The Searcher: The Original Soundtrack By Elvis Presley

January 24, 2019

Calling all fans of “The King;” the Elvis Presley train is pulling into the station again with some friends in tow.

HBO will be premièring a new Elvis Presley documentary April 14, and this is the Soundtrack to the film with a lot of extra material.

The music of Elvis has been released many times and in just about every format imaginable. The 18 tracks from the documentary, when taken apart from the film may seem like an eclectic group, but that is part of their charm. From his early Sun material, “My Baby Left Me,” “That’s All Right,” and “Baby Let’s Play House,” to the immortal “Hound Dog” and “Heartbreak Hotel,” to some lesser known tracks, “Milky Way,” “Like A Baby,” and a rehearsal version of “Separate Ways,” it is a different approach to his music and legacy.

The other 37 Elvis tracks follow the same pattern. While the former fit into the documentary; the rest of the material by Elvis has a seemingly random approach and so you take the good with the bad. I’m not sure I need another copy of “Suspicious Minds (Take 6)” or a rehearsal version of the Bee Gees “Words,” but tracks like “Reconsider Baby,” “You Gave Me A Mountain,” and “An American Trilogy” are always welcome.

It is the third disc that sets the release apart. Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) contributes “Dissolution” and “Rebound,” while Petty’s cover of “Wooden Heart” is present.

It is the music that purportedly influenced Elvis that makes the disc worthwhile. Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s version of “That’s All Right” is still a raw experience, while Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning” explores the beginnings of rock and roll. Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” examines Elvis’ early sound from a country perspective. Throw in such forgotten performances as “Mystery Train” by Little Junior’s Blue Flames, “She May Be Yours But She Comes To Me Sometimes” by Joe Hill Lewis, “Rocket 88” by Jackie Bernston, and “Write Me A Letter” by the Ravens are worth the price of admission.

The Searcher” examines the music of Elvis Presley from a different perspective. Taken outside of the film, it is an interesting listen with a lot of good music.

Elvis Christmas With Royal Philharmonic (CD) By Elvis Presley

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.

A Boy From Tupelo: The Sun Sessions By Elvis Presley

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.

Good Luck Charm By Elvis Presley

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.

Surrender by Elvis Presley

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.

Are You Lonesome Tonight by Elvis Presley

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.

It’s Now Or Never by Elvis Presley

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.



Stuck On You by Elvis Presley

May 25, 2014


March 1, 1960: Farewell party for Elvis by his Army Unit.

March 5, 1960: Elvis is honorably discharged from the Army at Fort Dix.

March 20-21, 1960: Elvis enters the recording studio and records six songs including two future number one singles.

March 1960: Advance orders for the as yet unnamed and unheard single top 1.2 million.

March 26, 1960: Elvis debuts “Stuck On You” on the Frank Sinatra Timex Television Show.

April 4, 1960: “Stuck On You” enters the BILLBOARD Hot 100 Chart.

April 25, 1960: Stuck On You” reaches number one where it remains for four weeks.

Recorded Live In Memphis (Legacy Edition) by Elvis Presley

April 16, 2014


Elvis has re-entered the building again. The Elvis releases just keep coming as many of his albums have reached the 40 and 50 year mark and are being reissued with all sorts of bonus tracks. The latest album to be resurrected for its 40th anniversary is Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis.

Elvis was back on top of the music world in 1974. His 1973 Stax sessions had been well received and his Hawaiian television concert had been viewed by close to one billion people and the subsequent album Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite had topped the American music charts.

Elvis wanted to record a live album in his hometown of Memphis. Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis was released on vinyl July 7, 1974. The original album was somewhat disjointed as the concert was edited down to basics and clocked in at a meager 41 minutes. The concert is now complete as the missing ten songs have been returned to their rightful places. “Steamroller Blues,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Teddy Bear/Don’t Be Cruel” Medley,” “Polk Salad Annie,” and “Funnny How Time Slips Away” are the best of the missing songs and help to flesh out the performance and make the concert experience complete.

Elvis is in fine voice and the sound has been scrubbed crystal clear. The 24 page booklet with some rare photographs gives a nice history of the tour and homecoming concert. His performance of “How Great Thou Art” would win the Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance.

As with most of Elvis’ reissues there is a bonus disc. In this case it is what is called The Richmond Test Run Concert recorded March 18; two days before the Memphis performance.  While there may only be subtle differences, the complete concert is intact.

The album concludes with five tracks recorded at the Hollywood RCA Studios on August 16. They are referred to as reference recordings for an upcoming Las Vegas engagement. “Down In The Alley,” “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues,” “Softly As I Leave You,” “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” and “The Twelfth Of Never” provide an interesting look at Elvis in the studio.

Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis is sometimes underrated in the pantheon of live Elvis albums. The release will certainly appeal to Elvis’ large fan base but if you are a casual fan there are better places to start when exploring his catalogue of music. If you are so inclined, however, this is a very good and interesting release as it fills in some missing elements in his legacy.


A Big Hunk O’ Love by Elvis Presley

March 25, 2014

Elvis was in the service in 1959. Elvis received a furlough in June of 1958 and on June 10, entered a recording studio for a two session. He managed to record five songs and then it was off to Germany where he would meet his future wife Priscilla.

“A Fool Such As I” was released in March of 1959 but became a rare Elvis release not to top the Billboard Hot 100 as it stalled at number two.

“A Big Hunk O’ Love” was released in June of 1959 and entered the Hot 100 on July 10th. It reached number one five weeks later on August 10, and remained number one for two weeks. It was his last single release until he was discharged from the military.