It took some waiting, and many people are still wondering why this CD was not released at a date closer to the 25th Anniversary. But finally the CD arrived and we are able to check if all the hype around it is appropriate.
BMG had a good hand of designing lately, although some people might complain why there is not a picture of Elvis on the front. We think this design says everything and honestly think it is one of the best Elvis-covers ever. The booklet has a story by the royal biographer, Peter Guralnick and a short explanation by Ernst Jorgensen on the selection of the 30 # 1’s on this album. All songs have some additional information (recording date and chart positions in the U.S. and U.K.). The whole is decorated with artistically made photo-collages and especially Elvis’ legs get much attention. Like in the whole campaign, no ‘complete’ picture of Elvis was used, e.g. the back cover of the CD contains Elvis’ chin and the back of the booklet Elvis’s hair. The image of Elvis is so strong that by seeing just his first name or part of a picture you know who you see.
Already with the early hits it becomes clear that there was a lot of work done on cleaning up the recordings. The depth in the songs is much wider, e.g. the handclapping in ‘Hound Dog’ or the slap bass in ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ are more present than in previous releases. We like this sound and really think it is an improvement, but we can understand some may say that things sound too sharp. The alternate take of ‘A Fool Such As I’ really is different, especially the guitar and some of Elvis’ phrasing. It will take some time to get used to.
A new world opens when the first notes of ‘Stuck On You’ come out of the system. We were really astonished when we first heard it. From then on the listener gets one amazement after another, be it because "It’s Now Or Never", "Are You Lonesome" or even "Wooden Heart".
Our lower jaw dropped on the ground with "His Latest Flame", one of the best Elvis songs anyway, it sounds so refreshing that you wonder how you could ever appreciate the former versions. Was this song really recorded 41 years ago? About the same happened with "Return To Sender" and we can name every single track from now on, but we guess you have to listen to it yourself to understand what we are talking about. Okay, there is one more we have to mention, and that’s the version of "The Wonder Of You" they used on this compilation. We still wonder why they took another version than the single version, but certainly don’t regret it. Especially the phrasing of "That’s the wonder" just before the guitar solo sounds neat.
A remark we have to make is that the title of this album doesn't do Elvis right. Of course there can be a discussion on which charts should be used to determine the #1's for this compilation, but to add the recent #1 (in 18 countries, including the U.K. chart used for this compilation) as a 'bonus track' only doesn't do Elvis' track record as thé No. 1 artist justice.
One can’t make everybody happy, and the complaining about "Why did they choose some alternates?" or "Why did they use different charts?" will go on forever. Of course a #1 collection has some bad sides. Great songs are excluded, while something like "Wooden Heart" is present. But then again, it wasn’t a number one hit for nothing, there must be people liking it and to everyone his or her taste. There are even people that dislike a classic like "Can’t Help Falling In Love". We can only say that we have one heck of a compilation in superior sound quality and we advise all fans, even if it’s the zillionth compilation in your collection, to buy it. You will be surprised by it and you might help to give Elvis what he deserves, another #1 album.