Monday, January 14, 2013

Sixteen Coaches Long

Original Facebook post here.
Today's formative-album replay: Elvis Presley, The Sun Sessions. This was rock 'n' roll homework, assigned by some Rolling Stone best-of list or other, but digging into this collection of 1954-'55 sessions by rock's Caruso was no chore at all. The elements couldn't be simpler--Scotty Moore's guitar, Bill Black's slap bass, and Elvis' acoustic strum and swooping voice, given a close, supple reverb by producer Sam Phillips--but the sound they make together is a joyful noise indeed. If their spareness gives these songs the flavor of studio tryouts or demos, that's all to their benefit; these don't sound like they're being made for anyone but the people in the room, or for any purpose but the sheer bliss of playing together.

Maybe that's why Elvis' voice sounds so sweet and unself-conscious, overflowing with spontaneous bounce and energy. He uses his high notes, even a searing falsetto, more than he ever would later, and he shows scarce hints of the baritone sneer that would become his signature sound. In short, this is Elvis before he was "Elvis," and nothing against the latter (I love the From Memphis record, too), but I'll take this hillbilly whooping and warbling through his favorite country and blues numbers any day. Rock 'n' roll doesn't have much truck with innocence, but this is as close as I've heard it get.

Mark Nickas That is the song that inspired Jimmy Page to take up the guitar.

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