February 15 - Review Elvis Sings ...

Released in the “Elvis Sings” series from the Spanish El Toro Records are three new vinyl EPs: "Elvis Sings Stan Kesler" “Elvis Sings Don Robertson” and “Elvis Sings Pomus & Shuman”. These three volumes were released to commemorate the King's 85th anniversary. The series now consists of eleven EPs. 

Design

The design of these three volumes follows the previous eight releases in this series: a sturdy carboard sleeve with a pen drawing of Elvis and the composers of the songs of the discs. Although taken from well-known images, the combination is done nicely, creating a new picture. On the back a couple of lines on the composer and their link to Elvis Presley. 

The discs itself come on clear, red and yellow vinyl. Personally I would have used the yellow vinyl for the Don Robinson EP and the red vinyl for the Stan Kesler EP to keep the colors matched. But this is the only minor I could find. 

Content

Stan Kesler is an American retired musician, record producer and songwriter, whose career began at the Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. Elvis Presley, who recorded "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone" in 1954, and "I Forgot to Remember to Forget" the following year. Elvis' recording of "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone" was released as a single by Sun Records - one of his five SUN singles - and reached #5 on the country chart. Presley’s version of "I Forgot to Remember to Forget reached #1 on the country chart in early 1956. 

This EP clearly shows Elvis local Memphis roots on the A-side, working with local composers and musicians. A nice compilation of the original SUN sound. This B-side shows Elvis starting out at RCA. I prefer the A-side as it still has that jumpy SUN sound, the RCA tracks are more polished. 

The only Stan Kesler recording missing from this EP is "I'm a Fool (For Loving You)", first released in 1969. It would have been nice if this song had been included to complete the Stan Kesler’s “Elvis catalogue”. 

From SUN we move to Elvis Presley’s 1956 debut album with “I'm Counting On You” by Don Robertson, an American songwriter and pianist, working mostly in the country and popular music genres.  A few years later, Elvis invited Don to come to Radio Recorders in Hollywood to meet with him. They met and talked and hit it off. This resulted in get-togethers jamming together. Elvis not only admired Don as a songwriter, but also as a pianist. He is one of the few composers who really talked, jammed and worked with Elvis musically. In an interview he once said: “The more I listened to Elvis, the more I tended to write the songs and sing the demos in his style. It was a fortunate coincidence that we both had about the same comfortable vocal range (his was greater), and we understood each other's phrasing. He also liked my accompaniments, whether just piano, or with small or large orchestras.” The last song on this EP, “There’s Always Me” nicely illustrates this. It is my favorite track on this EP.

If you listen to the Robinson songs Elvis recorded you can hear this. This EP contains four early tracks, recorded at in the late fifties and very early sixties. In total Elvis recorded 14 of his songs, six of which are in Presley movies.

To save the last for best, the “Pomus & Shuman” EP with one of my all-time favorite songs “His Latest Flame”, a catchy tune that always makes me turn up the volume when it comes by. Although the composers never met Elvis Presley he did call Mort Shuman in the middle of the night of June 25, 1961. He was calling for advice when he was recording “(Marie's The Name of) His Latest Flame” because they couldn't quite get the piano line down as Mr. Shuman had written it. 

This EP also features “A Mess of Blues”, which was released as the B-side of the single “It's Now or Never” in July 1960. A great bluesy tune with a nice flow you automatically sing along in your head. “Little Sister” can almost be called a rock song, especially performed live. The last of the four songs on the EP is the diamond-in-the-rough "Gonna Get Back Home Somehow" from the “Pot Luck” album. A song with a lot of variation for Elvis, the backing vocalists and band. But I always thought Elvis sings it a bit too relaxed. If he had sung it a bit more bluesy - like he did on “Little Sister” - the track would be stronger in my opinion. 

Elvis recorded 25 songs (co)written by the members of this duo, this EP show the variety in their composing skills. 

Conclusion

Combined these three singles (which are sold separately) make a nice package. The set illustrates the variation in Elvis recorded work, even when the songs are written by the same composers. Perhaps there will be new volumes compiling the work of these composers for Elvis Presley as there are enough tracks left.