Recently Sony released the zillionth gospel compilation by our man. For an obvious reason Elvis’ gospels are always working for the mass and probably there are more to come, just like the (almost) annual Christmas compilations.
The design is sober, but very stylish. Especially the Wertheimer pictures do justice to this part of Elvis’ musical heritage. The 24 page booklet has great liner notes which we published some time ago. The only minor is that the booklet doesn’t fit back in easily, especially if you’re as handy as I am.
CD 1 carries the 50’s gospels, of which I saw in another review a to the point remark on Peace In The Valley: “white boy cries in the wilderness”, but in my opinion that goes for all 4 of them. The His Hand In Mine masters – my personal favourites fill the remaining of this disc. A disc that will certainly find its way to my player many times, since it is by far the best quality I have of those recordings.
The quality mark is also stamped on CD 2, especially the up tempo songs and Where Could I Go But To The Lord are stunning. Still, from the big gospel sessions, the How Great Thou Art session has always been my least favourite. I guess they sound too religious to me, there is not as much joy as during the 1960 session, nor during the He Touched Me session. Disc 2 is closed by the three “gospel” songs Elvis recorded later in the 60s: You’ll Never Walk Alone, We Call On Him and Who Am I?
There will always be discussion on which songs should be on a compilation and which not, but I think it is an omission to leave Miracle Of The Rosary out of Disc 3, which contains the 1970’s gospels. This is the second best disc of this set in my ears.
Disc 4 starts with a skipper I just don’t like the arrangement, nor the voice of Elvis on Down By The River Side/ When The Saints Go Marchin’ In. Swing Down Sweet Chariot, If I Can Dream and the medley from the Comeback Special are pretty good recordings, just like the 1974 live versions of How Great Thou Art, Help Me and Why Me Lord. The 1972 rehearsals for On Tour sound good too and even the home recordings have something touching. Still this mixture is very strange and it doesn’t catch me as the more coherent first three discs.
To be honest, I wouldn’t have bought it, but now that I have this review copy, I am very glad with it. The sound quality really got a boost, and it comes as close to the warmth of vinyl as a CD can get. Still, if you don’t care too much about that, you can easily skip it, since you’ll have most of the songs plenty of times, I guess.