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Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Thu Jun 27, 2013 11:53 pm

I could write about the whys and wherefores of Elvis the Album Artist for a long time: it's a favourite topic of mine.

An album doesn't necessarily have to have a musical or lyrical theme: an album can simply be a statement of where and who an artist is at a given moment in time.

Elvis Is Back! is a sublime example of Elvis making an album statement, the statement being simply, "I have returned and I'm better than ever."

Some LPs do contain a lyrical story (From Elvis in Memphis or Blood on The Tracks, for example), but for most LP artists it comes down to assembling a group of songs that sound as if they belong together or come together in such a way that the whole is greater than the individual parts. Revolver contains zero story and almost every song has a different musical footprint but was there ever a greater example fo a group making a perfect musical statement ("Hey, look what we can do -- ain't it great!")

There were many potentially excellent Elvis albums that missed the boat somewhat because of poor compilation and programming: Elvis Presley as an RnB LP (sacrilege but true), Something for Everybody, Pot Luck, the 1963 LP, the acoustic Nashville late '60s LP, the 1971 LP, the 1972 LP, a single December Stax LP.

Very few musicians enter the studio knowing exactly what they're going to come out with -- sometimes they tape dozens of songs and then find the LP by sifting.

When Elvis was in top form or when he had a good creative partner his work was generally sublime: when he wasn't challenged, that's when the problems started.

What he could have done with Rick Rubin is almost too painful to contemplate.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Fri Jun 28, 2013 12:01 am

George Smith wrote:I could write about the whys and wherefores of Elvis the Album Artist for a long time: it's a favourite topic of mine.

An album doesn't necessarily have to have a musical or lyrical theme: an album can simply be a statement of where and who an artist is at a given moment in time.

Elvis Is Back! is a sublime example of Elvis making an album statement, the statement being simply, "I have returned and I'm better than ever."

Some LPs do contain a lyrical story (From Elvis in Memphis or Blood on The Tracks, for example), but for most LP artists it comes down to assembling a group of songs that sound as if they belong together or come together in such a way that the whole is greater than the individual parts. Revolver contains zero story and almost every song has a different musical footprint but was there ever a greater example fo a group making a perfect musical statement ("Hey, look what we can do -- ain't it great!")

There were many potentially excellent Elvis albums that missed the boat somewhat because of poor compilation and programming: Elvis Presley as an RnB LP (sacrilege but true), Something for Everybody, Pot Luck, the 1963 LP, the acoustic Nashville late '60s LP, the 1971 LP, the 1972 LP, a single December Stax LP.

Very few musicians enter the studio knowing exactly what they're going to come out with -- sometimes they tape dozens of songs and then find the LP by sifting.

When Elvis was in top form or when he had a good creative partner his work was generally sublime: when he wasn't challenged, that's when the problems started.

What he could have done with Rick Rubin is almost too painful to contemplate.
But Rick would have ruined the sound quality by making it a lifeless loudness war record... :wink:

All kidding aside: thanks for your wonderful post, George! One of the best this week. And thank you for showing me posting quality over quantity. ::rocks

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Fri Jun 28, 2013 12:15 am

And you are too kind, Lucky: I've been wanting to contribute to this thread for a couple of days but I've lacked the time.

In all honesty, I don't often listen to official Elvis LPs -- I tend to listen to my own compilations.

On my shelf, the run of LPs from 1968 - 1973 looks like this ...

Goin' Home (Nashville acoustic)
Elvis NBC TV (double LP)
From Elvis In Memphis
Live in Vegas (double LP)
Stranger in My Own Home Town (Back in Memphis + 3 singles)
That's The Way It Is
I'm 10,000 Years Old (double LP, stripped masters, glorious ramshackle project)
Exodus
Merry Christmas, Baby (+ bonus songs)
He Touched Me
In The Garden
Burning Love
Aloha
1970s Hits compilation
In The Back Room (Raised on Rock, stripped and expanded)

Yeah, it's silly, and I'm happy to confess that much, but the songs sound so much better to me when presented in appropriate company.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Fri Jun 28, 2013 12:32 am

George Smith wrote:I could write about the whys and wherefores of Elvis the Album Artist for a long time: it's a favourite topic of mine.

An album doesn't necessarily have to have a musical or lyrical theme: an album can simply be a statement of where and who an artist is at a given moment in time.

Elvis Is Back! is a sublime example of Elvis making an album statement, the statement being simply, "I have returned and I'm better than ever."

Some LPs do contain a lyrical story (From Elvis in Memphis or Blood on The Tracks, for example), but for most LP artists it comes down to assembling a group of songs that sound as if they belong together or come together in such a way that the whole is greater than the individual parts. Revolver contains zero story and almost every song has a different musical footprint but was there ever a greater example fo a group making a perfect musical statement ("Hey, look what we can do -- ain't it great!")

There were many potentially excellent Elvis albums that missed the boat somewhat because of poor compilation and programming: Elvis Presley as an RnB LP (sacrilege but true), Something for Everybody, Pot Luck, the 1963 LP, the acoustic Nashville late '60s LP, the 1971 LP, the 1972 LP, a single December Stax LP.

Very few musicians enter the studio knowing exactly what they're going to come out with -- sometimes they tape dozens of songs and then find the LP by sifting.

When Elvis was in top form or when he had a good creative partner his work was generally sublime: when he wasn't challenged, that's when the problems started.

What he could have done with Rick Rubin is almost too painful to contemplate.


By the 1970s, the vast majority of artists were making album statements, and not just pulling songs from a longer session in the way Elvis was.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Fri Jun 28, 2013 4:23 am

brian wrote:Wasn't it common for someone that started out as singles artist to stay a singles artist?

If it wasn't common then please name some singers that started out as singles artists but changed to album artists.

As far as I can remember pretty much every pop/rock singer in the 1950s and early 60s period were singles artists.

Then Bob Dylan and The Beatles started to change that but you still had lots of artists during the 1960s that were singles artist.

By the late 1960s and 1970s every rock band that emerged were album oriented artists.

However as far as I can remember singers that started in the 1950s or early 60s that were still around were still singles artists.


Frank Sinatra started as a singles artist in the 1940s but preferred the album format. He became known as an album artist in the 1950s and continued to do so for the rest of his career. He actually gave us the first concept album and showed us what you can do with an album. He first played by Columbia's label rules, then gained enough power to do it his way with the Capitol record label, and finally, gained total recording freedom with his own Reprise record label.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Fri Jun 28, 2013 4:44 am

seaward wrote:
brian wrote:Wasn't it common for someone that started out as singles artist to stay a singles artist?

If it wasn't common then please name some singers that started out as singles artists but changed to album artists.

As far as I can remember pretty much every pop/rock singer in the 1950s and early 60s period were singles artists.

Then Bob Dylan and The Beatles started to change that but you still had lots of artists during the 1960s that were singles artist.

By the late 1960s and 1970s every rock band that emerged were album oriented artists.

However as far as I can remember singers that started in the 1950s or early 60s that were still around were still singles artists.


Frank Sinatra started as a singles artist in the 1940s but preferred the album format. He became known as an album artist in the 1950s and continued to do so for the rest of his career. He actually gave us the first concept album and showed us what you can do with an album. He first played by Columbia's label rules, then gained enough power to do it his way with the Capitol record label, and finally, gained total recording freedom with his own Reprise record label.


I'm aware of all Frank Sinatra's concept and thematic albums.

I was talking about pop/rock artists.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Fri Jun 28, 2013 5:15 am

Sorry. I thought you were thinking in general.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Fri Jun 28, 2013 11:41 am

So what if he was not an "album artist". Doesn´t bother me one bit...

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Fri Jun 28, 2013 2:49 pm

All I know is that Elvis left hundreds of songs behind from which I can draw enjoyment anytime I so choose. That he wasn't an "album" artist doesn't bother me in the least.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Wed Dec 11, 2013 8:10 am

According to the RIAA, Elvis has sold 134.5 million albums, 2nd only to the Beatles. I guess RCA was glad Elvis wasn't an album artist.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Wed Dec 11, 2013 8:15 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:It is very fair to say that 1971's Elvis Country is an excellent, thematic album.

But Elvis did not come from an era where such ideas were considered, and as he grew older he was not surrounded by people who might have suggested he actively try to make more albums like Elvis Country.


I guess this sums it up for me.

I like listening to albums that could be described as being "thematic", or containing songs that go along especially well together. But that's not what I necessarily expect from an album. I expect from an album to contain good songs, that's all. The rest is secondary to me.

To pretend that Elvis should have been an "album artist" is totally out of context with him. He was not that kind of artist, I think.

And to pretend that anybody who made so-called "thematic" albums is above anybody who didn't is ridiculous.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Wed Dec 11, 2013 8:30 pm

What about the gospel albums and of course the soundtracks? They all have a theme.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Wed Dec 11, 2013 8:48 pm

Winston wrote:What about the gospel albums and of course the soundtracks? They all have a theme.


Yes, Winston, and also some other Elvis albums, as noted by other posters in this thread.

But I don't think it was Elvis' priority, let alone RCA's or Parker's, to do this kind of thing.

Anyway, I would like to add that I'm sure that many of the artists / bands who are praised for having made such "thematic" or "conceptual" albums would have sold their souls to have had HALF the performing ability Elvis had at his best.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Wed Dec 11, 2013 8:54 pm

Most of the soundtracks didn't have a theme.

They were mostly just a random collection of songs recorded for a film.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:42 pm

Winston wrote:What about the gospel albums and of course the soundtracks? They all have a theme.


A gospel album is just that, an album of sacred songs, much like a Christmas album is an album of Christmas songs. Go to church and you hear these same songs. They are theme albums in the very loosest of terms. Artists that put out these albums dont look at them as theme albums just albums they wanted or were told to record. A theme album is an artistic statement, and it doesnt have to be a rock and roll album or written by the performer. Sinatra's 'Only The Lonely' is a theme album and one of the best of its kind. Bobby Darin, 'Love Swings' is a theme album. Elvis had one, Elvis Country. Thats it. As for the soundtracks, Harum Scarum a Middle Eastern theme album? Right!

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:53 pm

I like to know if Bobby Darin ever made an album better than any of Elvis' greater albums ? I do not know anybody who liked Bobby Darin. I have a greatest hits album by him that I like. Bobby sold in the thousands , while Elvis sold in the millions.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:05 pm

Lou Fanty wrote:I like to know if Bobby Darin ever made an album better than any of Elvis' greater albums ? I do not know anybody who liked Bobby Darin. I have a greatest hits album by him that I like. Bobby sold in the thousands , while Elvis sold in the millions.


These types of posts make this forum quite amazing. 'Darin sold in the thousands',' I dont know anybody that liked Bobby Darin'. Insanity and I wont even try and explain it to you.
Last edited by r&b on Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:13 pm

r&b wrote:
Winston wrote:What about the gospel albums and of course the soundtracks? They all have a theme.


A gospel album is just that, an album of sacred songs, much like a Christmas album is an album of Christmas songs. Go to church and you hear these same songs. They are theme albums in the very loosest of terms. Artists that put out these albums dont look at them as theme albums just albums they wanted or were told to record.


I would count them as theme albums because they were the only times that Elvis went into the studio to record a specific set of songs for a specific album.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:15 pm

Lou Fanty wrote:I like to know if Bobby Darin ever made an album better than any of Elvis' greater albums ? I do not know anybody who liked Bobby Darin. I have a greatest hits album by him that I like. Bobby sold in the thousands , while Elvis sold in the millions.


PoormadPeter is a big fan.

He would probably say yes to your question.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:34 pm

brian wrote:
Lou Fanty wrote:I like to know if Bobby Darin ever made an album better than any of Elvis' greater albums ? I do not know anybody who liked Bobby Darin. I have a greatest hits album by him that I like. Bobby sold in the thousands , while Elvis sold in the millions.


PoormadPeter is a big fan.

He would probably say yes to your question.


Its all a matter of taste and Darin probably never made a better album than Elvis Is Back, FEIM or Elvis Country, but any Lp he put out 1962-1968 was better than anything Elvis put out. His Earthy album in 1963 remains one of my favorites and is a total theme album and way ahead of its time. It may rival the best of Elvis albums, though may not top them. As far back as 1959, he showed he had guts when his album That's All became one of the biggest of the year thanks to Mack The Knife. In my area, where I live, I actually know more people who prefer Darin to Elvis overall so Lou's statement is pure fantasy. I wish Elvis had his bravado.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:44 pm

Lou Fanty wrote:I like to know if Bobby Darin ever made an album better than any of Elvis' greater albums ? I do not know anybody who liked Bobby Darin. I have a greatest hits album by him that I like. Bobby sold in the thousands , while Elvis sold in the millions.


Darin was quite a different artist to Elvis from the get-go. He was determined to do what he wanted, and how he wanted - and generally went into the studio to record a particular album each time. Not all the time, but for most of it. The earlier mentioned Earthy and its sequel, Golden Folk Hits, are thought to have been recorded in a single night (24 tracks in one night). Elsewhere, his albums Winners, That's All, This Is Darin, Christmas album, Two of A Kind, Sings Ray Charles, Love Swings, It's You or No-one (all recorded between 1959 and 1962), plus all his albums for Capitol, Atlantic and Direction are themed either musically or lyrically. I'm not sure it's fair to compare the esoteric Earthy with Elvis is Back, but admiration has to go out to Darin and his vision of who he was and was not. He still made a couple of albums that were clunkers, but that's because he tried something and it didn't work out - for the most part, Elvis simply wasn't willing to try.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:49 pm

poormadpeter wrote:
Lou Fanty wrote:I like to know if Bobby Darin ever made an album better than any of Elvis' greater albums ? I do not know anybody who liked Bobby Darin. I have a greatest hits album by him that I like. Bobby sold in the thousands , while Elvis sold in the millions.


Darin was quite a different artist to Elvis from the get-go. He was determined to do what he wanted, and how he wanted - and generally went into the studio to record a particular album each time. Not all the time, but for most of it. The earlier mentioned Earthy and its sequel, Golden Folk Hits, are thought to have been recorded in a single night (24 tracks in one night). Elsewhere, his albums Winners, That's All, This Is Darin, Christmas album, Two of A Kind, Sings Ray Charles, Love Swings, It's You or No-one (all recorded between 1959 and 1962), plus all his albums for Capitol, Atlantic and Direction are themed either musically or lyrically. I'm not sure it's fair to compare the esoteric Earthy with Elvis is Back, but admiration has to go out to Darin and his vision of who he was and was not. He still made a couple of albums that were clunkers, but that's because he tried something and it didn't work out - for the most part, Elvis simply wasn't willing to try.


Nice assessment. Speaking of his Christmas LP, it is probably the most unique Christmas album of any pop artist. The songs are not all well known, have a gospel tinge to them and it is an amazing listening experience. For those that like traditional Christmas songs, there are only a few, but he set out to do something different and IMO he accomplished that with '25th Day of December' (it even has a unique title) I wonder if Elvis dug this album?

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Thu Dec 12, 2013 1:52 am

It shouldn't be taken as a slight on Elvis's artistry, or considered as undermining his sales, when it's said that he wasn't an album artist. At least in the most readily accepted ideas and examples of what constitutes being an album artist. Because Elvis was an important album artist and did play a pivotal role in the growth of the LP as a commercially viable product. His eponymous debut album is generally accepted as being the first rock 'n' roll album, whilst Elvis's album sales during the fifties were vital in showing the growing spending power of the teenager. His first album was also a terrific musical statement, even if it was compiled from a patchwork of Sun recordings and new tracks cut for RCA. Its very existence and presence on the album charts served to further highlight the growing trend in rock 'n' roll music, and in the process, created a statement of intent, suggesting that Elvis (and rock 'n' roll) could exist on a format more typically geared towards adults, or the affluent. A format on which musical soundtracks and Frank Sinatra ruled the day, both with regards to time spent on the album charts and the audiences whom they attracted. Sinatra's importance an album artist dated back to the forties, however, with his 1946 debut album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra, proving hugely influential and important with regards to the entire landscape of popular music and the album, itself (it was reissued in 1948 as a 10" record). Sinatra expanded upon this, understanding and revelling in the thematic potential of what an album actually could be. Elvis didn't think like this or record in a way that considered the album as an artistic expression. He was spontaneous, recorded in the moment and cut songs on an individual basis because of their own intrinsic merits, or his appreciation of the material. That doesn't negate the fact that he continued to record popular and important albums. The Elvis Christmas album, for example, was also unique with regards to what it said about Christmas music met with rock 'n' roll -- and it's still one of the best albums of its kind! From Elvis in Memphis isn't often discussed as being an important album, although it's critically acclaimed and held in the highest regard by fans. However, I've always considered this to be one of the first genuinely mature albums made by a rock singer. Particularly one from Elvis's generation. He was still young, of course, when this album was released. But this was created with Elvis at the zenith of his artistic abilities, creating music of a lasting quality that would contribute to the making of a landmark album in his career, along with a batch of revered singles. That he wasn't recording albums with a particular theme in mind, choosing songs to fit and working on arrangements that would be appropriate to a singular statement, only indicates that he didn't create music this way. There's no right or wrong, good or bad, better or worse in this regard. Elvis's artistic drive and creative expression was uniquely his own -- his recorded legacy is testament to his musical brilliance and that need not be defined by a label. He wasn't an album artist in the typical sense, but he wasn't your typical artist. He could enter the recording studio with the artistic intent to create an album, and done so numerous times, often with much success, e.g. The Elvis Christmas Album, Elvis is Back! His Hand in Mine, How Great Thou Art and From Elvis in Memphis. Although I have little doubt that Elvis would have been able record an album designed around a particular theme, style, genre or mood, had he chosen to deliberately do so. He did foster interests in recording a folk album and had cut several tracks before abandoning the idea. Whilst his knowledge and love of rhythm and blues makes for a mouth watering prospect with regards to the potential of an album compiled of blues songs. A change in his thinking, approach to recording and obligations to record may eventually have altered the type of album Elvis made, or why he would record an album in the first place. But that, we will never know, because his death at just forty-two draws a final line under a mighty full career. A career that had many ups and downs, but plenty of riches along the way. Elvis may never be considered as having been an album artist, but that's a term typified by a certain way of recording or creating music; and Elvis shouldn't be defined by what he didn't do. Especially when his best work and the significance of his recorded legacy speaks volumes, both with regards to singles, albums and the trend of EPs that he was so hugely successful with.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Thu Dec 12, 2013 2:04 am

That's nice, Greystoke, thank you.

Re: Elvis was not an album artist!

Thu Dec 12, 2013 2:11 am

greystoke wrote:It shouldn't be taken as a slight on Elvis's artistry, or considered as undermining his sales, when it's said that he wasn't an album artist. At least in the most readily accepted ideas and examples of what constitutes being an album artist. Because Elvis was an important album artist and did play a pivotal role in the growth of the LP as a commercially viable product. His eponymous debut album is generally accepted as being the first rock 'n' roll album, whilst Elvis's album sales during the fifties were vital in showing the growing spending power of the teenager. His first album was also a terrific musical statement, even if it was compiled from a patchwork of Sun recordings and new tracks cut for RCA. Its very existence and presence on the album charts served to further highlight the growing trend in rock 'n' roll music, and in the process, created a statement of intent, suggesting that Elvis (and rock 'n' roll) could exist on a format more typically geared towards adults, or the affluent. A format on which musical soundtracks and Frank Sinatra ruled the day, both with regards to time spent on the album charts and the audiences whom they attracted. Sinatra's importance an album artist dated back to the forties, however, with his 1946 debut album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra, proving hugely influential and important with regards to the entire landscape of popular music and the album, itself (it was reissued in 1948 as a 10" record). Sinatra expanded upon this, understanding and revelling in the thematic potential of what an album actually could be. Elvis didn't think like this or record in a way that considered the album as an artistic expression. He was spontaneous, recorded in the moment and cut songs on an individual basis because of their own intrinsic merits, or his appreciation of the material. That doesn't negate the fact that he continued to record popular and important albums. The Elvis Christmas album, for example, was also unique with regards to what it said about Christmas music met with rock 'n' roll -- and it's still one of the best albums of its kind! From Elvis in Memphis isn't often discussed as being an important album, although it's critically acclaimed and held in the highest regard by fans. However, I've always considered this to be one of the first genuinely mature albums made by a rock singer. Particularly one from Elvis's generation. He was still young, of course, when this album was released. But this was created with Elvis at the zenith of his artistic abilities, creating music of a lasting quality that would contribute to the making of a landmark album in his career, along with a batch of revered singles. That he wasn't recording albums with a particular theme in mind, choosing songs to fit and working on arrangements that would be appropriate to a singular statement, only indicates that he didn't create music this way. There's no right or wrong, good or bad, better or worse in this regard. Elvis's artistic drive and creative expression was uniquely his own -- his recorded legacy is testament to his musical brilliance and that need not be defined by a label. He wasn't an album artist in the typical sense, but he wasn't your typical artist. He could enter the recording studio with the artistic intent to create an album, and done so numerous times, often with much success, e.g. The Elvis Christmas Album, Elvis is Back! His Hand in Mine, How Great Thou Art and From Elvis in Memphis. Although I have little doubt that Elvis would have been able record an album designed around a particular theme, style, genre or mood, had he chosen to deliberately do so. He did foster interests in recording a folk album and had cut several tracks before abandoning the idea. Whilst his knowledge and love of rhythm and blues makes for a mouth watering prospect with regards to the potential of an album compiled of blues songs. A change in his thinking, approach to recording and obligations to record may eventually have altered the type of album Elvis made, or why he would record an album in the first place. But that, we will never know, because his death at just forty-two draws a final line under a mighty full career. A career that had many ups and downs, but plenty of riches along the way. Elvis may never be considered as having been an album artist, but that's a term typified by a certain way of recording or creating music; and Elvis shouldn't be defined by what he didn't do. Especially when his best work and the significance of his recorded legacy speaks volumes, both with regards to singles, albums and the trend of EPs that he was so hugely successful with.


Terrific, terrific post! ::rocks