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DVD: Classic Albums - Elvis Presley

Sat Jul 23, 2005 5:03 am

Hi Gang,
Here's an old review that I'll have to add back to our EIN site.
It was being discussed on the other M.B.
Cheers
Piers

Classic Albums DVD

"Hearing Elvis for the first time was like breaking out of jail"- The famous Bob Dylan quote at the start of this DVD says it all.

Beginning with Elvis' screen test performance of 'Blue Suede Shoes' this is a new, refreshing and informative look at the 1956 Album that changed the face of popular culture. Running at 100 minutes the first half is from the TV series, which has looked at some of the most influential albums of all time, and here it closely examines the creation of Elvis' first album and the reasons behind its fantastic success.

Not only is this DVD packed full with fabulous quality footage of early Elvis but also contains numerous fascinating interviews. Ernst Jorgensen and Biographer Peter Guralnick, for example, provide some interesting new historical and technical view points, while musicians Scotty Moore and D.J Fontana are delightful as they explain how a simple 4 piece band created a sound that rocked the world.

The very well-worn Rolling Stones' guitarist Keith Richards also adds some humour with his view of it all and, as he rightly points out, "With Elvis it was like the world went from Black & White to Colour".

The brilliant 'Blue Suede Shoes' kicked off the LP and, although it was never released as a single to compete with fellow Sun musicians' Carl Perkins' original, here we are shown just how different the two versions really were. This immediately gives us an insight into how Elvis' dynamic performance both on radio & TV would have shocked the conservative America of the 1950s.

Teenage girlfriend Dixie Locke has some lovely recollections about the period and we are treated to some fascinating old film of Memphis & Beale Street as well. Some great church footage also helps to demonstrate just how important Gospel music was to Elvis' new sound.

Sun Records producer Sam Phillips explains how an 18 year old white boy could change the future of Rock N' Roll with his interpretation of Arthur Crudup's 'That's All Right', while Peter Guralnick also explains how Elvis never betrayed the Blues roots of his music.

A highlight of the programme is the stories of Scotty & D.J Fontana who are such sweet men with great recollections. Bassist Bill Black is not forgotten either with stories of how his extrovert antics and powerful Double Bass slapping often saved a show from dying out and helped get the audience focused back on Elvis.

There are great films clips of Elvis on stage in Tupelo as well as his sensational TV performances of 'Money Honey', the delicious 'I Was The One', as well as the raw sex of 'Baby Let's Play House'.

Plenty of time is given to the importance of 'Heartbreak Hotel', which as they do explain wasn't actually on the LP since singles were far more significant at the time. Ernst J makes the interesting point that RCA (who had just spent a fortune on buying Elvis' contract) initially considered the song to be a complete failure! It was so unique in its style that they never expected it to chart and indeed it took a fair while to make that crucial #1 spot. We also get a clever look at Elvis' several TV performances of the song, demonstrating just how quickly Elvis' self-confidence grew along with his stylish looks and playful sex appeal.

The final song examined is 'Shake Rattle & Roll' where in the 'Flip Flop Fly' medley (Elvis' first ever TV performance) we see this strange 21 year old singing that "I got so many women, I don't know which way to jump"! No wonder Middle America was shocked and Hy Gardner in his later TV interview asks Elvis, "Is your influence evil?"!! Ernst J also explains the other sexual innuendos of the song and how Elvis was made to drop the overtly sexual "I can't believe, that all that mess beneath belongs to you" verse! (This song never sounded dangerous in Bill Haley's version!).

We have seen a lot of this footage before in other video releases, such as 'Elvis 1956', but here they are in brilliant digital quality & are cleverly edited to create a fascinating programme that is sure to interest everybody who has any curiosity about either music in general or the history of popular culture.

The programme ends with Elvis speaking from his 'The Truth about Me' record "Singing R & B really knocks it out, - I was an only child but maybe my kids won't be … I'd like to thank all the D.J.s for playing my records."
- He is so honest, innocent and sincere it really delights.

Listening to young Elvis it is hard to believe that this was the lifeblood of the Rock n' Roll rebellion, unknowingly being pumped into the staid living rooms of America. There the post-war, culture-starved, teenagers would devour this newfound voice of freedom and make this the first Million Dollar Pop album ever. - Its importance cannot be overstated.

The bonus section of this DVD is also excellent. Running another 50 minutes, it is not part of the actual TV programme but features a further in-depth look at Elvis' early years.

Here we get more of the interviews and they are as fascinating as the programme itself, along with some excellent photographs and more early footage - Great to see the famous Pink Cadillac in action!

Dixie Locke expands on how Elvis was always shy and "Ridiculed about being a poor country boy" while at the same time we get the conundrum of Red West talking about the troubles of the early years & the memorable fight down in Lubbock, Texas.

Sam Phillips' and Steve Sholes' roles in this historical moment are also examined in more detail - "Sam was a task master" says Scotty Moore - while there is no doubt about who produced all these key sessions.

Finally it's good ol' Keith Richards who hits the nail on the head when he says "How amazing it is that the 'feel' of recording a song in a room, that would otherwise be lost, can be impressed on to a piece of plastic and be kept forever."

This DVD is a must for any music lover's collection and is as essential viewing as 'TTWII 2000' - don't miss out.

- Piers EIN www.elvisinfonet.com 2002

Sat Aug 27, 2005 8:57 pm

Thanks for that, Piers!

I have the Jimi Hendrix "Electric Ladyland" version in this "Classic
Albums" DVD series and really look forward to finding the Elvis one.

Re: DVD: Classic Albums - Elvis Presley

Mon Aug 29, 2005 12:50 am

PiersEIN wrote:
The bonus section of this DVD is also excellent. Running another 50 minutes, it is not part of the actual TV programme but features a further in-depth look at Elvis' early years.

Here we get more of the interviews and they are as fascinating as the programme itself, along with some excellent photographs and more early footage - Great to see the famous Pink Cadillac in action!



Great review!

Could you or someone else be a little more specific on the more early footage part in the bonus section?

Is this all previously released material, or have they thrown in some rarities as well?

Br
Kristian

Sun Oct 30, 2005 2:39 am

Piers

Thanks for the review.

Along with Elvis '56, Classic Albums - Elvis Presley is the essential documentary on Elvis' early years. I was really surprised at how good it is, after I picked it up for a relatively low price. It's great to hear those interviews of people who really matter(ed).