Monday, 16 July 2018
Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley (1956)
Released March 1956
Recorded in Sun Studios, Memphis (country material) and RCA Victor, Nashville (r'n'b)
One of the most influential albums in rock music history, if not THE most influential. Obviously, all these years later it doesn’t sound so remarkable, I guess, but you just have to take into account its cultural effect. Nobody had heard too much like this before. It broke down barriers and created a whole new genre. Importantly, white radio stations started to play what was, essentially black rhythm and blues (on many of the tracks). Ridiculous as it sounds, this was a huge breakthrough. Many people still presumed Presley was in fact black, his soulful voice sounded so authentic. White kids were turning on to black music and not before time. This early Presley material, before he went into the army, was the essence of Elvis. No big white suits, no German twee ballads, now “It’s Now Or Never” opera pastiches. Just blues rock ’n’ roll, with one hell of an attitude for 1956.
There is some classic bluesy rock ’n’ roll on here - from the opener’ the iconic “Blue Suede Shoes” to the rocking, slightly sexist (now) “I Got A Woman”, the bluesy “I’m Counting On You” and the upbeat, lively “One Sided Love Affair”. “Just Because” is another pure piece of bluegrass-ish rockabilly. “I Love You Because” is one of those rather morose, low-key ballads that populate early Elvis albums and, to be honest, I always just wait for it to be finished so we can get back to the good rockin’. Elvis covers “Tutti Frutti” and, while he can cope with anything he takes on, I still prefer Little Richard’s now definite version. “Trying To Get To You” is pure Ray Charles-ish blues. “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry” is not as bluesy, but has that big, throbbing bass line, reproduced here, as is the whole album, in its original, rich, warm monaural sound. It comes straight out of the centre of your speakers and sounds full and crystal-clear, considering it was recorded in 1956.
“I’ll Never Let You Go” is a return to the mournful acoustic tear-jerkers. These don’t do much for me, if I’m honest. It harks back to mainstream country radio from years before and sure ain’t rock ’n’ roll. However, and here is where Elvis really had something - for the last thirty seconds he rocks out, big time. He transforms the song, utterly. As if that was what he had bending to do all along. I just wish he had rocked from the beginning. “Blue Moon” is a hissy recording and back to the country ballad style. The Marcels’ rock ’n’ roll version is much better. “Money Honey” was a rocking blues that surely influenced a young Paul McCartney and John Lennon more than anything else. Just think, if Elvis hadn’t got the contract to record this “devil’s music” would there have been a Beatles?
Bonus material includes the big, bassy and beautiful “Heartbreak Hotel”, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”, the superb blues rock 'n' roll of "My Baby Left Me" and “Elvis’s take on “Shake, Rattle And Roll”. The wonders of digital technology means these can replace some of those country ballads and you have a good rockin’ tonight of an album.