Friday, 15 February 2013

Listen Or Die? #2 - Elvis Presley...

by Elvis Presley (1956)
Running Time: 28:42

1. Blue Suede Shoes
2. I'm Counting On You
3. I Got A Woman
4. One-Sided Love Affair
5. I Love You Because
6. Just Because
7. Tutti Frutti
8. Trying To Get To You
9. I'm Gonna Sit Right Down (And Cry Over You)
10. I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin')
11. Blue Moon
12. Money Honey

Ah, Elvis the Pelvis. The King. That dude you see in movies at lunchtime on a Sunday who ushered in an era of rock and roll that changed the music industry and popular culture throughout the world. If, like me, one or both of your parentals enjoyed Elvis, you'll be aware of many of his tunes. That's not a guarantee you'll like them, but you'll be aware of them. If your parents weren't that big on the older and even druggier Presley, you'll at least know 'A Little Less Conversation' and the immortal line from from Eminem's 'Without Me;' "I am the worst thing since Elvis Presley, to do black music so selfishly and use it to get myself wealthy." Heeeeey! Now, this may have been recorded during the hilarious stage of Eminem's career, but that doesn't mean the man didn't check his facts. It was on the album Elvis Presley that the more country/rockabilly leaning Elvis took a couple of notes from his R&B contemporaries and produced the first rock album to top the Billboard Pop charts. What we get on Elvis Presley is a tale of two men; the country crooner and the bonafide rock star he would go on to become. Not that he was Slash or Keith Richards, but the sex, drugs and rock and roll were there. Then again, Slash and Keith Richards will outlive us all, so them - 1, Elvis - 0. 

'Blue Suede Shoes' is our entry track; a song at the time that many would have decried as the pinnacle of offensive music. Now? I'm pretty sure this is a standard at primary school dances throughout the world. It is what it is and that's a harmless piece of rockabilly fluff that managed to crack Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs list... twice, with Presley coming in at #423 and Carl Perkins' original at #95. Why they would waste honouring another song by putting in the cover is bizarre, but we'll let that go. For now. 'I'm Counting On You' is a pop ballad that presents itself as an excellent showcase for Elvis' voice. You can say what you want about the drug addicted mess guy, but he had an incredible and versatile voice. A cover of Ray Charles' 'I Got A Woman' is up next. In a galaxy far, far away the song will be sampled to great effect by some fella named Kanye West on a track you've probably never heard of called 'Gold Digger.' Presley's effort doesn't pack the same punch as Charles,' but was certainly heard by a much larger (and much whiter) audience. If it was the 50s, I'd probably be loving it. Thankfully, it isn't the 50s. It also doesn't help that I've heard Texas Tea's live cover a couple of time over the past year and it's awesome. Go see Texas Tea. 

There's a whole lot of ballady filler over the next three tracks before the next R&B cover kicks the tempo up a notch with 'Tutti Frutti.' It's only a minute and fifty-nine seconds long, but you could use that time better by, oh I don't know, listening to Little Richard's much better original. You could also just skip ahead to country ballad, 'Trying To Get To You.' It's easy listening background music at its finest. "Ever since I read your letter, where you said you loved me true, I've been traveling night and day, I've been running all the way baby, trying to get to you." A letter is what people used before e-mail. You have to write on paper, I'm assuming at the time with a quill, put it in an envelope and take it to the post office where it is then delivered via postman. Crazy, right? 'Trying To Get To You' is easily the best song on the album. Next up, more fluff and then a bit of snoozefest in 'I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin'), before we get to 'Blue Moon.' You should know this one. Perfectly acceptable is one way to put it, but another is to say the Grease version is better. Do we even get the whole song in Grease? 'Money Honey' brings this brush with the King to a close and it's a quality track. A bit boppy, infinitely more memorable than the majority of the ballads. Well, there goes half an hour.

With that last sentence, you should be able to figure out if this is a listen or a die. That's right, it's... DIE. Mediocre and inconsistent would be the two best words for Elvis Presley. If you're a fan you'll probably love it, but I don't see it winning Presley too many new fans from the younger generations. Don't feel too bad for Elvis though; it's a pretty safe bet we'll encounter some of his better albums as we work our way through 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

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