Like its companion release (For LP Fans Only), A Date with Elvis has left varying impressions on different generations of Elvis Presley fans. If you were around in 1959, the first thing you probably noticed was that it was the gatefold jacket, with lots of really cool photos inside and out of Elvis Presley in uniform. Hearing this album -- which contained not a word about where or when the music on it was recorded -- one would have been struck by just how raw and lively the music was, more exciting, in fact, than the music on his last pre-Army LP release, the King Creole soundtrack. As they had with For LP Fans Only, RCA had assembled a "new" Elvis Presley album by reaching back to five of the best of his best Sun Records sides, augmented with a few songs left over from the Love Me Tender and Jailhouse Rock soundtrack EPs. The 1954-1955 recordings of "Milkcow Blues Boogie," "Good Rockin' Tonight," "Baby Let's Play House," etc., with their lean textures, frantic sound, and Scotty Moore's slashing lead guitar, were a far cry from anything heard on King Creole. It was the height of irony that the two "new" Elvis albums of 1959 gave national audiences their first real chance to plunge into the sound of the "old" Elvis of 1954-1955, when he was known as "The Memphis Flash" and "The Hillbilly Cat." A few years later, during the mid- to late '60s, when some listeners started getting serious about Elvis' music, and others, born too late to have been buying the records in 1956, started discovering his work for the first time, the word got out about A Date with Elvis and For LP Fans Only -- that these were the real article, at least as worthwhile as the first two RCA albums and the easiest way to get the King's early Memphis sides. By the second half of the '60s, A Date with Elvis and its packaging had become irrelevant to 99-percent of rock listeners, but serious fans grabbed up copies -- even Rolling Stone magazine recommended A Date with Elvis and For LP Fans Only (especially their mono pressings) in the course of guiding readers through the already confusing maze of his releases. By the late '70s, when the Sun material had been gathered together in a more orderly fashion, A Date with Elvis fell out of favor once again, and it has seemed superfluous since, for the most part, in terms of musical scholarship. But listening to it decades after its release, one is still hard-put to find too many albums that are more viscerally exciting.
A Date with Elvis Review
by Bruce Eder