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Originally posted 3/22/2012. Updated 3/9/2013.
Release date: March 22, 1976; Release date: August 1953 to October 1955
Tracks: * (Click for codes to singles charts.) 1. That’s All Right (7/54, #3 UK, sales: 0.5 m) 2. Blue Moon of Kentucky 3. I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine (9/54, #74 US, #23 UK) 4. Good Rockin’ Tonight 5. Milk Cow Blues Boogie 6. You’re a Heartbreaker 7. I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (4/55, #21 UK) 8. Baby Let’s Play House (4/55, #5 US) 9. Mystery Train (9/17/55, #25 UK, #11 CW) 10. I Forgot to Remember to Forget (9/17/55, #1 CW) 11. I’ll Never Let You Go Little Darlin’ 12. Tryin’ to Get to You (9/8/56, #16 UK) 13. I Love You Because 14. Blue Moon (9/29/56, #55 US, #9 UK) 15. Just Because
* These are the basic tracks on any of the variations of the collections of Elvis’ Sun recordings.
Sales (in millions): 1.0 US
Peak: 76 US, 16 UK
Review: “Who doesn’t need this in their record collection?” AMG1 “The Sun Sessions stands as the quintessential Elvis Presley album and the birth certificate for rock’s once and future king.” RV “There aren’t many rock albums that feature music one can honestly say changed the world as we know it, but that is, if anything, a modest appraisal of the contents of Elvis Presley’s The Sun Sessions.” AMG1 His “first recordings captured a force of nature: untutored, unsophisticated, but somehow brilliant.” BL “On July 5, 1954, Elvis Presley walked into…Sun Studios in Memphis.” TL He was only 19, but along with guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, they made history.
“Elvis certainly didn’t invent rock & roll, and he wasn’t even the first white guy to play it,” AMG1 but he “was (with little room for argument) the single most important artist in the history of rock & roll.” AMG1 “Much as Louis Armstong did for jazz, Elvis created a distinctive new way to play the music that combined a number of influences,” AMG1 such as “elements of blues, gospel and hillbilly music” AMG3 as well as “R&B, country, and pop.” AMG1 He found “a common ground between them that was his and his alone.” AMG1 “Presley was one of the most naturally gifted performers his genre ever knew, and was the performer who truly brought the music to the people as no one had before or since.” AMG1
Sam Phillips, the head of Sun Studios, “once boasted that if he could find a white singer that could sing, sound and feel ‘'like a negro’ that he’d make a million dollars.” AD Phillips had much to do with shaping Elvis’ early sound. Phillips produced five singles with Elvis that were released in 1954 and 1955. The impact of those singles wasn’t immediately felt, but once Elvis hit big, his work with Sun Records resurfaced, largely filling out Elvis’ early albums for RCA Records. As for that million dollars, Phillips fell short of that goal, making $35,000 when he sold Elvis’ contract to RCA. However, the value these songs had in shaping rock and roll is priceless.
That’s All Right
Sun’s first Elvis single married the country music of typically white performers with the R&B music of typically black performers when Arthur Crudup’s R&B song That’s All Right was infused with Elvis’ country twang. “It still sounds audacious, as if the players themselves can’t believe what they’re doing.” TL Then, on the flip side, Bill Monroe’s Blue Moon of Kentucky was transformed from its hillbilly roots into an R&B recording. “So taken was Bill Monroe by The King’s interpretation…Monroe re-recorded the track to make it sound like Presley.” RV On these and others, Elvis “forever burn[s] his imprint into classic spirituals and bluegrass favorites.” RV
Blue Moon of Kentucky
The Sun Sessions gathers those songs and the other singles and B-sides from the Sun Years and adds six more outtakes from the era. The resulting “album captures Elvis in his first flush of greatness,” AMG1 collecting “his first, and arguably most important, recordings into one convenient package.” AMG1 “One can hear the thrill of discovery and experimentation on every cut” AMG1 as “Elvis [is] first learning to put his ideas together in the recording studio.” AMG1 He “burst into these sessions, raring to go… his delivery is tense sounding, a result of nerves perhaps, but this tension is released into a collection of stunning vocal performances.” AD “If Elvis would sound stronger and more savvy with time, he never sounded freer or more excited with the possibilities of his own voice as he does on this material.” AMG1 This “is a young Elvis Presley…getting ready to unleash…rock & roll…on an unsuspecting world.” AMG3
“The faster cuts, mostly, where Elvis really is himself, really pours his voice out.” AD His takes on “That’s All Right” and Junior Parker’s Mystery Train “are both totally together, tight performances and the voice of Elvis is very rich and the musical backings creating much excitement.” AD The latter “overflows with such spontaneity and excitement, it feels like it must have been done in one take. The song rocks and rolls with such rollicking grittiness.” RV
“You’re a Heartbreaker boasts a great, assured Elvis vocal in contrast to other, more tense performances. Same comments apply to the very assured sounding and hugely enjoyable rock-n-roll of Good Rockin’ Tonight.” AD Performances like “Blue Moon of Kentucky” “are just so loose and raw, so genuine in the emotion and excitement.” AD “The sheer enthusiasm Elvis brings to these Sun recordings is audible.” AD
Good Rockin’ Tonight
Resources and Related Links:
- Elvis Presley’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
- album page on DMDB website (even more in-depth look at album)
- AMG1 All Music Guide - review of The Sun Sessions by Mark Deming
- AMG2 All Music Guide review of Sunrise by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
- AMG3 All Music Guide review of The Complete Sun Sessions by Cub Koda
- BL Blender Magazine’s 100 Greatest American Albums (10/08)
- AD Adrian Denning, Adrian’s Album Reviews review of The Sun Collection
- RV The Review “100 Greatest Albums of All Time” by Clarke Speicher (October – November 2001; Vol. 128: numbers 12-23).
- TL Time Magazine’s All-TIME 100 Albums by Josh Tyrangiel and Alan Light (11/13/06).