Sunday, April 27, 2008

Elvis World News: Bill Burk Has Passed Away

Noted Elvis historian and author Bill Burk has passed away. Please click here to read the full report. My best to his friends and family.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Elvis On Vinyl: Elvis (1956)

I’ve always found it ironic that Elvis, the second Long player from Elvis Presley, has never achieved the fame and respect granted to his first platter because, to my ears at least, it is a more consistently brilliant, thrilling and powerful listening experience.
Featuring tracks from a storming September 1956 session, with mostly the same players who made up the first L.P. aboard, Elvis has a much more consistent feel than Elvis Presley as it doesn’t rely on older Sun material to fill out its running time.
Elvis gets off to a roaring start with "Rip It Up", surely one of the definitive rock numbers of the fifties. Elvis sings with a relaxed power through this iconic Robert Blackwell/John Marascalco track that has been covered hundreds of times from everyone to Iggy Pop to The Stray Cats, but the version heard here has never been equaled. From the electrified guitar runs of Scotty Moore to Elvis opening it with “It’s Saturday night and I just got paid” like he means all the business in the world, "Rip It Up" is one of the great opening tracks in rock history.
The classic Lieber and Stoller track, "Love Me", is up next and it has lost none of its gorgeous power in the fifty years plus since he recorded it. A huge hit upon its release, and a track he would revisit throughout his career, "Love Me" is punctuated by some incredibly smooth background vocals by The Jordanaires and a dripping honey like vocal by Elvis that must have melted more teenage hearts back in the fall of 56 than almost any other track from the period.
I’ve always loved "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again", although I guess it can be argued that the track was among the ones that clearly shows RCA still trying to match the always just out of reach ‘Sun sound’. Still, the countrified Wiley Walker/Gene Sullivan track is a wonder and is again helped along by some great background work from The Jordanaires.
The bittersweet twang of "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold" again is ripped apart by the album’s next track; the ferocious Enotris Johnson penned "Long Tall Sally". Often compared unfavorably to the Little Richard original, I find Elvis’ version to be electrifying and the equal of the more celebrated Richard track. Elvis would continue to revisit the song throughout his career, where it would become one of the most consistently exhilarating moments from his seventies live shows.
The Schroeder/Weisman track "First In Line" is probably the most dated sounding track on the album but it is still quite devastating in its own quaint and quiet way. Featuring a pleading echo drenched vocal by Elvis, First in Line took a mammoth 27 takes to get right, which marks it as a song Elvis was obviously committed to although it wasn’t a number he would revisit.

The album rocks out again hard with "Paralyzed", a fantastic Otis Blackwell number driven by some impressive skin work by D.J. Fontana and a terrific vocal by Elvis. Delirious and swinging, Blackwell’s number in Presley’s hand captures the excitement and nervousness of young love like no other.
Even better is Arthur Crudup’s "So Glad Your Mine", a left over track from that first January 56 session. One of the most underrated tracks from Elvis in the fifties, "So Glad Your Mine" has a real sweaty burlesque feel to it heightened by some great Shorty Long piano work…"So Glad Your Mine" sounds like the soundtrack to a lost Bettie Page reel and is a real highlight to the second LP.
The soaked in sin delights of "So Glad Your Mine" collapse into the one ill advised moment on Elvis, namely the sugary and nostalgic "Old Shep"…a favorite of Elvis’ and some fans but a song that has always felt totally out of place on this album to me. That said, the song is of course important as it was the one he sang at the Mississippi-Alabama fair as a ten year old and the performance here is fine if just a little too weepy for my taste.
Thankfully, the Blackwell/Marascalco number "Ready Teddy" saves the album from total sentimentality and everything about the track absolutely smokes. From D.J. Fontana’s explosive drummer to a mid song guitar solo by Moore that must have sent many parents running up the stairs to their teenagers rooms to see what all the racket was about in late 1956. "Ready Teddy" has lost none of its ferocious power in the five decades since it was released and it remains one of the most brutal and audacious moments from Elvis in the fifties.
Another gorgeous echo drenched ballad follows with Joe Thomas’ "Anyplace is Paradise", a track featuring some very nice rhythm guitar work by Elvis and a delightfully off kilter solo by Moore. The stuttering piano work by Gordon Stoker in the last part of the song is a real favorite moment a well in this little rarely talked about gem of a song.
The Atkins and Bryant track "How’s The World Been Treating You" follows and it’s not one of the strongest moments on the record. Originally recorded by Eddy Arnold, the track is just a little too dragged out here although the way Elvis lead works with The Jordanaire’s backing vocal is interesting.
The album closes with the odd Wayne Walker/Webb Pierce track "How Do You Think I Feel", a strange sounding country track featuring some of the weirdest Scotty Moore tracks on record. It’s an odd coda for such a powerful record that Elvis wouldn’t revisit, although at just over two minutes it hardly outstays its welcome.
Elvis is one of the first truly great L.P.’s of the rock era. Despite a couple of off numbers, the album is much more consistent and inventive than the more talked about Elvis Presley. It can currently be heard in its entirety on the essential The Complete Fifties Masters box set or on the remastered stand-alone disc which features the singles from the period not included on the original LP. The best way to hear the album is on the rather pricy 24 bit Japanese import which features simply smashing sound quality.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Complete Madison Square Garden Press Conference: Rough Footage



New Madison Square Gardens Photos Appear

Quick Note: School has been incredibly hectic lately which is why I am a bit behind in my posts. Things should be calming down in a week or so so I will be able to post more regularly. Thanks to those who have been visiting.

Some gigs are almost as legendary as the artists that performed at them. Think of The Beatles at Shea, The Who at Leeds, Hendrix at Monterey, The Pistols at Winterland, The Clash at Bonds or The Stone Roses at Spike Island. Only Elvis Presley though could make headlines all over the world just because of the discovery of some unreleased photos from one of his most powerful stands, the towering Madison Square Garden concerts from 72.

The 40 plus photos, a handful have already leaked for the press, by George Kalinsky are reportedly heading down to Memphis to be put on display at a special exhibit at Graceland. The one at the top of this post is currently on display as a huge poster overlooking Times Square. I can't wait to see the rest of them.
I wish Kalinsky would have gotten some shots of the audience as well since it included everyone from David Bowie to members of Led Zeppelin and some of the original New York punk scene among many other rock luminaries.
For more on Elvis at The Garden, please visit this exhaustive site dedicated to the series of shows he did there.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Overlooked Gems: Lonesome Cowboy

This powerful and strange Tepper and Bennett track from Loving You has always been a favorite. It was in fact once going to be the title of the film and was surprisingly enough mixed together seamlessly from two separate takes.