This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.
This is number twenty nine in the series of albums I’m featuring as part of an on-going retrospective of vinyl albums in my personal collection.
The series is called, “Cream of The Crate”, and they represent vinyl albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because their is something unique about the group or the music.
For the third time in 29 reviews, I turn to a boxed set rather than picking a single album.
This boxed set of LP’s features the one, true King of Rock and Roll – ELVIS!
The boxed set has twelve vinyl LP’s. Titled, “Elvis – The Legend (1954 – 1961)”. The set is in fact the ‘official recordings’ of Elvis Presley, in order of recording, from July 1954 to March 1961.
Released by RCA Victor in 1980 it is simply a stunning collection of the rarest, earliest, most ‘Rock n’ Rollin’ tracks that he recorded.
A bonus for this set is the six double sided page Booklet, with illustrations, written and assembled by Glenn A.Baker!
The booklet contains sepia collages of shots of Elvis and to be honest, I wish a little more care had been taken in correcting the exposure and sharpening the pictures to improve the clarity.
There is a two page chronological summary of Elvis’ career; a US singles discography listings of each of the 12 LPs with track information and a summary of the musicians and recording information and finally, a comprehensive listing of all, his movies.
The booklet, despite a few shortcomings, once again reinforces the advantage of a vinyl box set over a CD box set, in as much as the size of the booklet in the vinyl set is brilliant.
The most impossible task is to identify the “best” tracks, it simply doesn’t work this way with this boxed set. There are 190 tracks over 10 of the 12 LP’s.
LP #1 contains his earliest material covering the period 1954 – 1955.
The album sets off with a “Big Boy” Arthur Crudup song – “That’s Alright” (Mama), which is a magnificent choice and very reflective of Elvis‘ early exposure to the Blues, and a great example of how, even at this formative stage of his career, he was able to rock up such a classic blues song!
That’s Alright Mama
1. That’s Alright Mama
2. I Love You Because
3. Blue Moon Of Kentucky
4. Blue Moon
5. Harbour Lights
6. I Love You Because
7. I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine
8. Good Rockin’ Tonight
9. Just Because
1. Milkcow Blues Boogie
2. You’re A Heartbreaker
3. I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone
4. I’ll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin’)
5. Baby Let’s Play House
6. Mystery Train
7. I Forgot To Remember To Forget
8. Trying To Get To You
LP’s #2 and #3 cover the period 1956, which is indicative of when he career was really taking off, and reflective of the number of recordings he was beginning to make.
1. I Got A Woman
2. Heartbreak Hotel
3. Money Honey
4. I’m Counting On You
5. I Was The One
6. Blue Suede Shoes
7. My Baby Left Me
8. One Sided Love Affair
1. So Glad You’re Mine
2. I’m Gonna Sit Right Down & Cry (Over You)
3. Tutti Frutti
4. Lawdy Miss Clawdy
5. Shake Rattle & Roll
6. I Want You, I Need You, I Love You
7. Hound Dog
8. Don’t Be Cruel
Don’t Be Cruel
1. Any Way You Want Me (That’s How It Will Be)
2. Love Me Tender
3. We’re Gonna Move
4. Let me
5. Poor Boy
6. Playing For Keeps
7. Love Me
9. How Do You Think I Feel?
1. How’s The World Treating You?
2. When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again
3. Long Tall Sally
4. Old Shep
5. Too Much
6. Any Place In Paradise
7. Ready Teddy
8. First In Line
9. Rip It Up
LP’s #4 and #5 cover the period 1957, and this period bought forward some fantastic Elvis tracks including track “Jailhouse Rock“, “Baby I Don’t Care” (featuring great backing vocals by the Jordanaires), and the ever popular “Teddy Bear“.
However, they say no heaven without hell!
Now this may upset the Elvis “fanatics”, but Side 2, is a bit of a loss as far as I’m concerned. Why, when close to the top of his game as the King of Rock & Roll, did he feel it necessary to put down a whole side of Christmas Carols?
Oh well, as I said, there are hundreds of thousands of fans who would be in complete disagreement with me.
1. All Shook Up
2. Mean Woman Blues
3. Got A Lot Of Living To Do
4. Tell Me Why
5. That’s When Your Heartaches Begin
6. I Believe
7. (There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley
8. Take My Hand Precious Lord
1. Is Is No Secret (What God Can Do)
2. Blueberry Hill
3. Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?
4. Is It So Strange
5. I Beg Of You
6. One Night
7. I Need You So
8. True Love
9. When It Rains It Really Pours
10. Don’t Leave Me Now
Baby I Don’t Care
LP # 6 is for absolute rabid fans, those that simply cannot get enough of Elvis, by song or word – and words is what we get!
September 1, 1957 and Elvis visits Canada and gives a lengthy interview in Vancouver. Sides 1 and 2 contain that interview.
Anyone compiling a compilation loves to have everything fit together neatly, but with LP # 7 there was a minor hiccup! What to do with two left over tracks from 1957?
The answer was to make them the first two tracks on the album from the period 1958.
If we think of Elvis‘ releases in terms of his music to support his best film ever, yes – I’m not referring to the fabulous Jailhouse Rock, but to King Creole – then this IS the LP!
Yet again this LP contains some of most favourite tracks, such as “Hard Headed Woman“, “Wear My Ring” and of course, “King Creole“.
1. Treat Me Nice
2. My Wish Came True
4. Hard Headed Woman
6. New Orleans
8. Dixieland Rock
1. King Creole
2. Don’t Ask Me Why
3. As Long As I Have You
4. Young Dreams
6. Lover Doll
7. Steadfast, Loyal & True
8. Wear My Ring Around Your Neck
9. Your Cheatin’ Heart
10. Doncha Think It’s Time
LP #8 has some interesting points. The first five tracks are from the 1958 period, and then we jump to 1960!
What happened in 1959? Well, Elvis was in the Army of course, and so the recordings dried up!
Elvis shows his appreciation for where his music really evolved from – the Blues! Just one tracks indicate this.
Side 2 track 9 – “Reconsider Baby“. This track is a blues song written and recorded by Lowell Fulson in 1954.
Performed in the ‘West Coast Style’ style, it became Fulson’s first record chart hit for Checker records (a subsidiary of Chess Records). Elvis does an excellent version and again, pays his dues!
1. Now and then there’s a fool such as I
2. A Big Hunk O’ Love
3. Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby?
4. I Need Love Tonight
5. I Got Stung
6. Fame and Fortune (1)
7. Soldier Boy
8. Stuck On You
9. Make Me Know It
10. A Mess of Blues
11. It Feels So Right
1. Fame and Fortune (2)
3. Like A Baby
4. The Girl Of My Best Friend
5. Dirty, Dirty Feeling
6. Thrill Of Your Love
7. Girl Next Door
8. I Will Be Home Again
9. Reconsider Baby
So we get to LP’s 9 to 12!
In due deference to the fanatical element of Elvis’ fans – the quality drops right off.
Having been inculcated into the Army, the few recordings that were made whilst he was in Germany, mainly recorded in 1960 – largely fail to move me.
Oh there is “Wooden Heart” and “G.I Blue’s“, and tracks from movies, like Flaming Star.
The sneer might have still been there, but that rash, brash, disregard for authority – the essence of the teen rebellion was gone. Was it drilled out of him?
Maybe they simply do a good job with the psychiatry of the process and successfully removed the ‘rebel’ with a ‘rebelectomy’?
Whatever the reason for the change, the ‘electric Rock, Roll & Rage edge’ was gone!
In fact it really gets worse with this set, with LP’s 10 and 11 contain (in the main) the more ‘religious’ side of Elvis with tracks such as “Joshua Fit the battle“, “It’s a Sin“, and, “I Believe in the Man in the Sky“!
Personally, and it should be obvious by now, that side of Elvis did not and still does not, appeal to me!
But all can be forgiven because this does contain simply some of the most fantastic work ever done by the King.
It would be easy to fill page after page about his exploits, but why? it’s already been done. However we do pause to recall that he had a total of 106 US singles (original releases) between August 1954 and December 1979 and that 16 of these were number 1 hits – in the USA alone. in Australia Elvis had 9 number 1 hit singles.
Although it took “Heatbreak Hotel” to become his first #1 single in February 1956, in my mind there were tracks recorded earlier that utterly capture the essential young Elvis.
These are tracks like “That’s Alright Mama“ – his first official release in August 1954. What is really brilliant was that all five of those first singles also had excellent B-Sides, a fantastic example is the B-side to the second release in October 1954.
The A-side is “Good Rockin’ Tonight“ (A great track!), but the B-side, “I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine” is a gem!
All this music is the young Elvis, brash and confident, yet we can only imagine that deep down inside there must have been, mixed with all the excitement, some doubt!
But when Elvis was put together with Scotty Moore and Bill Black, it is easy to imagine that there skill experience had a ‘settling effect’ that resulted in some of the damn best early R&R – ever!
I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine
“Well, I don’t care if the sun don’t shine
I get my loving in the evening time
When I’m with my baby.
Well, that’s when we’re gonna kiss and kiss and kiss and kiss
We’re gonna kiss some more.
Well, one kiss from my baby doll
Makes me hot-
More more more more.
Well, I don’t care if the sun don’t shine
I get my loving in the evening time
When I’m with my baby.”
It would be easy to go on and on about this man, but as Bob Dylan once commented, “All the good books have been written, and all the good songs have been sung!” – another way of saying everything that really can be said about Elvis, has been!
In terms of this boxed set – it isn’t perfect in my mind, but it’s pretty damn good and I can’t ever conceive of giving it up!
Copies seem to be very rare. I found one for sale in The Elvis Shop, in the UK, and it was about $95.00Au, plus postage.
A damn good buy I think!
We are most fortunate that here are many, many clips to choose from as wonderfully, there is quite a bit of footage from those early years!
Good Rockin’ Tonight
Blue Suede Shoes – 1956 [Colour]
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
Click to open: