(What did the critics and fans say?)
This is a classic Presley recording and the film sequence is startling. Another Jerry Lieber-Mike Stoller number, the chords which grab the attention at the start, and punctuate the song, are among the most famous sounds in rock 'n' roll. Dudley Brooks' piano, high on the keyboard, is another never-to-be-forgotten sound, and the natural rock beat, with real bounce between the beats, is the epitome of controlled fire. The fire comparison continues with the burning guitar licks; but against this exciting instrumental sound, Presley's voice personifies youthful rebellion, through the power of music. This performance is a true rock classic...
Robert Matthew-Walker, Elvis Presley: A Study in Music
The essence of rock and roll, captured on film and wax for the ages. From the film of the same name, this was one of Elvis' most electrifying song scenes ever. The music has the kick of a mule and the vocals are well nigh ineffable - high, uncompromising, angry, violent, sexy, fun, foolish, relentless - everything that rock is, was or is ever likely to be in its purest incarnations. D. J. Fontana's snare drum was a revelation. Mike Stoller plays piano, and Scotty and Bill rock out.
Martin Torgoff, The Complete Elvis, 1982
...Elvis' vocal entry -- indeed his entire vocal performance on this track -- is an anguished howl, describing a party in the "old cellblock." Rife with images of various inmates rockin' it up, the tune is 12-bar rock & roll at its best, its lyrics virtually timeless...
from the AllMusic review of "Jailhouse Rock"
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