To Be Deleted Or Not To Be Deleted?

By Harley PayetteJan 22, 2002
I just want to comment on one of your stories: BMG announces deletions. Many of these deletions make no sense to me and BMG has some explaining to do why they cut some of these items. I understand the stuff like "Love Songs", which just came out, and in a sense the Double Features that have poor sound and do not contain Presley's best work. But deleting "Artist of the Century" and the Golden Records series makes absolutely no sense. Both of these collections provide a top to bottom overview of Presley's career that no single disc could match. The first Golden Records has been in print for over 40 years and is one of Presley's monuments. For a label that cares so much about RIAA certifications eliminating these titles makes no sense. They're eliminating the very titles most likely to rack up huge sales. The decision to cut the Essential Elvis series is equally bewildering. I would hate to be a novice Elvis fan just starting a collection. After you get past the obvious hits and a few classic albums you have nowhere to go. There will be no way you can obtain a classic like "Suspicion" without rambling through assorted collections of the familiar hits. They think they're attracting the new fan but they're really scaring them off. I know they want to trim the catalogue and Elvis' legacy would be much better served if the task of compiling a decent collection weren't made so daunting by the size of the catalogue. How about cutting some redundant greatest hits albums like "Love Songs" etc. and leaving Elvis completed masters as is. I know many of Elvis' soundtracks are junk but they are the work of a great artist and are important to understanding his legacy. Jorgensen, who has treated Elvis with more respect than anyone that has ever held his position, has continually stated the need to preserve Elvis' legacy. To that end I think it's important to start thinking of Elvis as an artist rather than as a franchise to be perpetuated. I know commercial considerations have to enter the picture but I think that can be done with a view to the larger picture. I would hate for Elvis to be placed in the same situation as some of his contemporaries like Ray Charles, Roy Orbison or Dion. It is virtually impossible to compile a coherent discography of these artists as most of their available output comes in the form of compilations with the same corps of songs repeated over and over again. Many siginificant recordings are lost to history or to the used record shops. Especially Charles fans cannot obtain many important recordings on CD or have to purchase many anthologies or box sets to get at those important songs. The same fate should not befall the most important recording artist of the twentieth century. As every fan knows Presley's story goes well beyond the hits. Tracks like "I've Got a Thing About You Baby", "Is It So Strange", "New Orleans" etc make as just a compelling case for Presley's artistry as "Jailhouse Rock" or "Suspicious Minds". Their loss would be major. I'm not saying that every single alternate take should be in print forever (Though some should be available in order to allow historians and the hardcore fans an opportunity to evaluate Presley's creative process.) but at the very least all of Presley's completed studio non-soundtrack masters should be available in coherent packages that respects the fans like the recent album upgrades. Warts and all the songs on these albums, are the testaments of an important artist. Finally, if Elvis' catalogue is bloated it is the fault of BMG for pumping the market with new greatest hits collections every year. Albums like "Pot Luck" are not the cause of this problem so much as albums like the recent 20th Century Masters which compiled hits without a common theme or purpose. This is a cause of much of the confusion. A greatest hits should act as a primer to attract the new fan or to the casual fan. To that end less is more. Would be fans are often confused by the literally dozens of titles available all featuring the same hits. Fewer greatest hits would eliminate this problem as fans would have one set starting place. The fact that Elvis' career cannot really be summed up in one disc is why the Golden Records and Artist of the Century are collections are so important. BMG could be forgiven though for compiling a one disc collection covering Presley's career similar to Beatles One for those fans who only want that one album. I think this type of strategy would boost sales for the rest of the records as fans wouldn't feel they would be buying the same songs over and over. There are many casual fans out there who believe that Elvis' catalogue is really the same two or three dozen songs endlessly repackaged. I hope that the BMG strategy does not turn this myth into reality. In the great scheme of things this may seem like trivia but this is an important time for Elvis' music. The next 50 years or so will determine whether Elvis' music lives on or falls away. I believe that this music deserves to survive and the hits as great as many of them are and were don't explain all there was to Elvis Presley.
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