A few months ago, I spent three weeks listening in release order to all Elvis albums issued during his lifetime. Though I owned these songs for years, I had never played them in such a sequential manner before. I probably never would have, either, were it not for the convenience of modern technology – using iTunes and my iPod.
All of the great coverage around the web about Sony’s The Complete Elvis Presley Masters collection inspired me to undertake a similar journey in recent weeks. Using the Elvis Presley master recordings list as a guide, I created a new playlist to listen to all of the songs in recording order this time. While I was at it, I also tagged each song with a number so that I can easily sort them by recording order in the future.
It took me only two weeks to listen to over 700 Elvis songs, and it was an even better listening experience this way. As expected, the hardest years for me to sludge through were 1964 and 1965 (from about “Poison Ivy League” on down to “Queenie Wahine’s Papaya”). Even then, there were the occasional highlights like “Please Don’t Stop Loving Me” or “This Is My Heaven” – but most songs from this time represent the worst of the movie tunes.
Outside of that long rough spot, though, playing the songs in a coherent fashion like this made it even more obvious how solid most of his other recordings were over the years. It really made me appreciate the “sound” of individual sessions, something that is not always evident when listening to many of his albums. As a fan, it was an emotional experience as well, even more so than listening to them as albums.
When the Graceland sessions came to a close with “He’ll Have To Go,” I realized there were only three Elvis recordings left before he did just that. As he sang “If You Love Me,” and “Little Darlin’,” I knew the inevitable was coming. It was going by so fast, I wanted it to slow down, I wanted it not to happen this time.
He launched into his breathtaking version of “Unchained Melody” and when it was over . . . silence.
I sat and listened to that silence for awhile . . . and thought about what it represented.