RCA 07863 67675-2 (1999)
CD-1: That's All Right - Blue Moon Of Kentucky - Good Rockin'
Tonight - I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine - Milkcow Blues Boogie - You're A
Heartbreaker - Baby Let's Play House - I'm Left You're Right She's Gone - Mystery Train -
I Forgot To Remember To Forget - I Love You Because - Harbor Light - Blue Moon - Tomorrow
CD-2: It Wouldn't Be The Same Without You - My Happiness - That's When Your Heartaches Begin - I'll Never Stand In Your Way - I Love You Because (alt.) - That's All Right (alt.)- Blue Moon Of Kentucky (alt.) - Blue Moon (alt.) - I'll Never Let You Go (alt.) - I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine (alt.) - I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone (slow - alt.) - Fool, Fool, Fool - Shake, Rattle & Roll - I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone (live) - That's All Right (live) - Money Honey (live) - Tweedle Dee (live) - I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine (live) - Hearts Of Stone (live)
The Beginning of the Cultural Revolution 1953-1954
by Anthony Britch
When Elvis Presley walked into the Memphis Recording Service on Union Ave. on a sweltering summer day in 1953 he may have intended to be heard by Sam Phillips, but he wasn't out to help in the creation of a cultural revolution.
Funny how things never work out the way you intend them to!
What was the musical landscape of popular culture like in 1953?
Some of the top records on the National Hit Parade were: "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes" and "No Other Love" Perry Como's latest releases, "Till I Waltz With You Again" by Teresa Brewer, "The Doggie in the Window" by Patti Page, and the instrumental hit "Song from Moulin Rouge" by Percy Faith and his orchestra. Other chart regulars from this time were Eddie Fisher, Nat King Cole, The Ames Brothers, Tony Bennett and of course Frank Sinatra. Music that conformed to the credo of what is known as the Eisenhower era, innocent and inoffensive songs performed by wholesome singers.
For a few years, teenagers (young adults as they were known at the time) around the country began to be exposed to black rhythm and blues in small quantities. Muddy Waters charted in 1951 and Clyde Mcphatter charted in 1953 amongst others. This was different, something young white America had never been exposed to in a segregated culture. DJ's like Alan Freed in New York and Bill Randle in Cleveland began to play more and more of the so
called "race music" .
Record companies soon took notice of this trend and began getting the publishing rights to songs by rhythm and blues artists and having mainstream artists such as Pat Boone, The Crew Cuts and The Fontane Sisters record the songs. These versions always became more successful and white teenagers thought they were listening to a new form of music, but they
By January 1954 Elvis had recorded two amateur records at the Memphis Recording Service, Chuck Berry was playing nights in St. Louis Blues clubs wondering how to get a record made and developing his style, an electric blues sound with a touch of country pickin' and pristine phrasing that was definitely different to other R & B Artists of the time. Little Richard was washing dishes in a restaurant after the failure of his first recordings in 1951, and Fats Domino was making solid R$B records in New Orleans that featured his rolling piano style with a touch of Dixieland jazz.
In June 1954 Elvis was finally called by Sam Phillips, he wanted to try him out on a song that he had found, "Without You" they rehearsed and attempted to record for hours, not getting anywhere. The following week he sent Elvis to meet with Scotty Moore, a local country guitarist that had recorded for Sam in the past. It was his hope that Scotty would see the potential in Elvis' style of singing or at least be intrigued enough to want to record with him.
A few weeks later, they were at the SUN Studio (adjacent to the Memphis Recording Service) and began recording (Scotty had brought a friend - Bill Black, a bass player to round out a trio) they started out on some plain country ballads but after several attempts at two songs "Harbor Lights" and I Love You Because" they seemed to be headed nowhere. The songs were pretty, well played and sung, but they sounded like a million other songs. During a break Elvis picked up his guitar and started in on a R&B tune called "That's All Right" suddenly they had found something different. Sam Phillips didn't even know Elvis knew any R&B music.But what the little trio was playing wasn't R&B, it wasn't country, but it was
Sam Phillips was hoping he had found what he was searching for a white man who sang with the vitality and feel that was coveted by Black R&B. They would return the following night to see if it was a fluke or not. Of course, we know that they did return, on the next night and several nights over a 14 month period. What Elvis, Scotty and Bill recorded in this
short time stands as a milestone today as the beginning of a new musical expression.
It was all recorded before Chuck Berry's first record, "Maybellene" or Fats Domino's first national hit, "Ain't That a Shame".
Thru 1955 Elvis continued to tour and record and created a huge following, particularly in the southern states, everywhere he went. His first national charting records were "I Forgot to Remember To Forget " and "Baby, Let's Play House' which reached No. 1 and No. 10 respectively on the National Country chart in 1955. Elvis would not crack the National
Billboard chart until 8 months later with his first RCA recording, Heartbreak Hotel".
The other movers and shakers that helped create what we now call R&R, artists like Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Fats Domino along with Elvis, laid the foundations of a cultural revolution. This revolution changed the way people spoke, thought, interacted, and dressed but most of all, without these artists, The Beatles, Bob Dylan The Rolling Stones and
hundreds of others might of been playing a whole different type of music.
And the world would be a different place, indeed.
SUNRISE: The Review
BMG's reissue of Elvis' SUN recordings is a major disappointment for collectors but a must have release for the casual buyer.
How can a CD release be as described above? Let's first look at it from a collector's point of view. This 2 CD set contains all of the masters that survive from Elvis' Sun Period (more is hoped to be found but I'm not holding my breath). All of these songs can be found on other compilations.
The best remastered jobs have been on this release and the 50's box set, there is virtually no difference.
Most of the alternate takes, amateur acetates and live material have been issued before, but they do sound better on this reissue than on any other release.
So what unreleased material remains for the collector: (3 of the live recordings have been available previously on independent labels, this is the first issue on BMG)
It Wouldn't Be The Same Without You (The flip side of Elvis' second private recording)
Blue Moon (alternate. take)
I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone (live)
That's All Right (Mama) (live)
Money Honey (live)
Tweedle Dee (live)
I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine (live)
Hearts Of Stone (live)
Very disappointing when you consider what else could have been added:(each disc runs under 50 minutes, so space is not an issue) -several more alternates of I Love You Because and I'm Left Your Right She's Gone exist, some have been issued before and some haven't. Their inclusion here could have provided a clearer picture of Elvis working in the studio at the early stages of his career.
-Elvis' first Live appearance on the Louisiana Hayride Oct. 16/54 performing That's All Right and Blue Moon of Kentucky
- A complete Elvis perfomance from March 19/55 from the Eagles' Hall in Houston Texas featuring-Good Rockin' Tonight, Baby Let's Play House, Blue Moon of Kentucky, I Got A Woman and That's All Right.
-Other "Hayride" recordings like Maybellene and Little Mama would give a more complete picture of Elvis' stage repotter from the time.
Even though BMG has designed a standout package with liner notes by Elvis biographer Peter Guralnick and a wonderful collage of photos and archival material they have missed the boat on presenting a complete picture of Elvis' SUN period.
Now let's look at this release from the viewpoint of the casual buyer (BMG's intended target for this release to be perfectly frank).
This is a must have for any music fans CD collection. Whether you like Elvis or not there is no denying his contributions to popular culture and his importance to the shaping of the last half of this century.
The music contained on this release is not only Elvis' beginnings but also one of the starting points of what we know as Rock and Roll.
The 19 masters contained on disc one are all that have survived from Elvis' Sun Period (July 1954 to November 1955). He did record other songs but several were erased by SUN's owner, the often cash-strapped Sam Phillips (he thought the reusing old tape was a way of cutting costs.) Also some tapes turned over to RCA were destroyed in a vault clean out in 1959.
These songs blended several musical styles into one driving force. The lyricism and precision of Country Music, the despair and suggestiveness of R&B and the fervour and emotions of Gospel music.
Songs like "That's All Right", "Blue Moon of Kentucky", "Good Rockin' Tonight" , "Tryin' To Get To You", "Baby Let's Play House" and "Mystery Train" reveal a sense of freedom and wild abandon not heard of prior to 1954 in popular music. Sure sometimes the sparse arrangements and the instrumentation can sound amateurish by todays' standards, but don't forget that technology has improved greatly in the last 45 years. These recordings still contain a vitality and spontaneity that are as integral to Rock and Roll as Chuck Berry's recordings in 1955, Little Richard's 1956 releases, Fats Domino's 1955-56 recordings .
The most revealing moments on this release are in the amateur acetates that are included: Elvis' 1st record, "My Happiness/That's When your Heartaches Begin" and "I'll Never Stand In Your Way/It Wouldn't Be the same Without You". Sam Phillips surely must have been a gifted producer to hear so much in several plaintive country and pop ballads. You can hear the hesitancy in Elvis' voice all the way through.
When listening to these first recordings and then comparing them to his first record release, "That's All Right" -just six months later, it becomes truly remarkable that so much untapped talent was waiting to burst forth. It is hard to believe that it is the same singer.
The "Live" recordings are remarkable in the plain fact that they exist. The Louisiana Hayride was a regionally broadcast radio show that was primarily country, but not adverse to presenting something different, whereas The Grand Ole Opry was strictly country. Hank Williams got his start there amongst others. The acetates presented on this CD suffer a
great deal in audio quality but Elvis does come to the surface amongst all the excess noise. Some of these tracks were issued on an independent label, the sound is slightly improved through modern technology.
One can only hope that eventually more tapes from the SUN period and the Louisiana Hayride shows will be found one day, but until then this release should be considered the definitive document on not just Elvis' beginnings but, that of an entire generation.
By Anthony Britch
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