INTRO: ‘The King’ vs ‘The Essential Elvis Presley‘
Two very similar double CD Elvis ‘Greatest Hits’ compiles were released by BMG in the first half of 2007. EIN examines them both and 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 this 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 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.
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 Essential Elvis Presley'
The King; Cover and Design
In terms of design the #1 album ‘The King’ has the sensational, smouldering red & blue-eyed Elvis on the front cover. However it contains no liner notes whatsoever and only 3 other black & white photographs all copied identically from the earlier ‘The Essential Elvis’ compile! Surely the design team could have found a few new images of "the most photographed" artist the world has ever known? It is just plain laziness, or cheapness.
Shouldn’t the photos within an album called ‘The King’ reflect exactly that? There are so many ideas that any fan could come up with. Why not an iconic fifties photo to illustrate "The King Of Rock’n’Roll", another Jailhouse Rock image for "Celluloid King", a ‘68 leather image for "Comeback King", a TTWII jumpsuit for "King of Vegas" and the ultimate Aloha photo for "King of The World"? But there are none of these.
It seems that less than 10 minutes was spent on the overall look & design. Art company Peacock are credited, although their other work, FTDs etc, is usually first rate.
(Right: A black & white portrait of Elvis sweating from 'The King' booklet. Hardly an image of the "King Of Vegas". The same photo was used in better context in 'The Essential Elvis'.)
There is also an annoying discrepancy on the cover as ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’ is not the April 1960 version as indicated but the live 1969 "laughing" version.
Some liner notes (as featured on ‘The Essential Elvis’) would have also been a nice touch. There are none, - however I suggest the following could have been used . .
"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." Elvis The King: the only one in his class."
(With thanks to Michael Hill - see 'The Essential Elvis')
The King: The Music
‘The King’ features 52 tracks - 18 from the fifties, 20 from the sixties and 13 from the seventies plus the JXL ‘A.L.L.C’ remix. Elvis’ original ‘If I Can Dream’ is cleverly added as a "Bonus Track" cashing in on the recent Celine Dion duet publicity.
There is no obvious theme to the order of the songs except that most ballads are kept to CD2 while all the fifties tracks are on CD1. The exception is ‘Don’t’ on CD2 but as a sweet ballad it could have come from any era.
Here is a real Elvis conundrum that compilers Ernst Jorgensen & Roger Semon had to face when choosing this key "classic hits" selection for Elvis’ 30th Anniversary year. ‘Suspicious Minds’ had to be the lead track - a good and different idea as most compiles are chronological - but what on earth can you follow it with?
Unfortunately the jump straight back to 1956 and ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ seems a little abrupt here. I know that "everyone’s a critic" but I am surprised that an early sixties track (ie ‘His Latest Fame’) couldn’t have been used instead to make it a smoother transition.
Considering that nearly every family must own the ‘Elvis 30 #1s’ CD it is also somewhat of a shame that this 52 track selection repeats every single one of those same classic number #1 tracks – and then leaves off ‘Little Sister’! Surely familiarity also breeds contempt– and please not ‘Wooden Heart’ yet again!
Having said that CD2 plays quite nicely, although I’m not sure of the silliness of ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight? ’ (laughing version) following the sincerity of ‘An American Trilogy’. Interestingly ‘The Wonder of You’ segues straight into ‘I Just Can’t Help Believin’’ which follows - whereas all the other live tracks stand alone. The CD also features a classic closing quartet of ‘Moody Blue’/’Way Down’/’My Way’ and ‘If I Can Dream’.
On CD1 ‘Love Me Tender’ is the mono master version and it’s interesting to hear ‘That’s All Right’ placed in the middle of the CD between ‘Party’ and the classic ‘One Night’. One positive is that the true single Master of ‘A Big Hunk O’ Love’ with the take 3/4 piano solo splice is featured here. (Thanks to Kevan Budd's work on the FTD 'Elvis' Gold Records Vol.2'). The funky ‘A.L.L.C’ remix sounds just fine after ‘Guitar Man’ but the "Bonus Track" of ‘Welcome To My World’ that follows sounds woefully out-of-place.
Nice "new" additions for Greatest Hits purchasers might be ‘Wear My Ring Around Your Neck’, ‘A Mess Of Blues’, ‘Party’ (a UK #2), ‘My Boy’, ‘Green Green Grass Of Home’, ‘Welcome To My World’ and possibly ‘I Just Can't Help Believin' - and it is nice to have the kick-ass ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ in there too.
Sorely missed out is ‘Little Sister’ and maybe even the 70’s funk of ‘Polk Salad Annie’ – but let’s hope the real fans also bought the sensational 2007 ‘Viva Las Vegas’ live double CD.
Of course due to the timing and marketing ‘The King’ became an international number One – so why complain? But surely BMG/SONY could have provided a little more interesting content for the public? And couldn’t a little more thought have been put into the overall design of this milestone album? For instance the blank page behind the CD could have at least shown more classic Elvis album covers – or a suggestion to buy 2007’s ‘At The Movies' or ‘Viva Las Vegas.’
Verdict: Another international Number One album for Elvis – and that can’t be bad. The audio upgrade sparkles and the second CD captures some fine moments. It is just shame that while the CDs present all of Elvis’ "Greatest Hits" again for the umpteenth time, surely a little more thought & design could have gone into this money-making compilation. BMG/SONY will certainly be laughing all the way to the bank with this one - and did I mention that they left off ‘Little Sister’!!
Review by Piers Beagley
-Copyright EIN, November 2007
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Elvis 'The King'
BMG August 2007 release #88697118042
CD1 : 1 Suspicious Minds 2 Blue Suede Shoes 3 Jailhouse Rock 4 Love Me Tender 5 Don't Be Cruel 6 King Creole 7 Hard Headed Woman 8 All Shook Up 9 Hound Dog 10 Too Much 11 Heartbreak Hotel 12 Teddy Bear 13 Party 14 That's All Right 15 One Night 16 A Fool Such As I 17 A Big Hunk O' Love 18 Wear My Ring Around Your Neck 19 Crying In The Chapel 20 Stuck On You 21 Wooden Heart 22 Viva Las Vegas 23 Devil In Disguise 24 Guitar Man 25 A Little Less Conversation (JXL remix). 26 Bonus track – Welcome To My World
CD2 : 1 In The Ghetto 2 Burning Love 3 Always On My Mind 4 The Wonder Of You 5 I Just Can’t Help Believin’ 6 There Goes My Everything 7 You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me 8 An American Trilogy 9 Are You Lonesome Tonight (Laughing Version) 10 My Boy 11 Green Green Grass Of Home 12 Can’t Help Falling In Love 13 Rock A Hula Baby 14 Return To Sender 15 Don’t 16 His Latest Flame 17 Good Luck Charm 18 Surrender 19 She’s Not You 20 A Mess Of Blues 21 It’s Now Or Never 22 Fever 23 Moody Blue 24 Way Down 25 My Way. 26 Bonus track – If I Can Dream
Go here for other relevant EIN articles:
Review - 'The Essential Elvis Presley'
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