Album 2 – Elvis Presley

ALBUM TITLE: Elvis Presley

ARTIST NAME: Elvis Presley

YEAR OF RELEASE: 1956

Favourite Song:

Holly: Trying To Get To You

Kelly: I Got A Woman

ALBUM HISTORY:

Elvis Presley by Elvis Presley was released on March 23rd 1956 but had been recorded throughout a period of a year and a half.  Some of the recordings on the album were from Elvis’ previous Sun Sessions that were put to tape between July 1954 and November 1955 when Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ new manager urged RCA to buy out Elvis from his previous contract at Sun Records.  After a few January 1956 recording sessions and the previous years’ Sun recordings, the album was compiled and released.

The album saw success with 10 weeks at number 1 on the Billboard Top Pop Album Chart and was the first million-selling rock and roll record, as well as the first number one of the rock and roll genre to top the charts.

The album cover was also noteworthy with the black and white photo framed by the pink and green writing being mimicked by English punk band The Clash in 1979 for their iconic album London Calling.

ARTIST HISTORY:

Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi.  Elvis grew up in the church in a predominantly Black neighbourhood, both of which would influence his musical taste.  Elvis was a mediocre student in high school and shy, but loved to sing and play guitar and admired the dapper outfits in the windows of Lanksy Brothers clothiers on Beale Street.  He attended more and more concerts and shows, stating that his biggest musical influence was that of Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

In 1953 Presley walked into the office of Sun Records and paid to record a few tracks – “I’ll Never Stand in Your Way” and “It Wouldn’t Be The Same Without You”, which he had said were a birthday gift for his mother.  He recorded a few more songs and auditioned unsuccessfully for some singing groups until he was noticed by Sam Phillips of Sun Records, who had been on the lookout for a white person who could ‘sound Black’.  After a completely unfruitful recording session in July 1954, Elvis started goofing around and sang “That’s All Right” with the rhythm section joining in.  Turns out, this was the kind of vim and vigor that Phillips was looking for and they laid the song to tape.  Three days later a local Memphis DJ played “That’s All Right” on the station’s Red, Hot and Blue show, playing the song on repeat for the last 2 hours of the show’s program due to the enthusiastic public response (and clarifying on air that Elvis is white).  A few days later and his hot trio recorded “Blue Moon of Kentucky” as the B-Side to “That’s All Right” and the rest, as they say, is history.   

FACTOID CORNER:

Elvis never learned to read music – he learned everything by ear.

Holly’s review:

It was a lot of fun to listen to early Elvis this week! This album was pieced together from a couple of different recording sessions, even a few years apart, and it definitely sounds a little bit slap-dashed together, but it’s totally forgivable. 

            I really like Elvis from the 50s. He has so much energy in his singing, and though sometimes it almost sounds like he’s parodying himself, it’s just so much better and more genuine than later Elvis. Well, that’s what I think anyway. 

            There are some definite highlights to this album, and some tracks I just didn’t enjoy. Let’s start with my favourite tracks.  Trying to pick a favourite was kind of tough, but I think I’m going to go with Trying To Get To You, because I enjoy his singing the most on this one. It’s a great example of what Elvis’ voice can sound like, and I think it’s maybe the most skillfully sung song. I also just liked the song itself. It’s a good listen. 

            I also really liked I Got A Woman, mainly because it’s such an enjoyably cheesy version. I can’t help but hear Kanye somewhere in the distance, though. The very end of this version goes into this super cheesy half time feel thing. I want to hate it because it’s so terribly tacky, but I kind of secretly love it!

            Just Because is probably my third favourite. Elvis is always just so close to being too tacky in this one, but he never quite gets there. I like the interaction between Elvis and the guitar in this one, and I like the high energy, quick pace.

The track I liked the least is definitely I’ll Never Let You Go. The recording quality is terrible. It sounds like he recorded it in a tunnel, and it has lots of syrupy touches that too closely resemble fat, Hawaiian shirt-wearing Elvis. That one definitely did not do it for me. 

All told, this was a fun album to listen to for a week. I’m not going to rush out and buy it, but I’m glad we had to listen to it!

Kelly’s review:

Well, it’s one for the money!  What a great way to kick the door open on a record.  This one is a little tough to objectively review as Elvis is such a behemoth of a cultural icon and has been imitated and parodied a thousand times, but I’ll give it a go!

The first thing I noticed about this album is the difference in sound between the RCA recordings (sounds like it was recorded in a proper recording studio with a producer and a mixer and stuff) and the earlier Sun recordings (sounds like Elvis was singing into a metal trash can in a high school gymnasium).  I also really noticed the difference in genre between the two sessions – the Sun Sessions definitely have a more country and steel-guitar type sound, whereas the RCA recordings are decidedly more rock and roll and R&B with covers such as Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti (first rock and roll song ever?), Carl Perkins’ Blue Suede Shoes and Ray Charles’ ‘I Got A Woman’.  Also, I IMMEDIATELY think of Kanye when I hear ‘I Got a Woman’ (can we talk about how great the video for Gold Digger was?

Anyway, if I’m going to listen to any Elvis, it’s going to be 50s Elvis.  It’s pure rockabilly and I will rockabilly fangirl until I die.  I’ve heard the opening track “Blue Suede Shoes” a THOUSAND times but somehow it hits differently when it opens this album.  In fact, when I first put the album on to listen to it for this and he bellows in with that opening line, I let out an audible “wooo!”  

The 2nd track ‘I’m Counting On You’ is clearly one of the Sun recordings and, like the other Sun recordings on the record, has this great, cheesy old time-y ballad quality, and you can hear how young Elvis was here (he would have been 19!).   

His cover of Tutti Frutti is good, but if it came down to Tutti Frutti supremacy, the winner for me would be the Little Richard version.  

If you’re a big fan of cheese, I would recommend Blue Moon!  But I don’t hate it?  There’s something about the effect on Elvis’ voice coupled with the ‘clip clop’ percussion and lackadaisical strumming that reminds me of high school July’s spent in Hawaii, strumming my ukulele and singing this song on the pool deck at night with the wind in the palm trees and the ocean’s constant hush on the beach.  Very nostalgic.

Shout out to whatever wild west saloon piano player they found for the beginning of ‘One Sided Love Affair’.

As far as favourite tracks go, I would have to say mine is ‘I Got A Woman’.  I like it for a few reasons – it’s high energy, Elvis sounds like he’s in his element, and it reminds me of my favourite genres of music (soul and rhythm & blues).  I can also imagine some high society white ladies clutching their pearls upon seeing Elvis gyrate and growl ‘well she’s ma BAY-beh!’  I think one of my favourite parts of the song is the first word.  The way he says/sings “Well” makes it sound like does he have a story to tell you!

Although this album is inconsistent, I think it’s definitely one I would like to have in my vinyl catalogue! 

Average grade out of 10:

Holly: 7/10

Kelly: 8/10

Link to the album on Spotify:

Published by Kelly

What I like: Music, travel, coffee, beer, makeup and photography! My gear: Canon EOS 60D and 18-200mm lens. Where call home: Vancouver, BC, Canada Photography Experience: Very amateurish.

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