Sunday, April 07, 2024

Review Elvis Presley at 706 Union Ave

With the 70th anniversary of Elvis’ breakthrough SUN recordings coming up it is only logical that we see record releases marking this momentum. 

We haven't heard anything from the main SONY record label yet, but here we have first release marking these recordings with the ‘Elvis Presley at 706 Union Ave: The Sun Singles 1954-55’ package as released by the U.S. based Third Man Records as part of their ‘Vault Releases’ program.

This package was only be available to Third Man vault subscribers who purchased a subscription by 11:59 p.m. CT on January 31 2024. Early April 2024, the subscribers received their package from the vault.
The owner of Third Man Records is a fan of original music, vinyl and … Elvis! And it shows when you hold this 59th Vault package in your hands. 
A little background information for this release. In 1953, Elvis Presley walked into Sun Studios in Memphis and recorded ‘My Happiness’. The single - of which just one copy was made - was later gifted to Presley’s friend Ed Leek. 

The acetate remained within the possession of his family until 2015, when the prized vinyl went up for auction and White Stripes frontman Jack White - owner of Third Man Records - bought the original single for US$300,000. He later released copies of the original through his Third man Record label for Record Store Day. 

The 7-inch box features a great 1954 shot of Elvis, playing some vinyl at home, from the KING record label, a small independent record label from Cincinnati, specializing in country, R&B and rockabilly music. A fitting choice. It does look like the designer applied a filter to improve the picture, which didn’t work. Please stick to the originals!
This new set looks different from the Castle Music (BMG) ‘Sin Singles Collection’ which was releases 24 years ago this year, which looked a little closer to the original SUN singles with a touch of red on the labels and white SUN jackets. 

The vinyl is solid, plays without cracks, Jack White and his team knows their vinyl (as they should, as they press their own vinyl).

Peter Guralnick described the importance of the recordings of this set, justifying a release like this: “If Elvis Presley had never made another record after his last Sun session in the fall of 1955, there seems little question that his music would have achieved much the same mythic status as Robert Johnson’s blues. 

The body of his work at Sun is so transcendent, so fresh, and so original that even today you can scarcely listen to it in relation to anything but itself. Like all great art its sources may be obvious, but it's overall impact defies explanation.

In my opinion almost all the songs included in this set reflect Guralnick's statement:

Disc one: That’s All Right b/w Blue Moon Of Kentucky.
Disc two: I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine b/w Good Rockin’ Tonight.
Disc three: Milkcow Blues Boogie b/w You’re A Heartbreaker.
Disc four: I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone b/w Baby, Let’s Play House.
Disc five: Mystery Train b/w I Forgot To Remember To Forget.
Bonus EP: Blue Moon - Just Because b/w Trying To Get To You - When It Rains, It Really Pours.

This time we should take “content” literally, as we open a little treasure box. Opening up the cardboard box we get all the goodies we bought it for. 

Starting with the reproductions of all five of Presley’s original 7-inch 45 RPM singles with the original labels - including the the "upside down printing of 209” on ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’ - on yellow and black marble colored vinyl. The singles look flashy, but the colors perfectly fit the SUN records theme.
The singles come housed in a SUN style jacket, not reproductions of the original brown standard sleeves as used in 1954. 
Added to the singles is a 7-inch 33 RPM EP featuring another four Elvis songs recorded at Sun which didn’t see release until later are collected. The EP comes pressed on yellow and black “sun ray” splattered vinyl, with a neatly designed picture cover featuring a classic picture from Memphis photographer William Speer. If only these pictures had been used for the original releases in 1954 and 1955!
To further the set Third Man added various goodies like a name-tag styled ‘That’s All Right, Mama’ patch inspired by the accoutrement of Presley’s truck-driving job at Crown Electric, two postcards featuring the SUN Studio and the original tiles from the studio. The latter postcard looks a little strange at first, but when you know, you know! Completing the set is a substantive, milled nickel 45 RPM single adaptor, featuring the iconic SUN rooster. Where I like to keep my sets complete, this adaptor will find its place next to my record-player, it looks very good!

Here is an unboxing video from the Always Elvis fanclub.

These are the kind of novelty packages that are fun items to collect; they look good, the sound good and the whole “feels good”. This set, a limited one-time-only release, is a nice way to mark the pivotal moment in Rock and Roll and music history. If you didn’t order this set when announced, happy hunting as this package will probably become a collectable in a few years. 

Although this set was produced by the Third Man Records under license from Sony Music Entertainment and the SUN Label group, we still have no word on a release from Sony or EPE on a novelty release marking this pivotal year in Elvis Presley's career. 

For more information on the Third man Records Vault program, visit the >>> Third Man Records website.