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Music Review: Elvis Presley – Elvis

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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.

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About David Bowling

  • http://irelandtoo.blogspot.com Maurice Colgan

    Thanks David, a very nice overview of the Album. Hearing Elvis Presley’s beautiful soulful recording of “I’m Playing for Keeps” on a jukebox back in 1957 changed the course of my life!

    Raised listening to the great vocalists of the 20th Century like Caruso, John McCormack, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Mario Lanza and Frankie Laine etc had not prepared me for the impact of Elvis’s extraordinary voice. I stood transfixed listening to the song on the jukebox and knew I was suddenly a committed fan of the “Stand Alone Icon of the 20th Century”.

    A life-sized bronze statue of the great Irish tenor John McCormack was unveiled recently here in Dublin Ireland.
    Large bronze Statues of Elvis are located in America,Japan, Israel,Cyprus, Hawaii, the UK and just about everywhere else. :-)

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Yea, David..Excellent review and not just because you praised Elvis (this time) but because you really understand what is so great about this brilliant singer!

    I would have to agree with Maurice but my experience was 30 some odd years later when my father used to play his records,religious like!

    You could all go on all day about his charisma,looks & stage presence and you’d be right. BUT, Ultimately it was his voice & passion for music that punched through all the mediocrity of the day. He didn’t have to write music because he could have redefined the dictionary with that brilliant soulful choir of vocal chords!

  • http://www.bradlaidman.com Brad Laidman

    I don’t think Elvis ever really wrote anything, but I think Tom Parker forced his name on a few of them – this happened a lot in the ’50’s which is why Alan Freed and other DJ’s have some writing credits

    He did arguably arrange them to his liking though – so I’m not putting him down

    A lot of times he was also prevented from recording songs that Hill and Range or Tom Parker weren’t allowed to get the songwriter to cough up some part of the royalties for.

    I don’t think Elvis was ever happy about this but it hurt his ability to find good material later in his career.

    Agreed though that Elvis – greatest singer ever, which is why my site is called Elvis Needs Boats

    :)