A Date with Elvis

A Date with Elvis

Released 1959, in order to fill time during Elvis Presley’s military service, A Date With Elvis collects a number of the singer’s Sun Records-era singles. That includes both the gurgling rockabilly “Baby Let’s Play House” (Presley’s first charting single) and “I Forgot to Remember to Forget” (his first song to hit No. 1 on the country charts). Those singles introduced fans to Presley’s unforgettable voice, which could handle both electric, rowdy rockers and swooning, melancholy ballads—and everything in between. The earliest recording on A Date With Elvis is “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” a B-side from 1954 that makes Presley’s irreverent stance clear, as he transforms the bluegrass standard into a reverb-heavy, galloping rockabilly tune that never obscures the force of his voice. “Good Rockin’ Tonight” and “Milk Cow Blues Boogie,” meanwhile, are blues numbers that capture Presley’s raucous, youthful energy (the singer was just 19 years old when he recorded them). And “Milk Cow” rumbles and simmers, but only after Presley stops his band a few seconds into the record, and instructs them to “get real, real gone for a change”—a demand that underscores Presley’s plan to transform pop music for good. Elvis is always Elvis, but there’s an audible difference between the sweaty, loose recordings from his Sun Records days, and the clearer and more precise tracks he did later on with RCA Victor: “Baby Let’s Play House,” for example, makes use of a slap echo that places Presley in some semi-intimate room—as though he’s singing at some high school’s sock hop. But even the non-Sun tracks on A Date With Elvis are worthy, such as tracks from his quickly growing filmography, including “We’re Gonna Move” (from 1956’s Love Me Tender) and “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care” (from 1957’s Jailhouse Rock).

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