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  • 16:9 Enhanced
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  • 5 Additional footage - For The Record, The Early Years, The Sun Recordings, On The Road, RCA Buys Elvis' Contract.
Elvis Presley: Elvis Presley - Classic Albums
Eagle Vision/Warner Vision . R4 . COLOR . 50 mins . PG . PAL


Fact: In 1956, a twenty-year-old Elvis Aaron Presley recorded arguably one of historyís most influential records for RCA and changed music forever.

The King had many faces, each of them adaptable to individual perception. There was Rockabilly Elvis, Beach Party Elvis, U.S. Army Elvis, Las Vegas Elvis and so on and so on (they almost sound like a range of Barbies... now thereís an idea). The Elvis Presley that recorded that first album for RCA (and indeed the infamous Sun Sessions that preceded it) was Cool Elvis. Handsome, surly and irreverent, Cool Elvis would seize Apple Pie America, dirty it up a little, and spawn the first new breed of rock ní roll rebel in the process.

Anybody that is familiar with the Classic Albums series will know what to expect on purchase of this disc. Unlike many of the other titles in the series, Classic Albums: Elvis Presley concentrates less on the technical expertise employed in mid-fifties Memphis (technical what, now?) and more on the Ďfeelí of the recordings. Tales from Scotty Moore (guitarist), DJ Fontana (drummer), Sam Phillips (producer and founder of Sun Studios) and Dixie Locke (Elvisí girlfriend at the time) are absolutely priceless. These people were there! For a music fan, thatís like listening to the crew of the Endeavour talk about life aboard the First Fleet.

Of the more recent contributors, historian Ernst Jorgenson and biographer Peter Guralnick help to add perspective while everybodyís favourite Stone, Keith Richards, appears as glamorous as ever (despite always looking as though he is being interviewed at four in the morning after a particularly cruel bender, you just gotta love that man) and gushes openly about the Presley influence.

The documentary contains magnificent footage from the time, including not only live studio takes but amazing colour film of the band on the road in The Kingís pink Cadillac. The footage is admittedly sparse, but director Jeremy Marre manages to spread it evenly throughout the program and complements each section with vivid still photographs and further anecdotes. Although never in their entirety, the documentary includes each of the tracks featured on the album along with the legendary Heartbreak Hotel.

Track Listing:

Blue Suede Shoes
Thatís All Right
Baby Letís Play House
Tutti Frutti
Heartbreak Hotel
Money Honey
I Was the One
Shake Rattle and Roll.


There is certainly nothing wrong with the picture quality of this release as it was shot recently and with the obvious benefit of modern techniques. It hardly seems worth mentioning that some of the archival footage is going to contain some faults, but even though that is so, it rarely detracts from the overall presentation. The picture quality on the interview footage is well defined, crystal clear and displays near-perfect colour definition. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and in a 16x9 enhanced format, this disc is Tutti Frutti.

The same can probably be said for the sound, although Iím afraid that all you get to play with is a 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo track. Having said that, the sound quality on this disc is all you could want it to be considering that running any of the archival material or interview dialogue through more than two speakers would be a waste of time. Once again ignoring the sound quality of the original recordings, the audio is just fine with no real problems with dialogue or sync.

The bonus material featured on this disc is more a series of outtakes cut from the original documentary to squeeze it into a television timeslot. It is also worth noting that the bonus material contributes to the 100 minutes boasted on the discís cover. The extra footage follows the same format as the rest of the program and features interviews, more still photographs and greater depth and insight into the landmark recording. Most of the segments appear to have been cut for the fact that they contain very little live footage and tend to drag a little in comparison to the main feature. Although these omissions undoubtedly assist the pacing of the finished program, it is still nice to have them included on the disc as part of a complete package.

Elvis fans tend to be sticklers for detail and just a tad fanatical, so I think itís best we give them as much value for money as possible.

Classic Albums: Elvis Presley is certainly one of the better presentations in the series as much in the nature of its content as in its execution. It succeeds in capturing a unique time and a spirit and therefore ranks proudly alongside other recent retrospective music documentaries like: Dancing in the Street, Beatles Anthology and Ken Burnsí Jazz. The beauty of the Classic Albums series is that they are afforded the luxury of attention to detail while exploring musicís defining moments. This is one recording that deserves the attention.

After all, that 1956 debut was the first album for a lot more people than Elvis Presley.

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  •   And I quote...
    "Once upon a time, long before the shotguns, the cheeseburgers and the rhinestone jumpsuits, there lived a King..."
    - Peter O'Connor
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          Sony DVP-725
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          Accusound ASC160
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