From Nashville To Memphis: The Essential 60's Masters

By Blogcritics/ David BowlingMar 29, 2009
From Nashville To Memphis: The Essential 60's Masters

Elvis Presley was king of the American music scene from 1956-1962. Such songs as “Hound Dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Love Me Tender” are still instantly recognizable fifty years later. His impact upon the culture of The United States was extraordinary as he was worshiped and emulated by millions of teenagers.

Elvis’ popularity would remain until the end of his life (and ever thereafter), but his command of the record charts as well as his place as the dominant artist of the day would end when The Beatles and other British artists invaded America. Before the end of the decade, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, and The Jefferson Airplane, among many others, would take rock ‘n’ roll in directions far from the Elvis Presley sound.

During the 1960’s Elvis Presley produced a lot of good material, but some not so good as well. From Nashville To Memphis: The Essential 60’s Masters, which covers 5 CD’s and 130 tracks, gathers most of his superior material and fortunately ignores a great deal of the inferior. Mercifully, the soundtrack material to his movies is left off except for those songs issued as 45’s. On the especially negative side, all of his superior gospel material is also not included. Elvis rarely, if ever, recorded a poor sacred song and their absence here reduces the overall quality of this set.

On the positive side, though, the first two discs concentrate on his releases from 1960-1962, which is on a par with his best fifties work. Songs such as “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “His Latest Flame,” “Stuck On You,” “Good Luck Charm,” “(You’re The) Devil In Disguise,” and “(Such An) Easy Question” remain classic and eternal performances. His best albums from the period — Pot Luck, Elvis Is Back, and Something For Everybody -- are presented in their entireties. Even better, RCA has done a good job remastering these tracks (from their original sources) as the sound is pristine.

The real heart of this massive release is Elvis’ sixties singles. While his albums became somewhat spotty as the 1960’s progressed, his single releases were consistently brilliant. From the great “U.S. Male" to “In The Ghetto” to “Kentucky Rain” to “Suspicious Minds," these particular two discs are wonderful. They are presented in chronological order so Elvis’ musical progression in this era can be followed and appreciated.

My only real complaint is the fifth disc being half taken up by a series of previously unreleased takes of familiar songs. There's just not enough difference in his performances of such songs as “Kentucky Rain,” “It’s Now Or Never,” and “Surrender” to help them rise much above the curiosity level. In addition, unreleased tracks were not issued for a reason, which is usually because they were inferior to the originals.

Design

The RCA label has done a good job with the packaging, as well. In addition, it comes with a huge booklet that covers each recording session and presents an extensive biography of Elvis complete with pictures.

Conclusion

If you do not own much of Elvis’s sixties material — or are a fan — then From Nashville To Memphis: The Essential 60’s Masters is a good buy. Most of the material presents Elvis at his best and finds him creating good music throughout the decade.

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Tracklisting

Related Links

Elvis Presley on: eBay, iTunes, Amazon, Sheetmusic

Reactions

Sandman (profilecontact) wrote on Feb 1, 2010report abuse
Underrated decade. Here we don't have to put up with the movie songs. Instead we get the real thing. Soft rock and beautiful ballads.
doramas (profilecontact) wrote on May 17, 2009report abuse
that's the best box set that i've ever seen and I have to find it for buy it!!!!!!!!
mature_elvis_fan75 (profilecontact) wrote on May 3, 2009report abuse
The frank sinatra duet works better on video,this set as a whole is nice and i find the sound to be just fine,disc 5 could have been better,the outtakes were not that exciting,but this set was put together better than the 70's box!
Jamie (profilecontact) wrote on Apr 20, 2009report abuse
Hello, the first time I heard this box set I was a bit disappointed. Firstly, while the best of the material (eg, 'Little Sister', 'Reconsider Baby') is top drawer, there is a lull c. 1961/3. Elvis sang far too many unexceptional songs in that period (eg, 'Gonna Get Back Home Somehow'). It's not surprising he was eclipsed by the Beatles who countered the "threat" posed by the mighty 'For the Millionth and the Last Time' with 'Yesterday' and 'Michelle'. Secondly, I think the unreleased material constitutes a bizarre selection. Those in reverse chronological order on the last disc are a forgettable bunch. And the billing of the unreleased recordings on disc 3 is a bit cheeky. 'I'll Remember You', 'Beyond the 'Reef, 'Guitar Man'/'What'd I Say', and 'Suppose' were only unreleased in the dubious sense that they had been re-edited or remixed. Elvis doesn't sing a single word on any of these that hadn't been put out before. Unreleased? Hardly. The 'new' 'Hi Heel Sneakers' is an extended edit of the 1968 B-side but I believe it at least features a few novel lines from the black sideburned megastar. Thirdly, I thought the absence of 'If I Can Dream' and 'Memories', because of their association with the 1968 NBC tv special, and all of Elvis's gospel and movie material was pedantic to say the least. Some flexibility was shown when 'Amazing Grace' was included in the secular 70s box set and I think some discretion should have been applied here too. There's plenty of vacant space on the discs. A box set of Elvis's 60's work which excludes 'If I Can Dream' and 'Can't Help Falling In Love'? Dear oh dear. Fourthly, my biggest disappointment was the overall timbre. I was interested to read Greg Nolan's idea that the noise reduction software was used excessively. That's exactly how it sounds to my ears - there is a distinct lack of sparkle in the sound as if some frequencies have been eliminated rather than merely reduced. It's particularly noticeable on the 1969 Memphis sessions, which sound a million times better on the subsequent 'Suspicious Minds' double CD. And on that note, Greg's right about the advances made in digital remastering since this box set was released. The more recent FTD releases of Elvis's 1950s material - easily his most important and consistent era - sound terrific.
the colonel (profilecontact) wrote on Apr 14, 2009report abuse
a great set as was the 50's most complete compaired to the 70's that many were disapointed with .
Greg Nolan (profilecontact) wrote on Apr 12, 2009report abuse
You call it "bad quality" but it's the only audio version of that historic summit of two of the 20th Century's best singers. I suppose the DVD or two that is out now is the better source to enjoy it - with visuals. That bonus disc was designed in the early '90s for the super-fan who either collected imports or had every official title many times over. I just said it hasn't aged as well, which on sound alone is the biggest dig against the whole set in 2009, when you can play the deluxe "special edition" of "Elvis is Back" from 2005 or so, instead of 1993's tinny-sounding remaster, etc. etc. Still, thanks for the feedback ...and now back to my Easter Sunday. Have a good one, Steve.
Steve V (profilecontact) wrote on Apr 11, 2009report abuse
Greg - you are right. After reconsidering, I think the box would have been better had there been a disc containing the best of the movies songs, especially the titles you mention. Having alternate takes does nothing in its appeal to the general public, plus even I hardly play the alternate disc anymore. Having the bad quality Sinatra duet on there was just silly.
Greg Nolan (profilecontact) wrote on Apr 11, 2009report abuse
This was one of Ernst's best achievements in the '90s - first getting everyone's attention with the "King of Rock'n'Roll" '50s box (are you serious, Espen that you "never liked the '50s"? - never mind...!) and then saying now here's the '60s to reconsider. I'd stack this box alone up to almost any other artist. The '70s box (although more controversial for its selectivity although this set also purports to be only "essential masters) also helped shore up the King's legacy with critics if not all fans.

I've enjoyed David Bowling's conversation-starter style reviews of older Elvis titles, but sometimes he makes me wonder. Of course the last disc was thrown is as bait for collectors of the time and if anything, the then-released versions and live TV material was very interesting. What's not to like? A boxset is meant to be a "full serving" with plenty you'd push away and say "no thanks on dessert..."

I do think a case could have been made for a "best of the movie years" disc with significant '60s tracks like "Follow That Dream," "Can't Help Falling In Love," and others that were definitive bona fide hits like "Bossa Nova Baby" or a fan favorite like "Viva Las Vegas" or any of the better cinema ballads like "I Need Somebody To Lean On" or what have you. While it's an interesting hat-trick to edit out the dreck by saying "hey, it's just studio only," it also allows us to lose some of Elvis' best "pitches" of the '60s. It also gives fodder and comfort to those who think EVERY movie (or soundtrack) was flat out bad.

The one thing I think is missed in the excellent comments here is that the sound is dated by today's remastering standards. After all, this set was released back in 1993- we've come a long way in CD remasters since then. While decent and even excellent for the time, audiophiles (more knowledgeable than I) have explained how this set is dated in this way with what is now sub-par sound. I think the argument is that they are overly de-noised and far-removed from what is done in remasters of the '00s.

This is why today I'm much more apt to reach for FTD's superior recent remasters of "Elvis Is Back," "Something for Everybody," "Pot Luck," or even the now-ten year old 1969 Memphis sessions set "Suspicious Minds." That said, I like the concept for what it tried to do. Don't ever let anyone dismiss '60s Elvis out of hand like that again!
SNAgy (profilecontact) wrote on Apr 5, 2009report abuse
I was very surprised how low it was priced in Hungary so i bought it immediately although i already had The Memphis Record, Back In Memphis and Elvis Is Back so i already owned on cd almost half of the song. This box set contains many song from the sixties i like very much and the original mixes from the American Studios session (as booklet says) so i never will regret it
bray1977 (profilecontact) wrote on Apr 3, 2009report abuse
Vivalasdavies I think the box shown here is the US version. They were all slimline boxes whereas I believe the European versions were the 12" LP style boxes. This is a fabulous set. It provides a definitive answer to anyone who says that Elvis was rubbish in the 60's.
shakey leg (profilecontact) wrote on Apr 3, 2009report abuse
Great box set with a great sound, but always felt with some songs if not all were remixed & not the original releases, same with the 70's box set. When I listen to say "Rubberneckin" on the box set and then listen to the the 45rpm release, there seems to be some difference. I don't know, maybe it's just me or something?
VivaLasDavies (profilecontact) wrote on Apr 3, 2009report abuse
Does anyone know the format of this? I've got the original 12" box, this looks like a slimline box ( or digipak). Same with the 70's set.
circleG (profilecontact) wrote on Apr 3, 2009report abuse
fantastic set that showed the world that he was a true genius in the studio and how that genius was shadowed by the movies. Timeless songs that really were ahead of the game then and now. True BMG took greater care with the catalogue in the 90's. Not a perfect box set but then we were just happy to have this stuff then right? oh and the fact there was no internet ;)
EPFO (profilecontact) wrote on Apr 2, 2009report abuse
Just FANTASTIC !!!
EspenK (profilecontact) wrote on Apr 1, 2009report abuse
Some of the soundtracks have been released in good versions earlier bajo, you're absolutely right about that. But so has the content in this box. I'd like to have the movie stuff stuffed in one box, with a collective presentation in a booklet. Even though I love this box I always found the lack of movie tracks somehow strange, since generally speaking the movies is what the sixties was all about, after all.
bajo (profilecontact) wrote on Apr 1, 2009report abuse
Even though how much I love the 50's I'm even a big fan of the entire 60's Elvis. This box is simply great. The music, the presentation and the package. There's no better way to present the essence of Elvis' 60's output than this box! Add the recent beautiful "I Believe" package and there the comple studiooutput is! The soundtracks have been beautifully presented through the DF series and the continuing FTD series!
EspenK (profilecontact) wrote on Mar 31, 2009report abuse
As much as I never liked the fities, I've always loved the sixties. What I really hope will be released soon, is a complete collection of all the movie songs in a box set like this.
JerryNodak (profilecontact) wrote on Mar 30, 2009report abuse
My favorite of the decade box sets. Great stuff.
Chop983 (profilecontact) wrote on Mar 30, 2009report abuse
If I was on a desert island this is what I'd like to have with me.
Steve V (profilecontact) wrote on Mar 29, 2009report abuse
The Elvis box sets are essential and I was very happy BMG put them out to restore Elvis' recorded legacy in proper order. I agree with the Gospel songs being left off and better represented in their own boxset as was the better movie songs This was a time of great joy when these were released. Since then its been shoddy to put it mildy, but BMG had their Elvis act together in the 90's for sure. I knew it was too good to last.
JimmyCool (profilecontact) wrote on Mar 29, 2009report abuse
Oh, how much I love the '50s, '60s and '70s boxes! And it's incredible how good they sound, specially this one... 16 years old CDs sounding crystal clear even for today's standards. And the content is awesome too!
Natha (profilecontact) wrote on Mar 29, 2009report abuse
Well, I for one enjoy this set for obvious reasons. Songs that make me relive my tender years. I am happy - unlike the reviewer - that there are no gospel songs included.

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