Various Artists

The Roots of Elvis Presley

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This multi-artist compilation is essential listening to any real devotee of Elvis Presley, and can also be highly recommended to any casual fan. The 22 songs here represent various songs made famous by Presley in the versions that he would have known them from. Apart from the overall quality of the analog-to-digital transfers, the most striking element of this CD is the sheer diversity of sounds embodied here: the gospel of Sister Rosetta Tharpe ("Down by the Riverside") and the Golden Gate Quartet ("Precious Lord"), the jaunty Western swing of Bob Wills ("Faded Love"), the blues of Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup ("That's All Right," "My Baby Left Me," "So Glad You're Mine") and postwar jump-style singer Wea Bea Booze ("See See Rider"), the country blues of Johnny Lee Wills ("Milk Cow Blues"), the country-based popular sounds of Gene Autry ("Blueberry Hill"), and forgotten country stars like the Shelton Brothers ("Just Because," "Aura Lee"). It's all evidence of one attribute of Elvis' that is often overlooked -- that apart from his talent, he came to his career knowing more songs, in more different styles and genres, than any teenager rightfully ought to have known. The result here is a supremely diverse body of music by artists ranging from some of the most exalted to some of the most obscure performers of the mid-20th century. The annotation is reasonably thorough, though some of what's here begs for a real musicologist to address its content and true origins. In the meantime, it's great fun and an enlightening listen the first time or the 20th time.

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