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Elvis’ Christmas Album

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Elvis Christmas Album by Elvis PresleyReleased during the height of Elvis Presley‘s initial popularity, the original 1957 release Elvis’ Christmas Album found popularity both initially and through the subsequent decades. This fourth studio album by the eventual “king of rock and roll” consists of a mix of traditional Christmas and contemporary Gospel songs and spent four weeks at the top of the American Pop Albums chart and found repeated success in several subsequent reissues and formats.

Following his initial recordings with Sam Phillips at Sun Records, Presley signed with RCA at the beginning of 1956 and released his self-titled debut in march of that year. Here, along with his Presley’s initial appearance on national television shows, sparked a meteoric rise in popularity throughout 1956 and into 1957. Over this period, Presley released two more LPs, Elvis and Loving You, both of which reached number one on the album charts.

Through this period, Elvis had a strong backing band consisting of guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black and drummer DJ Fontana, who joined him on live occasions as well as in the studio. Elvis’ Christmas Album consisted of eight Christmas-themed songs recorded over three days in September 1957 along with four Gospel songs recorded earlier in year for an EP entitled Peace in the Valley. Along with the core rhythms section and several keyboardists, Presley is backed on most tracks by a vocal ensemble known as “The Jordanaires”.

Roots Rock Review logoElvis’ Christmas Album by Elvis Presley
Released: October 15, 1957
Produced by: Steve Sholes
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Santa Claus Is Back In Town
White Christmas
Here Comes Santa Claus
I’ll Be Home for Christmas
Blue Christmas
Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me)
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Silent Night
(There’ll Be) Peace In the Valley (For Me)
I Believe
Take My Hand, Precious Lord
It Is No Secret (What God Can Do)
Elvis Presley
Lead Vocals, Guitars
Scotty Moore
Guitars
Dudley Brooks
Piano
Gordon Stoker
Piano
Hoyt Hawkins
Organ
Bill Black
Bass
DJ Fontana
Drums

 

The album’s upbeat first side begins with one of two songs commissioned for this album. Written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, “Santa Claus Is Back in Town” is an excellent blues rock tune which was composed on the spot in the studio and gets the album off to a rollicking start. “White Christmas” follows as a slow and jazzy rock version, built on low piano notes to offer a canvas for Elvis’s unique vocal interpretation. The song was composed by Irving Berlin in 1942 for Bing Crosby and had charted during every Christmas season in the 15 years since its composition. Berlin was not happy with Presley’s version of the song, calling it a “profane parody of his cherished yuletide standard”.

The most iconic and longstanding classic from this album is Presley’s interpretation of “Blue Christmas”. Originally composed in 1948, Presley solidified this song as a rock-and-roll holiday classic with his dramatic vocals. Rounding out the first side are covers of Gene Autry’s “Here Comes Santa Claus”, a crooning ballad version of the World War II era classic “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and the second new song written for this album, “Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me)”, another pure Christmas rocker.

Elvis Presley and band

The album’s second side features much more somber and religious-oriented music. In fact, it opens with two 19th century church hymns,
“O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Silent Night”, which are delivered in their traditional, choir-like arrangements. The four Gospel songs which finish off the album are each done with a soulful vocal style by Presley. Two of these, “(There’ll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me)” and “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” were composed by the Reverend Thomas A. Dorsey, with the latter of these reportedly being Martin Luther King Jr.’s favorite song (in its original form by Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson). “I Believe” originated as a television show theme by Jane Froman, while the closing “It Is No Secret (What God Can Do)” may be the best of the lot of Gospel songs, delivered as a soft but rich fifties classic and becoming a major influence on Paul McCartney when he began recording with The Quarrymen the following year.

Through its many different versions, Elvis’ Christmas Album has sold over 13 million copies in the United States alone. A few months after its release, Presley was conscripted into the U.S. Army which temporarily disrupted his incredible commercial momentum. Seven years after its original release, “Blue Christmas” was released as a single in 1964 and became a Top 20 hit worldwide.

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Elvis Presley online

Elvis Presley on Twitter  Elvis Presley on Facebook
Elvis’ Presley website
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Where the Lore Began
by Jeremiah Tall

Buy Where the Lore Began

Where the Lore Began by Jeremiah TallPennsylvania native Jeremiah Tall is a roots musician who draws musical inspiration from the mountains and great outdoors while his lyrics range from the tall tales of his youth to the realities of everyday life. On his latest full length album, Where the Lore Began, Tall delivers eleven tracks of strong but sparsely-arranged tunes that are melodic and potent and just diverse enough to make for an interesting listen from beginning to end.

Tall performs a one-man show where his vocals are accompanied by a variety of instruments including acoustic guitar, banjo, and mandolin. He also adds an occasional harmonica lead and keeps a steady stomp with a custom kick drum converted from a hand painted suitcase. This 2015 album follows his 2014 EP Waking, which was produced by Bill Moriarty. For Where the Lore Began, Moriarity co-produced with Tim Bostwick as well as Tall, who did some independent recordings.

“Almost Heaven” kicks off as a short, banjo-fused stomp with the repeated chorus being the entirety of the lyrics in this minute-long song. “A Heart at War” follows as a pop-oriented blue grass tune with some strategic stops for good effect and a fine harmonica solo. “Hard Working Man” finds Tall nearly solo on mandolin with the slightest rhythmic arrangement and great vocals throughout, while “I Got a Name” is a banjo led folk jam with a middle section a cool clapping/percussion. “Where The Dandelions Roam” is a slightly melancholy ode to a love of nature not shared by a significant other and features good acoustic guitar action, where “Moonlight” is the first song with a rich arrangement, including a Farfisa organ by Ben Mazz as well as a richer bass and vocal effects, which works to give this short track a haunting feel.

Another pleasant but haunting acoustic folk, “Never Surrender” is decorated with some strings for a cool vibe as the lyrics tell of armed resistance and the harmonica lead is an overall highlight on the album. “Time” is a much brighter song than the preceding cuts, almost a celebratory love song all performed above a scratched out banjo riff, sparse but effective bass and some slight backing vocals in the chorus. “Two Timing Tommy” is a working-class acoustic guitar folk song about a bank robbing anti-hero. The inclusion of Erica Erenyi on cello and Jamie Shadowlight on violin really work here to make this a dark and direct tune. “Working For” is a moody track about a worn out laborer and this features another rich arrangement with thumping rhythms and some very potent vocal dynamics. The album concludes with “Salvation”, which completes the loop as a banjo track with lyrics that are dramatic and a vocal delivered with much desperation.

Since the release of Where the Lore Began in October 2015, Jeremiah Tall has continued to play heavily in the Northeast and in 2016 began to tour across the USA as a supporting act.

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Jeremiah Tall online

Jeremiah Tall on Twitter  Jeremiah Tall on Facebook
Jeremiah Tall website
Buy Where the Lore Began

 

Detroitville by Nick Pivot

Detroitville by Nick PivotProud motor city resident Nick Pivot released his debut Detroitville in 2015. This pure country, slightly comical EP features well produced songs with simple, accessible hooks and themes. The album was produced by Robert Crenshaw who took a classic country approach, inspired by the sounds of artists such as Tennessee Ernie Ford and Buck Owens. Several top-notch Detroit area musicians played on the record.

The “Nick Pivot” name was originally adopted as the pen name of journalist Mike Nickele when he was the news editor at Auto Week magazine. Nickele had previously worked in a Chrysler assembly plant while in college, all the while writing and performing music. Starting off in rock bands, Nickele eventually migrated towards country music and Nickele formed a duo called Skin and Bones, where the earliest versions of songs that appear on Detroitville were forged.

The EP begins with “A Box of Wine, a Bag of Weed and Judge Judy”, the ultimate anthem of the unemployed slacker. “High and Inside” follows with more clever lyrics along with many bluegrass elements and a great slide guitar. The Best overall song on the album is “Honky Tonk Crowd”, a pure slow country waltz with rapid mandolin, accordion, stand-up bass and a nice chorus of backing vocals behind Pivot’s melancholy vocals. “Help Mr. Wizard” features a good mixture of blended electric and lap steel guitars along with a saxophone which gives this song a real musical edge, while the short but effective “Rock Town” is the closest to an actual rock song with well-treated, edgy vocals and a methodical drum roll throughout to complement a consistent electric guitar and bass riff.

The most indelible track on Detroitville is the quasi-theme track “Fuck You, I’m from Detroit”, an intentional chant, which one can foresee being a classic in Detroit for decades to come. Musically, this acoustic-based track is joined by a slide guitar and crowd effects, while lyrically Pivot name drops a lot of Detroit musicians as well as cultural landmarks. As for the vulgar title of this track, Pivot shrugs it off as a “friendly ‘howdy do’.”

The sub-title to Detroitville is “Shop floor country from the Motor City”, a complex yet common theme for this populist album.

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Nick Pivot online

Nick Pivot on Reverbnation  Nick Pivot on Facebook
Buy Detroitville

 

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