Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

RCA, 1956


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


When you listen to the self-titled debut release from Elvis Presley, you have to keep two things in mind.

First, rock music was in its infancy in 1956, so it is very difficult to try to place this album in context when you listen to it over six decades later. (Note that I didn't say “impossible”.) Second, record companies still believed that the single was the avenue to get the hit songs out to the kids, so albums were usually filled with the “lesser” tracks that they didn't necessarily see as having the same success.

Presley's first true album was a combination of the more country-tinged songs he had recorded for Sam Phillips at Sun Records and fresh takes on r&b songs and popular numbers that RCA added in to make the disc more contemporary. In the end, the mix actually works well, and while there are a few clunkers on this one, it turns out to be a solid birth cry for Presley's career.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

There are so many versions of this album that have been released; for the record (no pun intended), I'm working off the 1999 reissue which adds six bonus tracks. The original release only had twelve songs; I'll focus the body of this review on those tracks.

Presley bursts forth with his take on “Blue Suede Shoes,” which Carl Perkins had taken to the charts eight months prior. (This is track three on the reissue.) Almost immediately, it suggests that Presley is going to take no prisoners, and conquer the musical world on his own terms. (Ah, had it only stayed that way, and one Col. Tom Parker hadn't have milked his cash cow dry.) Likewise, his cover of “I Got A Woman” is barely controlled, but that adds to the track's charm. (In contrast, though, Presley's cover of “Tutti Frutti” sounds forced, and is not as enjoyable.)

Whether Presley was a country artist or a rocker is not necessarily a question which will be answered by Elvis Presley, as this disc shows he was equally comfortable in both worlds. Tracks such as “I Love You Because,” “Just Because” and “I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin')” showcase Presley's talents as a singer, and are a nice mix with tracks such as “Money Honey” and “I'm Counting On You.” Neither genre seems to combat the other, which is refreshing. (I could, however, have lived without his take on “Blue Moon,” a track which at times seems to channel Slim Whitman.)

The reissue adds two tracks to the front of the album and four to the back, making the single “Heartbreak Hotel” kick off the CD. Interestingly enough, the addition of the bonus tracks actually weakens the original album, as one can hear the differences in the production more clearly. Oh, it's not that the songs are bad, it's just that it doesn't feel like a natural fit in that regard.

I know that daring to say anything negative about the King of Rock & Roll is akin to high treason… but, what the hell, I've courted that danger my entire reviewing career. Elvis Presley is a fitting debut effort and has rightfully earned its place in the annals of rock music history, even with a few minor flaws. But, for what it's worth, if you can find the original 12-song release, this is one time where I would side with the purists, and would recommend that over any expanded version.

Rating: B+

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