Elvis Presley

Elvis [1956]

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If Elvis isn't quite as important historically as the Elvis Presley album that preceded it, that's only because it came second -- musically, it's a more confident and bolder work than his debut, and in any other artist's output it would have been considered a crowning achievement. At the sessions for his first album, the singer and all concerned were treading into unmapped territory and not sure what they were doing or if they were ready for it -- by September of 1956, when the three days of sessions behind the Elvis album took place, he was on top, a national phenomenon of a kind that hadn't been seen in music since Frank Sinatra a dozen years earlier, and he had some more experience recording. And with that confidence came better singing. The songs here were, for the most part, material that he knew well, with one new submission by Otis Blackwell. He slides through them seemingly effortlessly, transforming the 1940s country number "When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again" into a smooth rocker; roaring through the Little Richard numbers "Long Tall Sally," "Ready Teddy," and "Rip It Up"; returns to his blues roots with a killer rendition of Arthur Crudup's "I'm So Glad You're Mine" (a leftover, amazingly enough, from his first RCA session); and shows how refined his voice was becoming on the ballad "First in Line" and the sentimental favorite "Old Shep." The Elvis album was reissued in 1999 with vastly improved sound and eight bonus tracks from the same and chronologically adjoining recording sessions, including the singles "Hound Dog," "Don't Be Cruel," and "Anyway You Want Me," and that is the version to own on CD.

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