Classic Albums - Elvis Presley
Sound: C Extras: B- Main Documentary: B+
The making of Elvis Presley’s first album for RCA Records,
also bearing his full name as its title, makes for one of the very best
installments of the long-running Classic Albums series. Since the focus of the series has been Rock
music, with the occasional Rock-era Soul masterwork (Stevie Wonder’s “Songs
In The Key Of Life”,) this would be the logic first choice for the entire
series. This is a very substantial
entry in the series, made more so with the expansion of the program in the
extras section of the DVD itself.
Many programs, notably Rhino’s three-volume Elvis
set, have covered how RCA bought out Elvis’ contract from the great Sun Records
and owner/producer/engineer Sam Phillips.
However, no program to date has been as thorough as this one. Instead of treating these events like a
prologue to mega-stardom, artistic, and commercial success that changed music
and entertainment forever, it meticulously takes its time by focusing in deep
detail on how the RCA album came together.
It also gives much credit to Sun, Phillips, Elvis, and Elvis’ influences
more than you would get otherwise. That
respects the intelligence of the audience, something we do not see enough of.
The interviewees (drummer D.J. Fontana, guitarist
Scotty Moore, B.B. King, Keith Richards, biographer Peter Guralnick,
historian/producer Ernst Jergensen, and even former girlfriend Dixie Locke) all
offer insight that is never a waste of our time. Too many of these types of programs, especially when devoted to
poor albums and poor music, puff the show with people saying how wonderful a
person was without covering the music.
When they turn to the music, they cannot defend it. Here, the greatness and importance of this
music more than speaks for itself. The
music literacy at play in the program is a major reason why.
With extras, the whole thing runs 100 minutes. The picture is in the anamorphically enhanced
16 X 9 widescreen TV frame (1.78 X 1,) and does not look bad. Eagle Eye has had problems with such
transfers in the past, but not here.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is sufficient for the music, though RCA has
already issued a not-so-great DVD-Audio of Elvis’ 30 #1 Hits in 4.1 (minus a
center channel!) This is still an
improvement over those awful early Elvis CDs that sounded like they had a
microphone with a pillow over it.
Jeremy Marre was the director, and after this Classic
Albums episode, I hope they keep him on for as long as they can. Talent is as vital to the survival of such a
documentary series as its subject.
- Nicholas Sheffo