'The Essential Elvis Presley'

BMG CD Review

Two very similar double CD Elvis ‘Greatest Hits’ compiles were released by BMG in the first half of 2007. EIN wonders if everyone in BMG/SONY marketing is related to Colonel Parker as they still continue to flog the same old horse.

With the overall packaging, sleeve notes, good photos and the "a little different" track selection 'The Essential Elvis Presley' can be rated as a fine companion to the Sony/BMG ‘Essential’ series. The audio sparkles and the CDs present a good, if brief look at Elvis’ musical legacy.

However there is more to consider and wonder about when it comes to marketing Elvis' greatest hits. . .



INTRO: 'The Essential Elvis Presley‘ vs ‘The King’

Two very similar double CD Elvis ‘Greatest Hits’ compiles were released by BMG in the first half of 2007. EIN wonders if everyone in BMG/SONY marketing is related to Colonel Parker as they still continue to flog the same old horse.

If ever there was a prima-facie case of BMG/RCA pumping out too much of the similar Elvis product, then the releasing of ‘The Essential Elvis Presley’ (40 Greatest tracks) within a few months of their 30th Anniversary "key" marketing release ‘The King’ (52 Greatest hits) must be exhibit number One.

In some countries ‘The Essential’ release was sensibly delayed to give ‘The King’ more chart impact - and yet another Elvis #1 album - but otherwise you have to wonder what were BMG/Sony marketing thinking. In Australia, where ‘The Essential’ was issued towards the start of the year, ‘The King’ only reached #4 on the charts.

Continuous release of the same old compiles is exactly why The Beatles & Garth Brooks garner so many recognised "RIAA Gold Sales" and dominate Elvis in the gold sales statistics, when of course Elvis in absolute total must have sold more.

In this case both Elvis releases had exactly the same team working on them so there is no excuse. The Project Director was Iris Maenza, Coordinator Jennifer Liebeskind, A&R Administrator John Hudson etc. It seems that no one within this team ever discussed the timing of these releases and the potential sales & chart impact? Just as Colonel Parker pumped out "Burning Love and more crap from Elvis Movies Vol.2" at the point of Elvis’ 1972 renaissance, poor old Elvis’ horse must surely feel the same flogging this year.

In a smart marketing move some countries like Holland and South Africa have been allowed to vote on their favourite songs for inclusion in their ‘essential’ release. Why on earth wasn’t this marketing idea delayed until 2008 and made a worldwide campaign?

A real positive is that on both CDs producers Ernst Jorgensen & Roger Semon compiled the selection and the audio sounds fabulous with Vic Anesini, Kevan Budd and Sebastian Jeansson all involved in the re-mastering.

Click here to compare this album with EIN's review of 'The King'

The Essential Elvis Presley: Cover and Design
‘The Essential Elvis’ features some good colour images of Elvis along with an essay by Michael Hill on the importance of Elvis along with several classic photos from throughout Elvis’ career. The notes are to the point and informative including. . .

"The newspaper pundits of the day took a decidedly square view of Elvis, focusing on his seemingly salacious dance moves. In teenagers, his gyrations provoked rapture; in grownups, furor. After Elvis's second appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show,New York Times television critic Jack Gould, in his column, urged the leaders of the day - apparently without irony - to consider immediately adding sex education to public high school curriculums, to calm down youthful libidos in the wake of Elvis's nationally broadcast workouts.
Not everyone was quite so dismissive; in fact, fellow Times-man John S. Wilson penned a think-piece in 1957 that took Elvis seriously as a singer, articulating in a remarkably prescient way what scholars and fellow musicians would declare many years later: "There are several sides to Mr. Presley. He is a blues singer imbued with the spirit and style of those Negro country blues singers represented, at the peak, by Big Bill Broonzy (and it is probably no coincidence that both Mr. Presley and Mr. Broonzy come from Mississippi, a state that has nurtured this particular blues style). He has also absorbed that straightforward, unhokumed part of country singing that runs from Jimmie Rogers to Eddy Arnold. But he is not adverse to the nasal bathos of some country balladeers or to crossing this style with that of more sophisticated crooners." Among the many tracks here that support Wilson's thesis are "I Was The One," a ballad that Elvis himself considered his best recording back in `56, the blues number "Reconsider Baby," the gospel tune "Peace in the Valley," the socially conscious "In the Ghetto" and the beautifully arranged country-soul of "Kentucky Rain."

And later..

"Those who witnessed and reported on Elvis’ live performances describe an artist who, despite the outre outfits and outsized gestures of scarf-tossing and karate chops, offered a lesson in unparalleled charisma.
When Elvis played Manhattan in June 1972 for his first-ever shows there, New York Times writer Chris Chase declared, "Once in a great while, a special champion comes along, a Joe Louis... a Joe DiMaggio, someone in whose hands the way a thing is done is more important than the thing itself... Friday night at Madison Square Garden, Elvis was that. He stood there at the end, his arms stretched out, the great gold cloak giving him wings, a champion, the only one in his class." That is the essential Elvis: the only one in his class.
- Michael Hill

– a shame that a similar idea wasn’t used in the #1 album ‘The King’ as well.

In terms of cover design & booklet 'The Essential Elvis Presley' is the definite winner.

Sadly the #1 album ‘The King’ has no liner notes whatsoever and only 4 photographs, three of which are copied identically from this earlier ‘The Essential’ compile! Surely the design team could have found a few new images of "the most photographed" artist the world has ever known? It’s just plain laziness. The smouldering red & blue-eyed Elvis on ‘The King’ cover photo is however sensational.

(Right: A classic Elvis studio portrait from 'The Essential Elvis')

As always a quick glance through the sleeves picks up a few minor discrepancies
‘I Just Can’t Help Believing‘ is not the August 13th 1970 version as noted on ‘The Essential’ but the August 11th Master. ‘Suspicious Minds’ was recorded around 2am on January 23rd 1969 – ‘The King’ says Jan 22nd, ‘The Essential’ says Jan 23rd.

The Music
‘The Essential Elvis’ leads chronologically through his career, which being in three distinct decades 50s/60s/70s is hard to split into only two CDs. (‘The Artist Of The Century’ release perfected the three decade approach back in 1999 – see below).

Considering that nearly every music fan must own the ‘Elvis 30 #1s’ CD, this 40 track compile presents a good alternate view with only 15 classic #1 tracks repeated here.

CD 1 features ‘That’s All Right’ through to the wonderful ‘Little Sister’ and ends with ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’. Nice to hear 'Peace In The Valley' and 'Trouble' featured as well as the sensational 'Elvis At Sun' version of 'Mystery Train'. 'Reconsider Baby' is the upgraded "1,2,3" intro version as well.

The second CD starts with ‘Return To Sender’ and goes through to ‘Moody Blue' - the seventies represented by only 8 tracks.
It’s fascinating to consider that Elvis who jump-started Rock’n’Roll with ‘That’s All Right’ would end up singing a disco-lite number such as ‘Moody Blue’, and have a major hit with it.

On CD 2 it’s nice to have the audio delights of remastered ‘Big Boss Man’ and the original ‘A Little Less Conversation’ in chronological context. ‘Steamroller Blues’ and ‘Hurt’ are also nice additions.

Other tracks on ‘Essential Elvis’ that are not featured on ‘The King’ or the ‘Elvis 30 #1s’ compilation are; ‘Trouble’, ‘Baby Let’s Play House’, ‘Mystery Train’, ‘I Was The One’, ‘Reconsider Baby’, ‘Follow That Dream’, ‘Peace In The Valley’, ‘Bossa Nova Baby’, ‘Memories’, ‘Don't Cry Daddy’, ‘Kentucky Rain’, ‘Polk Salad Annie’ and ‘Little Sister’ - now how can that classic be missed off ‘The King’?

In the end why couldn’t BMG have released 25 tracks a side (CD 1 only runs 52 minutes) or even better a 3 CD set such as presented with ‘The Essential Bruce Springsteen’ – surely our man is as historically important?

Verdict: While I would have preferred the importance of Elvis’ legacy to have been reflected with a 3 CD set or 50 tracks the overall packaging, sleeve notes and the "a little different" track selection makes this a fine companion to the Sony/BMG ‘Essential’ series. The audio sparkles and the CDs present a good, if brief look at Elvis’ musical legacy. In the end if fans had bought this superior compile in the run up to the August 30th Anniversary there would be little need for them to then buy ‘The King.’ Maybe this is reflected in ‘The King’ only making #4 in the Australian album charts.

EIN Note: The majority of the tracks have been remastered by Vic Anesini previously, ie on the ‘Genre’ releases, for instance ‘Big Boss Man’ is from ‘R&B Genre’ and ‘Steamroller Blues’ was remastered for ‘Elvis By The Presleys’, ‘Hurt’ however is a new addition here in this quality.

Review by Piers Beagley
-Copyright EIN, November 2007

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The Essential Elvis Presley
BMG Jan 2007 release #82876890482

CD1: That's All Right Baby, Let's Play House, Mystery Train, Heartbreak Hotel, I Was The One, Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog, Don't Be Cruel, Love Me Tender, All Shook Up, Peace In The Valley, Jailhouse Rock, Trouble, Fever, It's Now Or Never, Reconsider Baby, Are You Lonesome Tonight, Little Sister, Follow That Dream, Can't Help Falling In Love.

CD2: Return To Sender, Devil In Disguise, Bossa Nova Baby, Viva Las Vegas, Big Boss Man, A Little Less Conversation, If I Can Dream, Memories, In The Ghetto, Suspicious Minds, Don't Cry Daddy, Kentucky Rain, Polk Salad Annie, The Wonder Of You, I Just Can't Help Believin', Burning Love, Always On My Mind, Steamroller Blues, Hurt, Moody Blue.


Go here for other relevant EIN articles:

Review - 'The King'

Spotlight - 'Why Elvis can't compete in album sales'

Review - 'Elvis 30 #1s'

Review - 'ELVIS R&B' 2006 CD

Review - 'Elvis At Sun'

Review - Elvis By The Presleys' CD

Interview with Kevan Budd

Artist Of The Century - Elvis Presley.
The 3CD collection released in 1999 that demonstrated Elvis’ musical impact across three decades. Supported by detailed liner notes along with quotes from fellow icons that serve as testimonials to Elvis' impact including James Brown, John Lennon, Janis Joplin and Nigel Patterson.

CD 1: 1.That's All Right, 2.Good Rockin' Tonight, 3.Baby Let's Play House, 4.Mystery Train, 5.Trying To Get To You, 6.Heartbreak Hotel, 7.Blue Suede Shoes 8.My Baby Left Me, 9.Lawdy, Miss Clawdy, 10.Hound Dog, 11.Any Way You Want Me, 12.Don't Be Cruel, 13.Love Me Tender, 14.Love Me, 15.Anyplace Is Paradise, 16.All Shook Up, 17.Got A Lot O' Livin' To Do!, 18.Teddy Bear, 19.One Night, 20.Jailhouse Rock, 21.Baby I Don't Care, 22.Treat Me Nice, 23.Don't, 24.Santa Claus Is Back In Town, 25.Trouble, 26.Hard Headed Woman, 27.Wear My Ring Around Your Neck, 28.Big Hunk O' Love, 29. A Fool Such As I,

CD2: 1.Stuck On You, 2.It's Now Or Never, 3.Are You Lonesome Tonight?, 4. A Mess Of Blues, 5.Like A Baby 6.The Girl Of My Best Friend, 7.Such A Night, 8.Reconsider Baby 9.Surrender, 10.Can't Help Falling In Love, 11.That's Someone You Never Forget, 12.Little Sister, 13.His Latest Flame, 14.Anything That's Part Of You, 15.Good Luck Charm, 16.She's Not You, 17.Return To Sender, 18.Devil In Disguise, 19.Memphis Tennessee, 20.It Hurts Me, 21.Down In The Alley, 22.Run On, 23.Tomorrow Is A Long Time, 24.Big Boss Man, 25.Guitar Man, 26.Tiger Man

CD3: 1.If I Can Dream, 2.In The Ghetto, 3.Suspicious Minds, 4.Don't Cry Daddy, 5.I'll Hold You In My Heart, 6.Stranger In My Own Home Town, 7.After Loving You, 8.Only The Strong Survive, 9.The Wonder Of You, 10.Polk Salad Annie, 11.I've Lost You, 12.You Don't Have To Say You Love Me, 13.I Just Can't Help Believin', 14.Merry Christmas Baby, 15.I'm Leavin', 16. An American Trilogy, 17.Burning Love, 18.Always On My Mind, 19.Promised Land, 20.For The Heart










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