It has to be said at the outset of this article that BMG have done a fantastic job with the Elvis catalogue over the last ten years or so since the “Collectors’ Gold” boxed set spluttered onto the market. Since then, we have had the 50s, 60s and 70s boxed sets, the FTD label, the platinum box and all of the original albums released on CD. But during the last six months or so there have been some worrying signs from the powers that be at BMG – the majority of the original albums have been deleted, yet another Greatest Hits package is going to be released later this year and much of the “Today, Tomorrow And Forever” boxed set is less than appealing. Let’s have a closer look.
Perhaps the most worrying and disheartening event has been the deletion of many of Presley’s original albums on CD. After taking many years of effort to get these remastered and sounding better than ever, why delete them? It is a move that is beyond comprehension to the collector and, I should imagine, the general public. The well-compiled “50 Greatest” packages and the double country album were likely to lead Joe Public to other Presley releases, but this is unlikely to happen if they are not available. And, to be honest, all Presley’s original albums should be permanently available if only for historical importance.
Now let’s move on to the “30 number 1 hits” package. This is going to be released in October – not August to coincide with the anniversary (a bizarre marketing move if ever there was one). The fact that another greatest hits package is going to come on the market is unbelievable. Just how many do we need exactly? At this rate, the general public are going to think that Elvis only recorded 50 or so tunes because they are the only ones that turn up on compilations! A pointless exercise that will no doubt earn BMG a great deal of money.
The “Today, Tomorrow and Forever” boxed set is, so we are now informed, going to be available worldwide. This is, to a certain degree, good news. However, the title makes us think that this is going to be a collection of Presley’s greatest performances told through alternate takes, etc. But this is certainly not the case. Considering this is a general release, and not on the FTD label, the songs are hardly inspiring. How many of the general public (or even collectors) are going to excited by the prospect of alternate takes of “My Desert Serenade,” “Never Say Yes” and “The Love Machine.” And how many versions of “Hurt,” “Promised Land” and “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” do we really need? Personally, I would liked to have seen alternate versions of “Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” “I’m Leavin,” or the full version of “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.” There is nothing from 1977 on the track listing at all, but anyone who remembers the “Moody Blue And Other Great Performances” Fort Baxter CD from a few years back could verify that performances such as the live “Where No-one Stands Alone” deserve a legitimate release.
Well, it’s all very well me moaning and groaning but that’s not any good unless I make suggestions as to what I would do for the anniversary. I think some of the material from the FTD releases deserves to be made available to the general public. So, why not a compilation of the best of these releases? The “Today Tomorrow And Forever” set is a great idea but is certainly not going to live up to the standard of the Platinum box from five years ago. And, instead of a greatest hits package, how about a compilation of Elvis’ covers of other people’s songs? This would certainly sell well due to the familiarity of the material. And a track listing that could include “Unchained Melody,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Yesterday,” Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You” would be a sure-fire winner.
But perhaps it all boils down to the fact that 25 years after his death, the seemingly never-ending well of unreleased Elvis music is finally drying up. It begins to look as if the best finds from the vaults has already seen the light of day and we are unlikely to see new material of such standard as “It’s Diff’rent Now,” “One Hundred Years From Now” and the studio version of “My Way” ever again. But that’s just my opinion …