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on 15 August 2016
Bought as a present, but ended up keeping. Got the birthday girl a pair of tights instead.
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on 25 February 2003
Elvis had bigger hits and sang other great songs, but as a group these recordings cannot be matched for their vitality, freshness and the beauty of the singing and instrumentation. Almost never again would Elvis' voice sound so young and fleet, dancing from to tenor to falsetto to the trembling baritone so overused later in his career.
The underrated Scotty Moore plays what is still some of the best and most tasteful lead guitar in pop (and was a big influence on George Harrison, perhaps the ultimate tasteful player). Moore delivered some pioneering rock solos on later cuts like Hound Dog, but after the Sun recordings he was was seldom as elegant or considered (partly of course because the arrangements at RCA often did not allow his guitar to be such an organic part of the song).
The liveliness and consistency of the ensemble playing and arrangements would rarely be equalled and never surpassed in any later work. In truth, although these are often seen as seminal rock and roll recordings, this music has an atmosphere all its own and sounds unlike almost anything else. It's rhythm and blues, country, gospel, ballads and show tunes (Blue Moon). It's also acoustic AND electric, and presents the 'live' intimacy of a small combo at the same time as using the famous Sun echo to make records that were artefacts in their own right rather than merely transcriptions of a live performance.
Most of these songs are great, but the buoyant That's Alright, the stuttering Baby Let's Play House and the joyful but impatient Mystery Train all stand out. On the ballad side, the eerie falsetto Blue Moon and the delicate Tomorrow Night are two of Elvis' most affecting (yet unaffected) romantic performances.
As a reissue, this is the most complete compilation of Sun recordings so far and has the best sound quality. However, it must be said that the second CD of outtakes etc. is largely of scholarly interest and most people are unlikey to listen to it more than once (apart fom anything else, the sound quality is poor). The presence of the second disc means that this set is off-puttingly expensive and it would have been nice if a single-disc option were available. The music on the finished Sun masters is priceless though.
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on 12 May 2002
What can I say about arguably the greatest music ever made.
Elvis Sun recordings are the essence of Rock n Roll. Listen to the likes of Mystery Train and That' Alright and what we have is the blending of blues, country and gospel......the origins of rock music.
Without a doubt, Little Richard and Chuck Berry, Bill Haley etc were doing similar things at the same time. But what these three could do individually, Elvis combined.
There has never been before or since anything quite like this.
Elvis was a gospel and blues singer at heart. What he had, being a mississippi/Memphis kid, was the blues in his blood......the likes of Howlin' Wolf, Rufus Thomas and Arthur Cruddup were all around him. When he sings, the feeling that these guys had is there, the raw emotion and gutsy vocal are there, yet amazingly he adds more. He brings country and his real love, gospel into the mix.
Like Peter Guralnick says, if he never done another thing after his years at Sun this music would still be birth of rock n roll and perhaps even more legendary as it is now
So good is this music that many dismiss his post-Sun work......foolishly though, as Elvis excelled from the day he walked down Union Avenue into Sun studios, till the day walked off stage for the last time in June of 1977.
This is the only music that makes Sgt Pepper obsolete.....this is the greatest music ever made.
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on 17 October 2014
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VINE VOICEon 2 December 2002
One double cd for which five stars seem insufficient. The second of these two cds is pure history - to be listened to alongside Peter Guralnick's wonderful biography: from the 'My Happiness' recorded at Elvis' own expense through early tentative take of 'I Love You Because' to crackly sounding live tracks such as the superb 'Tweedle Dee'.
But it is the first cd that you will listen to again and again with unalloyed pleasure. Those great singles in which Elvis (with Scotty, Bill and the great Sam Phillips) can be heard inventing rock'n'roll are all present and correct from 'That's All Right' to the supernaturally brilliant 'Mystery Train'. The none-single tracks are equally thrilling especially the ghostly 'Blue Moon' and the soulful 'Trying To Get To You'.
This music is the result of incredibly patient and persistent work over a long period and yet sounds as easy as breathing.This is pure joy.
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on 20 April 2001
In the inner notes, Peter Geralnick writes that "if Elvis had never made another record after his last Sun session in the fall of 1955, there seems little question that his music would have acheived the same mythic status as Robert Johnson's blues." That, is no haphazard comparison. Here is proof that it already, didn't matter who wrote the song- the singer was the captain of the ship here. The influences are transparent as apparent-the Inkspots and the Prisionaires(whose works are worth checking out) and raw blues. What S. Philips heard when through the half open door of the recording booth he heard Elvis and the rest of the band fooling about on That's Alright Mama was not mere chance-it was so bold a plan that again proves P. Geralnick right. The songs sound starkingly fresh and to any first time listener, Elvis all over. Sunrise- These recordings can't be described in any better term.
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on 31 August 2003
The Sun sessions are the birth of Rock N' Roll; the 1st recordings in the genre and arguably still the greatest. There has been cries of Rock Around The Clock (released the summer Elvis 1st entered the studio) and Rocket 88, those 2 recordings were the first Rock N' Roll singles but all the groundwork, passion, excitement was started by Elvis Presley; he laid the groundwork. Bill Haley has about as much in common with what Elvis was doing musically as Ringo does with Dylan. If it wasn't for Presley, rock would have been just a passing fad like The Twist and Skiffle.

Elvis' voice is roar and uncontrollable: in one second baritone the next a high shriek, this is best displayed on Milk Cow Blues. Elvis was the 1st singer we didn't quite understand and it didn't matter.

The basis of the Sun sessions is complete musical freedom; Elvis had a great memory for obscure songs. Also growing up in black communities meant he bypassed the music racial divide. What Elvis does is combine Rhythm and Blues, Gospel, Country and performs it in a completely different way. Country songs would become blues songs, blues songs rockers, the lines would be blurred.

A huge mention should go out to Scotty Moore (guitar), Bill Black (bass) and Sam Phillips (producer). Elvis, Scotty and Bill communicate in complete musical harmony. During Lets Play House the music halts and Elvis snears....

''Come on back and meet a-little girl so we can play some house''

Bill bass crawls along those lines eventually bringing Scotty back in.
Scotty Moore's guitar playing is vital; the music accompaniment to Elvis' voice. He crossed RaB and country to change guitar. As a guitarist he was extremely vocal; his solo in Blue Moon Of Kentucky and That's All right are prime examples; you can sing them all.

Sam Phillips deserves a big mention, indulging Elvis' massive musical variety because of his huge wish to find a white singer that singed black. His production is raw and unbeatable; way better then the polish on the subsequent RCA material (jailhouse rock).

All 4 guys perform with a naivety, excitement and edginess which is hard to appreciate in hindsight.

Due to 3 huge controversial changes in his carear, every fan has there viewpoint: Those who held the faith during the 60s and 70s, or, the 50's purists. I lean more to the 50's purists but like some of the latter stuff (Guitar Man, Suspicious Minds) but within that category there are those that dismiss everything Elvis made after Sun. I find that ridicules because by saying that you're denying such tracks as Heartbreak Hotel, Hound Dog, King Creole. True more polished and different from the Sun stuff but the obvious extension really; Sun created rock, RCA introduced it on the world.

The variety here makes great proof that early on Elvis wanted to be a all round entertainer. As well as been a fan of old black geezers he also liked Dean Martin (which explains 'its now of never'). The material ranges from beautiful ballads such as 'Blue Moon' (with singing in falsetto), country songs such as 'I Forgot to Remember to Forget'. Gospel tinged 'Trying to get to you' is one of the big stand out tracks, Elvis would himself revive this song for his 68 Comeback Special.

It is the rockers that are best remembered though. Mystery Train's lyrics are so simple yet so perfect; Good Rockin is my favourite Elvis track bar none, the attitude and sexual tension in lyrics like...

''Meet me in a hurry behind the bar, don't you be afraid and I'll do you know harm, I want you to bring along my rockin shoes cos tonight where gonna rock away all my blues''

Milk Cow Blues see's Elvis at his most aggressive and Baby Lets Play House with its ''Babybabybbbbaby'' intro is simply incredible.

Of the 5 singles released they hit on a great formula of pairing a rocker with a country song (Good Rockin' Tonight and I Don't Care If the Sun Don't Shine). The material has been repackaged many times, most notably on For LP Fans Only which was the only place to obtain them for many years, but also 1987's The Complete Sun Sessions. Sunrise sees the addition of a 2nd disc which unfortunately bumps the price up. It contains the alternative versions and unreleased live tracks. The live tracks are extremely bad quality and are of only partial interest. The alternative versions are good but it's the 1st disc you will play time and time again. The packaging is classy, I personally didn't feel short changed.
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on 8 February 2002
All too often the term 'essential' is tagged to CDs, well I can tell you that if any CD deserved to be called essential, this is it.
This is the birth of rock n roll music, when an unknown Elvis Presley first moulded country, blues, gospel and rythm and blues.
This is not only the birth of rock music, but the essence of rock, without it no Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin or infact music as we know it now.
All of the tracks still sparkle with raw energy, vitality and originality that all who followed tried to emulate, but never could.
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Is there anyone out there who would dare to give this anything other than 5 stars? As another reviewer states, words like Holy Grail come to mind when considering this music.

It would be tempting to say that Presley produced his best work whilst at Sun and that he achieved very little of real note afterwards. Tempting but incorrect. Unlike Jerry Lee who generated a massive volume of (remarkably high quality) material during his Sun phase, Elvis was at Sun for a relatively short time and left only a tiny heritage in terms of recordings -all the significant performances are on the first of this pair of discs -although one has to add that, during this period he, and Scotty and Bill, made records that were both massively important in the history of popular music and were also extremely exciting. His move from Sun to RCA was relatively seamless initially; early RCA records did not differ drastically from those from Sun. To the listener the move was somewhat blurred anyway by the presence of five unreleased Sun tracks on the first Presley RCA album. Over time the nature of the records changed but it's entirely possible that would have happened if he'd stayed at Sun. It's also true that, even after years of rubbishy output later in his career, Elvis was still capable of producing good, and sometimes great, records, an example of which was the famous '68 "Comeback".

Within the first ten tracks on this album, we have six which virtually defined rockabilly, "That's all right", "Blue Moon of Kentucky", "Good Rockin' tonight", "Milkcow Blues", "Baby let's play house" and "Mystery Train". All the key elements are in place on "That's all right", that stunning first release. Listening to it again, one marvels at how relatively sedate it seems now. Not as fast as one remembers it, but with Elvis' high-pitched voice already whipping up the excitement. Peter Guralnick, describes the recording session superbly both in the Notes contained here and in his excellent book, "Last train to Memphis: The rise of Elvis Presley". The flipside of "That's all right", "Blue Moon of Kentucky" shows Elvis and the boys approaching rockabilly from the country rather than blues direction, taking a classic Bill Monroe number and giving it that slap bass and echo-laden makeover. On "Good Rockin' Tonight" he takes a very direct approach to Roy Brown's extremely mannered original - not much innuendo here, this is right to the point. For "Milkcow Blues" after the slow start he erupts with the immortal words "Hold it fellahs, that don`t move me, let`s get real, real gone for a change". By the time we reach "Baby Let's play House", the echo had got stronger, Scotty Moore's solo was more metallic, and Elvis was at boiling point. And what about "Mystery Train"? That's so good it's almost mystical - echoes of Muddy going down to Louisiana.

But there are other, non rockabilly standouts on Disc 1. "Blue Moon", with its minimal accompaniment and eerie, haunting vocal . It's the sort of record which could cause you to stop and listen even now when we've become accustomed to umpteen kinds of sonic onslaughts; in those days it must have seemed like it came from another planet! "Trying to get to you", a slow to medium ballad with Scotty unleashing long snaky lines echoing the Presley bluesy phrasing, and, then both exploding into bedlam in the middle eight. Not to forget "I forgot to remember to forget" which redefined the country ballad with a loping beat in the background and Elvis' voice swooping , dipping and pleading as no voice had ever done before. But there's still other delights, "I'll never let you go", which proceeds along in a restrained and rather pretty manner until 1 minute 50 seconds in when Presley utters a monster, ascending, "Well" which seems to last for an eternity before the backbeat and echo come on forcefully projecting the song through to its climax.

Disc 2 doesn't maintain this level. It starts with personal recordings that the young and nervous Presley made at the Sun studios. All are ballads accompanied only by his guitar but some of those magnetic vocal qualities are already there. It's intriguing listening to "That's when your heartaches begin" knowing well the polished version of a few years later. Following these tracks we get seven alternate takes complete with restarts and studio chat plus a couple of underdeveloped tracks, "Fool, Fool, Fool" and Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll". These versions, the alternates in particular, don't support any theory of the boys merely stumbling on a sound. It may have started that way but they all obviously worked damned hard to produce those results we hear on Disc 1. The side finishes with six live tracks of very poor recording quality. I would question the inclusion of these tracks.

Most people are unlikely to play Disc 2 more than a handful of times and the live tracks only serve to show the kind of music which was influencing the young Presley. "Money Honey" though, was due to benefit hugely from the full Presley treatment after the RCA move.

Presley's entire Sun career consisted of five singles (none of which were issued in the UK) plus a few tracks which later surfaced on the first RCA album. His next single, and the first on RCA, was to be "Heartbreak Hotel" which went to number 1 in the US and number 2 in the UK.You may know some of the rest.
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on 18 November 2009
That was Elvis' reply in 1954 when he was asked who he sang like when he walked into Sun Studios before laying down the first world changing tracks.

And he wasn't kidding. He really didn't sound like anybody before.

The tracks 19 year old Presley recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis Tennessee were mostly blues songs he had listened to while growing up in Tupelo and Memphis. But when you compare his versions with the original records, they are DIFFERENT. Elvis revamped and energised those tracks like a demon on fire. They sounded completely NEW and turbo-charged.

There was nothing wrong with the original songs of course but this good looking blue-eyed unknown hyper with a strangely magnetic voice injected adrenaline into every syllable. And he did it with just one electric guitar, his own acoustic guitar, a stand-up bass, and the most basic of drums. That's All Right Mama, Mystery Train, Good Rockin' Tonight, and an electrifying Tryin' To Get To You still bleed today.

It is pointless reviewing each track because others have done that very well here. But I can add this:
If you were forced to throw away your entire CD collection but allowed to keep just one, then this is the one to keep. Because,

. This is music history in the actual making.
. This is the very beginning of modern day pop and rock.
. This is the music that kicked down race barriers.
. This is the man who gave teenagers an identity.
. This is the man who literally changed the world.

. This IS Elvis Presley.
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