I Believe – The Gospel Masters

By ElvisNews.com/ LexApr 12, 2009
I Believe – The Gospel Masters

Recently Sony released the zillionth gospel compilation by our man. For an obvious reason Elvis’ gospels are always working for the mass and probably there are more to come, just like the (almost) annual Christmas compilations.

Design

The design is sober, but very stylish. Especially the Wertheimer pictures do justice to this part of Elvis’ musical heritage. The 24 page booklet has great liner notes which we published some time ago. The only minor is that the booklet doesn’t fit back in easily, especially if you’re as handy as I am.

Content

CD 1 carries the 50’s gospels, of which I saw in another review a to the point remark on Peace In The Valley: “white boy cries in the wilderness”, but in my opinion that goes for all 4 of them. The His Hand In Mine masters – my personal favourites fill the remaining of this disc. A disc that will certainly find its way to my player many times, since it is by far the best quality I have of those recordings.

 

The quality mark is also stamped on CD 2, especially the up tempo songs and Where Could I Go But To The Lord are stunning. Still, from the big gospel sessions, the How Great Thou Art session has always been my least favourite. I guess they sound too religious to me, there is not as much joy as during the 1960 session, nor during the He Touched Me session. Disc 2 is closed by the three “gospel” songs Elvis recorded later in the 60s: You’ll Never Walk Alone, We Call On Him and Who Am I?

There will always be discussion on which songs should be on a compilation and which not, but I think it is an omission to leave Miracle Of The Rosary out of Disc 3, which contains the 1970’s gospels. This is the second best disc of this set in my ears.

Disc 4 starts with a skipper I just don’t like the arrangement, nor the voice of Elvis on Down By The River Side/ When The Saints Go Marchin’ In. Swing Down Sweet Chariot, If I Can Dream and the medley from the Comeback Special are pretty good recordings, just like the 1974 live versions of How Great Thou Art, Help Me and Why Me Lord. The 1972 rehearsals for On Tour sound good too and even the home recordings have something touching. Still this mixture is very strange and it doesn’t catch me as the more coherent first three discs.

 

Conclusion

To be honest, I wouldn’t have bought it, but now that I have this review copy, I am very glad with it. The sound quality really got a boost, and it comes as close to the warmth of vinyl as a CD can get. Still, if you don’t care too much about that, you can easily skip it, since you’ll have most of the songs plenty of times, I guess.
 

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Tracklisting

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Reactions

Greg Nolan (profilecontact) wrote on Jun 6, 2009report abuse
I haven't gotten it yet but when I held it in my hands in a store, I realized it's a real beauty. I'm surprised those clamoring for the FTD sets haven't gotten the recent budget-priced single albums of the original gospel releases! Remastered and with nice mini-booklets. Thy're essential and in their proper / original settings. They'll only be moot when (if?) the FTD's come out and I still won't get rid of 'em! This looks like a handsome release and trust me, I was pretty skeptical about the repackagings. The artwork and sound alone should hook anyone. I do miss some of the tracks that were on prior releases but overall, looks like a good set to keep on the market.
eric c (profilecontact) wrote on May 31, 2009report abuse
i have this set but haven't listened to it yet.i am ancious to tho...just some other material i'm trying to get out of my system right now.it's obvious to anyone who listens to them that these songs were from Elvis heart and passion.He LOVED gospel music and you can tell in the songs.
FJE (profilecontact) wrote on Apr 12, 2009report abuse
Thanks Lex. You saved me some hard-earned cash! Like I said, I'll wait for the FTD Classic Album upgrades of both albums.
Lex (profilecontact) wrote on Apr 12, 2009report abuse
EJF, no lightyears difference. This one sounds a bit warmer. Waiting for the FTDs might be a reasonable thing... like I said, I would have done it myself...
Greg Nolan (profilecontact) wrote on Apr 12, 2009report abuse
The FTD of "His Hand in Mine" (circa 2006) may been been remastered for 2008's individual disc reissue, but I'd have to check it.

"How Great Thou Art" was re-mastered for the '08 individual re-release (it sounds terrific) and surely they reuse those masters for this set. While it has a more solemn and sacred sound ("too religious for a gospel album ? Huh?), it's essentially the debut of his mature '70s voice and boy what a sound it is to behold. Elvis ran the gamut in his survey of the gospel tradition, be it hymns, spirituals, black, white, Catholic, to more esoteric spiritualism such as "Life," which always has had a mixed reception.

If I'm not mistaken, the new "I Believe" set also reconfigured the original album song track orders and this itself could prove to annoying and ahistorical but I'd have to hear it really to know it's refreshing or not.

"He Touched Me" also got the single disc treatment. There really should be no waiting for any FTD's of the latter when for budget prices you can get the beautiful single disc reissues (nice notes, key bonus cuts, and photos and original artwork, by and large) or skip that and get this title. It's nice to have the individual CD's however in their original album form - for a budget price no less.

We've discussed the banishment of the more Catholic-oriented (abeit well within the sacred tradition) of "Miracle of the Rosary" but then other songs also were left out this time - or oddly included at its expense: "If I Can Dream" or funky testimonial of "I Got A Feelin' In My Body" or "I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago," which has a bibical references but I previously knew more as a folk song. It's both, no doubt and finally ear-marked for such a set.

It is all about marketing, I guess, and with the stellar original three albums still in print across the USA in wonderful remasters, I can't begrude a 2009 master set, especially with the CD market shrinking daily. So if this finds any new fans, that would be a plus for our musical King.

Happy Easter, everyone!
FJE (profilecontact) wrote on Apr 12, 2009report abuse
What I'd like to know is if the sound is better than the FTD release of "His Hand In Mine" which I thought was awesome. I would rather wait for the FTD releases of "How Great Thou Art" and "He Touched Me" in the classic series than having to buy this just to have better sound. What do you have to say about that Lex?
dgirl (profilecontact) wrote on Apr 12, 2009report abuse
The omission of Miracle Of The Rosary and the inclusion of the awful F&J medley is a travesty. That plus the 40.00 I saw for the set the other day, will make me skip buying this.

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