"Memphis Recording Service Vol.2 - 1955"

- The Rise Of Elvis Presley -

Book review

The Rise of Elvis Presley - The Memphis Recording Service Volume 2 - 1955,
Concept by Joseph Pirzada - Text by Joseph Pirzada and John Michael Heath
Published by Memphis Recording Services Ltd, MRS100223, 2006, EU, Softcover, No ISBN

Reviewed by Nigel Patterson


If you thought MRS1 was a superb release...be prepared...Memphis Recording Service Volume 2 has lifted the bar to another level!

Increasing both the number of pages and number of sublime audio tracks nearly fourfold, but at the same price as MRS1, MRS2 offers real value for money and a treasure trove of impressive material.

The release is crammed full of fascinating historical information and visual records. Its more than 350 page book component is well designed and printed on high quality glossy paper stock which optimises its visual appeal.

The page design is not crowded and the balance between the narrative and visually elements has been well thought out. A number of full-page photos offer added visual spice for the reader/viewer.

Click here to see the complete content of 'MRS Vol.2'

While the visuals in MRS2 are a standout, the text by Joseph Pirzada and John Michael Heath is similarly absorbing, bringing to life the world of the young Hillbilly Cat in 1955. With many great stories and new information about the Elvis story in 1955 it adds real value to our appreciation and understanding of Elvis Aaron Presley.

The photographs are striking...and many are very rare. On stage, off stage, relaxing, mobbed by fans...they capture your attention and mind. A number of color pictures nicely complement the b&w visuals. There are plenty of sensational images that really capture the buzz and excitement of this key year.

Photographs of Elvis at the Louisiana Hayride, some great images from Florida (including that first LP cover concert), even the first known photo of DJ Fontana performing with the band from May 1955 in Tyler, Texas.

(Right; First known photo of DJ Fontana performing with Elvis)

And while "colorised" b&w photos are not everyone’s favourite there are some particular striking ones that do add that something extra to the overall feel. (see William Speer photo below)

The inclusion of hundreds of historical insider documents will be welcomed by Elvis scholars. With contracts from the time, bill posters, press reviews, letters, receipts, telegrams, and a lot more, it is an archivist's delight. The rare memorabilia includes Scotty Moore’s receipt for the famous ‘Echo Sonic Amplifier’, lots of press cuttings (including the Memphis Scimitar's first major article about Elvis), telegrams, Elvis’ arrest report for speeding in Baton Rouge, and even Elvis’ full contract between him and Colonel Parker.

Above: Elvis, with Ardys Bell, looking dejected after the July 55 Jacksonville riot. Elvis' Baton Rouge Arrest Report

Comparisons of MRS2 with Rockin' Across Texas are essentially misguided, as MRS2 stands proudly by itself offering the reader and listener its own wonderful take on a seminal year in the artistic development of the future King of Rock 'n' Roll. Because ‘Rockin' Across Texas’ only covered Elvis’ time spent in that US state, it missed out on including definitive historical moments of Elvis’ career, like the crucial Memphis recording sessions and Ellis Auditorium shows. Similarly all of Elvis’ visits to Memphis, The Louisiana Hayride or even the historic Overton Park Shell concerts are omitted. However in MRS2 these events are all in historical context providing a full picture of Elvis' amazing year, a journey which traverses many states and explores more than 300 shows.

The DVD.
Perhaps the key find for all Elvis collectors in this package is the amazing video footage which starts the DVD. Previously unseen, this is the film of Elvis and others at the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Celebration in Meridian, Mississippi. You will probably recognise b&w photos from the event, but this colour footage is a great find. Although it only runs a couple of minutes, this historic footage from May 25th 1955 is the first known film of Elvis as an up-coming star. It is interesting to note in the accompanying press clipping that Elvis won first prize that day in the Country Music Award poll ahead of Webb Pierce, Faron Young and Hank Snow.

The 40 audio tracks that follow feature all of Elvis’ 1955 SUN recordings, acetates, interviews, as well as live performances plus Elvis’ 1954 studio recordings as a bonus.

Most of these you will have heard before of course however the real excitement is hearing full versions with the added intros and outros that haven’t been previously released. The longer versions of the Hayride ‘Tweedlee Dee’ and ‘I’m Left, Your Right, She’s Gone’ are great to have. The sound on tracks like ‘Fool, Fool Fool’ (previously on the ‘50’s box-set’) has been greatly improved over the earlier releases but of course the majority still suffer badly from being from such poor quality acetate originals.

Some fans may also not be aware of the Sun studio 1955 rehearsal of ‘How Do You Think I Feel’ that has never been officially released. This was only recorded ex Scotty Moore’s ‘echo track’ and although you can hardly hear Elvis’ voice in the background it is still an interesting recording of the band rehearsing at Sun. Elvis would eventually record this track for his second RCA album over a year later.

Having just read ‘Writing For The King’, the July 1955 interview with Mae Boren Axton (future ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ co-composer) is also a timely addition.

The ‘Mystery Train’ 45rpm.
While the single is playable it does have a large amount of background noise. The book explains that the 'Mother Master' was neglected for 50 years and is therefore surface scratched. For vinyl collectors however the 45RPM is interesting for being as close to the original single as can be, with the exact label, run-in etchings & groove layout.
Of course you could try & sell it as an original single on Ebay except that there is no side B! (I assume this was an idea of Pirzada’s to stop Ebay fraud)
As a ‘bonus’ it is a nice idea and it would look great framed and on your Elvis wall.

Looking the package as a whole the major criticisms of MRS2 on the message-boards appear to be politically motivated and ignore the essence of the release as a wonderfully illuminating, visually pleasing, and aurally satisfying, quality product.

Verdict: Memphis Recording Services Vol.2 is understandably considered by many, including EIN, to be the best release of 2006, and one which has thrown down the gauntlet to Ernst to lift the bar with his upcoming Sun project.

Review by Nigel Patterson
-Copyright EIN, February 2007

Click here to comment on the review

Right: William Speer colourised photo looks great full-size.

Far Right: Elvis in Nashville with award for 'Most Promising C&W artist', Nov 1955.

Click here to purchase MRS Volume 2.

Click here for EIN's review of MRS Vol.1 1954

Click here for EIN review of 'Rockin' Across Texas'

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