Matt Shepherd, BBC journalist, wrote a book on Elvis’ songs. Does it add something to what we knew already?
The 240 pages are printed on glossy paper. Not many black and white pictures of covers decorate the chapter start / end. Here the lay out gets a bit messy in my opinion. More important thou is the lay-out of text and paragraphs, which is fine.
As said, the book is mainly about Elvis songs. Not only when he recorded them and on what album (or single) they appeared, but also facts on the authors, other artists that recorded them and such. Mostly fun and interesting information, with a few exceptions. I don’t see the relation of the title track with figurants who ‘played’ both in Change of Habit and earlier movies.
The choice of songs is a bit arbitrary of course and the title suggests that there will be another volume (as does the author in the text, very often I may add), so the ones he skipped might be in there. The order seems a bit weird, starting in 1969, going through the live recordings from 1969 to 1974, then jumping back to 1970 and doing in the studio recordings until 1973 before going to ‘the beginning’. This is not a real problem, since there is a proper index at the end of the book. Even spending a page on Johnny B. Goode in the Aloha-context, while there was a chance on a much better version in 1969, is just a matter of taste.
There are some real problems though. The first is repetition. There is so much repetition. The author repeats himself over and over again. I didn’t count, but it must be more than a dozen times that the author mentions the RPO shite or the Guitar man sessions. Those things have NOTHING to do with Elvis’ original recordings. All those times he doesn’t forget to mention those will be handled in a future volume.
Also content-wise there is a lot of recurrence. The charting of the LP Welcome To My World is mentioned in two paragraphs in a row. While in the chapter of the Stax sessions the same information is repeated various times. It is almost as if the author expects readers to cherry pick songs only.
In general I wonder if someone proof read the book. I can’t imagine that the repetition (did I mention that?) didn’t occur to him or her.
Another thing that doesn’t work in a book is deep links. Nothing is more annoying than reading (skipping) 2 lines of an internet address in a paragraph of 5 lines. I wonder if anybody takes the time to type them in themselves, just searching in Google is so much easier. The thought of ‘serving’ them is nice, but use footnotes and give an overview in a bibliography. Even better is to refer to a static internet page where all those links are collected.
On the other hand the naming of the sources is the strong point of the book, and it might be nice for members of this site to read their comments in the SongBase in print.
Nice collection of information in general, but don’t try to read it from front to back, it gets annoying (at least that’s my experience). Just cherry pick some songs every now and then.