A couple of years ago Cool Romeo released two box sets with the name “Celluloid Rock” and recently the “Unsurpassed Masters” box 1 and 2. Now Cool Romeo released he follow up with two box-sets, titled “Unsurpassed Masters” volumes 3 and 4. Together these boxes contain eight CD's, making the total for the series 15.
Recently Cool Romeo once again released two box-sets, titled “Unsurpassed Masters” box 3 and 4 this time, as follow up to the first two releases in this series. Together these boxes contain eight CD's, making the total for the series 15. In the eighties a multi volume series was released titled “Elvis Through The Years” using all masters. With these two box-sets we might call this series “Elvis Through The Recording Years” considering all the various sessions
Both boxes are done in the same style as the first two. The pictures are on a marble like background. All CD’s have the same front again, which isn’t handy when you add the series on a shelf next to your collection. Inside other pictures are used which are all colourized. Both boxes contain a sheet with the track list and a beautiful booklet with the session information and great pictures, both black/white and colour. The design of the set almost demands you to have it in your collection and we haven’t mentioned the content yet.
Like with the first two boxes, there is not much new material on the CD’s, but there are some unreleased takes. Sometimes it isn’t completely beyond doubt if the take info is correct. E.g. some talking (“Dear Georgie”) on ”Power of My Love” sounds very much the same, but maybe there was just some wrong “cutting and pasting”, while with “Rubberneckin’” we have strong doubts about the different takes. That last CD is a waste anyway, since the long instrumental part gets very boring, if not annoying after a while. Two overdubs of “Down in the Alley” are fun, but more of the same, one would have been enough. Also Red West’s demos are less appreciated than Elvis’ versions. So far for the negative comments, since the positive side of the boxes wins.
The first box (volume 3 in the series) immediately starts with one of the highlights: eleven takes of “For The Millionth And The Last Time” in marvelous sound quality. Some people think it’s boring to hear the same song for a while, but in this case it is great to hear the subtle differences in the musical accompany. Let’s be honest, songs like “Long Lonely Highway”, “I Met Her Today”, “Please Don’t Drag That String Around” and “Devil in Disguise”, to name a few, will never get boring. So the first 3 CD’s of the set are a pleasure to hear anytime. Box 3 closes with a part of the “How Great Thou Art”-sessions. Although in our opinion this is the lesser of Elvis’ gospel sessions, it is still a treat to hear his commitments while recording.
Box 4 starts where Box 1 finished, with gospels from the How Great Thou Art-sessions. Later on we get the Red West demos, with only snippets of Elvis… a pity it isn’t Elvis but interesting since this is what Elvis heard and used for his own recording. He used to work a lot this way, listen to a new tracks, knowing almost immediately if he liked it and if so adapt it and record his own interpretation / version.
But then… fasten your seatbelts and shake and shiver through two beautiful CD’s from the 1969 Memphis Sessions. “And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind”, “Power Of My Love”, “Do You Know Who I Am”, “Any Day Now” and several more tracks in crystal clear stereo. Most of the material could be heard before (e.g. There’s Always Me), but never in this quality. Having such large parts of these magnificent sessions in this quality alone is worth the price of the box set.
We can only say: “Buy it, when you can get it! (and afford it, since they are expensive)”. Since this is a very well designed series which takes you through Elvis recording years. If this is not enough to convince you, the marvelous takes from 1969 should be. We can’t wait for the volumes for the rest of Elvis’ recording career running from 1971 until 1976 which will hopefully be released.