Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley [DVD]

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While this is a good and informative DVD, it gets docked a point for somewhat muddled execution of its nominal concept. As part of the "Classic Albums Series," supposedly this, according to the back cover note, "tells the unusual story that lies behind the making of Elvis Presley's first album for RCA Records, in 1956" (titled Elvis Presley). But it's really more an overview of Presley's career up to the point of that LP's release, focusing partially but not wholly on the Elvis Presley album itself. Not that this documentary is at all bad, featuring excerpts from numerous early Elvis TV appearances and silent amateur footage of live mid-'50s shows. The interviews are excellent, with about as fine a cast of surviving associates and authorities as could have been chosen: Sun Records producer Sam Phillips, sidemen Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana, biographer Peter Guralnick, Elvis discography expert Ernst Jorgensen, and (speaking about Elvis's art and influence) Keith Richards. Some viewers might get frustrated that fragments of the early TV appearances are shown rather than the whole songs, but then again several 1956 early television clips can be seen in their entirety on Rhino's fine three-part Elvis: The Great Performances video/DVD series. No, the problem is that hardly any of the actual tracks on Elvis Presley are discussed in depth, though the early RCA sessions are discussed in general (and quite interesting) terms. Indeed, several songs that didn't make it onto the LP, like the "Heartbreak Hotel"/"I Was the One" single and indeed a few pre-RCA Sun 45s, are given far more extensive coverage. What we have here is the backbone of what might be a very fine episode in a multi-volume career overview of Presley, rather than a work which actually does focus on one album. The DVD includes quite a bit of bonus interview footage that's about on par with what made it into the main feature, though it would have been better to incorporate this footage into that feature and make the principal documentary longer.