* Archival Recordings *

Recorded: 8/53 to 10/55
Released: March 22, 1976 (1st version of many releases)


Rating:


Genre:

early rock and roll


Quotable:

“The quintessential Elvis Presley album and the birth certificate for rock’s once and future king.” – Clarke Speicher, The Review


Album Tracks:

  1. That’s All Right
  2. Blue Moon of Kentucky
  3. I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine
  4. Good Rockin’ Tonight
  5. Milk Cow Blues Boogie
  6. You’re a Heartbreaker
  7. I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone
  8. Baby Let’s Play House
  9. Mystery Train
  10. I Forgot to Remember to Forget
  11. I’ll Never Let You Go Little Darlin’
  12. Tryin’ to Get to You
  13. I Love You Because
  14. Blue Moon
  15. Just Because

* These are the basic tracks featured on each version. See “Notes” at right for details on variations.


Total Running Time:

--


Sales (in millions):

1.0
--
--
1.0


Peak:

76
16


Singles/Hit Songs:

  • That’s All Right (7/54) #3 UK, sales: 0.5 m, b/w “Blue Moon of Kentucky”
  • I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine (9/54) #74 US, #23 UK, b/w “Good Rockin’ Tonight”
  • You’re a Heartbreaker (1/55) –, b/w “Milk Cow Blues”
  • Baby, Let’s Play House (4/55) #5 US
  • I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (4/55) #21 UK
  • I Forgot to Remember to Forget (9/17/55) #1 CW
  • Mystery Train (9/17/55) #25 UK, #11 CW
  • Tryin’ to Get to You (9/8/56) #16 UK, b/w “I Love You Because”
  • Blue Moon (9/29/56) #55 US, #9 UK

Notes:

As for the multiple variations of the Sun recordings, they started with The Sun Collection in 1976. In addition to the tracks listed in the side panel, this collection included alternate versions of “That’s All Right” and “Milk Cow Blues.”

Then came The Sun Sessions, which bumped those two extra versions in favor of alternates of “I Love You Because”, “I’m Left, You’re Right, I’m Gone,” and “When It Rains, It Really Pours.”

In 1987, The Complete Sun Sessions was released, adding “Tomorrow Night,” “Harbor Lights,” and “When It Rains, It Really Pours” to the original collection as well as alternate takes, bringing the total song count to 28.

1999 saw the release of “the exceptional Sunrise, a generous 38-song double-disc set that contains all of Elvis’ Sun recordings, including alternate takes and several previously unreleased live performances. The compilers wisely…devote the first disc to the original takes, dedicating the second to alternate takes: six live cuts from 1955 and four private demos from 1953 and 1954. This sequencing emphasizes the brilliance of this music. Not only is listening to all 19 masters in a row quite breathtaking, but the second disc winds up as a revelatory experience, since it offers a kind of alternate history by following Elvis’ pre-professional recordings from his Sun sessions to early live performances.” AMG2

Songs that had not appeared on The Complete Sun Sessions included “My Happiness,” “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin,” “I’ll Never Stand in Your Way,” “It Wouldn’t Be the Same without You,” “Fool, Fool, Fool,” “Shake, Rattle & Roll,” “Money Honey,” “Tweedle Dee,” and “Hearts of Stone.”


In DMDB Book(s):


Awards:


The Sun Sessions
Sunrise/ The Complete Sun Sessions
Elvis Presley

Review:

“Who doesn’t need this in their record collection?” AMG1The Sun Sessions stands as the quintessential Elvis Presley album and the birth certificate for rock’s once and future king.” RV “There aren’t many rock albums that feature music one can honestly say changed the world as we know it, but that is, if anything, a modest appraisal of the contents of Elvis Presley’s The Sun Sessions.” AMG1 His “first recordings captured a force of nature: untutored, unsophisticated, but somehow brilliant.” BL “On July 5, 1954, Elvis Presley walked into…Sun Studios in Memphis.” TL He was only 19, but along with guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, they made history.

“Elvis certainly didn’t invent rock & roll, and he wasn’t even the first white guy to play it,” AMG1 but he “was (with little room for argument) the single most important artist in the history of rock & roll.” AMG1 “Much as Louis Armstong did for jazz, Elvis created a distinctive new way to play the music that combined a number of influences,” AMG1 such as “elements of blues, gospel and hillbilly music” AMG3 as well as “R&B, country, and pop.” AMG1 He found “a common ground between them that was his and his alone.” AMG1 “Presley was one of the most naturally gifted performers his genre ever knew, and was the performer who truly brought the music to the people as no one had before or since.” AMG1

Sam Phillips, the head of Sun Studios, “once boasted that if he could find a white singer that could sing, sound and feel ‘'like a negro’ that he’d make a million dollars.” AD Phillips had much to do with shaping Elvis’ early sound. Phillips produced five singles with Elvis that were released in 1954 and 1955. The impact of those singles wasn’t immediately felt, but once Elvis hit big, his work with Sun Records resurfaced, largely filling out Elvis’ early albums for RCA Records. As for that million dollars, Phillips fell short of that goal, making $35,000 when he sold Elvis’ contract to RCA. However, the value these songs had in shaping rock and roll is priceless.

That’s All Right

Sun’s first Elvis single married the country music of typically white performers with the R&B music of typically black performers when Arthur Crudup’s R&B song That’s All Right was infused with Elvis’ country twang. “It still sounds audacious, as if the players themselves can’t believe what they’re doing.” TL Then, on the flip side, Bill Monroe’s Blue Moon of Kentucky was transformed from its hillbilly roots into an R&B recording. “So taken was Bill Monroe by The King’s interpretation…Monroe re-recorded the track to make it sound like Presley.” RV On these and others, Elvis “forever burn[s] his imprint into classic spirituals and bluegrass favorites.” RV

Blue Moon of Kentucky

The Sun Sessions gathers those songs and the other singles and B-sides from the Sun Years and adds six more outtakes from the era. The resulting “album captures Elvis in his first flush of greatness,” AMG1 collecting “his first, and arguably most important, recordings into one convenient package.” AMG1 “One can hear the thrill of discovery and experimentation on every cut” AMG1 as “Elvis [is] first learning to put his ideas together in the recording studio.” AMG1 He “burst into these sessions, raring to go… his delivery is tense sounding, a result of nerves perhaps, but this tension is released into a collection of stunning vocal performances.” AD “If Elvis would sound stronger and more savvy with time, he never sounded freer or more excited with the possibilities of his own voice as he does on this material.” AMG1 This “is a young Elvis Presley…getting ready to unleash…rock & roll…on an unsuspecting world.” AMG3

Mystery Train

“The faster cuts, mostly, where Elvis really is himself, really pours his voice out.” AD His takes on “That’s All Right” and Junior Parker’s Mystery Train “are both totally together, tight performances and the voice of Elvis is very rich and the musical backings creating much excitement.” AD The latter “overflows with such spontaneity and excitement, it feels like it must have been done in one take. The song rocks and rolls with such rollicking grittiness.” RV

You’re a Heartbreaker boasts a great, assured Elvis vocal in contrast to other, more tense performances. Same comments apply to the very assured sounding and hugely enjoyable rock-n-roll of Good Rockin’ Tonight.” AD Performances like “Blue Moon of Kentucky” “are just so loose and raw, so genuine in the emotion and excitement.” AD “The sheer enthusiasm Elvis brings to these Sun recordings is audible.” AD

Good Rockin’ Tonight


Review Source(s):

  • AMG1 All Music Guide - review of The Sun Sessions by Mark Deming
  • AMG2 All Music Guide review of Sunrise by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
  • AMG3 All Music Guide review of The Complete Sun Sessions by Cub Koda
  • BL Blender Magazine’s 100 Greatest American Albums (10/08)
  • AD Adrian Denning, Adrian’s Album Reviews review of The Sun Collection
  • RV The Review “100 Greatest Albums of All Time” by Clarke Speicher (October – November 2001; Vol. 128: numbers 12-23).
  • TL Time Magazine’s All-TIME 100 Albums by Josh Tyrangiel and Alan Light (11/13/06).

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Last updated January 20, 2013.