Well, I did the first album on my list (Sinatra) quite a few weeks ago now, but kept putting off doing the second album. The reason is it is Elvis. I should tell you up front (if it isn’t already clear), I am not a big fan of this album. I’ve listened to it a million and one times before, and I do not want to write about it. But alas, if I am ever going to move on and get this project over with, I guess I better write. So here it is:
Album #2–Elvis Presley
why it is awesome: The thing that I have always believed makes Elvis such a mainstay in American pop music history is his distinctive sound and his on-stage presence and antics. There was obviously something that set Elvis apart from the other mass of musicians and singers trying to make it; Somehow he became an icon, and they didn’t. Everyone knows an Elvis song when they hear it, even if they’ve never bought and listened to one of Elvis’s recordings. Everyone knows who he is when they see his picture. Just the fact that Elvis is still verymuch in the spotlight, still worshiped by fans, still one of the most well known musicians in the world-even over 50 years after this album was released and 30 years after his death-is such a strong testament to this man’s work. Even if you’re like me and not too fond of all of Elvis’s work, you simply cannot discount him as an artist, simply because of the strong impact he has had on millions of people around the globe. They not only swooned over him in the concert halls, they chose his music to dance to at high school and college formals, at their parties, their weddings, their first kiss…Elvis is completely ingrained in society not even so much because of his music alone, but how he was there through countless events in peoples’ lives, and thus their eternal memories. What bad thing could I possibly say about his music that would measure up to be at all meaningful against the testimonies of the millions who have been touched by him?
Why it isn’t so awesome: like I was trying to explain, I’m not sure I can give any good reason not to like this album. His impact, in my opinion, is too far and wide to give credence to any criticism I might have. However, my personal reason for not caring too much for this recording is that I’ve always found Elvis’ voice to be irritating when he does his growl/hiccup/vibrato/whatever thing. Sometimes when I listen, I feel like he is tripping over his own tongue. Unfortunately, that is such a classic Elvis sound (albeit far from the only Elvis sound) it simply cannot be separated from his persona. However, when he calms it down for ballads, I almost always like him better. I’ve also always found this album to be a tad dated. “I’ve Got a Woman” seems a little sexist to me. I hate using that term and I try not to throw it around too much, but when reviewing the lyrics to that song, I had to roll my eyes and comment on it. What do you mean a Woman’s place is around the home at night? and who, Elvis, are you to tell me that?! Then, to make it even worse, he sings of tattling to his mama on “Lawdy Lawdy”, which right then and there completely lost me. He is a rocker, for goodness sake. Rock ‘n’ Roll is supposed to be about rebellion. Rockers aren’t supposed to admit they go running to their mama. The truth is, he has been able to create this “rocker” persona, and portray himself as being all tough and dangerous, yet underneath everyone knows he is completely safe, wholesome, upright…. I have to admit I’m very much a product of the late 20th and 21st centuries, so it is hard for me to comprehend how in the world any parent could be afraid that Elvis-OF ALL PEOPLE-was a danger to society. His version of Rock rebellion is often antiquated, when you compare it to the antics of rockstars that have come since. In fact, Elvis is quite tame. He makes a fun album, but it is just a classic album, now. If it were new today, there is no way its impact would be half of what it was in 1956 simply because things change, and what was pushing the envelope of society then would no longer be viewed as rebellious or revolutionary. Some albums I think have stood the test of time and would still create a wave in the music industry if rereleased, this one, I think would just get lost in the crowd. Elvis was a product of his time, not this one.
What makes the Album a Standout: well, again-simply its impact. Elvis was a master, to be sure. He used his versatile voice as an instrument in itself, and he innovated a style that finally fused the existing kinds of music-country-western, the blues, existing rock, pop, gospel-into a brand new style that made rock ‘n’ roll approachable by a wider audience and popularized it to the masses. He gave it it a distinctive sound and an image, and the impact it had for its time was astronomical. Basically, in my opinion he-like most of the other great musicians-simply came around at the right time. There was an opening that needed to be filled, and he saw it and filled it before anyone else got there. I have no doubt that, had Elvis not come along when he did, someone else would have been a rock ‘n roll icon in his place. However, that is hypothetical. As it remains, the fact is, it is Elvis who gets the credit, and it was Elvis who stepped up to the challenge and pop music would surely be a different animal if not for him.
Favorite Song: I Love You Because-beautiful! I love the way he carefully slurs the words, and how he decrescendos down, and then disappears, only to suddenly appear again right up at the top. He manages to create a very sweet, emotional atmosphere without becoming overly sappy. I always like to try to picture artists’ expressions as they sing, try to get a feel of what he might have been feeling or thinking about, or what the song might have meant to him. In this one, I can almost see him smile.
Final Consensus: Definitely a staple in any music lover’s inventory. A fun, enjoyable record, which will remain Classic until the very end.