Classic Albums - Elvis Presley: Elvis Presley
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THIS FILM TELLS THE STORY THAT LIES BEHIND THE MAKING OF ELVIS PRESLEY'S FIRST ALBUM FOR RCA RECORDS IN 1956, AND HIS METEORIC RISE TO SUPERSTARDOM.
"It was like the world went from black & white to Technicolor," says Keith Richards of the emergence of Elvis Presley in the mid-'50s, and this look at the King's first official album (the legendary Sun Sessions weren't issued in album form until well after the fact) backs up that claim. The one-hour program (plus 40 minutes of bonus interview material on the DVD) combines performance footage (the early TV shows are not to be missed), photos, and more to limn Presley's early days, when he combined country, blues, and R&B to forge a unique, galvanizing style. Sun producer Sam Phillips, author Peter Guralnick, Presley's musicians, and others are on hand to provide insight and background. But in the end, of course, it comes down to the music--and when you're talking about the likes of "Blue Suede Shoes," "Tutti Frutti," "Money Honey," and "Heartbreak Hotel" (a single that actually wasn't on the album), "classic" hardly begins to cover it. --Sam GrahamSee all Editorial Reviews
- Bonus interviews: For the Record, The Early Years, The Sun Recordings, On the Road, RCA Buys Elvis's Contract
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also cool contributions from keith richards.
This DVD is part of a series on classic American albums. I am not familiar with the others in the series yet but based on this introduction these efforts seem to be labors of love. Here we have the expected `talking heads' dissecting the meaning of each song, some anecdotes from various and sundry performers and music historians interspersed with very illuminating footage of Elvis's progress from Southern regional phenomena to national (and international) rock star at a time when the youth of my generation were desperately in need of a jailhouse breakout figure.
The highlight here is a very interesting discussion about Heartbreak Hotel, a song whose depressive lyrics would seem to be out of sync with what Elvis was trying to project (including various takes on Elvis's performance of the song on television). This segment makes a very strong case for Elvis's emergence as `king of the hill' in 1956. Whether he continued that role later is a separate question but 1956 was his year, and his alone. This little album also contained a very well thought out and performed mix of ballads, black bluesy numbers (Shake, Rattle and Roll), a little country, a little gospel. In short something any record producer would die for. If you need to know the history of rock and roll, or a slice of it anyway, this documentary is for you. If you just want the music grab the Elvis Presley CD- with both hands.
Ofcourse many have wondered why the first album for RCA's biggest star would contain leftovers from his C & W past, in fact, cuts which on their own could not have supported Presley's global success. Unfortunately, this tape does not really address that question, the answer to which is rather obvious - before Rock and Roll, albums were not, as in later decades, the primary money makers for the company, so perhaps it was felt that if a teenager could afford the album and the single (and the Extended Play?) then the tentative Country ballad "I Love You Because and the innocuous uptempo "Just Because" would loom as worth-hearing but not essential material. To put it simply, hit singles (i.e. "Heartbreak Hotel") and contemporaneous hit albums ("Elvis Presley") were essentially two separate entities.
There are some amazing segments here, most notably *previously unreleased* 1956 television footage and recording studio outtakes on "Shake, Rattle, and Roll". The tape closes with a rare 1956 narrative beautifully delivered by the star.
One "missing" piece: a reported audio interview with Elvis conducted in New York around 04-56 in which he is asked if he actually likes his first album and he responds that he is pleased with about half of it and thinks "One-Sided Love Affair" is a standout.