Elvis Presley - A Boy From Tupelo album review
Dead Sea Scrolls expanded
For the sake or argument – and these days, there’s always got to be argument – let’s just say that this is where it all began. Yes, Rocket 88. Yes, the cultural misappropriation of African American R&B. Yes, fat Bill bloody Haley. But if Lennon and Richards both cite Elvis as the crooning spoon from which they first sipped the primordial soup of rock, then Elvis it is.
Vegas Elvis, the depleted rhinestone incarnation that The Clash scornfully decried even as he trudged toward his final ‘77 throne-room destiny, is nowhere to be seen on A Boy From Tupelo. These extraordinary 1953-55 Sun sessions, collated across three discs with surviving live and radio sessions in the most definitive collection so far, exude a raw, feral power that retains its potency across six decades. An other-worldly southern gothic feel is only intensified by primitive production values. Combining the warm reverb of Sam Phillips’s Sun Studio, the refreshing economy of Scotty Moore’s rockabilly-referencing ES-295, Bill Black’s evocative walking bass and Elvis’s supernaturally salacious vocal, a dark voodoo infests every last seductive lick. That’s All Right is the punchy headline, but delve deeper and be dazzled, I’ll Never Let You Go, Little Darling stalks like a David Lynch villain and those ‘birth of rock’ moments come thick and fast. Not least during Baby, Let’s Play House when Elvis sneers “I’d rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man” and you just know he means it. Seminal, phenomenal, indispensable.