Because of the success of the single “A Little Less Conversation” the release of this 4CD set might be a bit unfortunate. New people getting interested in Elvis because of the single may buy it and probably be disappointed with the sometimes (relatively) poor quality. However, who could have planned that Nike would bring Elvis this much success 25 years after his death.
Without any doubt, this is one of the best packages we have ever seen. Beautiful (colour) pictures put together in a very tasteful design. As usual, Colin Escott wrote the linernotes, which does give this set more than only a good listening. We saw several people complaining about “again Escott” and do not really understand that. Not everybody does buy every Presley-release; so many people will not even notice it. Even more important is the fact that Colin Escott is very talented writer, who obviously knows where he is talking about. The way the liner notes for this release are done is very interesting, since Escott gives background information on almost every individual track.
The cover mentions that all selections (100) are previously unreleased. Of course, this is not true, but BMG cannot reckon with bootlegs (okay, we forget that the Little Rock concert is available on a non bootleg too).
The box starts weird, with one of the lesser Sun-recordings, “Harbor Lights”. One of the Sun-tracks that made Elvis so special, e.g., “That’s All Right”, “Mystery Train” or “Baby Let’s Play House” would have been more appropriate. Probably BMG did not have any more outtakes available. In general, the first CD is the least pleasant CD of the set to listen to. The aforementioned Little Rock show is great, but the sound quality (and length) does not really fit in a CD-set like this. Besides many collectors, on which this release focuses, will have it anyway. Still there are some real gems on this CD, like “Is It So Strange”, “Treat Me Nice”, “Young And Beautiful” to name a few.
CD2 starts very strong, with outtakes of “Make Me Know It” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” but as Elvis’ career moved more and more towards Hollywood, the quality of recordings declined, spoiling this CD almost with things like “My Desert Serenade”. In between the title track is something the fans were hoping for so long. Disregarding the fact that sounds somewhat insecure, it was worth the waiting, without any doubt. It makes you wish Elvis did more serious attempts to record duets with female vocalists.
The third silver disc has a strong start too, and although there are some weaker songs on this one too, it is overall the best so far. “Love Letters”, “Big Boss Man”, “U.S. Male”, NBC-recordings, Memphis 69 Sessions, Las Vegas 1969, no more words needed in our opinion.
The live songs at the start of the forth disc makes you regret more and more that RCA didn’t record some complete shows during the early 1970 engagement in Vegas. Then songs like “The Next Step Is Love”, “Life” (phew! What a marvelous intro!) and many others show that the overdone 70’s overdubs often (almost) spoiled the Elvis recordings of those years. Even a weak “Until It’s Time For You To Go” cannot spoil the pleasure of this closing disc, and let us forget about the (European) distortion in “Hurt”, since the CD will be replaced anyway.
Although the sound quality differs a lot on this 4CD-set, we are sure that overall this set will give a lot of listening pleasure to most fans, giving a great overview of Elvis’ work in alternates. Once again Ernst Jorgensen and Roger Semon did a marvelous job.
Sound quality: 8/ Cover art: 9