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Elvis Presley
Elvis Aron Presley


 

Elvis Aron Presley - 1998 - BMG 07863 67455 2 - 4 CD - Elvis Presley CD

Release: 1998 BMG 07863 67455 2 USA 45 €
Release: 1998 BMG 07863 67455 2 EU 45 €
Release: 1998 BMG BVCZ-1120-23 Japan 75

 

This four-LP/CD set is nothing less than essential, with just a couple of important caveats to consider, mostly based on its age. Released in 1980, Elvis Aron Presley -- which is often referred to informally as "The Silver Box" -- was the first attempt at a serious box set devoted to Elvis Presley. In keeping with the many other "firsts" in his career, it was also the first multi-LP/CD, career-wide survey on a rock & roll star's music, concentrating on rarities and outtakes; in other words, totally unknown territory for a major label. To be sure, the original eight-LP/CD box had its flaws -- including awkward and shoddy construction -- and somewhat indifferent sound by today's standards, but it did offer a treasure-trove of essential Elvis Presley sides that had never shown up legitimately before. The set opens with its strongest sides: the live performances from the Venus Room of the New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas in the spring of 1956, and the King's March 25, 1961 benefit performance from the Bloch Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii. For all of the seeming indifference of the crowd at the Vegas appearance, these are first-rate live rock & roll performances and are also as good a cross-section of his work as you could get, pared down to four tracks: "Heartbreak Hotel," "Long Tall Sally," "Blue Suede Shoes," and "Money Honey." The Honolulu benefit appeared on vinyl bootlegs during the '70s, but never sounded this good -- there are still a few momentary drop-outs, and the noise of the screaming girls on the first numbers does suppress the music slightly (if George Martin could have heard this tape, it would have warned him of what he was in for in trying to record the Beatles in concert). But this is also about as idealized an early Elvis Presley live performance as we're ever likely to hear, as he was backed not only by Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana, but also by Hank "Sugarfoot" Garland, Floyd Cramer, and Boots RandoLP/CDh, which essentially means the best of his live band and his studio group combined. What's more, Elvis is remarkably relaxed here, joking with the crowd as he ranges across his entire career up to that point, from "That's All Right" to "It's Now or Never." The combination of the inevitable sound leakages, a few flubbed lines (on "One Night"), and Col. Tom Parker's neglect of the musical side of Elvis' career precluded this show -- Elvis' last before a paying audience until 1969 -- from ever being released on its own, but by itself, it's worth a good deal. It also makes for a fascinating snapshot of the King as he was metamorphosing musically from the young, lean, raw rock & roller into a mature, sophisticated (and genuinely great) singer. The second LP/CD doesn't fare quite so well, its highlight being a series of ten delightful outtakes of various movie songs (some of them not always very good) and what were then previously unreleased excerpts from the TV specials from 1968, 1973, and 1977. The third-LP/CD outtakes from his live, late-'60s Las Vegas shows, and the "Lost Singles" selection, were useful for gathering together nine '70s-era 45s that were out of print and not anthologized on extant albums at the time -- much more valuable is "Elvis at the Piano," depicting the King working through four numbers on his own, including the unedited version of the 1973 single "It's Still Here." The fourth LP/CD contains representative excerpts from a June 1975 Dallas, Texas show. This is an extremely enjoyable compilation with at least 20 tracks that are an essential part of any serious collection of Elvis' music. ( AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder )