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Elvis '56

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The organizing principle of Elvis 56 is simple: that's the year Presley recorded these 22 tracks (including an alternate take of "Heartbreak Hotel," the opening track, recorded on January 10, 1956). It's also the year that Presley would become the biggest pop phenomenon since Frank Sinatra by kicking up a fuss as a red-hot regular on TV variety shows. In the studio, Presley's first recordings for RCA drew from the same pool of rhythm & blues tunes that he'd been interpreting at Sun Records. 1956 was the year Presley sang great songs by Otis Blackwell ("Don't Be Cruel," "Paralyzed," "Ready Teddy") and the Leiber-Stoller team ("Hound Dog," "Love Me"). He also essentially swiped Carl Perkins's "Blue Suede Shoes," and tried to do the same with such other contemporary hits as "Lawdy, Miss Clawdy" and "Shake, Rattle, and Roll." Note that on the same day he recorded the galvanizing "Heartbreak Hotel," Presley also cut a most Sun-like (and wholly appropriate) "Money Honey." The compilation chronicles a remarkable year in which every song rang true; the booklet includes exquisite period photos of Presley taken by Alfred Wertheimer. A video of the same title that chronicles the year in pictures is highly recommended. --John Milward

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