The “Listen Again” series went over well enough that your favorite rockin’ record reviewer decided to follow the lead of some TV executives and do a spin-off. In this series we once more examine previously-released albums but the platters we shall peruse in this particular series will be (Rolling Stone magazine) five-star albums. In this edition we revisit Elvis Presley’s Elvis.
For those of you who live under a rock, Elvis Presley was a singer, musician and actor from the US. One of the most important, popular performers of the 20th century, he remains a cultural icon to this day and is often referred to as just Elvis, the “King of Rock and Roll” or simply “the King”. Presley stepped into a Hollywood recording studio in September of 1956 to record the majority of the music on what would become his second studio album.
Presley would lead the way on acoustic guitar and lead vocals. He was backed by Scotty Moore (electric guitar), Shorty Long and Gordon Stoker (piano), Bill Black (double bass), D.J. Fontana (drums) and The Jordanaires (backing vocals). While one track had been left over from his premiere platter, Presley and his pals stepped into the studio for three days in September of 1956 to record the remainder of the material for this 12-track album.
The album opens on “Rip It Up”. Written by Robert Blackwell and John Marascalco, it features Gordon Stoker on piano. (It was previously recorded by Little Richard and would go on to be covered by Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly and The Beatles.)
The second selection is “Love Me”. This one was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller just for Presley’s project. Presley also played piano on this piece.
Also included here is Presley’s cover of a 1940s hit “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again” by Gene Sullivan and Wiley Walker and his take on Little Richard’s hit “Long Tall Sally”. “First in Line” follows and is oddly nowhere near first in line while the side closes on the cut “Paralyzed” which Presley co-wrote with Otis Blackwell. Presley reportedly played piano on the latter two tracks.
The flip side opens on “So Glad You’re Mine”. This song helped to recreate that Sun Records session feel as it was written by Arthur Crudup who had also written “That’s All Right (Mama)”. It’s followed by Presley’s presentation of Red Foley’s “Old Shep” which once won a ten-year old Elvis a prize at a fair in Tupelo. Presley is credited on the keys here as well.
The next number is “Ready Teddy”. This up-tempo rock tune was first made popular by Little Richard (and was also covered by Buddy Holly among others). Also on this side is “Anyplace Is Paradise” which featured Stoker on the piano, Chet Atkins’ “How’s the World Treating You” with Presley back on keys and the album end-note “How Do You Think I Feel”.
Released on the RCA Victor label in October of 1956 with a running time of almost half an hour, Elvis would camp out for four weeks at the top of the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart. Three singles—“Paralyzed”, “Old Shep” and “Love Me” would all hit the Billboard Pop Singles chart at 59, 47 and 2 respectively. The recording once more brought to mind the loose feel from Presley’s Sun Studio sessions when his repertoire was a musical mix of genres including R&B and country and western.
It would go gold in early 1960. More than two decades later, (1984), it would be released on CD in fake stereo, pulled off the market then rereleased on CD in the original mono. “The King” continued to live on into the next decade as the disc was reissued on CD in a nearly 45 minute long, expanded edition in 1999 and would include six bonus tracks: “Love Me Tender”, “Too Much”, the double-sided classic “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel”and “Playing for Keeps”.
The music even made it past the new millennium as in January 2005, Sony BMG remastered and upgraded the disc once more including the bonus tracks: “Playing for Keeps”, “Too Much”, “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Hound Dog”, “Any Way You Want Me (That’s How I Will Be)”, and “Love Me Tender”. More recently, the LP went platinum in the summer of 2011. Presley remains one of the most important figures in American music and Elvis/RCA AFL1-1382 remains significant even today.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.