Sunday, October 9, 2011

NUMBER 1 ALBUMS: ELVIS PRESLEY - ELVIS

Elvis
Artist: Elvis Presley
Title: Elvis
Year: 1956
Label: RCA
Producer: None listed
Weeks #1: Five
Track listing: Rip It Up / Love Me / When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again / Long Tall Sally / First in Line / Paralyzed / So Glad You’re Mine / Old Shep / Ready Teddy / Anyplace is Paradise / How’s the World Treating You / How Do You Think I Feel

When Elvis was released in October 1956, the rising star had already racked up three Number One singles. A few weeks later, “Don’t Be Cruel” / “Hound Dog” vacated the top spot, and Elvis scored yet another Number One with “Love Me Tender,” the title track from his first film.

The songs from Love Me Tender, which were released on an EP in November 1956, were recorded at 20th Century Fox in Hollywood during August, September, and October of that year. For the first time in his professional career, Elvis recorded without his ace sidemen, who, much to his displeasure, were replaced by session players. Elvis was also reportedly unhappy about recording in a soundstage.

While the Love Me Tender sessions were a bad experience, they proved to be a shot in the arm for Elvis and his regular backing band. When they reunited on September 1, 1956 at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, the sessions would result in the most productive recording dates of his young career. In a mere three days, Elvis and the boys laid down 13 tracks, 11 of which would be released on Elvis, making it a much more cohesive album than his debut.

“We were serious when we were working on a tune, but the atmosphere was always loose,” says Scotty Moore. “We were all friends, and there was not any one watching the clock.” Moore was a key figure in Elvis’s support cast, which also included bassist Bill Black, drummer D.J. Fontana, and the vocal group the Jordanaires. Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires also played piano.

Elvis Presley
Elvis provided further evidence of the young performer’s versatility with its diverse selction of material ranging from country and ballads to blues and barn-burning rock ‘n’ roll. Elvis turned to many familiar sources for this wide-ranging batch of material. “Love Me,” which was released as a single and climbed to number two, was provided by Leiber & Stoller, the songwriting duo that penned Elvis’s Number One hit “Hound Dog.” “Paralyzed” was written by Otis Blackwell, whose “Don’t Be Cruel” also became a Number One single for Elvis. For the more raucous material, Elvis once again turned to the catalog of his contemporary Little Richard, covering “Rip It Up,” Long Tall Sally,” and “Ready Teddy.”

The most personal number on Elvis was “Old Shep,” a song about a boy and his dog, which 10-year-old Elvis had performed at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair, winning second prize. Elvis played piano on that track, marking his recorded debut on the instrument.

There were no credits for a producer on most of Elvis’s albums, but there were key individuals behind the scenes that helped shape his sound. Sam Phillips produced the Sun sessions. RCA executive Steve Sholes and Chet Atkins were listed as “producer” of several singles, but at the start of the Elvis sessions, Presley himself decided that he would take command of his future Hollywood recordings.

Elvis worked closely with house engineer Thorne Nogar. “The engineer knew the room and he placed us where he knew things would work,” says Moore. “Be we tried to work as close together as we could spacewise.” With Elvis at the helm, the band got into more experimentation, often recording dozens of takes. “Once we decided we were going to do a certain number, we would try different tempos and different things, but nobody told you you have to play certain notes,” Moore says. “Elvis was just looking for an overall feel.” On Elvis, he found it, scoring his second Number One in seven months.

THE TOP FIVE
Week of October 6, 1956
1. Elvis, Elvis Presely
2. Calypso, Harry Belafonte
3. My Fair Lady, Original Cast
4. The Eddy Duchin Story, Soundtrack
5. The King and I, Soundtrack

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