It may be hard to imagine now, but in 1956, Elvis Presley’s debut album was the most critical Rock n’ Roll release in history. It was the first rock record to sell 1 million copies and was a foundational piece of the launch of music’s most lauded cover artist to superstardom. The album was cobbled together from Presley’s now legendary Sun Sessions from ’54, and a collection of more recognizable covers from famous (and more talented) black artists like Ray Charles and Little Richard recorded about a month before the album’s release by RCA. While nothing on the album particularly stands out today, especially when looking back on the massive Presley pantheon with 2021 lenses, it’s tough to deny Presley’s captivating phrasings and energy. It’s a good thing, too, because Presley’s OG guitar hero Scotty Moore is here in full force, working to shape the sound of the following decade to such a degree that is really only rivaled by Chuck Berry. Sure Presley’s version of many of these songs is inferior to the originals (particularly his lackluster rendition of Richard’s “Tutti Frutti”), choice cuts like the tender “I’ll Never Let You Go,” and the album’s showstopping finale “Money Honey” still pack a punch.
For its importance to the landscape of American music, this is an album that all historians, and anyone looking for a solid taste of old school Rock n’ Roll, should check out.