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Elvis: The King Of Rock 'N' Roll - The Complete 50's Masters

By Blogcritics/ David Bowling, April 13, 2009 | Music

Every once in awhile you have to clear the musical palate and return to basics. Elvis Presley may not have invented rock ‘n’ roll but he helped to establish the form and his music is always a nice place to visit.

I can’t count the number of Presley compilations that the RCA Label has released since his death over thirty years ago. The Decade Sets remain the most comprehensive and best of those releases. I recently reviewed From Nashville To Memphis: The Essential 60’s Masters and Walk A Mile In My Shoes: The Essential 70’s Masters, which as representative of their respective decades have some ups and downs. Elvis: The King Of Rock 'N' Roll – The Complete 50’s Masters has no such problem as it presents the heart of the Elvis catalogue. It was this 1950s material that made him a household name and established rock as a commercial and cultural presence in The United States. The music contained in this box set was essential in steering rock ‘n’ roll from its country and rhythms and blues origins to the advent of The Beatles sound in 1963.


This massive 140 track, 5 CD set contains every original master released by Elvis Presley during the 1950s plus 14 unreleased performances. The huge booklet contains an excellent biography, notes from each session, and a number of pictures from the era. When you add it all up you have one of the better box sets in existence and certainly one of the most essential.

Disc one traces Elvis’ evolution from country rockabilly singer for the Sun label to his earliest releases for RCA. Songs such as “That’s All Right,” “Mystery Train,” “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone,” and “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” have a raw appeal as they present the pre-rock Elvis who is still in a developmental stage. By the Time “Heartbreak Hotel” and "Blue Suede Shoes” blast out of the speakers that development is complete.

Discs two through four are the heart of the release and of the early soul of rock ‘n’ roll. “Hound Dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Love Me Tender,” “All Shook Up,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck,” and others are still instantly recognizable a half century after their release. In addition his entire Christmas album is included plus his first gospel recordings also make an appearance. Through good times and bad Elvis would always be sincere when recording holiday and spiritual songs and contained here are some of his best which also provide a nice counterpoint to the rest of the material.

Disc five is the only one that I could have done without. I think RCA meant well but the fourteen unreleased songs are just different versions of his better known hits. I just don’t need a slow version and an up-tempo version of “Loving You.” After a listen for curiosity sake it is not a disc I return too.

Realistically five hours of music and a high price may be more time and money many people want to invest. There are certainly more modest ways to explore the Elvis legacy. However, if you want to celebrate some of the best music in history and the roots of rock ‘n’ roll, this box set is the place to start.

Buy at OEPFC

Buy at Amazon.co.uk
Herman wrote on April 13, 2009
In one word: Perfect !
benny scott wrote on April 13, 2009
Essential, in any way ! This boxset can't be overlooked if you want to enter the Elvis-world ! Always El.
Steve V wrote on April 13, 2009
For the first time in a long time, in 1992, the critics were one voice in their praise for an Elvis release. They even praised the label for this release! One of the most famous boxsets ever released in CD history. It's hard for many fans to come to terms that Elvis's best work was iat the begininnig of his career. Sure he had great releases in the 60's & 70's, but listening to this box, you can hear the confidence, the growth, the talent blooming with every song. Sadly, his career didnt continue on this path. The only other time it came close was late 1968-1969. Blame RCA, blame the Colonel, blame Hal Wallis, blame the publishing company, and Elvis himself, but facts are facts. Hearing is believing.
circleG wrote on April 14, 2009
Yeah this set really made me look at the 50's in a new light. I was always a 60's and 70's fan but this showed me how fresh, exciting, creative and FUN life was for him at that time and lets face it wasn't it like that for most of us at that age? Reading 'last train to memphis' at the same time really makes me wish I was there. I love putting on a 50's Cd after a hard day at work.
Natha wrote on April 14, 2009
Beyond a shred of doubt this is the most fabulous, outstanding and unique collection in the world of music. It contains all the great hits of a singer whole equal cannot be found in this world. It highlights the rise, growth and dominance of the King. Growing older he gradually adapted styles more befitting his age and development. One cannot expect a man of 40 singing this kind of songs and be as raw and dynamic as was he 20. No one can and no one will. For me this embodies the very heart of Elvis' legacy. The latter part of his career drew also other music loving fans who are more into ballads and/or his gospel repertoire. For me he did a great and fantastic job until he died untimely and premature. Yet my heart goes to those wonderful fifties.
marco31768 wrote on April 15, 2009
A must !
Matt W wrote on April 15, 2009
An awesome concept and clearly one that a lot of time an effort went into realising. Unfortunately poor mastering choices such as applied digital stereo reverb over these mono recordings marred what could have been an awesome sounding set. Listen to the breaks in Hound Dog to hear what I'm referring to. This set is in dire need of a re-issue onto the market using Kevan Budd's superior work.
Cher wrote on April 20, 2009
This was possibly the very first collection I purchased when I first fell in love with Elvis back in January of 2007. It is still the meat of the collection of tunes I have on my mp3 player that I listen to constantly. Elvis was happy and still excited about his career and you can hear that in his voice. An essential part of any respectable Elvis library collection.
Jamie wrote on April 21, 2009
Hello, this box set is the clincher. Elvis was the greatest and you know he was because of the music here. Despite a sometimes haphazard approach to acquiring suitable material - a strategy that was entirely at odds with Elvis's standing and RCA Victor's investment in him - there's hardly any filler on these five discs. And anyway, it's hardly a reflection on Elvis's musicianship that BMG held over some wonderful 50's out-takes and curios (eg, the first few stabs at 'Jailhouse Rock', the a capella 'Let Me') for later releases. Here, Elvis recurrently takes songs that are merely good (eg, 'Don't', 'Young and Beautiful', 'Hound Dog') and uses his musical acuity to elevate them into the bracket of all time classics. The truly inspired compositions such as 'Heartbreak Hotel' are performed with unparalleled brilliance. So he later took the opportunity to make a lot of money in Hollywood when his records stopped selling well to the new generation of teens in a faddish pop market. So what? This ‘50s box set is one of the few supposedly ‘essential’ releases in the pop music field that actually justifies the claims made for it. Elvis was the greatest - game over.
Greg Nolan wrote on May 01, 2009
A ground-breaking release and too bad it couldn't be upgraded. At the very least (and in some ways preferable) they've already re-done the '50s albums recently in great sound. But this was a very important release. As usual this Bowling character totally misunderstands why outtakes and rare material are put together to attract long-time and committed hard-core fans.
Steve V wrote on May 03, 2009
Bowling got it right. An outtakes disc was not needed to attract long time fans to this box because it was hands down , the greatest Elvis release on CD. I can live without disc 5. If I played it twice, that was a lot.
theoldscudder wrote on May 03, 2009
It's a terrific release. I just sold my copy because I perfer to hear the music on the original albums reissued as the papersleeve collection in Japan.That's the most enjoyable for me because that's how I remember them as a youngster. And the cardboard sleeves with the exact reproductions of the orignal LP's are very nice. But all & all I think it's the best cd release to date.
Greg Nolan wrote on May 03, 2009
Well, Steve, you're famously not interested in alternate takes and live concerts, so why wouldn't you agree with casual fan David Bowlling on disc 5? That disc was quite important at the time and since that time, we've demanded and received such rarities through FTD and the import world.
Steve V wrote on May 03, 2009
Not totally true for me Greg. Outtakes have their place but I think they were out of place on this box that really was aimed at the general CD buying public & not just Elvis collectors. By eliminating the 5th disc, the cost might have been cut down and a needless CD for most of the people that bought this would have been eliminated. I would have had no problem with another release containing 50's outtakes, but I guess this is what FTD was born to do. I also didnt think the Platinum box worked very well with the mainstream public as this contained many songs people wanted, but they only wanted the masters and not an alternate. I know a few people that bought it or got it as a gift that were highy upset by this strategy.
theoldscudder wrote on May 04, 2009
Got to agree with Steve V. The 5th disc on the 50's box was unnecessary. Also I knew several people that bought Platinum & were dissapointed because several of the big hits were not masters. These sets should have been geared to the ordinary buying public not collectors. Platinum was neither fisf or fowl & I didn't care for it. The 50's box was a fine release.
eric c wrote on May 31, 2009
not much to add regarding this amazing box set.An absolute MUST HAVE.
GEORGE (GK) wrote on June 02, 2009
RCA should Remaster and re-release this box, in a smaller box, at a lower price minus the last disc, which the collectors already have. It would sell well at Retail, to the average music fan. Same for the 60s and 70s boxsets.
Sandman wrote on February 01, 2010
The first, of three, early '90s boxsets. Simply, to die for!