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Counting Down Elvis
His 100 Finest Songs. Counting Down
Over the course of the last six decades, Elvis Presley has sold more than a billion records; his music has touched nearly every modern listener. Despite an avalanche of books on his life, there are, surprisingly, few about his musical creativity. In Counting Down Elvis: His 100 Finest Songs, Mark Duffett urges readers to put aside the misleading stereotypes and rumor-filled debates about Elvis and listen once again to the legend who emerged from Memphis.
Elvis had a unique approach to music-one that was both powerful and versatile. In a career stretching across more than twenty years, Presley changed the face of popular music, drawing together genres-from country and blues to contemporary folk-and placing a unique stamp on all of them. Counting Down Elvis: His 100 Finest Songs explores the full range of Presley recordings, from his earliest numbers to posthumous hits, combing through gold records and unpolished gems to distill the best that Presley has to offer.
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In this recent release in the "Counting Down" series, Duffett (Univ. of Chester, UK) offers his personal list of Elvis Presley's 100 greatest recordings, with a short essay accompanying each song in the countdown. . . Duffett's passion as a fan comes through in every entry as he provides insight into Elvis's great musical creativity, which (Duffett argues) is frequently overlooked. Emphasizing Elvis's interpretive prowess, Duffett observes, for example, that the 1956 hit "Don't Be Cruel" resonates so strongly "because Elvis makes a plea for fidelity in a performance that is at once both lighthearted and swelteringly erotic." Such observations fill this attractive volume, which is complete with extensive notes, a bibliography, a thorough index, and a list of "100 More" songs worth mentioning. . . Elvis fans old and new will welcome Duffett's insights and enjoy comparing his rankings to theirs.
Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. * CHOICE * In this energetic and insightful look at the songs of Elvis Presley, Duffett, a media professor at the University of Chester in the U.K., lists his "personal 100 countdown" of songs from the more than 700 master recordings that Presley released in his lifetime. Duffett does not analyze Presley's music in a chronological fashion, preferring instead to look at the singer's creative contribution to popular music. He argues that Presley was "innovative in picking and interpreting material." Rather than distinguishing between early (rock) and late (easy listening) Presley, Duffett is interested in the big picture of an artist who drew "on a full gamut of instrumentation, engulfing a variety of different genres in a broad and unique style" and "could see into the emotional core of each piece of music." Though he clearly prefers the rocking Presley of "Heartbreak Hotel" (at #4) to the country Presley of "Gentle on My Mind" (#91), he expertly conveys the subtleties of both performances. And though fans may differ with, for example, Duffett ranking Presley's version of "Bridge over Troubled Water" (at #5, with its "colossal feeling of spectacle") over "Good Rockin' Tonight" (a "rockabilly classic" at #68), most will appreciate the writer's enthusiasm. Elvis Presley fans will find this a fascinating and useful look at the King's work. * Publishers Weekly * Casual and dedicated fans alike will enjoy Duffett's (Understanding Fandom, 2013) appreciation of Elvis discography. The countdown, presented in reverse chronological order, consists of a page to a page-and-a half description of each song's origin and recording history. These make for interesting reading, providing back stories to a wide variety of music that crosses genres from blues to country to contemporary folk and more. Fascinating commentary is provided by composers, producers, musicians, and music scholars, including the author. Another list (unannotated) of 100 songs follows, and that in turn is followed by more than 500 notes and a substantial bibliography. Recommended for music and popular-culture collections and anyone for whom Elvis has not yet left the building. * Booklist * [Duffett] is counting down Elvis Presley's 100 'finest' songs here, not Duffett's personal favorites or Presley's biggest sellers, although undoubtedly there are plenty of each on the list. The bottom line is that the essay that goes along with each cut has something to say about Presley's impact on music and society in general, something that you may have never thought, especially if you are in the younger generation and a relative newcomer to Presley fandom. The mind-opening entries are not focused exclusively on Presley; Duffett's dissection of "Big Boss Man" from The Complete '68 Comeback Special album is as focused on songwriter Jimmy Reed as it is on Elvis. And it is all of the similar detours throughout that sets this book apart from all the books about Presley that preceded it. A nice treat for any Elvis fan. * antiMusic * "Duffett [gives] us another fascinating insight into Elvis' music via the book Counting Down Elvis: His 100 Finest Songs. The book is far, far more than a simple look at Duffett's 100 favourite Elvis songs and each chapter delves deep into Elvis' legacy with the book being a much deeper exploration that you might first think. . . . a brilliant read. * Elvis Info Network * This is Elvis catnip, a comprehensive collection of reappraisals of one of the most seriously misunderstood singers of them all. -- Dylan Jones, O.B.E., editor-in-chief GQ magazine and author of Elvis Has Left The Building (2014) Duffett's book shines a light on Elvis Presley's importance as an interpreter of songs written by others. Like Frank Sinatra before him, Presley leveraged his knack for picking tunes that reflected and sometimes helped defined pop culture's zeitgeist. -- Bill Kopp, musoscribe.com, author of Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to the Dark Side of the Moon