Scrolling Headlines:

REPORT: Tom Masella out as defensive coordinator for UMass football -

January 19, 2017

Zach Lewis, bench carry UMass men’s basketball in win over St. Joe’s -

January 19, 2017

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

UMass woman’s basketball ends FIU Holiday Classic with 65-47 loss to Drexel -

December 29, 2016

“Good Rockin’ Tonight” reintroduces legend to new generation

On Aug. 17, 1977, a very sad and confused southern boy was found dead in his hotel room. Whether you believe it was the result of too many prescription pills, or simply too many stresses related to touring, it was without question a loss that had a powerful cultural impact worldwide.

It was at this point when the myth of Elvis became completely cut-off from his actual music. And it was at this moment when his then quite kitschy image prevented him from having seemingly any musical relevance at all. Elvis is currently associated with screechy blue-haired queens in Memphis, who place wreaths on his grave while discussing how they’ve seen him in their hotel rooms. Hopefully with the Dec. 9 release of “Elvis 75: Good Rockin’ Tonight” – celebrating what would be Elvis’ 75th birthday – all this will change.

For the first time, this box set will introduce this generation to the entire basis of the Elvis legend. We’ve seen the idea behind Elvis deconstructed, discussed and evaluated in film, literature and even the hordes of impersonators he inspired. However, many people of this generation have, up until recently, viewed him, and consequently his music as well, as dated relics of yesteryear. The release of this box set may change all that.

For most, the music contained on “Elvis 75: Good Rockin’ Tonight” needs no introduction. The early years are always going to be remembered as the peak, and the later over-orchestrated pop covers are always going to be dismissed. The key is to listen for the never-changing persona.

He never stopped being the nice southern kid who played “Love Me Tender” on an acoustic guitar. He didn’t know anything of social change, yet when the record producers put him in the studio to sing “In the Ghetto” he put his heart and soul into it, for better or for worse. While that song certainly isn’t ever going to be remembered as a high point in Elvis’ career, it carries its own kind of desperate charm. For that matter, so does much of the later material contained in this box set.

You can hear him lost in a studio filled with female backing singers and endless orchestras, unsure of where exactly he fits in. This is especially noticeable on his late-in-life rendition of “Unchained Melody.” The cascading pianos and angelic choirs threaten to overwhelm, but through it all we can hear the last gasps of life from the last days of a legend.

We can hear the promise in the early recordings, and see it fade as time goes by. The box set follows a logical chronological progression, and with the accompanying essay by Grammy-winning music writer Billy Altman we are given the full tale of Elvis’s personal life and musical career. The essay reads as a breathless account from a fan who knows every Elvis tale, and has read every biography. It is a valuable part of this wonderful set.

Certainly, the voice comes across as maudlin today. But there never really feels like a moment that it could be any other way. Every song was Elvis being Elvis. He knew no other existence. Sometimes he was jubilant. Sometimes he was melancholy. Sometimes he was lustful. At all times, he was Elvis.

Mark Schiffer can be reached at mschiffe@student.umass.edu.

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