(Now and Then There’s) An April Fool Such as I

This fool is rushing in to bring you a ranking of Elvis’ greatest fool songs! (Or should that be his most foolish songs?)

#1 A Fool Such As I (1958)
50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong: Elvis’ Gold Records Volume 2
Other notable versions: 1970 rehearsal (That’s The Way It Is [2000 Special Edition]); 1961 live (Elvis Aron Presley).

#2 The Fool (1970)
Elvis Country
Other notable version: 1959 informal (A Golden Celebration).

#3 Fool (1972)
Elvis (Fool)

The cover of Elvis' "Fool" single (released March 1973)

The cover of Elvis’ “Fool” single, released March 1973 (RCA)

#4 Fools Rush In (Informal-1966)
In A Private Moment
Other notable version: 1971 master (Elvis Now).

#5 Fools Fall In Love (1966)
I Got Lucky

#6 If I’m A Fool (1969)
Let’s Be Friends

#7 Fool, Fool, Fool (Demo-1955)
The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll

BONUS: Love Me (“Treat Me Like A Fool”) (1956)
Elvis
Other notable versions: 1956 Live (Young Man With The Big Beat), 1968 Live (Memories), 1956 Live (A Golden Celebration), 1970 Live (That’s The Way It Is [2000 Special Edition]), 1968 Rehearsal (Burbank 68), 1970 Live (Live In Las Vegas)

“Love Me” is a late add, suggested by Thomas in the comments. While I’m showing it as a bonus “fool” song, it would actually come in at #1 on this list, pushing all of the others down by one position.

[Originally Published April 1, 2010; revised April 1, 2013, April 1, 2021, & April 2, 2021]


“Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.”
Proverb 17:28

Elvis: The Ultimate Live Top Ten Hits (Part 4)

This is the finale of a four post series covering Elvis Presley’s best officially-released live recording of each of his US top ten hits.

[Read Part 3]

Released as a 2-LP set in 1987, The Top Ten Hits contained all 38 of Elvis’ top 10 hits on Billboard‘s key US charts. Other than a few outliers that failed to make the top 10 and are not on the set (“Blue Suede Shoes,” “Blue Christmas,” “Viva Las Vegas,” “My Way,” and “A Little Less Conversation”), it includes all of his most famous songs for the general public. Indeed, outside of boxed sets, The Top Ten Hits remains one of the most comprehensive Elvis releases to date when it comes to mainstream songs.

Today’s post will feature hits included on Side D of The Top Ten Hits, most of which were studio recordings on the original album.

01. Return To Sender (hit version recorded 1962)
Ultimate Live Version: August 1, 1976, Hampton Roads, VA, New Haven ’76
Per request, Elvis performs “Return To Sender” off the top of his head at a concert in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Included as a bonus track on New Haven ’76, this is the only officially released live version of the song. Considering it was recorded in 1976, the nadir of Elvis concert years, it actually isn’t horrible.

02. Devil In Disguise (hit version recorded 1963)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
It is unfortunate that Elvis never performed live in the mid-1960s. This song would surely have resulted in a classic rendition at that time.

03. Bossa Nova Baby (hit version recorded 1963)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
A medley of “Return To Sender” and “Bossa Nova Baby” might have been fun in his 1969 live shows to acknowledge a couple of hit songs from his 1960s movies.

04. Crying In The Chapel (hit version recorded 1960)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
Voice-wise, 1968 probably would have been the best time for Elvis to have performed “Crying In The Chapel” live. I don’t see where it would really fit in any of his four shows captured for the ELVIS special, though. August 1970 probably would have been a good vocal opportunity for it, too. I would love to hear the Blossoms or the Sweet Inspirations backing Elvis on this instead of the Jordanaires.

Elvis Presley performs “The Wonder Of You” at the August 13, 1970, Dinner Show, in Las Vegas, Nevada, captured for the ELVIS: THAT’S THE WAY IT IS documentary film (MGM)

05. In The Ghetto (hit version recorded 1969)
Ultimate Live Version: August 26, 1969, Dinner Show, Las Vegas, NV, From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis [Elvis In Person]
Elvis’ live versions of “In The Ghetto” never quite lived up to the studio versions. While he usually performed it strongly, he never seems as “into” the song. A stripped-down version, with just Elvis and an acoustic guitar would have been ideal.

06. Suspicious Minds (hit version recorded 1969)
Ultimate Live Version: August 25, 1969, Midnight Show, Hot August Night
An apparent mistake is actually what gives this live version of “Suspicious Minds” an edge over other stellar versions recorded in the same concert series. After James Burton’s opening guitar solo, Elvis fails to begin singing, so Burton continues the solo. Overall, this live version is even better than the studio master.

07. Don’t Cry Daddy (hit version recorded 1969)
Ultimate Live Version: February 18, 1970, Dinner Show, Las Vegas, NV, Greatest Hits, Volume One
While I love “Don’t Cry Daddy,” it does not work as well in a live concert setting, and I can understand why Elvis dropped it by 1971. That said, this live version is top-notch.

08. The Wonder Of You (hit version recorded live, February 18, 1970, Midnight Show, Las Vegas, NV, On Stage)
Ultimate Live Version (after hit recorded):
August 13, 1970, Dinner Show, Las Vegas, NV, The Way It Was
I have found that time behaves inconsistently in certain situations and for certain people. Elvis’ entire career, for instance, was compressed into about 21 years, yet he left a wealth of material behind that continues to forge his musical legacy. Elvis released his February 1970 live version of “The Wonder Of You” as a single in April 1970, and it peaked at number nine on June 27, 1970. Less than two months later, during one of the concerts captured for the MGM documentary movie Elvis: That’s The Way It Is, he introduces this August 1970 live recording by stating, “I had a record out last year that–-this year . . . this year, wasn’t it?–-that did pretty good for me. I’d like to sing it for you.” In this case, two to four months in “Elvis time” was like a year in normal time.

09. Burning Love (hit version recorded 1972)
Ultimate Live Version: April 18, 1972, San Antonio, TX, Close Up
Featured in the documentary movie Elvis On Tour (MGM, 1972), this rockin’ version of “Burning Love” exceeds any other live renditions released thus far. The March 1972 studio master remains the best, however.

Well, that about wraps things up for our look at Elvis’ best officially released live recordings of his hit songs. Over 43 years after his death, Elvis Presley concert recordings continue to surface. With that in mind, we may have to check in on these live hits again in a few years.

Thanks for reading.

Your Conductor,
TY


“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”
John 14:1

Elvis: The Ultimate Live Top Ten Hits (Part 3)

This is Part 3 of a series of 4 posts covering Elvis Presley’s best officially-released live recording of each of his US top ten hits.

[Read Part 2]

Today’s post features hits included on Side C of The Top Ten Hits (1987), all of which were studio recordings on the original album.

01. Stuck On You (hit version recorded 1960)
Ultimate Live Version: March 26, 1960, Miami, FL, A Life In Music
Three weeks after Elvis finished his two-year stint in the US Army, he taped a television special with the legendary Frank Sinatra, The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: It’s Nice To Go Traveling – Welcome Home Elvis. The program also starred Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop, and Nancy Sinatra. In front of the studio audience, Elvis performed both sides of his new single. A strong rendition, this is the only live version of “Stuck On You” to have surfaced to date.

Elvis Presley performs “Stuck On You” on March 26, 1960, as part of the WELCOME HOME ELVIS special (ABC)

02. It’s Now Or Never (hit version recorded 1960)
Ultimate Live Version: February 23, 1970, Closing Show, Las Vegas, NV, The On Stage Season: The Opening And Closing Shows 1970
When seeing Elvis in Las Vegas, some of the best shows to catch were either the Opening Show that began a concert engagement or the Closing Show that ended one. In the Closing Show that concluded his January 26-February 23 concert series at the International Hotel in 1970, Elvis sang an off-the-cuff yet solid version of “It’s Now Or Never.”

03. Are You Lonesome Tonight (hit version recorded 1960)
Ultimate Live Version: August 26, 1969, Midnight Show, Las Vegas, NV, Elvis Aron Presley
In one segment of each of his 1969 live shows, Elvis played electric guitar on a few songs. During this portion at the August 26 Midnight Show, Elvis begins a version of “Are You Lonesome Tonight” that sounds fairly normal at the beginning before he makes a humorous lyric replacement and breaks down into fits of laughter as soaring soprano Cissy Houston of the Sweet Inspirations continues diligently to sing in the background without missing a note. This only makes Elvis more hysterical. Elvis often had fun with “Are You Lonesome Tonight” on stage, but this version, which I refer to as “Are You Laughing Tonight,” by far, is the most endearing. If you want a “serious” version, though, I point you to the August 25, 1969, Midnight Show, from the previous night – first released on Hot August Night.

04. Surrender (hit version recorded 1960)
Ultimate Live Version: August 21, 1969, Midnight Show, Las Vegas, NV, Collectors Gold
Sure, it lasts less than 30 seconds and consists only of Elvis singing “la-da-da-da-da-da-da-daah”‘s instead of the actual lyrics to “Surrender,” but it is the longer of the only two live versions officially released. Oddly enough, I enjoy listening to it.

05. I Feel So Bad (hit version recorded 1961)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
If only Elvis had attempted “I Feel So Bad” during one of the 1968 “Sit Down” shows or rehearsals for the ELVIS special.

06. Little Sister (hit version recorded 1961)
Ultimate Live Version: August 12, 1970, Midnight Show, Elvis Aron Presley
Rare in his 1970 shows (and permanently absent by 1972, as far as I know), Elvis includes a segment where he plays electric guitar at this show – my favorite concert ever released. Captured for Elvis: That’s The Way It Is, he kicks that portion off with a great version of “Little Sister.”

07. His Latest Flame (hit version recorded 1961)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
“His Latest Flame” surely would have been terrific had he performed it at that same August 12, 1970, concert.

08. Can’t Help Falling In Love (hit version recorded 1961)
Ultimate Live Version: June 29, 1968, 6 PM Show, Burbank, CA, ELVIS-TV Special
Almost as good as the studio master.

09. Good Luck Charm (hit version recorded 1961)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
While I enjoy the studio recording for what it is, it is no big loss that Elvis apparently never performed “Good Luck Charm” live.

10. She’s Not You (hit version recorded 1962)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
During rehearsals captured for Elvis On Tour (1972), Elvis made a surprise attempt at “Young And Beautiful” from 1957’s Jailhouse Rock. Unfortunately, it appears he never performed that one live. Along the same lines, I imagine “She’s Not You” would have suited his voice just as well in 1972.

Next time, we’ll wrap up our look at Elvis’ best officially released live recordings of his hit songs. Until then, take care. Thank you for reading.

Blessings,
TY

[Read Part 4]


“Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:17-18

Elvis: The Ultimate Live Top Ten Hits (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a series of 4 posts covering Elvis Presley’s best live recording, of those officially released, for each of his US top ten hits.

[Read Part 1]

Today’s post features hits included on Side B of The Top Ten Hits (1987), all of which were studio recordings on the original album.

01. Don’t (hit version recorded 1957)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
Though a live version of “Don’t” has never been released, there is a rehearsal version from July 29, 1970, that can be used to imagine what it might have been like. The rehearsal was first released on 1992’s Elvis: The Lost Performances VHS and Laserdisc. It appeared in last year’s That’s The Way It Is: Collector’s Edition book & CD set. A truncated version of the “Don’t” rehearsal also appeared on the A Life In Music CD set (1997) and the That’s The Way It Is: Deluxe Edition CD & DVD set (2014).

02. I Beg Of You (hit version recorded 1957)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
This is shaping up to be a great post, isn’t it?

03. Wear My Ring Around Your Neck (hit version recorded 1958)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
Okay, maybe this wasn’t such a wonderful idea.

04. Hard Headed Woman (hit version recorded 1958)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
Come on, Elvis! Well, for “Hard Headed Woman,” we do at least have a rehearsal version from July 29, 1970. Sure, it is only about 10 seconds long and not very good, but at this point, I’ll take it. This was also on last year’s That’s The Way It Is: Collector’s Edition.

05. One Night (hit version recorded 1957)
Ultimate Live Version: June 27, 1968, 6 PM Show, Rendition #1, Burbank, CA, Memories: The ’68 Comeback Special
Finally! Now, this is more like it. Over a dozen official live versions of “One Night” have been released over the years. His 1968 live versions for the ELVIS special are nearly as good as his 1957 studio master. As with “Jailhouse Rock,” covered last week, Elvis’ raw 1968 voice serves “One Night” well. Though understandable, the smoother vocal approach he used in 1969 and beyond due to the demands of performing up to two shows a night did not serve songs like “Jailhouse Rock” and “One Night” well.

Elvis actually recorded two versions of “One Night” back in 1957. The first used the song’s original lyrics (e.g., “One night of sin is what I’m now paying for”) whereas the released version used modified lyrics to make them slightly less controversial (e.g., “One night with you is what I’m now praying for”). In his 1968 live versions, Elvis intermingles lyrics from both versions of the song.

06. I Got Stung (hit version recorded 1958)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
Sigh.

07. A Fool Such As I (hit version recorded 1958)
Ultimate Live Version: March 25, 1961, Pearl Harbor, HI, Elvis Aron Presley
Here we go! There is only one live version available of “A Fool Such As I,” so it wins by default. It is a strong version, though. Benefiting the USS Arizona Memorial, which was having funding problems despite the approaching 20th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack that drew the United States into World War II, this 1961 concert is a must-listen. Elvis’ show raised over $50,000 and turned a spotlight on the issue to encourage contributions from others, including the US Congress. The memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day 1962, 13 years after fundraising efforts began.

08. I Need Your Love Tonight (hit version recorded 1958)
Ultimate Live Version: March 25, 1961, Pearl Harbor, HI, Elvis Aron Presley
This is another winner by default due to being the only live version available. After this Hawaii concert, Elvis did not appear before an audience again until the first “sit-down” show on June 27, 1968, captured for the ELVIS special.

09. A Big Hunk O’ Love (hit version recorded 1958)
Ultimate Live Version: February 16, 1972, Midnight Show, Las Vegas, NV, Walk A Mile In My Shoes
“A Big Hunk O’ Love” is rare among 1950s hits in Elvis’ 1970s concert repertoire in that the arrangement is respectful of the original version and Elvis performs it with care.

Thanks for reading. Next time, we begin taking a look at Elvis’ best live recordings of hit songs first released in the 1960s.

Blessings,
TY

[Read Part 3]

Elvis Presley performs a solid version of “A Big Hunk O’ Love” on January 14, 1973, captured for the ELVIS: ALOHA FROM HAWAII VIA SATELLITE special (NBC)


“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”
Proverb 16:9

Elvis: The Ultimate Live Top Ten Hits (Part 1)

Elvis Presley rocks “Heartbreak Hotel” during taping of 1968’s ELVIS special (NBC)

I was 13 years old during Spring Break of 1988. At that point, I had about a half dozen Elvis Presley albums to my name. At the record store that week, I bought my first 2-record set. The Top Ten Hits was part of an “Elvis Presley Commemorative Issue” series that marked a decade since his 1977 death. I eventually obtained all four of the albums in the series, though I never did mail away for the special bonus album (a future eBay purchase, no doubt).

I had been collecting Elvis records for about a year at that point, and The Top Ten Hits certainly firmed up the foundation of my new obsession by containing all 38 of Elvis’ top 10 hits on Billboard‘s key US charts. These are what I now call mainstream or “general public” Elvis songs in that they are his most famous songs. Back then, these were the ones that various radio stations would still play.

The only two general public Elvis songs that failed to make the US top ten and, thus, this album were “Blue Suede Shoes” (peaked at #20) and “Viva Las Vegas” (peaked at #29). If we include posthumous releases, 1977’s “My Way” (peaked at #22) and 2002’s JXL Radio Edit Remix of “A Little Less Conversation” (peaked at #50) are also general public Elvis songs that are not present on this 1987 release. Except for those few titles and maybe “Blue Christmas,” everything else is here from a mainstream audience perspective. Outside of boxed sets, which really belong in their own category, The Top Ten Hits remains one of the most comprehensive Elvis releases to date when it comes to the general public.

I wore this record out in my 7th and 8th grade years, to the point where many of these songs became boring to me for a time. I will at some point cover this and the other Elvis Presley Commemorative Issue albums as part of my ongoing Vinyl Elvis series. Today, however, I want to use The Top Ten Hits as a jumping off point for a series of four posts covering Elvis’ best live performance of each of his hits. As is the norm here on The Mystery Train Blog, the focus will be on officially released recordings. No bootlegs.

Today’s post will feature hits included on Side A of The Top Ten Hits, all of which were studio recordings on the original album.

01. Heartbreak Hotel (hit version recorded 1956)
Ultimate Live Version: June 29, 1968, 6 PM Show, Burbank, CA, ELVIS-TV Special
Recorded in front of small studio audience for Elvis’ 1968 NBC television special, ELVIS, this version of “Heartbreak Hotel” rocks more than any of his other takes on the song. It is unfortunately a shortened version, though, due to being part of a medley with “Hound Dog” and “All Shook Up.” I once created a splice with the June 27, 1968, 6 PM Show version of “Heartbreak Hotel” to partially rectify this (inspired by and in the same vein as the “Blue Suede Shoes” splice on the This Is Elvis album, except starting with the June 29 “stand up” show version and ending with the June 27 “sit down” show version).

02. I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (hit version recorded 1956)
Ultimate Live Version: June 5, 1956, Los Angeles, CA, A Golden Celebration
As performed on the Milton Berle Show, following a skit with the host.

03. Hound Dog (hit version recorded 1956)
Ultimate Live Version: December 15, 1956, Shreveport, LA, Young Man With The Big Beat: The Complete ’56 Elvis Presley Masters
The finale of one of Elvis’ greatest recorded concerts, this version of “Hound Dog” is not to be missed.

04. Don’t Be Cruel (hit version recorded 1956)
Ultimate Live Version: January 6, 1957, New York, NY, A Golden Celebration

Credit: The Ed Sullivan Show channel (YouTube)

After Elvis released “Don’t Be Cruel,” he caught an act in Las Vegas that was doing a number of his songs. The lead singer was Jackie Wilson, and Elvis liked his version of “Don’t Be Cruel” better than his own. When Elvis performed the song on his third Ed Sullivan Show appearance in 1957, he incorporated some of Wilson’s upgrades to the song. What I love about this story is that Elvis inspired Wilson, who, in turn, inspired Elvis. Incidentally, this is the infamous “from the waist up” Sullivan performance where TV cameras were ordered not to show Elvis’ hips and legs – which, of course, only added to his legend. Watch it above or over on YouTube.

05. Love Me Tender (hit version recorded 1956)
Ultimate Live Version: June 29, 1968, 8 PM Show, Burbank, CA, ELVIS-TV Special
This live version, recorded for the 1968 ELVIS special, far exceeds Elvis’ original studio recording of the song from 1956. His voice is like velvet.

06. Love Me (hit version recorded 1956)
Ultimate Live Version: June 27, 1968, 6 PM Show, Burbank, CA, Memories: The ’68 Comeback Special
This was a close call with the August 12, 1970, Midnight Show, version of “Love Me,” but I slightly prefer the raw sound of the 1968 version.

07. Too Much (hit version recorded 1956)
Ultimate Live Version: January 6, 1957, New York, NY, A Golden Celebration
This is the only live version officially released of “Too Much,” to my knowledge, so it wins by default. A decent if sloppy version, performed on the Ed Sullivan Show and broadcast from the waist up.

08. All Shook Up (hit version recorded 1957)
Ultimate Live Version: August 26, 1969, Midnight Show, Las Vegas, NV, All Shook Up
The earliest available live version of “All Shook Up,” which is closer to the arrangement of the studio recording, is March 25, 1961, but the performance is tepid compared to his 1968 and 1969 versions.

09. Teddy Bear (hit version recorded 1957)
Ultimate Live Version: January 26, 1970, Opening Show, Las Vegas, NV, The On Stage Season: The Opening And Closing Shows 1970
This live version of “Teddy Bear” was a pleasant surprise on one of my favorite FTD releases.

10. Jailhouse Rock (hit version recorded 1957)
Ultimate Live Version: June 29, 1968, 8 PM Show, Burbank, CA, ELVIS-TV Special

Credit: Vevo’s Elvis Presley channel (YouTube)

As with a few of the others on today’s list, this incredible live version of “Jailhouse Rock” was captured for the 1968 ELVIS special. It almost equals the flawless studio recording. Watch it above or over on YouTube.

If only some of Elvis’ 1957 concerts had been recorded. Perhaps ultimate live versions of “Too Much,” “All Shook Up,” and possibly even “Jailhouse Rock” would have been among them. Every now and then, new recordings are unearthed. I maintain hope that a 1957 concert will eventually see the light of day.

I pray all of you are doing well and staying healthy. Drop a note in the comments below about some of your favorite live versions of these Elvis classics.

Blessings,
TY

[Read Part 2]


“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
James 1:2-4

2020 Songs of the Year

Thank you for riding The Mystery Train. Welcome to 2021!

Every year at about this time, I like to unleash my analytical side on my digital music data.

According to iTunes, out of 4,797 Elvis Presley tracks in my digital collection, the one I played most often in 2020 across all devices was a live recording of “Mystery Train/Tiger Man” from the August 22, 1969, Midnight Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, as released on Disc 3 of Elvis Live 1969. I played this rockin’ track 17 times, making it my fifth-most played song of the year overall. Here it is on YouTube:

Credit: Elvis Presley channel (YouTube)

I listened to 7,059 Elvis songs on my devices in 2020 (including duplicates). That is an average of 19 Elvis songs a day. I listened to 2,221 different Elvis tracks during the year.

One of 6,454 non-Elvis tracks in my collection, my most played song overall in 2020 was Jesus Culture‘s “Break Every Chain,” with lead vocals by Kristene DiMarco. Featured on the 2011 album Awakening – Live From Chicago, this live recording played 27 times on my various devices this year. Again from YouTube, here it is:

Credit: Jesus Culture channel (YouTube)

The other three songs that beat out Elvis in number of plays in 2020 for me were:

  • It Is Well With My Soul” by Bethel Music, also featuring lead vocals by DiMarco, Live At The Civic: You Make Me Brave, 2014, 21 plays.
  • Oh Happy Day” by The Edwin Hawkins Singers, Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord, 1968, 18 plays.
  • Burn The Ships” by for KING & COUNTRY, Burn The Ships, 2018, 18 plays.

Overall, I listened to 11,650 recordings using my digital devices this year. That works out to 32 songs a day. I listened to 4,621 different tracks during the year.

2020 was a challenging year for everyone, full of surprises. As a new year dawns, I pray that all of you have health, peace, and strength.

Blessings,
TY


“I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:19

REVIEW: Elvis – The Complete Masters Collection (Part 7)

This is Part 7 of an occasional series reviewing Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection.

[Read Part 6]

ELVIS: THE COMPLETE MASTERS COLLECTION – VOLUME 9 CD sleeve (2009, from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for full-color version

CD Vol. 9: Rhythm & Blues

One of the fun parts about bringing back The Mystery Train Blog is the potential to continue old series, such as Elvis Trivialities, and to revisit other loose ends from the first iteration of this blog.

One of those loose ends was my ongoing review of Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection. At first, however, I hesitated to continue reviewing a 36-CD set that came out 11 years ago and is now long out-of-print. Then, I realized, if I were to apply a “newness” rule to potential topics here on The Mystery Train Blog, we’d have little left to discuss. After all, Elvis Presley created his most recent recordings over 43 years ago now. With that in mind, on with the review!

Since it has been over 7 years since I wrote Part 6 of this review, I first want to reset the stage. Back in 2007, Sony digitally remastered for optimum sound quality all 711 of the recordings Elvis released during his lifetime. With various exceptions, the mixes matched the original vinyl releases. Vic Anesini performed the mastering work. These upgraded digital masters slowly began popping up on various compilations and re-releases.

In 2009, the Franklin Mint licensed the upgraded digital masters from Sony to release Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection on CD. At the time, there were two ways to buy the set – as a monthly subscription (3 discs a month for a year, “cancel anytime!”) or as an outright purchase of the entire set (36 discs) at a lower price than the combined total of all the monthly subscription fees. Each CD represented a theme, so the majority of the discs featured new sequencing and combinations compared to previous releases of this material. Unfortunately, within each individual disc, Franklin Mint generally sequenced the songs in recording order. I do appreciate the creativity behind dividing Elvis’ vast catalog into themes, but I wish they had taken this a step further and applied such creativity to more of the track sequencing as well. The Franklin Mint set also included a 24-page booklet, a record-player style display case, and a reproduction of Elvis’ first record, “That’s All Right” b/w “Blue Moon of Kentucky” on the Sun label.

In 2010, Sony released a high-end boxed set called The Complete Elvis Presley Masters. It featured the same 711 upgraded digital masters as the Franklin Mint set, but in 27 CDs – due to using more space per CD than Franklin Mint (for which, obviously, the higher disc count benefited them for their subscription program). The Sony set included three additional discs of “bonus material” in lesser sound quality, featuring various previously released tracks that came out after Elvis’ death. For the most part, the 711 masters were presented in “recording order” on the Sony set, which also included a 240-page book covering all of Elvis’ recording sessions. The first run of the Sony set was limited to 1,000 copies, numbered. It rapidly sold out, so a second, unnumbered run of 1,000 was produced in 2011 and eventually sold out as well. The luxurious Sony set cost about twice as much as the comparatively low-budget approach of the Franklin Mint set. Yet, I could never get out of my head that the underlying “complete masters” on both sets were exactly the same. The massive difference in price was solely due to the Sony set’s premium presentation and book, not the music itself.

As I already had nearly all of Elvis’ lifetime masters in varying sound quality on a myriad of CDs dating back to the late 1980s, I passed on both the Franklin Mint and Sony sets at the time of release. They were both out of my price range, anyway. In 2012, Franklin Mint began offering their entire set at a substantially reduced price. Wanting the opportunity to own all of Elvis’ lifetime masters in consistent and upgraded sound quality, I jumped on it and, naturally, started reviewing it here. At first, I would only allow myself to listen to a CD from the set for the first time when I wrote a review about it. Fortunately, my impatient side won out over my procrastination side, and I dropped that concept, or I suppose I would only now be listening to disc 9 for the first time! Not to mention the other 27 discs that would have been waiting behind it.

In 2016, Sony re-released the upgraded masters in yet another boxed set. The 60 CD Elvis Presley: The Album Collection featured essentially the same masters spread over even more discs than Franklin Mint did, but this time, for the most part, in sequence of their original album releases. As I backed up the Franklin Mint set to iTunes, I can sequence the songs in any way I please, so I passed on this Sony release, too. Of the three sets, this is the one that is the easiest to obtain in 2020, however, and is relatively affordable given the contents. Be sure to read reviews by Elvis fans before investing, though, as Elvis Presley: The Album Collection has its own eccentricities you should know about – much like Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection and The Complete Elvis Presley Masters do as well. Bottom line is, unless you are simply an obsessive collector that wants to own every single Elvis CD release, there is really no reason to obtain more than one of these three sets. Were I in the market for these masters today, I would go for Elvis Presley: The Album Collection, simply because it is the easiest to find at a reasonable price.

With that out of the way, the theme and title of the ninth volume of Franklin Mint’s Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection is Rhythm & Blues. This should be a treat!

ELVIS: THE COMPLETE MASTERS COLLECTION – VOLUME 9 CD (2009, from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for full-color version

01. My Baby Left Me: Now, this is how you kick off an Elvis CD! Due to its similarity to “That’s All Right” (both written by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup), I think “My Baby Left Me” gets lost in the shuffle sometimes. This is unfortunate, as it is an incredible recording – one of my favorites from Elvis’ breakout year. (Recorded: 1956)

02. So Glad You’re Mine: “So Glad You’re Mine” is another Crudup number, but this one is not nearly as effective as “That’s All Right” or “My Baby Left Me.” Elvis sounds bored. I am thankful Elvis happened to record “My Baby Left Me” prior to “So Glad You’re Mine” or Franklin Mint certainly would have started the CD with this song instead of the superior “My Baby Left Me.” (Recorded: 1956)

03. Anyplace Is Paradise: While Elvis’ performance is sometimes lacking on “Anyplace Is Paradise,” I love the lyrics, including: “Whether we’re standing on your doorstep or sitting in a park or strolling down a shady lane or dancing in the dark, where I can take you in my arms and look into your pretty eyes, anyplace is paradise when I’m with you.” If only this song had a better arrangement and approach, it could have been a classic love song. (Recorded: 1956)

04. Tell Me Why: Recorded at the same session as “All Shook Up,” “I Believe,” and others, “Tell Me Why” is hardly a standout with a sleepy performance by Elvis – similar to “So Glad You’re Mine.” (Recorded: 1957)

05. When It Rains, It Really Pours: Things get back on track here in a big way with “When It Rains, It Really Pours.” This is Elvis at his raw, powerful best. (Recorded: 1957)

06. Ain’t That Loving You Baby: When I visited Graceland in 1990, “Ain’t That Loving You, Baby” was one of the three songs that seemed to play on a constant loop at the various facilities and souvenir shops. This was long before the days of SiriusXM’s Elvis Radio channel broadcasting from Graceland, so I guess all they had was this little loop of three songs (the other two were “Playing For Keeps” [1956] and “For The Heart” [1976]). Anyway, for that reason, “Ain’t That Loving You, Baby” is memorable to me. Otherwise, it is just an okay performance. (Recorded: 1958)

07. A Mess Of Blues: The CD kicks into stereo mode with the awesome “A Mess Of Blues.” I love hearing all of the claps, finger snaps, and other noises. Just a fun song. No surprise, since it was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. (Recorded: 1960)

08. It Feels So Right: “It Feels So Right” is another good one. The CD is plugging along just fine now. (Recorded: 1960)

09. Like A Baby: “Like A Baby” is another often overlooked Elvis track. This is another of my favorites, and it fits perfectly on this CD. Not only is the Elvis vocal perfect, I love the saxophone accompaniment by Boots Randolph. (Recorded: 1960)

10. Fever: I have to say, “Fever” feels completely out of place here. I suspect it was deposited here by the compiler after not finding a suitable spot for it on another disc. It is also the one song on this CD that is not in recording order, as “Reconsider Baby” preceded it. In any event, I am not a big fan of Elvis’ studio recording of this song. (Recorded: 1960)

11. Reconsider Baby: Here it is, friends, Elvis’ best blues performance – his 1960 studio version of Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby,” and again accompanied by the incredible Boots Randolph on sax. One of Elvis’ greatest recordings and certainly the highlight of this CD. Not to be missed. (Recorded: 1960)

12. I Feel So Bad: After his release from the US Army, Elvis was on fire in the early 1960s. “I Feel So Bad” is another stellar blues number from this period, written by Chuck Willis. More great sax work from Boots. Be sure to listen for the sax switching from the left to the center channel during his solo. According to legend, Elvis walked up to Boots to enjoy the moment, accidentally picking up the sound of the sax with his handheld vocal microphone. Elvis knew what he was after, and the feel of the take was perfect, so the sound oddity was left in. (Recorded: 1961)

13. Witchcraft: What I love about “Witchcraft” is how it starts off as this unassuming little song with cutesy rhymes, and then kicks into a rockin’ chorus. Each time Elvis goes into “my head is spinning,” he gets a little more forceful. More Boots on sax. This is a killer song. (Recorded: 1963)

14. Down In The Alley: “Down In The Alley” was a bit of an acquired taste for me, but it is a decent blues number and fits well on this CD. (Recorded: 1966)

15. Big Boss Man: Thanks to Jerry Reed on guitar, “Big Boss Man” seems a hybrid of blues and country. Elvis sounds committed, but this is not a huge favorite of mine. (Recorded: 1967)

16. Hi-Heel Sneakers: I love the raw sound of Elvis’ voice on “High Heel Sneakers,” a fun blues number – which sounds like a contradiction in terms! But how can you not love lyrics like, “Put on your red dress, baby, ’cause we’re going out tonight. Well, wear some boxing gloves, in case some fool might start a fight.” (Recorded: 1967)

17. U.S. Male: What is “US Male” doing on a rhythm and blues compilation? This belongs on one of the country compilations instead. Anyway, this is a fun, if dated, song, featuring songwriter Jerry Reed on guitar. Completely out of place here, though. (Recorded: 1968)

18. Stranger In My Own Home Town: Elvis recorded Percy Mayfield’s “Stranger In My Own Home Town” at his first Memphis sessions in 14 years. I first discovered this song when it served as the power opener to The Memphis Record (1987). I have loved it ever since. I am partial to The Memphis Record mix, but this original mix is decent, especially in improved sound quality over previous CD releases. I’m with Elvis, who says, “Play it again, play it again” during one of the instrumental breaks. This is another one where I really love the lyrics: “My so-called friends stopped being friendly, but you can’t keep a good man down.” (Recorded: 1969)

19. Got My Mojo Working/Keep Your Hands Off Of It: This is an off-the cuff jam that was captured during Elvis’ “marathon” session in Nashville in June 1970. A heavily edited and overdubbed version of “Got My Mojo Working/Keep Your Hands Off Of It” was used on the ill-advised Love Letters From Elvis album, which essentially gathered scraps left over by two of the very best albums of his career, That’s The Way It Is and Elvis Country. Among left-overs, this song is a standout. As for this CD, it drags down the quality after “Stranger In My Own Home Town.” (Recorded: 1970)

20. If You Don’t Come Back: Though written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who penned many of Elvis’ best songs in the 1950s, “If You Don’t Come Back” is a bit of a departure for Elvis. It is an interesting listen, and I particularly enjoy the vintage 1970s wakka-chukka guitar licks. (Recorded: 1973)

21. Just A Little Bit: Continuing the groove of “If You Don’t Come Back,” “Just A Little Bit” is another fun song. Both were recorded at Stax Studio in Memphis. (Recorded: 1973)

22. Shake A Hand: I have to say, Franklin Mint really lucked out on the sequencing of this one. Since they are intent on recording order, “Shake A Hand” just happened to fall last, yet is actually the perfect song to close this CD. I love this performance by Elvis, and the sound is crystal clear. This is a bass-heavy song in terms of sound, and the drums really drive it. (Recorded: 1975)

What a great CD! Of Franklin Mint’s unique, themed compilations (I am excluding Volume 4: Christmas With Elvis, Volume 5: Complete Aloha From Hawaii Concert and Volume 7: Complete 1968 Comeback Special from that label), this is my favorite so far. This is actually a CD or playlist that I would routinely enjoy. Sony should put this compilation out as a single CD, maybe as a budget release.

Let’s see, up next would be Volume 10: Live In Las Vegas. It compiles the albums Elvis In Person and On Stage, which we already know are among the best albums of his career. Seeing as how I recently devoted four posts to Elvis’ 1969 Las Vegas shows, I will either skip to another CD for the next review in this occasional series or wait another seven years to write Part 8. You just never know with me.

Blessings,
TY


“The rich and poor have this in common: The LORD made them both.”
Proverb 22:2