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SUNRISE - BMG 07863 67675 2

1. Review by Crister Berge
(CD-1): That's All Right - Blue Moon Of Kentucky - Good Rockin' Tonight - I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine - Milkcow Blues Boogie - You're A Heartbreaker - Baby Let's Play House - I'm Left You're Right She's Gone - Mystery Train - I Forgot To Remember To Forget - I Love You Because - Harbor Lights - Blue Moon - Tomorrow Night

(CD-2):My Happiness - That's When Your Heartaches Begin - I'll Never Stand In Your Way - It Wouldn't Be The Same Without You - I Love You Because (alt take) - That's All Right (1, 2, 3) - Blue Moon Of Kentucky (3) - Blue Moon (3, 4, 5) - I'll Never Let You Go (alt. take) - I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine (alt take) - I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone (slow version - alt take) - Fool, Fool, Fool - Shake, Rattle and Roll - I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone (live) - That's All Right (live) - Money Honey (live) - Tweedle Dee (live) - I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine (live) - Hearts Of Stone (live)

1. Review by Crister Berge, Sweden.

These past few weeks I've been reading old issues of renowned music magazine Rolling Stone. I soon noticed that Elvis' album output in the 70's were trashed by several different writers (a.o. Peter Guralnick!) and that they kept referring to - and praising - "the Sun singles" so much, it almost became enervating. And to think that Elvis' view on these heralded recordings were a self-mocking "They sound funny, boy! They've got a lot of echo on 'em!"...

All selections on SUNRISE are from 1954 and '55. Disc 1 contains all the master takes and disc 2 consists of acetates, outtakes and some live recordings. Total playing time is approximately one and a half hour. Sure, this is great music, but there are also a few sleeping pills to be found here, mainly the ballads. And 'I'll Never Let You Go' is embarrassingly poor. Sound quality varies: 'I Love You Because' is excellent, while there's a God-awful buzz in 'Blue Moon.'

Well, you know the story: Under the guidance of Sam Phillips, three young men recorded a string of classic cuts and though confined to just three instruments, they managed to create a rich, powerful sound in the process. The result was a vibrant and timeless music that changed the music world forever. And at the microphone stood a young boy from Memphis named Elvis Presley singing his heart out like no man had before; sexy, aggressive and playful. What we hear is a virile young man, seething with restless energy and life joy. Scotty Moore's inventive guitar playing was paramount and Bill Black's thumpin' slap bass actually made up for the absence of a drummer. Things didn't come easy, though: Among the first songs they tried out were slow tunes like 'I Love You Because' (brilliantly scrutinized by Albert Goldman some twenty years ago) and 'Harbor Lights,' complete with Scotty's tremolos (or what the fuck they're called). Tell you this: had it been me there in the control booth, I'd had my head to the console! Then during a break, Elvis started fooling around... and the rest is history...

'That's All Right' was to be Elvis' first single. He's literally bursting with energy as he rides the song, floating on a cloud of infinite bliss. A truly magic moment in rock history and a stone classic. 'Milkcow Blues Boogie' (*) starts out real slow, but the change of tempo is obviously NOT spontaneous, as Scotty & Bill stops before Elvis goes "Hold it, fellas..." - the theatrics needed some further rehearsing... When it's time for Scotty's solo, Elvis shouts "Ah, let's milk it!" and he can't hold back an encouraging "Yeah!" during it. Elvis is pleading: "Well, the eeevenin'..." Cool! I think the sound has been slightly improved (any of you remember the use of a much-played single of 'Milkcow' on ELVIS FOREVER, vol. 4?).
(*) Have you ever given thought to the lyrics? The "milkcow" is definitely the matter of subject in the first verse, but that ol' cow is gone, gone, gone in the second and third. "The way she lowed"??

'You're A Heartbreaker' is Elvis at his most relaxed, notable for Scotty's use of overtones and 'Baby, Let's Play House' is the ULTIMATE rocker, complete with hick-ups (he almost starts to laugh at the end doing them) - kick-ass rock! Great stuff. 'I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone' was written for Elvis and it's a song similar in style to 'You're A Heartbreaker.' This was the first song where The Blue Moon Boys used drums and teenage Memphian Jimmie Lott does a very fine job. 'I Forgot To Remember' was to be Elvis' last single for Sun Records; personally, I think this is the worst of ALL the songs recorded at Sun. Ironically, it became Elvis' first national hit. I'm not as thrilled about 'Mystery Train' as many other Elvis connoisseurs. I think the song is a bit monotonous, Scotty's a little insecure (it has to be an early take!) in his extremely short solo and it's over before it starts. 'Just Because' has extensive guitar solos (even though the 2nd one is fucked-up) and the surprise break at the end is just great! 'Trying To Get To You' suffers from dreadful percussion by crappy drummer Johnny Bernero. The piano (played by Elvis) is barely audible.

At the start of disc 2 are the two double-sided demonstration records that Elvis recorded before hooking up with (or even meeting) Scotty and Bill. All are ballads. 'My Happiness' turned up in 1990 on THE GREAT PERFORMANCES (lousy album), 'That's When Your Heartaches Begin' was included on THE COMPLETE 50's MASTERS (1992) and 'I'll Never Stand In Your Way' premiered on PLATINUM in 1997. The only "new" song here is 'It Wouldn't Be The Same Without You,' often confused with 'Casual Love Affair.' I don't blame Sam if he wasn't impressed with these efforts; it's really a painstaking experience to sit through them, in spite of their historical significance. I like Elvis' reading of 'That's When Your Heartaches Begin' (*) best. The recitation is fascinating; all of a sudden an 18-year old kid sounds like a grown man pushing forty! The sudden ending remains something of a mystery.
(*) Elvis subsequently recorded the song for RCA in 1957.

The second unreleased track on SUNRISE is another alternate cut (take number apparently unknown) of 'Blue Moon' plus two false starts. 'Cept for a strange "chorus echo," not much that separate this one from the other takes released on 50's MASTERS and PLATINUM. And then follows the Lubbock acetate, previously issued on the 50's Box Set. 'Shake, Rattle And Roll' has a peculiar guitar solo. The atmosphere is very informal and Elvis finishes the song by yelling "Shake, rattle and blue moon!" Finally, a bunch of songs from Louisiana Hayride 1955. NOT the excellent recordings we've heard on various releases since the mid-eighties, but scratchy acetates. Audio is TERRIBLE and due to speed fluctuations, Elvis sounds like Donald Duck on some tracks! Shameful. The version of 'Hearts Of Stone' included on Flaming Star's WORD FOR WORD is in much better sound quality.

The booklet is another letdown, as some moron at BMG decided it would be a foldout. The liner notes are written by above-mentioned Peter Guralnick and though ambitious, his text hardly makes for an exciting reading. I even found a spelling error: "an ouside observer"...!

It's impossible to grade this compilation. If you have THE COMPLETE SUN SESSIONS (1987) - steer away from this one. This summer, we'll be treated to an unreleased alternate take of 'Harbor Lights' on the box set TODAY, TOMORROW AND FOREVER. Will there be yet another Sun collection in the future? I don't think so.

© Crister Berge, Sweden, March 2002.

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