"He [Elvis] made his pull from the blues"
(Howling Wolf in conversation with Peter Guralnick, 1966)
In particular, EIN believes that there are two genres from Elvis' diverse musical catalog that should be actively marketed....his soul and blues/rhythm & blues recordings.
In this article EIN offers its "definitive" Elvis blues album release comprising 55 Elvis tracks, a heady mix of stunning studio work and dynamic live recordings.
Clocking in over two discs at more than 2.5 hours of listening pleasure, it is an aurally stimulating balance of the well known, the lesser well known and at times, quite obscure tracks.
Surprisingly, given the wealth of great "blues" material recorded by Elvis, and a propensity by BMG/RCA to release countless Elvis "greatest hits" and "love songs" compilations, the company has released very little by way of Elvis "blues" compiles. In fact, there have been more "licensed" Elvis blues albums released than official BMG/RCA releases.
In the late 1980s a string of Elvis "blues" albums (licensed from RCA) were released in Europe on vinyl. Titles included the 24 track double album, Elvis - Blue Rhythms from Everest Records, and from Premier Records, Elvis - Mess O' Blues Volume One and Elvis - Mess O' Blues Volume 2. Both Mess O' Blues volumes featured 12 tracks and were identical to the 24 tracks on Elvis - Blue Rhythms.
At the time these releases were popular additions to many music collections as they offered solid compiles of this little appreciated, but very important, part of Elvis' music legacy.
RCA's first official Elvis blues release was the tremendous twelve track 1985 album, Reconsider Baby (pictured above). This was followed in 2000 by Elvis blues, a twenty track compilation released as part of BMG's "mid-price" series, Elvis The Ultimate Collection (issued primarily in the EC).
Another excellent Elvis "blues" release, arguably the best to date, was another "licensed" product, the thirty-one track Time-Life double disc, Elvis Rhythm & Blues, released in 1998 as part of the company's fourteen 2CD set, The Elvis Presley Collection.
Covers of two other Elvis "blues" albums
Not to ignore this "Genre" BMG CD Released in 2006 -
Determining exactly what is the blues is a difficult challenge as definitions and interpretations vary from source to source.
The All Music Guide offers the following overview about the blues:
The following passage from the PBS website (emphasis added) provides a further important dimension to understanding the blues:
That Elvis was heavily influenced by the blues is dramatically apparent by the ongoing accusation that he was the white boy who stole the blues.
Click here to read a more detailed examination of how Elvis was influenced by the blues.
As famed Elvis biographer, Peter Guralnick, noted in his liner notes for the Reconsider Baby album, when Elvis faded in popularity and was "out of style" in the 1960s:
His creative juices were once again flowing as he returned to some of his musical roots. His resurrection was completed when he entered the American Sound studios on 13 January 1969 for the start of an historic two session visit that year which would result in what many regard as the finest moments in his illustrious recording career.
Our list is likely to generate debate as several titles will not be regarded by many fans and critics as blues songs .
However, all titles listed have appeared on at least one Elvis "blues" compilation or been cited as "blues" tracks by BMG liner notes contributors, including Peter Guralnick, Ernst Jorgensen and Brian Nevill.
What did you think of the R&B and Rock n' Roll Revolutions?
(B.B. King as told in PBS' "American Roots Music")
There are enough well known Elvis recordings in our proposed release to allow BMG their customary 'primary' marketing hook. Tracks such as What'd I Say, Hound Dog, Stuck On You, Steamroller Blues and One Night (of Sin) have considerable street cred and fit neatly within the company's previous marketing strategies of "emphasising" or using Elvis' major hits as a "selling hook".
For an Elvis "blues" release to be successful there are several key elements which need to be met:
The "blues" is a genre Elvis mastered yet few of the general public appreciate the potency of his substantial "blues" catalog.
In EIN's opinion, a properly marketed release such as Elvis sings the "blues" would go a long way to reclaiming much of the public's "lost" respect for, and perception of Elvis, as a serious recording artist!
In addition, it would have the potential to bring Elvis' fertile "blues" repertoire to fans of the "blues", many of whom who are presently ignorant to its substance and passion.
Ain't That Loving You Baby: A top 20 hit for Elvis in 1964 this R&B song was written by Clyde Otis & "Ivory Joe" Hunter. It is obvious Elvis is enjoying himnself as he gets right into the song's up-tempo marching beat.
A Mess of Blues: A tremendous recording by The King which suffered as the 'B' side to his huge worldwide hit, It's Now Or Never. Written by the prolific team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman it features the superlative work of Floyd Cramer on piano.
Beach Boy Blues: Is it or isn't it? Many will argue this cut from Blue Hawaii isn't really "blues". However, it was included on BMG's Elvis blues album so we'll leave it to you to be the judge.
Big Boss Man: An R&B standard originally made a hit by the influential Jimmy Reed was written by Luther Dixon and Al Smith. A strong recording during Elvis' rebuilding period in the late 1960s, his recording benefits from some great guitar work by Jerry Reed.
Hi Heel Sneakers: It appears Elvis had a cold the night he recorded what had quite recently been a big hit for Jose Feliciano, Hi Heel Sneakers. But as noted by Peter Guralnick, Elvis "improvises like a bluesman, making a virtue out of necessity and creating out of his hoarseness a sense of worldless menace".
I Feel So Bad: A hit for Chuck Willis in 1954, Elvis made the song his own with a classic recording. It went top 5 for The King in 1961.
I Want To Be Free: A Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller classic from Jailhouse Rock, Elvis is in full flight bringing real emotion to the 'plaintive' nature of the potent lyrics.
I Want You With Me: An almost jaunty feeling track with pounding backing and uninhibited vocal, it first came to prominence when Bobby Darin included it on his 1960 album, For Teenagers Only.
It Feels So Right: While originally released in 1960 on the RCA album, Elvis Is Back, this fine track was later featured in the 1965 Elvis film, Tickle Me and released then as the 'B' side to (Such an) Easy Question.
Little Sister: A pounding beat and Elvis in full control of Doc Pomus and Mort Shumnan's machine gun lyrics, this is another track some believe, that while a phenomenal track, is not "blues". A big hit for Elvis around the world in 1961.
Mean Woman Blues: Itself a "mean" rocker, this track originally featured in Elvis' second motion picture, Loving You.
Merry Christmas Baby: Originally released in 1971 on the album, Elvis Sings The Wonderful World of Christmas, this R&B hit was penned by Johnny Moore and Lou Baxter. It became a yuletide hit for Moore and his Three Blazers in 1949 and for Chuck Berry in 1958.
My Babe: My Babe came was a 1955 chart topper for Little Walter and was co-written by legendary bluesman, Willie Dixon. It was based on an old gospel song, This Train. Elvis' "live" performance of the song in 1969 is a masterful effort full of energy and passion.
One Night (of Sin): This raucous track was released with toned down lyrics during Elvis' stint in Germany. It wasn't until years later on the Reconsider Baby album that Elvis' powerful rendition of the original, unbowlderized lyric was issued.
Polk Salad Annie: Better known as a "swamp rock" track, throughout the 1970s Elvis did what he did with many numbers, he played it "live" as "swamp blues" style with James Burton and co. contributing scorching "blues" guitar riffs.
Reconsider Baby: Lowell Fulson was the first to have a hit with this song on the Checker label in 1954. Elvis' great recording for his Elvis Is Back album in 1960 highlights the tenor saxaphone skills of Boots Randolph.
Santa Claus Is Back In Town: Contrasting magnificently with 'standard' recordings of yuletide classics such as Silent Night and Little Town of Bethlehem, Santa Claus Is Back In Town with its slow, bluesy feel was a highlight on the 1957 monster LP, Elvis' Christmas Album.
Stranger In My Own Home Town: A hit for Percy Mayfield, Elvis obviously relishes the lyrical sentiment as he he is quickly in the zone for a masterful reading of a powerful song. One of the many seminal recordings made at Elvis' legendary sessions at the American Sound Studios in 1969. First released on the critically acclaimed album, From Elvis In Memphis, another "more down-home" take can be found on the box set, Walk A Mile In My Shoes: The Essential 70's.
Stuck On You: Another in the category of "is it or isn't it?" Again, we've included Stuck On You in our definitive Elvis "Blues" list as it has appeared on several Elvis "Blues" albums. Some fans argue it is not really a Blues track but rather an up-tempo pop track with slight bluesy tones. Whatever your view, it was Elvis' triumphant #1 worldwide hit on his return from the Army.
Such A Night: A major R&B hit for the great Clyde McPhatter (and the Drifters) in 1954 and later that year a #1 hit for Johnnie Ray, Elvis' recording became a Top 20 hit in 1964.
Tell Me Why: For years regarded as one of Elvis' "lost" tracks, this was originally a hit for gospel artist, Marie Knight and pop songstress, Gale Storm (Elvis also "home recorded" another Gale Storm hit, the atmospheric, lingering, Dark Moon).
Tomorrow Night: New Orleans Blues singer and Jazz guitarist Lonnie Johnson celebrated a million seller with his 1948 recording of this haunting song. Elvis recorded it while at Sun but fans had to wait until 1965 for RCA to release the track on their Elvis For Everyone album. Put this one late at night with the lights off. Truly sensational.
Trouble: A classic song from Leiber & Stoller featured in Elvis' fourth film, King Creole. Elvis gives this the royal treatment with a memorable slow-medium tempo interpretation.
Trying To Get To You: Originally recorded by black vocal group, The Eagles, Elvis cut his version in 1955 while still tied to Sam Phillips and Sun Records. Of interest, the first cover version of The Eagles song was by the Big O, Roy Orbison (and his group the Teen Kings).
When It Rains It Really Pours: Billy "The Kid" Emerson penned this moody blues track in 1954 for Sam Phillips' Sun label in 1954. Elvis' superb interpretation was recorded in 1957 but not released until the Elvis For Everyone LP in 1965.
"Elvis is the greatest white blues singer in the world"
"Elvis Presley is the supreme socio-cultural icon in the history of pop culture"
(Dr. Gary Enders)
" Elvis is the 'glue' which holds our society together....which subconciously gives our world meaning"
"Eventually everybody has to die, except Elvis"
(humorist Dave Barry)
"He is the "Big Bang", and the universe he detonated is still expanding, the pieces are still flying"
(Greil Marcus, "Dead Elvis")
"I think Elvis Presley will never be solved"
"He was the most popular man that ever walked on this planet since Christ himself was here"
"When I first heard Elvis' voice I just knew I wasn't going to work for anybody...hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail"
"When we were kids growing up in Liverpool, all we ever wanted was to be Elvis Presley"
(Sir Paul McCartney)