2006 is the 50th anniversary of many things in Elvis’ history: his first hit song, his first TV appearance, his first album, his first movie. It’s also the 30th anniversary of his best album, at least in the opinion of most music critics. Can you name it?
Well, the year was 1976, so what came out then? If you remembered Moody Blue, that’s a good guess, but wrong. It may be his most unusual because of the blue vinyl, but it’s not his best.
Perhaps you are thinking Elvis’ best album should be Blue Hawaii, because it was certainly his best seller (over 5 million copies — and it stayed #1 on the charts for twenty straight weeks). Or maybe it should be his first LP, Elvis Presley, which was the first rock & roll album to reach #1, and it completely changed the buying habits of America’s teenagers (who previously bought only 45’s, not long-play albums). No, that’s not it either, according to most print and Internet music critics.
They say Elvis’ greatest album is The Sun Sessions. Now you’re thinking, “You mean Elvis’ recordings at Sun Studios weren’t released on an album until twenty years after they were recorded?” Strange, but true. Here’s another strange fact. The Sun Sessions was not released on CD until 1999, about fifteen years after compact discs took over as the dominant musical format.
So, who says The Sun Sessions are Elvis’ greatest album? The most recent was Rolling Stone magazine in their list of the “500 Greatest Rock & Roll Albums.” Overall, they treated Elvis’ albums rather poorly, but they did pick The Sun Sessions as #11. They printed a mini-review after each selection, and this is what they had to say, “Bridging black and white, country and blues, his sound was revolutionary… In a tiny Memphis studio in 1954 and 1955, Sam Phillips and Elvis Presley created rock & roll.”
Three years ago, VH1 had a similar poll called “The Top 100 Albums of Rock & Roll,” and they declared The Sun Sessions the 21st best ever. Elvis Presley had Elvis’ next highest album ranking on the Rolling Stone list, coming in at #55. However, it did not make the VH1 list at all. That’s no surprise. Not one album from the 50’s made the list. Not Here’s Little Richard. Not The Buddy Holly Story. Ridiculous.
Here’s one more interesting piece of trivia about The Sun Sessions. According to Rolling Stone, it reached only #76 on the charts the year it was released, and total sales after 26 years are up to only 346,781. However, if significant critical reviews keep praising it, The Sun Sessions should continue to sell for many decades into the future. For my money, it’s not just the historical significance that makes it a must-have. It’s a fun CD. With the exception of two wimpy ballads on it (which I program the player to skip), The Sun Sessions is a delightful collection of fun, rockabilly music. It gets plenty of play at my house.
© 2006 Philip R Arnold www.elvisblog.net