- a remarkable piece of music history!
Piers Beagley, 30 June 2004
At Sun. The birth of Rock n' Roll was 50 years ago this week.
Who could have possibly expected such a revolutionary milestone
from an unknown trio, while they fooled around on a few musical
standards that day in Sam Phillip's Sun Studios.
importance of this event needs no re-examination but luckily
for us two true Elvis aficionados, Ernst Jorgensen & Kevan
Budd, have decided to help us celebrate this historic event
with a new release of Elvis' Sun Masters.
tracklist is, of course, the same as the first disc of 1999's Elvis
'Sunrise' release but this time presented in their correct chronological & historic order. More importantly, the audio of every single track
has been remastered to perfection making the songs glow in this
new setting. The first CD features the original LP
previous Sun compilations varied in quality from the distortion
of a SUN 78 rpm used as a Master, to false added RCA echo, and even
early fade outs. In fact, in the past I found the best way to enjoy
Elvis' Sun material was to actually play the individual vinyl 45
rpms rather than a whole LP or CD.
here, at last, every track has been restored to its true original
beauty and this CD is a revelation. The booklet's design is a treat,
presenting some rare photos along with a real 'Sun' feel & look
to it. Sam's son, Knox Phillips, also reveals some delightful & new details about the sessions and his father's work with Elvis:
& Sam believed in an America that prized individual differences
and freedom, and I know they believed in their soul that music could
lead us there."
interesting cover notes also help explain the chaos & budget restraints
that Sun operated under and makes one realise how exceptionally
lucky we are to have this new release.
There also is a cute explanation
from Sam Phillips on why he let Elvis record so many ballads that
he really had no interest in releasing.., "I
didn't have the heart to stop him"!
The keys to this new audio feast
include. . .
- The discovery of a new RCA SUN compile tape
use of Sony New York for the tape transfers (they produced the astounding
sound of the 'Close Up' box set)
- The editing of multiple copies
of mint 78 rpm discs to create the best sounding tracks for the
songs without any Master tapes.
'Harbour Lights' that kicks off
the CD (Elvis' earliest abandoned Master) is the first audio revelation.
Immediately you notice that the previously added false echo is missing. The
fragility of Elvis' vocal along with the genuine ambience of that
small Sun Studio, and the newly revealed sound of Bill Black's double-bass,
'I Love You Because' is Elvis full-length first take,
with the fascinating spoken monologue, and again with a lovely new
feel & no hiss as on previous releases. Just check out how young
& innocent Elvis sounds and how extraordinary it was that he recorded
a spoken part on his very first night of recording. It was an idea
that he would often repeat throughout the rest of his career.
setting the scene with the fragility of the ballads 'That's
All Right' - the "Birth Of Rock 'n' Roll" - is pure unadulterated
excitement and joy. Read the liner notes, play the earlier
ballads again. . . look at the studio pictures .. think about
the moment! Crank up the Hi-Fi - listen to the glory of this
unknown three-piece band, check out the amazing percussive
snap of Bill Black's bass - and feel the spirit of this golden
moment in time!!
can imagine the excitement of Sam Phillip's discovery and
then realise the complication of "what the hell do you put
on the single's flip-side"?
here, 'Blue Moon of Kentucky' has never sounded better. While I
feel that we were somewhat spoilt with the recent '2nd To None'
remasters, within this context all these Sun songs and their importance
to the future of Rock 'n' Roll & popular culture can truly be understood.
While all the tracks have been improved - I love the new fullness
of the sound on 'Blue Moon' & 'Tomorrow Night' and 'I'll Never Let
You Go' there are several songs that almost sound like brand new
'I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine' is a fabulous
example where the awful distortion on Elvis' voice, on all previous
releases, is suddenly fixed and there is the new discovery of a
percussive beat (from Elvis' guitar & Bill Blacks' bass slap) that
was totally hidden before. Its clarity & shine is astounding.
the new sound of 'Milkcow Blues Boogie' & 'You're A Heartbreaker',
that I know have still been remastered from old 78 rpms singles,
is breathtaking. With RCA's previous audio compression & distortion
of the original transfers removed, these songs are another revelation. Kevan
Budd, the audio restorer, cannot be praised enough for his work
Similarly the removal of RCA's false echo on 'I'm Left,
You're Right, She's Gone' makes both versions glow anew. This is
the earliest Elvis track to feature drums (Jimmie Lott) and with
these new versions coming from the newly discovered RCA tape the
clarity of the sound, especially the percussion, is beautiful.
fact if you compare any of these songs to their previous releases
you realise just how much care has been taken by Sony with their
transfers of these true mono Masters. Even the fairly recent 'Sunrise'
CD versions had awful tape dropouts & weird left/right channel wavering
new sound also helps capture that excitement of early rockin' Elvis
and 'Baby Let's Play House' & 'Good Rockin' Tonight' really stand
out as exceptionally creative 'R&B' singles with that special edge
that would lead him to the intensity of 'Hound Dog' just 17 months
later. Two other exceptional discoveries also come at the end of
'Mystery Train' rocks out with an astounding depth like
never before. This
is truly how this masterpiece deserves to be heard. Elvis' voice
has never sounded so rich, nor so pleading. Whereas before the song
was clipped at the end, best of all we now get every final glorious
moment as that train rolls into the distance. Elvis' final spontaneous
laugh & whoop of excitement is worth its weight in gold. Sam
Phillips' favourite Elvis number, this is a true delight that you
just have to play again & again. And turn it up!
While 'Trying to
Get To You' has the potential excitement of knowing that Sam was
hoping for this as Elvis' sixth Sun 'A' side, I found real delight
in the final 'bonus' track - which was after all just a basic rehearsal!
It Rains, It Really Pours', has always been a muffled & echoey mess
at best, with the recording actually lifted off Sam's reverb tape.
Here, at last, we have a lovely clear version that again sounds
like another newly discovered tape! There's a fascination to this
song that would lead Elvis back to re-recording it 2 years later.
It's the perfect ending to an astounding period of Rock 'n' Roll
history which leads one neatly back to listening all over again
to this CD of 16 months of musical magic.
- Elvis at Sun Studios has never sounded better and, even if
you have previously bought any CD of Elvis' Sun recordings, you
must, MUST celebrate this year's special 50th Anniversary by getting
yourself a copy of this exceptional labour of love. Thanks to Ernst & Kevan Budd for this exceptional upgrade.
by Piers Beagley EIN copyright 2004
- Thanks to the excellent 'Steve Sholes' website www.Elvisrecordings.com
for some fascinating information regarding this CD.
Click here for FTD Loving You' Special Edition review
Click here for Kevan Budd's February 2006 interview with EIN.
Click here for FTD Deluxe 'Elvis Presley' his first LP review
to comment on this interview