Elvis Presley would have turned 75 on January 8, 2010. In celebration of that event the RCA label, through their Legacy Series, has issued a four-CD, 100-track box set.
Elvis 75: Good Rockin’ Tonight may not contain any huge surprises nor has it unearthed any new material that had been hidden away, but what it does do it does well. It gathers all of his number one hits, some other well known material, live performances, and a few cuts that do not surface very often, assembling them in chronological order to present a nice history of his music. Everything has been digitally remastered which has given it a crystal-clear sound. In addition there is an 80-page booklet which includes a 7,000-word essay by Billy Altman, rare photos, and copious information on every track.
In the mid-fifties Elvis combined country rockabilly with black southern rhythm & blues, which coalesced into rock ‘n’ roll. When you add in his personal charisma you have an artist who emerged as a cultural phenomenon and changed the course of American music. From 1955-1977 he would record over 700 tracks and solidify his reputation as The King of Rock ‘N’ Roll.
Disc one covers his rise to fame; 1953-1957. The set begins with his 1953 recording of “My Happiness” which was a present for his mother and well worth its $4.00 investment. His mid-fifties Sun material quickly follows as songs such as “That’s All Right,” “Baby Let’s Play House,” “Blue Moon Of Kentucky,” and “Mystery Train” would jump start his career in the south and pave his way to being signed by the RCA label. By 1957 “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “All Shook Up,” “Hound Dog,” “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear,” “Too Much,” “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,” and “Don’t” had all topped the singles charts in the United States and made him a star.
Disc two is the strongest from beginning to end as it culls the best of his 1958-1962 material. Tracks such as “Stuck On You,” “It’s Now Or Never,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” and “Return To Sender” are interspersed with some lesser known material including “Thrill Of Your Love,” “Doin’ The Best I Can,” “I Feel So Bad,” and “Pocketful Of Rainbows.”
Disc three, 1963-1969, wisely avoids most of his soundtrack material and concentrates on the series of strong singles that he issued during this period of his career. “Guitar Man,” “U.S. Male,” “Don’t Cry Daddy,” and “Kentucky Rain” may not have reached the top of the charts but they remain some of the best songs in his catalogue. “Viva Las Vegas,” “How Great Thou Art” and perennial favorites “In The Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds” serve to enhance this disc.
The fourth disc, 1970-1977, is the weakest as it presents material from the last part of his career, which is hit or miss. The live material just does not measure up and while “Way Down,” “Burning Love,” and “Promised Land” may be listenable, overall this is the disc I will return too least often.
Elvis 75: Good Rockin’ Tonight may not be for everyone but it is a fine addition to the Elvis Presley legacy. If you have avoided his box sets in the past or are a fan who must have everything then this is a must purchase.
(December 9, 2009: This review replaces a previous review which was removed on request of the author).