- Elvis Presley – vocals, acoustic guitar, piano on “Old Shep, “Paralyzed”, “First In Line”, and “How’s The World Treating You”.
- Scotty Moore – electric guitar
- Shorty Long – piano on January 30
- Gordon Stoker – piano on September 1–3
- Bill Black – double bass
- D.J. Fontana – drums
- The Jordanaires – backing vocals
Elvis did not come to play on his second album. While this album was released just 7 months after his debut, Elvis already seems surer of himself and his sound. While there are just as many genre samples on this one as there were on the first album, both his band and Elvis have found the “Elvis” sound, complete with showcasing Scotty Moore’s dexterous guitar solos, and making the genius decision of bringing on The Jordanaires as his backup singers.
The album begins with “Rip It Up” featuring a brilliant piano part that really shines during the musical interlude. This song sets an accurate tone for where the album is going to go from here. “Love Me”, the second song, is where The Jordanaires really stand out and showcase their vocals as a perfect frame for Elvis’ voice. Elvis on the other hand proves why parents were so nervous about him back in 1956. His vocals are downright sexy on this song, simmering with desire and pleading with the listener to love him. Sultry warning: the way his vocals come in on the last “just to feel” might just cause your heart to skip a beat.
The next track, “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold” is not very memorable. The two standouts are Scotty Moore’s guitar solo and the gospel-tinged backing vocals. The album kicks back into gear again on track four with “Long Tall Sally” featuring rough, passionate vocals from Elvis had me at hello. The song is short and raucous and you can hear it being played in some dive bar with a band tearing through it on stage.
The overuse of reverb comes into play on the fifth song, “First In Line”. The effect works for the first part of the song but quickly grows tired. The chorus of the song does present some interesting melody lines, particularly on the lyric, “don’t refuse me, say you’ll choose me”. “Paralyzed” is my favorite Elvis song of all time, so I’m a bit biased here. The idea of Elvis in 1956, at the peak of his bad boy rock n’ roller persona, as a fumbling fool in love is oh so charming, and the melody works perfectly with the lyrics. The chorus soars and it makes you root for the very in love, if not a little awkward, singer.
“So Glad You’re Mine” is a sauntering bop. The musical interlude is the standout here. The next song, “Old Shep”, is SAD. It is the story of a man named Jim and his dog Shep, who in true “good boy” fashion had once saved him from drowning. Eventually, Shep grew old and there was nothing his doctor could do for the pup. Well, Jim, apparently, was ready to SHOOT HIM WITH HIS GUN. But saw Shep and couldn’t go through with it (thank god). Shep eventually died with his head lying on Jim’s lap, while Jim said if there were a doggy heaven, Shep would be there. So yea, after sobbing through this song, I was ready for a more upbeat track.
The next song “Ready Teddy” is just what the heart needs after that sad excursion. This song makes you want to hit up the next sock hop in town. The instrumental break is a rock n roll jam session at its finest. Even though Elvis sometimes struggles to keep up with the pace of the song, the frenetic energy is so potent that it propels the song to a fever pitch. Number 10, “Any Place Is Paradise”, is a twin song of “So Glad You’re Mine”. Scotty Moore’s guitar again shines on this one.
“How’s The World Treating You” is a very sad bop about being in a post breakup funk. The lyrics are heartbreaking but Elvis’ voice and the Jordanaire’s backing vocals lend the track some nuance so it is not just a downer. Of note, the way Elvis sings the word “shattered” here shows you how much weight just one word can have in a song. Elvis’ lyrical translation has grown so much from his first to his second album. So as not to end the album on a depressing note, the final track, “How Do You Think I Feel” has a little bit of a sassy swagger to it. Once again, Scotty Moore proves why he is the hidden gem of Elvis’ band by carrying the melody line here. A perfect closer to a great, rocking album.