Of all of the questionable career decisions made by Elvis, Colonel Parker and RCA, the content and release of this album might be the biggest. When scrutinizing different aspects of his career, Elvis himself was too blame for much of it as he at times showed little interest in his career. It is widely agreed that Colonel Parker made his share of mistakes as he didn’t care about Elvis’ artistic integrity one iota. However, you should understand blaming Colonel Parker only indicts Elvis for valuing money over artistry. The record label and the movie production companies just wanted “new” product with Elvis’ name on it and so poor movies, mediocre albums, lackluster concerts and even some bland singles occurred. These things help explains movies like “Harum Scarum” and live shows from 76 and 77 that lacked spark. It even explains the release of a bland LP’s such as “Love Letters from Elvis” or “Elvis Now”. Still I get pleasure from almost everything he recorded and nothing we can do now can change the directions his career went. So I have tried to keep in mind that no one has had a career like him and most scrutiny is unfair. Would any of us really had known how to manage someone as unique as Elvis? That said, the release of the “Burning Love and Hits from His Movies, Volume 2” sticks in my crawl and I can’t think of what (if any) rational thought went into its release.
The actual product is not that bad and other than “I Love Only One Girl” (which I don’t hate) and “Santa Lucia”, the songs range from pleasant to great. Okay one great song, but the other eight tracks when taken individually wouldn’t turn-off anyone from being an Elvis fan or buying future Elvis products. The problem is the time in his career when it was released and the impact it might have had on future sales. Perhaps even Elvis’ desire to be accepted an artist and grow his career suffered as he watched his new “big” hit (it should be noted that by most accounts he didn’t like the song) be disrespected.
The argument for this release might be it is just a budget release (known lovingly as “The Camdens”) and the previous budget releases for Elvis had been very successful with little impact on his other work. The difference between the other Camden albums and this release is the others made some sort of sense.
The first budget album was “Elvis Sings Flaming Star” released in March of 1969. It had previously been released as a promotional item by the Singer sewing machine company in conjunction with Elvis’ 1968 NBC TV special. The album contained eight unreleased tracks and the song “Flaming Star” which had only appeared on a deleted extended play (the only U.S. EP of its kind as it played on 33 1/3 RPM instead of the standard 45 rpm speed). The other “new” song from that 1961 extended play was “Summer Kisses and Winter Tears” and RCA used that to fill out the 1965 “Elvis for Everyone” LP. The album itself contained some very good material and some marginal tracks, but there was no other way at the time to own these nine songs unless you purchased this album so it was a welcome addition to the Elvis catalog. An understandable release even if it might have kept a great album like “From Elvis in Memphis” from hitting the top 10 as it shared the charts with the budget LP and peaked at #13. The “Flaming Star” album peaked at #96 which was amazing considering it had to sell 2.5 copies for every one regularly priced LP to achieve its chart status. At the time, Billboard calculated their top selling albums chart by dollars, not units. This is why the “Elvis for Everyone” LP advertises Elvis one million dollar albums, not one million unit sold.
The next Camden budget album was “Let’s Be Friends” released in April of 1970. This album consisted of nine more songs that had been previously unreleased in any form by RCA. As was the case with the “Flaming Star” LP it might have kept a superior album (the “On Stage album was released a little over a month later) from hitting the top ten (“On Stage” stalled at #13). Still the release was understandable especially as bootlegs started to offer unreleased content and it was only right that the material should be available through legitimate releases. The album was moderately successful peaking at #105 and outside of “Mama” and “Stay Away Joe” contained solid tracks.
Next came “Almost in Love” and “Elvis’ Christmas Album” which were released in November of 1970.. Both would be very good sellers for RCA/Camden. “Almost in Love” is good album, outstanding at times, with nine of the 10 songs only being available as single releases from the late 60’s (“Long Legged Girl” was the lone song that had appeared on an album previously). It peaked at #65.
“Elvis Christmas Album” made perfect sense as RCA was deleting the original album from its catalog. Camden simply took the eight Christmas songs from the original 1957 release and supplemented with the 1966 Christmas single “If Every Day Was like Christmas” and the song “Mama Liked the Roses” which had been the flipside of the top 10 hit “The Wonder of You” earlier in the year. The result was a rousing success. The LP hit #2 on the Billboard Christmas charts and today is Elvis biggest selling album of all time. The only down side was a brilliant album (“That’s the Way It Is”) peaked at #23 as it shared it chart time and sales with these two albums. Another great album “Elvis Country” that RCA released just two months after TTWII might have had its chart peak impacted (it peaked at #12) by the release of these albums. Why did RCA and RCA/Camden release six albums in a three month period (they also broke apart the double LP “From Memphis to Vegas, From Vegas to Memphis” into two different album releases at this time)?
In 1971, RCA deleted several Elvis albums (“It Happened at the World’s Fair”, “Harum Scarum”, “Frankie and Johnny”, “Spinout” and “Clambake) and all extended plays including “Follow That Dream”, “Kid Galahad”, “Viva Las Vegas”, “Easy Come, Easy Go” and “Peace in the Valley”. The sales for those soundtrack albums were flat and extended plays were no longer a popular format for record buyers. This left some very good material no longer available especially with the deletion of the extended plays.
First came the budget album “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in April of 1971. It took a couple of unreleased songs (“Who Am I” and “Let Us Pray”), combined them with the four songs from the “Peace in the Valley” EP, a pseudo-religious song from the “Easy Come, Easy Go” EP (“Sing You Children”) and his 1968 sacred single (“You’ll Never Walk Alone” b/w “We Call on Him”). Why it didn’t include Elvis’ version of “Swing Down, Sweet Chariot” from the 1968 movie “The Trouble With Girls” is beyond me, but the album was solid album that sold very well as it hit #69 on the charts. Again remember these albums had to sell 2.5 units for every one unit of a regular priced LP so obtain their chart ranking.
Later in 1971, the Camden budge albums “C’mon Everybody” and “I Got Lucky” were released. The 20 songs were from the four deleted movie extended plays and one B-sides to a single released in 1967 (“Fools Fall In Love”). Both sold well (#70 and #108 respectively) for budget albums and both were enjoyable listens give or take a couple of tracks.
In 1972, Camden began using tracks from the deleted movie soundtrack albums and released “Elvis Sings Hits from His Movies, Volume 1” in June. This album’s biggest sin is might have prevented the live Madison Square Garden album from hitting the top ten (MSG peaked at #11) which was released the same month. The album contained a couple of great songs such as “Guitar Man” and “Big Boss Man” (both from the “Clambake” album) and eight movie songs from the deleted soundtrack albums that ranged from great “They Remind Me Too Much of You” and “You Don’t Know Me” to well, whatever classification you have for “Old MacDonald’. Oddly, “Long Legged Girl” made its second appearance on a budget LP and none of the Harum Scarum tracks were recycled for this release. “Hits” might be a strong word as the biggest hit on the album was “Frankie and Johnny” which hit a respectable #25 in 1966. Other tracks that appeared on the album which also charted “They Remind Me Too Much of You” (#53). “Guitar Man” (#43). “Long Legged Girl” (#63), “You Don’t Know Me” (#44) and “Big Boss Man” (#38). The album peaked at #87.
Now we come to the fateful release of “Burning Love and Hits from His Movies, Volume 2”. It is November of 1972, Elvis is riding high on the charts with his first top ten pop hit since “The Wonder of You” over two years ago. He has been touring and selling out every arena. His Vegas shows are still of mostly high quality. The live LP recorded at New York’s Madison Square Garden is riding high on the charts after disappointing performances from the albums “Elvis Now” and “He Touched Me”. Elvis is back! Time for a nice new LP featuring the smash hit single, right? No, Elvis only had recorded a handful of songs and in March of 1972 and it was deemed there wasn’t enough new material”. Still RCA could have added some live songs are some songs that were still in the vault and made a decent album, but they didn’t. So maybe they use “Burning Love” and feature it in a fifth installment of the gold record series of albums? Sure, the “50 Worldwide Gold Award Hits” box set from 1970 and the 1971 box set “The Other Sides – Worldwide Gold Award Hits” might have caused the need for volume five to not be a necessity, but one can’t help think of an album featuring his big hits from “If I Can Dream” to “Burning Love” would have sold at the time. I count 14 top 40 hits in that period that could have been used, not counting the top 40 hit “Clean up Your Own Backyard” which was released on the “Almost In Love” LP. Nine of the 14 songs top 40 hits were million sellers. That album wasn’t released either.
Instead we get an album that features “Burning Love” as the lead off song and then dives into “Tender Feeling” from the movie soundtrack “Kissin Cousins”. Young people that bought the album (and there were a lot as it peaked at #22) had to be in shock. Now don’t get me wrong “Tender Feeling” is a good song for 1964, but not for 1972! Even more puzzling is that the “Kissin Cousins” LP was still available in 1972. “Am I Ready” is next from the deleted “Spinout” LP and again, nice for 1966 in a movie, but not on a 1972 album. The next two songs are from “G.I. Blues” and “Fun in Acapulco” soundtracks (“Tonight Is So Right for Love” and “Guadalajara”). Again two albums that were still available!
Side B was worse. We get the solid country flipside to “Burning Love” (It’s a Matter of Time”) followed by “No More” from the still available “Blue Hawaii” LP, “Santa Lucia” from the movie “Viva Las Vegas” and included on still circulated LP “Elvis For Everyone”, “We’ll Be Together” from the “Girls! Girls! Girls!” LP and still available in 1972 and “I Love Only One Girl” from the deleted “Double Trouble” LP. I can listen to all four of the songs that follow “It’s a Matter of Time” in the context of their movie/soundtrack, but not as contemporary music from 1972.
Not only did Camden abandon their format of offering us unreleased and deleted tracks from the Elvis catalog they took advantage of a hot hit single. Just to show they didn’t have a soul, RCA / Camden did the same thing again just two months later. They took Elvis’ top 20 hit “Separate Ways” and teamed it with its flipside “Always on My Mind” (a top 20 country hit) and eight previously released songs. Only one of the songs was from a deleted soundtrack LP (“What Now, What Next, Where To” from the “Double Trouble” LP). Can you imagine buying an album you thought was going to have contemporary music on it because you really liked the single and after “Separate Ways” you hear “Sentimental Me”? A great 1961 album track, but totally out of place on a 1972 release.
To make things worse RCA released a hodgepodge album titled “Elvis” in July of 1973 just as Elvis had recaptured some of that 1972 summer/fall momentum created from the “Burning Love” single. Riding high with the “Aloha from Hawaii” broadcast, soundtrack and single “Steamroller Blues” in the summer of 1973, RCA chose to use the current single “Fool” (the flip of Steamroller) and nine leftovers from 1970 and 1971 and sell it as new product! None of them were great and some were extremely subpar. Regardless of your opinion of the albums “Raised on Rock” and “Promised Land” (and they are varied) do you think you would have be willing to plop down hard earned money during a recession when all you had heard was the hit/title song and on three previous occasions hit singles had been used to sell inferior product?
For content, I give the album “Burning Love and Hits from His Movies, Volume 2” two and a ½ stars. For the way it was compiled and the time with which it was released, I give it 0 stars. An absolute mess and totally disrespectful way to treat the greatest entertainer of all time.
PS I forgot to mention it came with a free poster when it was first released so I increase the rating to ½ star.