Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Elvis Presley - Sunrise (RCA, 1999)

These are the original Sun Records recordings of Elvis Presley released on a two CD set containing the original master takes on one disc, and then some outtakes and rarities on the second. These recordings have come to be considered one of the founding blocks that all rock and roll would be built on and have developed a mythic reputation over the years. Even more interesting is the light it shines on the influences that Presley brought into his music, drawing on everything from blues and R&B to country and hillbilly music. Elvis' blues influence can be heard right off the bat on this compilation with his famous cover of Arthur Crudup's "That's All Right Mama" with its choppy rhythm guitar and strutting vocals. Kokomo Arnold's "Milkcow Blues Boogie" also gets an Elvis makeover.

Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon of Kentucky" was a staple of early Presley and there are two versions of this country bluegrass standard here. One aspect of Presley's work that I never had much patience with was his ballad singing such as on "That's When Your Heartaches Begin." Much like burdening Charlie Parker with strings, it makes what's normally fresh and exciting into something maudlin and pale. But overall, this is a valuable collection. Presley's presence in American music and the music of the world at large is massive and cannot be overlooked. These discs show how it all got started and contain an excellent liner essay from Presley biographer Peter Guralnick.

Send comments to: Tim