Elvis Presley, “Elvis Presley”, by Gregory Morgan
My album of the Month is Elvis Presley by Elvis Presley (RCA Victor LPM-1254). That’s right, my album of the month is Elvis’ first LP released in 1956. This album can arguably be considered the first Rock’n’Roll LP. The only argument would be for Bill Haley & His Comets’ ‘Rock Around The Clock,’ which was released in December of 1955, but is a collection of previously released singles. This album is more about performance than audiophile presentation, as there is a sibilance issue and there really isn’t much deep bass to speak of. I do wonder if the sibilance issue is a matter of wear (it is a 63 year old record, after all) or if a mono cartridge would solve this problem. This album was basically recorded live in the studio with no overdubs, which simply couldn’t be done at the time. This is Elvis in his ascendancy to the thrown of ‘King of Rock’n’Roll.’ Elvis’ body of work can pretty much be divided into two periods: Pre-Army and Post-Army. I much prefer the Pre-Army period when Elvis was more of a rock’n’roller to the Post-Army period when Elvis seemed more focused on his film career than on his music. Highlights for me on this record are ‘Blue Suede Shoes,’ ‘Just Because,’ ‘Blue Moon,’ ‘One Sided Love Affair’ and my personal favorite ‘Money Honey.’ This album features beautiful guitar work by Scotty Moore, especially on ‘Just Because,’ ‘Tryin’ to Get to You,’ and ‘I Love You Just Because.’ More than anything on this record, the thing I am most struck by is the purity of tone in Elvis’ voice on this early recording. God truly gave this man a gift and it shines on this album, especially on his version of ‘Blue Moon,’ which Elvis just croons with the best of them. The importance of this album cannot be understated. Simply put, the popular music of today simply wouldn’t exist without Elvis and this album is a large part of that. The cover design for the first Elvis Presley album was listed as number 40 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Record Covers, and was echoed on The Clash’s ‘London Calling,’ Big Audio Dynamite’s ‘F-Punk,’ K.D. Lang’s ‘Reintarnation,’ and Chumbawamba’s single “Tony Blair.”
Getting this album was a lucky find. I work in downtown Berkeley so every day I visit a number of place looking for records. This practice has gained me some great records over the last decade (ex.: a couple of original UK Beatles, rolling Stones, and Joe Cocker records). On the particular day I found this album, I hadn’t actually looked at the records in Goodwill, as I had looked the previous day and found nothing. On this visit I was just there with my co-worker. As my co-worker was checking out, another guy walks to the counter and is holding a near mint first American copy of ‘Who’s Next’ by The Who still in shrink wrap. I already have near mint US and UK pressings of this album so this isn’t a big deal to me. I do, however, immediately make a bee line to the record section and furiously start looking through the records, and then, there it was – a first pressing of Elvis’ first album in almost near mint condition. Other than a very minor slight sleeve scuff, which doesn’t affect play and a minor seam split, this album shines like a new dime. This one is still has the original rice paper inner sleeve (not like mofi sleeve, but actually made of real rice paper) and is the first pressing right down to 1S/1S stamper numbers. I couldn’t wait to get it home and it has been in heavy rotation ever since.