April 23, 2018
You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I’m telling you why, Elvis Presley is coming to town (again).
Christmas is less than three months away and another batch of Elvis Presley music has been re-imagined. The latest in the Elvis sweepstakes is 13 of his Christmas tunes, now being backed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Elvis Presley’s three Christmas albums have sold a combined 24,000,000 copies and his original 1950’s Christmas album remains his biggest selling album. The original release is one of the better Christmas releases in that it combines rock, sacred, and gospel with some gritty and in several cases bluesy vocals by the king. It is just about the perfect Christmas album.
As Jim Croce wrote, “And you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger,” and you don’t mess around with the perfect Christmas album.
In many ways the background orchestra takes away from the power of Elvis’ vocals. When the orchestra is reduced to the distant background and the vocals are more upfront, it is just a better listen such as “Merry Christmas Baby.”
If you have not heard or want to obtain some of Elvis’ Christmas music, seek out a copy of his original first album. It is readily available. If you are an Elvis fan who has to have everything, then go ahead.
January 18, 2018
Ladies and gentlemen; “Elvis has re-entered the building.” Elvis Presley’s material has been released in just about every conceivable way and form. The latest entry in the Elvis Presley sweepstakes takes us back to the beginning of his career. Elvis Presley: A Boy From Tupelo is a massive 85 track box set that contains every studio track, live performance, alternate take, and spoken word ever recorded for the Sun label. It even includes a new unearthed live track.
If you do not have the inclination or cash to purchase the big set and want to go a little retro then I recommend the vinyl release containing 17 tracks of his best known early material. The sound is just about as perfect as the 60 year masters will allow.
The vinyl LP just presents the basics. There is no duplication due to various takes or incomplete songs.
Songs such as “Mystery Train,” “That’s All Right,” “Baby Let’s Play House,” “Blue Moon Of Kentucky,” and “Milkcow Blues Boogie” not only began Elvis’ career but changed the face of American music. They show his ability to fuse country with rhythm & blues into what would quickly become rock and roll.
When Elvis moves away from the rock and roll, some of the electricity is missing. In some ways “Harbor Lights,” “Just Because,” and “Tomorrow Night” seem a little out of place but remain a part of his legacy and represent a style he would return to later in his career.
Despite the clarity and format, the music has been issued a number of times. Therefore this is a release that will appeal only to an Elvis fan, a vinyl collector, or someone who wants to explore the roots of rock and roll. If you fall into either of these categories, then this is a release for you.
February 28, 2017
Many people are unaware that Elvis Presley’s biggest selling studio album was his late 1950’s Christmas release. It also expanded his commercial appeal beyond his rock and roll teenage base as millions of adults bought the album which veered from his rock roots toward a more traditional pop sound.
Lately, there has been an increasing vinyl resurgence and while Elvis’ Christmas material has been released dozens of times and it many formats; Merry Christmas Baby is a vinyl-only release issued on red and green vinyl. So crack up those record players because Elvis is coming to town.
The music was remastered from the original tapes and modern technology gives it a clarity of sound missing from many of the previous releases. When played on the proper equipment, it provides a superior listening experience.
As Elvis’ career progressed, his albums became more haphazard and inconsistent but he never issued a poor or even an average Christmas, gospel, or sacred album. He always seemed more connected and invested with this type of material.
The 17 tracks travel from hymns such as “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night” to the light hearted “Santa Claus Is Back In Town” and “Here Comes Santa Claus” to such classics as “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “White Christmas.”
“Blue Christmas” has a bit of a kick to it as it pays homage to his rock and roll roots. He captures the wistful and nostalgic nature of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” just right. He even manages to turn light-weight material such as “If Everyday Was Like Christmas” and “Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees” into acceptable holiday fare.
There is still a vast Elvis fan base that will purchase just about any new release. However, if you have never been exposed to his holiday material or want to listen to some Elvis the way it was originally intended, then Merry Christmas Baby is an album for you.
August 6, 2014
When Elvis Presley’s “Good Luck Charm” reached number one on the Billboard Magazine pop Singles Chart, it was the seventh consecutive year he had a single reach the top of the charts, which was a record at the time. The Beatles would equal it, 1964-1970.
By 1962, Elvis had reached a transition point in his career. His military service was in the past and now he was concentrating on films. His music was moving from rock ‘n’ roll to more of a pop sound that would increasingly appear on his movie soundtracks.
Elvis entered the RCA Nashville recording studio, October 15-16, under the direction of co-producers Steve Sholes and Chet Atkins. Some of the musicians present were guitarists Jerry Kennedy & Scotty Moore, bassist Bob Moore, pianist Floyd Cramer, drummer D.J. Fontana, and sax player Boots Randolph.
“Good Luck Charm” was a mix of rock and pop that, despite all the backing musicians, kept the main focus upon Elvis’ voice. It was a simple story type song that dominated the pre-Beatles era. It was a mid-tempo tune that bubbled along and was perfect for radio play at the time as it just stayed in your mind. Background vocals were by the Jordanaires and female singer Millie Kirkham. Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires provided the duet vocals.
The song Elvis replaced was “Johnny Angel” by Shelley Fabares of the Donna Reed Show fame. She would later co-star in three movies with him. The song would also signal a downturn in Elvis’ career. While he would continue to have hit songs, he would not have another chart topper for seven years when “Suspicious Minds” reached number one during 1969.
“Good Luck Charm” may not be Elvis’ most memorable or best single release but it was very good in its own right. Over one million Elvis fans thought it good enough to purchase the seven inch 45 back in 1962, which enabled it to become the number one song in the United States on April 21, 1962 for two weeks.
July 13, 2014
The music world came to a halt during late December, 1958, when Elvis received his draft notice. Fans suffered without him until March 5, 1960, when he received his honorable discharge, and all was right with the world again.
His manager, Colonel Parker, welcomed him back by booking studio time and during several marathon sessions; he produced enough material for his Elvis Is Back album and a number of singles which he released during the course of the next year. At the time, his singles were not released as a part of his studio albums. They had a life of their own and the only way to own the music was to purchase these small 7” vinyl 45s.
These early post army recording sessions produced several number one singles. “Stuck On You,” “It’s Now Or Never,” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” all topped the Billboard Magazine Pop Singles Chart during 1960 for a combined 17 weeks. The fourth number one single of his post army career reached the top of the charts March 20, 1961, where it remained for two weeks.
Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman wrote 25 songs for Elvis, but to be honest they stole this one. “Surrender” was taken from a 1902 Italian Neopolitan song named “Come Back To Sorrento.” It was an up-tempo love ballad that reminds me of Spanish bull fighting, complete with castanets. It was straight pop and would look ahead to Elvis’ movement away from rock ‘n’ roll toward a more slick sound. It would top the American charts for two weeks. It was also one of the shorter number one singles in American music history as it clocked in at just less than two minutes.
For better or worse, Elvis’ career would quickly move in a movie star direction, which would combine good material with some not so good. But back in 1961, the sun was shining, “Surrender “was number one, and Elvis ruled the music world.
June 26, 2014
“Are You Lonesome Tonight” had a long history before Elvis Presley ever got a hold of the song. It was written by Lou Handman and Roy Turk during 1926. Handman recorded his own version in 1927, with him playing the piano and his sister Edith as the vocalist. Blue Barron, whose real name was Harry Freidman, was an orchestra leader during the big band era. He had a hit with the song in 1950, reaching number 19. Al Jolson recorded a version of the song that same year.
Elvis Presley was released from the Army, March 2, 1960. He was greeted by his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, who ushered him into the recording studio in early April. He recorded a number of singles which were not issued on an album plus the tracks for his Elvis Is Back release.
The session produced two number one singles. “It’s Now Or Never” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” were vastly different in style but both would signal a more pop direction for the maturing Elvis. Both songs would also top The American singles charts. It’s Now Or Never” would have a five week run at the top during the summer of 1960 and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” would begin its six week stay at the top beginning November 28, 1960. They would rank as the 10th and 8th most popular singles of the decade.
Elvis’ version of “Are You Lonesome Tonight” would become one of his signature songs. He would pattern the music after the Blue Baron interpretation but the vocal would be taken from Al Jolson. It was Elvis’ emotional dialogue that won over many of his fans.
This slow ballad remains instantly recognizable over a half century ago was responsible for Elvis truly being the king.
June 15, 2014
It’s doubtful that Giovanni Capurro could have imagined what lay in store for his composition, “O Sole Mio,” when he wrote the song back in the year 1900. Six decades later, an adapted English version topped the music charts in the United States.
Elvis took the melody of “O Sole Mio,” added English lyrics and turned it into a smooth pop song. Released during the summer of 1960, it topped the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart for five weeks beginning August 15, 1960.
It signaled a change in Elvis’ style and sound as he began to move away from his rockabilly/rock ‘n’ roll roots toward a more pop sound. The public embraced the song and the sound. It reached The Billboard Hot 100 on July 18, 1960, and on August 15, 1960, it claimed the top spot where it remained for five weeks.
“It’s Now Or Never” was one of Elvis’ biggest hits and remains one of his signature songs.