Already in the planning stages before Elvis Presley's death, the two '56 Sessions albums were RCA U.K.'s way of following up the success of The Elvis Presley Sun Collection (1975) (released in the U.S. in March 1976 as The Sun Sessions). While the earlier album had put Presley's 1954-1955 Sun Records recordings together on a single LP for the first time, The '56 Sessions organized all of the recordings Presley made during his phenomenal national debut year in chronological order. The first volume, covering four recording sessions conducted from January to July, presented 16 songs that included the bedrock of Presley's breakthrough -- the U.S. number ones "Heartbreak Hotel," "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You," "Don't Be Cruel," and "Hound Dog," the Top 40 hits "I Was the One," "Blue Suede Shoes," and "My Baby Left Me," and the chart entry "Money Honey." Presley's ability to transform country and R&B into rock & roll was well-displayed on recordings that filled out the spare instrumentation of his Sun sides with drums, extra guitar, and backup singers who allowed Presley to stretch his range into doo wop. Though already well-known, this material had been haphazardly scattered among singles, EPs, and albums. Here in context, it made better sense and remained as revolutionary as ever.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann