There are quite enough Elvis Presley compilations around, thank you, that this new, four-disc set of all previously released material seems unnecessary at best, a cynical move aimed at the Christmas market at worst.
Either way it's inevitable with what would have been Presley's 75th birthday coming up on Jan. 8. Even if "Elvis 75: Good Rockin' Tonight" is essentially a cash-in, it's still smartly assembled, packed with hits but also sparing room for a surprise or two.
Unfortunately, it also spares room for the 2002 Junkie XL remix of "A Little Less Conversation," space that could have been better used for, well, silence, for one thing.
For a catalog such as Presley's, four CDs is essentially a greatest-hits with bonus tracks affair. In the '90s, RCA released three five-disc boxes, one per decade of Presley's career, with very little that could be considered filler across all the boxes.
Nitpicking aside, Disc One is impossible to argue with, as the Sun label singles segue into the RCA recordings from 1956, the foundation of – or at least a huge part of – all rock 'n' roll recorded since.
Discs Two and Three cover the movie years, cherry-picking the sublime but including enough of the ridiculous to show how Presley's (or manager Tom Parker's) focus shifted to his movie career (since rock 'n' roll was a fad destined to be forgotten).
Disc Three also includes Presley's magnificent version of the hymn "How Great Thou Art," which follows "Adam and Evil," proving someone had fun with the sequencing.
By the end of Disc Three, Presley is finding his footing again, thanks to some raw versions of Jimmy Reed's "Big Boss Man" and a pair of Jerry Reed tunes, "U.S. Male" and "Guitar Man."
Then comes Presley's final glory, the 1969 Memphis sessions that produced "Suspicious Minds" and the "Elvis in Memphis" album. Disc Four contains the highlights of his decline. Though they came fewer and further between, they still packed a punch. Check his 1973 version of Chuck Berry's "Promised Land" for proof Presley still had it in the years before his death.
Any Presley fan will find a track or two missing (where's "Trying to Get to You"?). "Elvis 75" isn't the end-all be-all of Presley compilations but novices too curious to be sated by 2002's single-disc "1s" may find it to be a valuable road map.
By CURTIS ROSS | The Tampa Tribune