and watch the final four? and wouldn't you want your tail to get stepped on forcing you to yelp in pain? if you answered yes to the last question than you are weird."

-I have a feeling I'm not the only one.

So what are you thoughts on Mr Presley? Let me know below.






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