The latest release on the Czech "Memory" label came out the first quarter of 2001. As widely known by now the Czech copyright laws have changed, so no more Elvis songs could be released on this label. No more Elvis songs sung by Elvis that is, the producers had to dig deeper for older material to comply to the new laws. They decided to go all the way down and reached for the roots of Elvis.
The package has had some attention from the producers. The front may not be too original, but is a fitting adoption of one of the better original RCA-covers. The inlay has good info on the artists, including some ancient pictures (photographs, no paintings). After removing the CD you'll find a collage of pictures which makes you longing to visit the southern states yourself. The CD itself is a picture disc.
The booklet gives some info to each track and a short overview of chart achievements of some of Elvis' gospel releases. The way this CD is presented makes it look like a CD released for all the (Elvis)world and not just the Czech Republic.
A great idea that the producers worked out on this release, is the way Elvis "introduces" many of the songs. Excerpts from interviews with Elvis were taken for this purpose. A slight minor is that the balance isn't too good. Sometimes a couple of songs in a row are introduced this way, then some not and then again one or two are.
This compilation is divided in 5 chapters: Gospel, Country, Blues, Pop and Rhythm and Blues. Each of these chapters contains songs that influenced Elvis, most of them are covered by him in later years. That is a strange fact of this compilation: most of them were covered by Elvis. Out of 26 songs only 5 weren't sung by Elvis in later years. It's a pity the producers fail to explain why they chose these songs in particular it looks a bit incoherent compared to the 21other songs. We have to admit we are glad those songs are included, since they are about the most enjoyable on the CD. Probably because we can't compare them with a much better Elvis-version we know by heart.
The gospel chapter contains four songs that were covered by Elvis and it is obvious Elvis liked those originals, since he stayed pretty close to them. The sound quality is pretty good, certainly regarding the age of the recordings. Still it is remarkable that Elvis' versions, though as said pretty close to the originals, sound much less outdated. Or is that because we know them better and we are not completely unbiased? This goes even more for the country section of which all 6 songs are covered by Elvis too. Unfortunately the blues section contains only two tracks, but the Rhythm and Blues section will make up for that later. The Pop section contains not less than 8 tracks, but the diversity here justifies that choice. In this section the first song not covered by Elvis shows up "Sentimental Journey" by Ruth Brown. A song that would have fit perfectly in Elvis' early 60's style. Quite a surprise is Bing Crosby's version of "Beyond the Reef". We didn't think it was possible to have a more softy version than Elvis's, but Bing Crosby made it. The syrup almost tears from the speakers.
The Rhythm and Blues-section is a real delight, 6 tracks (only 1 really covered and another jammed by Elvis) give a rocking conclusion to this CD.
Our own rocking conclusion must be that this CD is fun to have. Sometimes because it is good to have a song on CD and sometimes because it makes you appreciate Elvis even more. All in all this CD will find its way to the player more than once.
Gospel: It Is No Secret (Blackwood Brothers) / Rock My Soul (Golden Gate Quartet) / Peace in the Valley (Red Foley) / Up Above My Head (Sister Rosetta Tharpe) / Country: Old Shep (Red Foley) / Have I Told You Lately That I Love You (Gene Autrey) / Blue Moon of Kentucky (Bill Monroe) / I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (Hank Williams) / I'm Movin' On (Hank Snow) / It's a Sin (Eddy Arnold) / Blues: That's All Right Mama (Arthur Crudup) / This Train (My Babe) (Sister Rosetta Tharpe) / So Glad You're Mine (Arthur Crudup) / Pop: Sorrento (Mario Lanza) / There's No Tomorrow (Tony Martin) / I Don't Care If the Sun Don't Shine (Dean Martin) / My Happiness (Ella Fitzgerald) / Sentimental Me (Ames Brothers) / That's When Your Heartache Begins (The Ink Spots) / Sentimental Journey (Ruth Brown) / Beyond the Reef (Bing Crosby) / Rhythm and Blues: Good Rockin' Tonight (Wynnonie Harris) / Rocket 88 (Bill Haley's Saddlemen) / Bump Miss Susie (Big Joe Turner) / Don't Knock (The Spiders) / Careless Love (Fats Domino) / Stack-a-Lee (Dave Bartholomew).