Yes, there have been other compilations, such as the massive 30 album box set just six years ago. Well, this one doubles that one, as it contains EVERYTHING (as if Elvis could be contained by “everything”) that The King released during his lifetime and beyond.
Each of the cds in packaged in a replica of the original album sleeve, so you get to re-live how America got introduced to Elvis. The tricky part is that the first few albums were simply collections of singles, but WHAT singles they were! “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “Blue Suede Shoes.” You get the picture.
Then, there are a bucket of soundtrack albums for his plethora of 50s-60s films (with “King Creole” being one of the all time hippest), which have aged surprisingly well, while most of the films have not. Next come the gospel and Christmas albums, and of course a surfeit of “live” albums in various stages of his career, comeback and incarnations. Some of the albums are simple paste-togethers for the “gotta have it all” fans, but his late 60s to early 70s that he had a hand in are surprisingly strong. His From Elvis in Memphis still excites, and That’s The Way It Is set the stage (literally) for every Elvis impersonator for the next century.No one, and I mean NO ONE, knew how to pace a concert and work a crowd like Presley, and everyone one of his concert albums confirms that fact.
For my money, the overlooked gems are the 1970 Back in Memphis and Elvis at his rootsy-ist on Elvis Country. This one from 1971 feels like the album he always wanted to make, as it includes definitive versions of “Funny How Time Slips Away” and a wonderfully rollicking “I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water.”
There are a handful of albums that are “From The Vaults” which any self respecting Elvis fan will love, but the joy here is being able to discover why this young man from Tupelo, Mississippi changed pop culture forever. His voice and style have aged amazingly well, and like the true giants like Crosby, Sinatra and Cole, you don’t have to have grown up during their era to appreciate their art. Like the greats, Elvis shows here that be it in a soundtrack, studio or concert hall, he transcends time, genres, styles, races, sexes and generations.
Like an Elvis concert, there’s something for everyone here. If there isn’t something that grabs you, maybe you should take up macramé or 19th Century literature, as this box (with an encyclopedic book that goes over each album) covers what post WWII and beyond was all about. The soundtrack for a generation, a culture, a country and beyond.