Part of a series of Classic Albums DVDs which include looks at Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Lou Reed's Transformer, and Metallica's Metallica, among others, Eaglevision USA's look at the first RCA album from Elvis Presley is pretty wonderful. As the record was a phenomenon, selling around 300,000 units upon its release and breaking boundaries, the DVD actually spends more time addressing the musical psychology of Elvis, his intuition, and the dynamics that made for this groundbreaking release. In that sense, the DVD is an overwhelming success. You will see Sam Phillips talk about the Sun sessions, and be treated to an expansive overview of "the King" as biographer Peter Guralnick considers Elvis' philosophy, life, and those moments in the recording studio which he calls "classic, unrehearsed sounds springing right from the soul." The social impact of the album and how the singer progressed after its release are here. Utilizing portions of three different performances of "Heartbreak Hotel" from February 11, 1956, through March 17 and the sixth show, March 24th, you see the singer advancing himself, and the narration is descriptive, as if to a classroom. Record producer/historian Ernst Jorgensen notes that "Heartbreak Hotel" isn't on the first RCA Elvis Presley album, interestingly enough. It is vital to the story, though, as it came from those sessions and hit simultaneously with the LP. The late Lillian Roxon and biographer Kurt VonMeier consider that "Elvis was most alive in his immediate prestardom period." Had his life continued to the era of the digital video disc, one wonders what the perspective of Presley would be on his own work? The genuine feelings of KGRI disc jockey Tom Perryman, girlfriend from 1955 Dixie Locke, as well as Sam Phillips, drummer D.J. Fontana, and guitarist Scotty Moore are about as close as you can get to what Elvis may have thought about it all. There are some warm and rare images from home movies, and additional materials on the bonus section -- like the complete Elvis Presley recording contract with RCA which scrolls and makes for fascinating reading. Commentary from B.B. King and Keith Richards is right on target. It's a lot of information and maybe purists would expect more analytical discussion of the album's tracks, creation, and release, but the Elvis Presley: Classic Albums DVD has much to offer and entertains while documenting history.
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AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione