This week’s Sound Check includes my review of an impressive collection of early Elvis Presley recordings, some previously unreleased; and my thoughts on a new Paul Kelly recording.
‘A Boy From Tupelo: The Complete 1953-1955 Recordings,’ Elvis Presley (RCA/Legacy Recordings, ☆☆☆☆☆)
This July 28 release (three-CD or digital) contains “the most comprehensive early Elvis library ever assembled.”
Early Sun Masters and outtakes, Elvis’ self-financed first acetates and more are included, along with a 120-page book featuring rare photos and memorabilia in the Deluxe Package. The acetates show Elvis as a crooner before Sam Phillips united him with guitarist Scotty Moore and slappin’ bassist Bill Black and forged the unique sound he was initially known for.
Favorite disc one songs: the previously unreleased “I Love You Because,” the groundbreaking first Sun record “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” “I Don’t Care If the Sun Don’t Shine,” “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “You’re a Heartbreaker,” “I Forgot to Remember to Forget” (drummer D.J. Fontana debuted on the previous song), the great “Mystery Train” and the slightly tamer early RCA releases, mostly recorded at Sun.
Disc two songs were also recorded at Sun, and there are often multiple versions featured. The early songs are like Elvis’ acetates with the addition of Scotty’s guitar, and include recitations and whistling at times. This disc is where repeated takes, different tempos, false starts and other experimentation are displayed.
Disc three contains “Live and Radio Performances,” including favorites like Oct. 16, 1954, Louisiana Hayride performances of “That’s All Right,” “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” a Jan. 6, 1955, KDAV Lubbock take on “Shake Rattle and Roll,” a previously unreleased Jan. 15, 1955, Hayride “That’s All Right,” “Tweedlee Dee” from the same date with piano (added on other Hayride dates), a faster Jan. 22, 1955, previously unreleased “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” a playful “I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine” from the same date and a previously unreleased March 5, 1955, “Little Mama,” along with many other tip-top performances.
Fans of the rockabilly music Elvis made with late guitarist Scotty Moore and long-deceased bassist Bill Black will want to snag this box.
‘Life Is Fine,’ Paul Kelly (Gawd Aggie/Cooking Vinyl, ☆☆☆☆)
This Aug. 11 release precedes the first full-band tour in a long time for Australian singer/songwriter Paul Kelly. Space doesn’t allow for a complete list of supporting players, but this is a musically pleasing recording that crosses music-genre lines with abandon.
Favorites include “Leah: The Sequel,” which is a follow-up to Roy Orbison’s immortal hit, with a ghostly echoing chorus. Others on my list: the piano-driven “Rising Moon” and “Finally Something Good” (where the guitars join the party), the percussion-powered “Rock Out On The Sea” and the title song, which uses author Langston Hughes’ words as lyrics.
This is an impressive and musically-diverse collection of short, mostly catchy songs.
Ricky Flake, a former punk rocker and current music fan, lives in Biloxi. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org