Elvis Masters: The Ultimate Countdown – Part 1

Elvis Presley in 1961 (United Artists)

Elvis Presley in 1961 (United Artists)

In his 23-year career as an entertainer, Elvis Presley released 711 master recordings. This year is the 45th anniversary of his death, and attempting to rank all of those recordings from worst to best is the ridiculous, over-the-top way I have chosen to mark the occasion here on The Mystery Train.

Portions of this list presented unexpected challenges – especially today’s entries. I usually try to keep things positive here on The Mystery Train, so I have never done a “Worst of Elvis” type of ranking. It’s one thing to analyze the merits of 1972’s “Burning Love” versus 1956’s “Love Me” to determine which is better. It is quite a different thing to assess the failings of 1965’s “What Every Woman Lives For” versus 1956’s “We’re Gonna Move” to determine which is worse.

As always, this is one fan’s opinion. For many of the songs, I have included links to the official recordings on YouTube so that, if you dare, you can listen for yourself and make your own judgments (I am not sure if the YouTube videos will function outside of the U.S. – if not, my apologies).

As noted, we are starting at the bottom – which is dominated by movie tunes and illustrates just how destructive those soundtracks were on Elvis’ body of work. Yes, some of the tunes work a little better within the context of the actual films, but that doesn’t mean they should have come out on record. Elvis should not have wasted his gift in this way.

It will take us a little while to get to the good stuff, but come aboard now and get strapped in to your seat. The ride will be a little bumpy in the beginning. We begin with the Poor/Horrible category.

#711 Confidence (1967)
Clambake
Comment: As the worst Elvis song released in his lifetime, “Confidence” also earns the “distinctions” of being the worst of his 1960s master recordings and the worst of his movie masters.

#710 Wolf Call (1964)
Girl Happy

#709 Barefoot Ballad (1963)
Kissin’ Cousins

#708 A Cane And A High Starched Collar (1960)
A Legendary Performer, Volume 2

#707 Scratch My Back (1965)
Paradise, Hawaiian Style

#706 A Dog’s Life (1965)
Paradise, Hawaiian Style

#705 Datin’ (1965)
Paradise, Hawaiian Style

#704 Yoga Is As Yoga Does (1966)
I Got Lucky

#703 I’m Not The Marrying Kind (1961)
C’mon Everybody

#702 What Every Woman Lives For (1965)
Frankie And Johnny

#701 We’re Gonna Move (1956)
A Date With Elvis
Comment: Recorded for the movie Love Me Tender, “We’re Gonna Move” is the worst of Elvis’ 1950s masters. It narrowly escapes being recognized as one of the ten worst masters of his entire career.

#700 Fort Lauderdale Chamber Of Commerce (1964)
Girl Happy

#699 Poor Boy (1956)
For LP Fans Only

#698 Startin’ Tonight (1964)
Girl Happy

#697 There’s Gold In The Mountains (1963)
Kissin’ Cousins

#696 Petunia, The Gardener’s Daughter (1965)
with Eileen Wilson
Frankie And Johnny

#695 Who Needs Money (1967)
with Ray Walker
Clambake

#694 Look Out, Broadway (1965)
with Eileen Wilson and Ray Walker
Frankie And Johnny

#693 Go East, Young Man (1965)
Harum Scarum

#692 Golden Coins (1965)
Harum Scarum

#691 Kissin’ Cousins No. 2 (1963)
Kissin’ Cousins

#690 House Of Sand (1965)
Paradise, Hawaiian Style

#689 Carny Town (1964)
Roustabout

#688 Big Love, Big Heartache (1964)
Roustabout

#687 Spring Fever (1964)
Girl Happy

#686 Poison Ivy League (1964)
Roustabout

#685 Stop Where You Are (1965)
Paradise, Hawaiian Style

#684 Everybody Come Aboard (1965)
Frankie And Johnny

#683 Lonesome Cowboy (1957)
Loving You

#682 Steadfast, Loyal And True (1958)
King Creole

#681 This Is Living (1961)
C’mon Everybody

#680 The Walls Have Ears (1962)
Girls! Girls! Girls!

#679 Sound Advice (1961)
Elvis For Everyone!

#678 Wisdom Of The Ages (1965)
Harum Scarum

#677 Smokey Mountain Boy (1963)
Kissin’ Cousins

#676 And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind (1969)
From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis
Comment: “And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind” is the worst of Elvis’ non-movie masters and the worst of his mostly stellar American Sound sessions from 1969.

#675 Chesay (1965)
Frankie And Johnny

#674 Little Egypt (1964)
Roustabout

#673 Let Me (1956)
Worldwide Gold Award Hits, Volume 2

#672 Hot Dog (1957)
Loving You

#671 Padre (1971)
Elvis (Fool)
Comment: “Padre” is the worst of Elvis’ 1970s masters. In 1958, Elvis name-checked Toni Arden‘s “Padre” as his favorite song. It is unfortunate that his own recording 13 years later is so uninspired. I’m a firm believer that much of Elvis’ 1970s material is underrated, but “Padre” is tough to defend.

#670 If That Isn’t Love (1973)
Good Times

#669 She Wears My Ring (1973)
Good Times

#668 Mama (1962)
Let’s Be Friends

#667 Shake That Tambourine (1965)
Harum Scarum

#666 Earth Boy (1962)
Girls! Girls! Girls!

#665 Kismet (1965)
Harum Scarum

#664 Catchin’ On Fast (1963)
Kissin’ Cousins

#663 He’s Your Uncle, Not Your Dad (1967)
Speedway

#662 Mirage (1965)
Harum Scarum

#661 Big Boots (1960)
G.I. Blues

#660 No Room To Rhumba In A Sports Car (1963)
Fun In Acapulco

#659 Blue River (1963)
Double Trouble

#658 Sing You Children (1966)
You’ll Never Walk Alone

#657 She’s A Machine (1966)
Singer Presents Elvis Singing Flaming Star And Others

#656 Smorgasbord (1966)
Spinout

#655 I Love Only One Girl (1966)
Double Trouble

#654 Wheels On My Heels (1964)
Roustabout

#653 Take Me To The Fair (1962)
It Happened At The World’s Fair

#652 The Yellow Rose Of Texas/The Eyes Of Texas (1963)
Singer Presents Elvis Singing Flaming Star And Others

#651 Western Union (1963)
Speedway

#650 In Your Arms (1961)
Something For Everybody

#649 It Ain’t No Big Thing (1970)
Love Letters From Elvis

#648 Woman Without Love (1975)
Today

#647 Song Of The Shrimp (1962)
Girls! Girls! Girls!
Comment: The fact that a movie tune in which Elvis sings from the first-person perspective of a shrimp is not even close to being the worst song on this list is a testament to the utter horribleness of the above songs.

#646 It’s Carnival Time (1964)
Roustabout
Comment: From “It’s Carnival Time” at #646 and below in today’s list, the songs transition from Poor/Horrible to the Below Average/For Elvis Fans Only category.

#645 One Boy, Two Little Girls (1963)
Kissin’ Cousins

#644 Hey, Hey, Hey (1967)
Clambake

#643 It Won’t Be Long (1966)
Double Trouble

#642 You Can’t Say No In Acapulco (1963)
Fun In Acapulco

#641 I’m Falling In Love Tonight (1962)
It Happened At The World’s Fair

#640 Miracle Of The Rosary (1971)
Elvis Now

#639 I’m Yours (1961)
Pot Luck With Elvis

#638 Happy Ending (1962)
It Happened At The World’s Fair

#637 The Love Machine (1966)
I Got Lucky

#636 Queenie Wahine’s Papaya (1965)
Paradise, Hawaiian Style

#635 Baby, If You’ll Give Me All Of Your Love (1966)
Double Trouble

#634 Shout It Out (1965)
Frankie And Johnny

#633 There Is So Much World To See (1966)
Double Trouble

#632 Do The Clam (1964)
Girl Happy

#631 Adam And Evil (1966)
Spinout

#630 The Meanest Girl In Town (1964)
Girl Happy

#629 There Ain’t Nothing Like A Song (1967)
with Nancy Sinatra
Speedway

#628 I’ll Be Back (1966)
Spinout

#627 Come Along (1965)
Frankie And Johnny

#626 Three Corn Patches (1973)
Raised On Rock

#625 I Love You Because (1954)
Elvis Presley
Comment: “I Love You Because,” one of Elvis’ very first recordings, is the lowest ranked of his legendary Sun sessions.

#624 When I’m Over You (1970)
Love Letters From Elvis

#623 Lover Doll (1958)
Worldwide Gold Award Hits, Volume 2

#622 For The Millionth And The Last Time (1961)
Elvis For Everyone!

#621 A World Of Our Own (1962)
It Happened At The World’s Fair

#620 If I Were You (1970)
Love Letters From Elvis

#619 Echoes Of Love (1963)
Kissin’ Cousins

#618 There Is No God But God (1971)
He Touched Me

#617 Reach Out To Jesus (1971)
He Touched Me

#616 Wooden Heart (1960)
G.I. Blues

#615 Do Not Disturb (1964)
Girl Happy

#614 I’ve Got To Find My Baby (1964)
Girl Happy

#613 Who Am I (1969)
You’ll Never Walk Alone

#612 Tell Me Why (1957)
Worldwide Gold Award Hits, Volume 2

#611 Girl Of Mine (1973)
Raised On Rock

#610 Susan When She Tried (1975)
Today

#609 Relax (1962)
It Happened At The World’s Fair

#608 You Gotta Stop (1966)
I Got Lucky

#607 What’s She Really Like (1960)
G.I. Blues

#606 Just A Little Bit (1973)
Raised On Rock

#605 Just For Old Time Sake (1962)
Pot Luck With Elvis

#604 Harem Holiday (1965)
Harum Scarum

#603 Tonight’s All Right For Love (1960)
A Legendary Performer, Volume 1

#602 How Would You Like To Be (1962)
It Happened At The World’s Fair

#601 A Whistling Tune (1961)
C’mon Everybody

To Be Continued . . .

Read Part 2


“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”
Luke 16:13

17 thoughts on “Elvis Masters: The Ultimate Countdown – Part 1

    • Yes, at least from my perspective, 65 “poor” songs out of his 711 masters. So just over 9%. Of course, that 9% is probably much higher if you include posthumous releases – alternate takes for the same poor movie tunes as well as 1976 soundboards come to mind. Or maybe it all balances out to the same.

      That said, the next category up, beginning with #646 and continuing into the next post in this series, I classify as “Below Average/For Elvis Fans Only.” Us Elvis fans might listen to them because we love him, but they are still not songs I would play for the general public – except, perhaps, to illustrate why the 1968 ELVIS TV special later became known as the Comeback Special.

      This is one of the issues I have with the Sirius XM Elvis Radio channel. They play Elvis tracks without discernment. That channel is a potential gateway for the general public. It should be carefully programmed. When it is available for free listening, I usually can’t stomach the Elvis Radio channel because they play the horrible recordings right along with the masterpieces – again, with no discernment applied.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hear you about Sirius. No context whatsoever. Next up is a little ditty from Clambake. It was used in the scene…so please excuse… or whatever. Some explanation! Datin’ followed by Only the Strong Survive? It can be frustrating.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I guess you could explain the context, but my question would be, why even play “Confidence” or “Datin'” on Sirius XM Elvis Radio at all? There are literally thousands of better Elvis tracks.

          Your scenario of “Datin'” followed by “Only The Strong Survive” made me chuckle, though. Though these two songs are diametrically opposed in terms of quality, “Only The Strong Survive” could certainly be a sequel to “Datin'” in terms of the storyline of both songs.

          Like

  1. More thoughts occur to me the more I read; all those movie songs. I can’t disagree but it’s funny. The charm of the movies themselves comes to mind when I think of those songs. They have that glow to them but of course strictly as songs they are poor.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a subjective task to perform, i give you kudos. I look in amazement at your listed songs with beautiful vocals such as If That Isn’t Love or Who Am I or Big Love, Big Heartache and you have then pipped by the likes of Harum Holiday? Sure does come down to individual taste. ;) Looking forward to part 2.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for commenting, Ray. As I mentioned at the beginning, this is but one fan’s opinion – which, in reality, is true of The Mystery Train Elvis Blog in its entirety.

      I am not smart enough to devise an objective way to rank 711 songs. Do you go by sales? Chart position? Radio airplay? Cultural influence? Technical achievement? Complexity?

      For me, Elvis music is, inherently, all about feel. Feeling, by its nature, is subjective.

      While Elvis’ vocals can often elevate lesser material – such as “Harem Holiday” at #604, which he pulls up at least into a song worth hearing by Elvis fans – his vocals, conversely, occasionally let a song down.

      As a Christian, I like the message of both “If That Isn’t Love” and “Who Am I.”

      However, at #670 out of 711, I rank “If That Isn’t Love” as a poor song in Elvis’ body of work. It feels to me that Elvis is trying too hard on the vocals – much as he does with the similarly-ranked “She Wears My Ring” (#669) from the same session. This holds true for all five variants of “If That Isn’t Love” in my Elvis collection.

      “Who Am I” comes in at #613, part of the worth hearing for Elvis fans category. I much prefer the undubbed version of this master, first released on 2013’s From Elvis At American Sound Studio (FTD), which I would rate in the great category. The simpler approach does the song wonders.

      “Big Love, Big Heartache” is the worst of the masters you referenced, coming in at #688. This gives it the “distinction” of being the 24th worst Elvis master, if we were doing a “worst of” list. Among several other issues, it suffers from too much Jordanaires – who are a detriment to many an Elvis song.

      Incidentally, I love the piano on “Harem Holiday,” which gives the song a fun feel, despite the insipid lyrics.

      A challenge of this series has been comparing poor, below average, and mediocre songs in order to rank them. However, I wanted to do all 711 masters instead of making it the “Top 425” or whatever. Perhaps that was a mistake, as his best work won’t really kick in until the third post.

      I’m aware that some fans think everything Elvis touched was golden, and they would essentially give his masters a 711-way tie for “Most Incredible Performance By A Human In The History Of The World,” but I am not one of those, and, besides, that would make for a pretty boring post. (Incidentally, I am not saying this “everything Elvis touched was golden” mentality is true of you, Ray, just something I thought of while writing out this reply in general.)

      Thanks again for commenting. You inspired a comment from me that might well have been its own blog post.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Elvis Masters: The Ultimate Countdown – Part 2 – The Mystery Train Elvis Blog

  4. My brother, I applaud your tenacity in even ATTEMPTING such a Herculean feat like this, and it’s going to be fun to see how the entire list shakes out. As you said, it does indeed come down to personal taste, preference & opinion on a list like this. I can agree for the most part on your list so far, although there are a couple songs I could rate higher personally. One glaring omission thus far though must be OLD MACDONALD. How that song missed being in the bottom portion of your list is a mystery, and I look forward to hearing your rationale on THAT one! LOL! 🤣

    I can’t wait to see how the list continues and again, I applaud your efforts here not only on this list, but on your blog in general! I ALWAYS look forward to my trips on THE MYSTERY TRAIN!

    TCB MY BROTHER! ⚡😎

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Mike, great to hear from you! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Trying to rank these lower tiers of the Elvis catalog has certainly been a challenge. In Part 3, we’ll finally start getting into his above average recordings, so things will become a bit more fun.

      As for “Old MacDonald,” I do tend to rank it higher than the “typical Elvis fan” (whoever that is). The same goes for “Winter Wonderland,” his studio version of “Hey Jude,” and probably quite a few others. Conversely, there are some “classics” I rank a bit lower than some might anticipate. I go by how it feels to hear them.

      Thanks for the kind comments. You are always welcome aboard The Mystery Train. The train tends to move in fits and starts, and we don’t always get somewhere, but our adventure is about the journey, not the destination.

      Blessings to you, Mike.

      Like

      • Thank you so much my brother for the kind words! You are 100% right when it comes to being the journey, not necessarily the destination. You seem to be like me, in that a particular topic or story really has to hit me to be able to write a story/opinion on it. I’m not one to write just for the sake of writing something, so it only makes me appreciate it more when you post something new as I feel you are the same as me in that regard! (sorry for rambling a bit there 😉)

        I’m DEFINITELY anxious to see how the list shakes out in the end. There are some movie songs, for instance, that while not artistic masterpieces, are just fun to listen to sometimes. So a list like this certainly does come down to personal taste but nevertheless is fun to read & debate.

        Again, thank you so much my brother for all your hard work conducting the Mystery Train and I continue to look forward to what’s coming up “Beyond The Bend”! 😉

        TCB Brother! ⚡😎

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Elvis Masters: The Ultimate Countdown – Part 3 – The Mystery Train Elvis Blog

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  7. Pingback: Elvis Masters: The Ultimate Countdown – Part 5 – The Mystery Train Elvis Blog

  8. Pingback: The 100 Greatest Elvis Presley Master Recordings – The Mystery Train Elvis Blog

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