I have an appreciation for many forms of music but my musical growth stemmed from this one seed. This was the first album I ever bought when I was 9 or 10 years old (1973). Of all the music I've enjoyed in my life, my favourite genres are Rhythm & Blues, Rockabilly and Rock'n'Roll. And in the center of this musical era, you can't avoid Elvis Presley. If you collect the finest albums of the Rock'n'Roll/Rock period, this album is a must!
At the time that this album was originally released (March-April 1956), Elvis was a singles artist having only his smash hit single 'Heartbreak Hotel'/'I Was the One' on the national charts. RCA Victor's A&R man, Steve Sholes (supervisor of country and R&B recordings and the man who purchased Elvis and his Sun recordings from Sam Phillips in 1955) assembled this album from the collection of Sun singles and new RCA Victor Nashville recordings (Elvis' first RCA recording session, January 1956) where Sholes hoped to replicate the Sun sound.
The result is an album that documents an emerging new sound that will not only excite millions of young ears but will also influence many Rock, Pop and Country music artists all around North America and, more interestingly in terms of Rock history, overseas. The new sound here is Rockabilly and what we're hearing is a classic '50s Rockabilly quartet: Scotty Moore on electric, lead guitar, Bill Black on acoustic "doghouse" bass, D.J. Fontana on drums (lots of snare), and Elvis as the centerpiece, with vocals, acoustic guitar, and, for the stage audiences, gyratin' visuals. Elvis envisioned himself as a Pop ballad singer (a la Dean Martin) but this was the new style and sound that Sam Phillips, who originally produced and recorded black R&B talent at Sun Records, convinced him would make him stand out and be noticed. From 1954 to 1956, Elvis and the band honed this sound to a unique style through the sessions at Sun and through continuous live performances throughout the South. This, now, is the point where Elvis and his new sound is moving from being a regional phenomenon (via the regional Sun singles recordings, live stage performances and local radio play) to a becoming a national sensation (via a big-time record label, along with its publicity machine, and national television appearances).
Elvis came to form in a truly unique period in American music history and his style and tastes were formulated from many musical sources available to him in the early- to mid-1950s Memphis, Tennessee region: Gospel, black Rhythm & Blues/Rock'n'Roll, Pop, Country and Hillbilly (from which he helped develop Rockabilly). These sounds merged at this time and Elvis did not discriminate. He was infuenced in them all and he let them pour out developing his own style and genre.
Most of the selections were covers of other records by other artists but it's the sound that was cutting-edge, new and exciting. Five of the selections are Sun Session recordings on an album for the first time. The others are new Country and Rockabilly recordings including then-Rockabilly king, Carl Perkins' 'Blue Suede Shoes' which was one of Elvis' staple live-performance numbers along with the Ray Charles, Little Richard, Joe Turner and Lloyd Price R&B covers included in the selection. I find it interesting that his covers of the R&B tunes are the most hard-hitting rockabilly numbers on the album. Critics of Elvis who diminish his contributions to Popular/Rock music due to his frequent use of cover tunes, especially those of black R&B artists. Elvis was never about "writing his own songs." Elvis was about style, performance, talent and originality. Let the Beatles and the Rolling Stones be famous for writing their own songs (even though many of their early recordings were cover songs). For me, Elvis has been the focal point from which I have been able to research my fond interests in black Rhythm & Blues music (c. 1941-62) and old Country (c. 1928-70).
Selections 3 through 14 make up the original selections from this classic album. The remaining six tracks are bonus selections which were originally three 7-inch singles recorded during the same session period.
And the album cover! It was a uniquely simple creation, a '50s-style design classic in itself!
Each time I listen to this seminal album, I am awed to be taken back to a truly original sound that would launch a great new era of music that has become known to us as the Rock Era! To complete the journey, I recommend this CD along with one of Elvis' Sun Session collections.
'Elvis Presley': The new sound of Rock'n'Roll, the "fad" that never died!