“ELVIS” (1956) The King’s first “real” LP and a summary of his essence.

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“ELVIS” (1956) The King’s first “real” LP and a summary of his essence.

By Mahnuel Muñoz
"Elvis" (1956)
“Elvis” (1956)

As the summer of 1956 gave way to autumn, Elvis Presley was in a moment of hyperactivity that would not cease in his career. He began filming his first film, “Love Me Tender” (initially titled “The Reno Brothers”), as well as the recording of its corresponding soundtrack, which, surprisingly, did not include his usual companions Scotty Moore, Bill Black and DJ Fontana. The song that gave the film its title would show the public an unusual facet of the singer, that of the serious and profound balladeer, which surprised both defenders and detractors but which brought out a primary artistic streak. As Elvis himself stated, “I only sang ballads before dedicating myself to this professionally.”

Simultaneously, sessions began for a new full-length album that would pick up the torch of “Elvis Presley,” the singer’s debut with RCA, released in March 1956. Presley’s second album, in my opinion, surpasses its predecessor and It should be considered his first “real” LP, since almost half of the songs on the “Elvis Presley” album come from the recording sessions at Sun Records.

The sessions held in September 1956 at the Radio Recorders studios in Hollywood were the first that Elvis dedicated entirely to the making of an album. For this he had his usual team, consisting of Scotty Moore on guitar, Bill Black on bass, DJ Fontana on drums, Gordon Stoker on piano and The Jordanaires as a backing vocal group. In just three days, eleven of the album’s twelve cuts were recorded, plus two songs that would be published as a single. The twelfth theme of the album was taken from previous sessions in January 1956. The days in which the album was produced made it clear that Elvis had matured artistically with astonishing speed, taking the helm of his work in the studio, carefully selecting the material and firmly and meticulously marking the rhythms, times and intensities of the process.

With these sessions and the fruit of them, the image of Elvis as a simple rock ephebe who was at the right time and place should be definitively banished to be replaced by the incontestable reality of a talented, intuitive, precocious and committed artist beyond the tags.



Elvis is very brave for daring to look Little Richard face to face in his opening of this album, because Little is very big, even for Elvis, who is the biggest; Most versions of his work will pale when compared to the savagery with which their author conceived and recorded them, and this includes, in my opinion, Elvis, even though he makes valuable efforts to honor the material. For this album, Elvis records not one, but three of Richard’s emblematic songs, explicitly recognizing his weight in the genre.

His reading of “Rip It Up” is neat and elegant, replacing Richard’s luminous festivity with the tone of a gang leader of motorized thugs: his voice does not alter at any time, but there is an implicit authoritarian and threatening tone that is seen supported by Scotty Moore’s hostile and sharp guitar solo.


A classic tune from the Elvis songbook, written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1954 parodying the tearful country ballads of the time. Elvis approaches the subject with seriousness and conviction, making an astonishing display of his ability to naturally navigate the twists and turns of his extensive vocal range and turning the joke into a forceful song of submissive love that drove his fans crazy. When he recovered the theme in the 1970s for his concerts, he brought it closer to the original intention of its creators, gradually stripping it of its strength and reducing it to a mere excuse for kissing female spectators and handing out tissues.


A song that Elvis could hear from his childhood, since it was written by Wiley Walker and Gene Sullivan in 1941. The reinterpretation he makes changes the resigned tone of the previous versions to a much more vital one, almost like a religious song; In fact, the song ends with a beautiful union of the voices of Elvis and the Jordanaires in the style of a gospel choir. In 1968 Elvis recovered the piece in his legendary television special for NBC with a dizzying and raw reading with all the aroma of the Sun Records recordings.


In “Long Tall Sally” Presley gives it his all, ripping his voice and adopting his toughest and most defiant pose, the band plays quickly and forcefully and the sound is dirtier than in the rest of the tracks on the album, conveying to us what was heard. at the young King’s concerts in those days.


The song I imagine Elvis singing on the album cover. The pens of Aaron Schroeder and Ben Weisman captured on paper the lyrics and melody of this balcony serenade at dusk that Presley performs with such charm and virtuosity that the excessive corniness of his lyrics can be overlooked (“When they shared eyes like diamonds that “They would put the stars to shame, you were the first in line.“) The exaggerated echo effect, despite clouding Elvis’s vocal purity, provides the necessary romantic and dreamlike touch to the recording.


This Otis Blackwell composition is a twin sister of “Don’t Be Cruel” and clearly explains why Elvis was so irresistible when he appeared. The song is light and provocative, its instrumental simplicity is stimulating, addictive and Presley sings with joy, poise and uninhibition. The supporting work of the Jordanaires, with their charming combination of stacattos and legattos, coheres the mixture of components and plates a dessert that we want to repeat again and again.


An old blues composed in 1946 by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, author of “That’s All Right”; As in that first session, Elvis brings up the subject of the orthodoxy of the genre and gives it a new identity, in this case making it a joyful and gallant courtship of love.


With this sappy ballad about a boy and his dog, written in 1933 by Red Foley and Arthur Willis, Elvis made his first public appearance at the age of ten, at a livestock show talent show. He sang while standing on a chair, without accompaniment, and won second prize, consisting of five dollars and free tickets to all the attractions. At the peak of his popularity Elvis wanted to pay tribute to his beginnings with a particularly long and unctuous version that I have never liked, and I think it is the weakest point of the album, I must confess that when I listened to it again for the analysis , he gave me a pinch of emotion; You can’t deny the dedication and sincerity with which he sings…and that I’m getting older.


For me, it is the song in which Elvis manages to come closest to Richard’s intensity, and I would say that he even surpasses him. Once again we have him singing loud and ragged, with a lack of inhibition that is conspicuous by its absence in “Sally” and “Rip It Up”, and the band works like a group of unscrupulous criminals, well trained to leave no foot still or skin untouched. sweat, with special mention to DJ Fontana, who uses his instrument like a machine gun. The legendary performance of this song on the Ed Sullivan Show constitutes one of the most iconic and exciting moments in the King’s career and in the history of Rock.


A blues written by Joe Thomas, elegant and with a fine neon flash, which deserved each of the 22 takes used to find the final master. Elvis plays with swing and demonstrates jazzy skills that we can occasionally enjoy in his work during the 50s and 60s.


This heartbreak song by Chet Atkins and Boudleaux Bryant that Eddy Arnold popularized in 1953 is converted by Elvis into a dense and dark litany, on the verge of suicide, in the vein of Sun Records ballads, with an almost funereal arrangement and a solo by something sharp and bitter piano that reinforces the atmosphere of absolute helplessness. A creation of surprising emotional depth to come from a 21-year-old young man.


And after emerging from the well of tears of “How’s The World Treating You,” this new story of heartbreak is approached with detachment and joy and inspires you to smile in the face of adversity. Elvis learned about this composition written by Wayne Walker and Webb Pierce in the version made by Jimmy Rodgers Snow in 1954. Comparing both readings we effortlessly see the groundbreaking creative energy that Elvis emanated at that time and how art seemed to want to escape the confines of his body. It surpasses, without fanfare or eccentricities, Snow’s version in rhythm, flavor and temperature, and constitutes a perfect closing of the album.

Elvis” was published in October 1956 and managed, like its predecessor, to reach first place on the charts in the United States. The product was carefully designed, from its cover to the order of its content, with the aim of reaching the widest possible audience, transcending the teenage followers who elevated it. Ballads and traditional rhythms of country and blues predominate, leaving explicit Rock and Roll scattered throughout the album, as if to justify the artist’s reputation; This, in my opinion, far from being negative, makes the work offer an enjoyable and stimulating listen, given the varied textures given to the themes, depending on their genre and plot.

After this work, and with the exception of the legendary “Christmas Album” released in November 1957, Elvis’ entire discography was made up of singles, EPs and LPs from the soundtracks of his films, as well as compilation works. We will have to wait until 1960 and the superb album “Elvis Is Back” to enjoy a sequence of songs generated in sessions for this purpose and, therefore, endowed with a common driving energy. We will never know what Elvis’ artistic evolution would have been if he had been able to continue creating albums in the 50s, while rock and roll was in force, but undoubtedly, a work program not determined by the plot lines of the films (even if they were made tailored to your needs) would have resulted in very different albums that were decisive for Presley’s proposal in the new decade.

Article written and provided by Mahnuel Muñoz

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