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Early season challenge awaits for UMass hockey in weekend set with Ohio State -

October 18, 2017

UMass Professor Barbara Krauthamer receives award from Association of Black Women Historians -

October 18, 2017

The 2017-18 women’s soccer team differs from others Matz has coached at UMass -

October 18, 2017

Hockey East Notebook: OT Goal caps BC comeback over Providence -

October 18, 2017

I’m a millennial conservative. Will the Republican Party leave me behind? -

October 18, 2017

Low-Income Housing Error at Presidential Apartments -

October 18, 2017

Kelela’s debut ‘Take Me Apart’ is a captivating, deeply personal exposition on heartache. -

October 18, 2017

People’s Market hosts a fundraiser for Puerto Rico -

October 18, 2017

UMass does not meet the needs of its disabled students -

October 18, 2017

Do we really need Summer NSO? -

October 18, 2017

A picture is worth a thousand words, but those words are better off written -

October 18, 2017

Tom Petty: A Retrospective -

October 18, 2017

Panel held to discuss the future of public policy and the Universal Basic Income -

October 17, 2017

Reconsidering Hillary Clinton -

October 17, 2017

Trump’s Twitter has unprecedented influence on society -

October 17, 2017

Author and professor at the University of Oregon discusses the push of a corporate agenda through state governments -

October 17, 2017

Letter: Join the movement against student debt -

October 17, 2017

Northampton City Council votes to oppose local charter school expansion -

October 17, 2017

UMass men’s soccer takes on Rhode Island with top conference spot on the line -

October 17, 2017

Fulton, Smith leading the way for UMass Soccer offensively -

October 17, 2017

“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 believed to be the result of too many prescription pills, or simply the stresses related to touring, it was 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, as well as when his then-kitschy image prevented his music from having seemingly any relevance at all. Elvis is currently associated with screechy blue-haired queens in Memphis, placing wreaths on his grave while talking about how they saw him last night in their hotel rooms. Hopefully, with today’s release of “Elvis 75: Good Rockin’ Tonight” – celebrating what would be Elvis’s 75th birthday – all this will change.

What is being sold is the entire basis for the Elvis legend, which may be viewed for the first time for the majority of this generation. We’ve seen the idea behind Elvis deconstructed, discussed and evaluated in film, literature and even the plethora of impersonators he has inspired. However, many people of a younger age spectrum have up until recently viewed him, and consequently his music, as dated relics of yesteryear. The release of this box set may transform 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 probably going to be dismissed. The key is to listen for the never-changing persona. The king of rock ‘n’ roll 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. While that song certainly isn’t ever going to be remembered as a high point in the career of Elvis, it carries its own kind of desperate charm.

For that matter, so does much of the later material contained in this box set. Listeners can hear him lost in a studio filled with female backup 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 coherent chronological progression, and, along with the accompanying essay by Grammy-winning music writer Billy Altman, we are given the full tale of Elvis’ personal life and musical career. The essay reads as a breathless account from a fan that 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 at no point does it feel that it could be portrayed any other way. Every song was Elvis being Elvis; he knew no other existence. Sometimes he was jubilant, sometimes he was melancholy and sometimes he was lustful.

But at all times, he was Elvis.

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

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