Last week we celebrated Elvis Presley’s 81st birthday and while he died in 1977, his music lives on and he continues to sell records; one billion and counting to be exact. In 2002, Elv1s 30 #1 Hits was released to both critical and commercial success and featured the hit “A Little Less Conversation” which was remixed by Junkie XL for a modern sound. The following year, another compilation of hits, 2nd to None, was another monster hit for Presley. Long before the white jumpsuits with rhinestones, Elvis was a hard rockin’ country boy with a killer voice. Though he had many hit records, he never penned his own material, but rather he drew initial inspiration from black artist such as Little Richard and Chuck Berry. Despite parental objections, he brought “race music” to teenagers and was dubbed the king of rock and roll.
His self-titled debut, Elvis Presley, was released in January of 1956 and was an instant success as he rips through the two-minute songs like a knife cuts through butter. The album kicks off with the Carl Perkins classic “Blue Suede Shoes” before showing his softer side on the ballad, “I’m Counting on You.” Another of Elvis’ heroes was Ray Charles, and his cover of “I Got a Woman” rivals the original. His band gets funky on “One-Sided Love Affair” with Fats Domino-ish rolling piano.
The party is just starting as Elvis rails through the Little Richard classic “Tutti Frutti” then slides effortlessly into “Trying to Get to You.” He gives a nod to the past at every turn with respect and dignity. The somber track “Blue Moon” was a standard from 1934, and Elvis treats it with kid gloves. The recording closes with the rocker “Money Honey,” on which Elvis and the boys cut loose.
The album was recorded live at Sun Studio in Memphis and featured no overdubs. It was meaty, raw and exposed. Ironically, his first hit, “That’s Alright Mama” didn’t make its way onto the album. Produced by Sam Phillips, the album spent 10 weeks at the number one spot on Billboard and while it only clocks in at 23 minutes, it is a timeless recording. However, if you just can’t get enough, in 1999, the album was remastered and was given additional tracks such as “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll.” Either way you slice it, Elvis Presley was the most important recording of the 20th century as it inspired other artists, including the Beatles, to pick up a guitar. But most importantly, the album created rock and roll and changed music forever.