« Nor do I have any hesitation in recommending this set » by Blues & Rhythm

Elvis has been part of my life for all of my life – now, I’m no Elvis expert, nor would I want to be, but I do fondly recall as a very young child seeing the cover to the EP ’50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong’, and thinking that here, with the man with the curious name standing there in a gold lamé suit, was cool personified, even if I didn’t put it like that. Of course, as I suspect is the case for most (all?) readers, the vast majority of these tracks are so familiar that it was difficult to think of something new to say, but these three CDs are certainly extremely enjoyable to listen to. The format is that the tracks which influenced Elvis are presented first, followed by the Elvis version e.g. Big Boy Crudup opens with ‘That’s All Right’, Elvis follows with his rockabilly version, then it is into Leon Payne’s ‘I Love You Because’, leading into the Elvis track, Bill Monroe then turning up with ‘Blue Moon Of Kentucky’, Elvis rocking it up etc. You get the picture …
Actually though, sometimes the programme presents the listener with three versions and these are even more interesting: Roy Brown has ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’, then Wynonie Harris, and then Elvis; Kokomo Arnold has ‘Milkcow Blues’, and so too does Johnnie Lee Wills before Mr. Presley treats us to ‘Milkcow Blues Boogie’, Then there are the occasional oddities such as Hal Singer’s ‘Rock Around the Clock’, which is (distantly) related to Carl Perkins ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, and Slim & Slam’s ‘Tutti Frutti’, which might not be juxtaposed with Little Richard’s song if they did not share the same title.
That familiarity did induce a sense of – no, not contempt, but a false sense of security. There I was listening along, maybe a little distracted, thinking about what to write – maybe something about how times have changed and express surprise maybe that anyone could listen to these early sides and think Elvis was black, or speculation that maybe he enjoyed Big Boy Crudup’s and Arthur Gunter’s tracks so much as the guitar playing on them was as rudimentary as his own – when along came ‘Tryin’ To Get To You’, a fine Elvis vocal, very much in his style. Odd though, that group sounds very black… then another version of the track comes along, sounding like a good Elvis imitator, and I grab the track listing to confirm that yes, the first version is actually by Washington D.C. group the Eagles, it is the second by Mr. P. Hmmm… I’d heard it before but in this context it takes on a different slant. It was strange too to listen to The Shelton Brothers – who we met earlier with ‘Just Because’ – tackling the old song ‘Aura Lea’ to the melody Elvis then appropriated for ‘Love Me Tender’.
Although the notes could be more detailed, I have no quibble with the music itself. Nor do I have any hesitation in recommending this set to those who might want to know more about Elvis and his part in American music history.