Friday, January 8, 2010

Whether he's dead or not, long live the King!

There's nothing like an anniversary to get you rummaging through the back of your CD shelves or, if you're like me, to get you off to the closest CD store to buy the music that everyone else bought years ago.

Depending on your theory about whether he's really dead or not, today is either Elvis Presley's 75th birthday, or the 75th anniversary of his birth. In either case, it's a good excuse to listen to the music of this man who has had such an iconic place on the rock 'n' roll stage since he first stepped onto it with 'Heartbreak Hotel' in 1956, until long after he left it with his final public performance in June 1977.

I have a tendency to be a bit obsessive about buying original albums rather than compilations but, for someone whose career was so characterised by the release of hit singles, it seemed not totally disloyal to break my own rule and purchase the 3CD Sony compilation Elvis Presley HitStory. It's a tremendous collection of 91 tracks, spanning the whole of the Elvis career and pretty well every hit he recorded.

When you listen to his work all brought together like this, you can't help but be staggered by the enormity of his output - not just in quantity but in variety, too. You swing to 'Hound Dog'; you rock wildly to 'Jailhouse Rock' and gently to 'Wooden Heart'; you feel lonesome, even if you're not, when he sings 'Are you Lonseome Tonight?', you want to go out and do something outrageous when you hear 'Blue Suede Shoes', and you remember what it's like to fall in love when he reminds you of it in 'Can't Help Falling in Love'; you cry a little to 'In the Ghetto', you feel his pain in 'Suspicious Minds', and you want to comfort him for it in 'Crying in the Chapel'.

I suspect that I'm no the only person who listens to a collection like this and seems to be constantly thinking, "Oh yes, I forgot that Elvis sang that one". There's just so much there.

There's not much that can be said about someone like Elvis Presley that hasn't already been said thousands of times already - his genre-defining style, his rich, seductive voice and, of course, that pelvis.

Elvis Presley Hitstory is not just a very generous tribute to this unforgettable artist who still causes men and women, regardless of where they stand in relation to the sexuality fence, to drool and swoon - it's also great to listen to if only to remind you that music can have an easy, uncomplicated tune, and still be marvellous music.

No wonder Elvis Presley has so many imitators, and so many who refuse to accept the proposition that he is dead.

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