Saturday, 4 January 2014

Elvis Compilations: A Selection

The disparate nature in which Elvis’s recordings surfaced was probably done, at the time, to maximise profits. After all, a new single with a new song on, not to be found on any current album, was likely to sell better than a single which offered nothing rare. Meanwhile, the EP material that surfaced for several of the movies made in the 60s took a while before much of it was given a proper home on CD, thus confusing matters even more.

If you look at Elvis’s Wikipedia discography page, it refers to such and such album being his “tenth LP”, and jumbles up Camden releases with the RCA Victor ones. Which makes things even more baffling. But once you start to look at some of the best of sets, you can at least start to piece together where the hits appeared later on, and then work the studio, soundtrack and budget albums around it.

I thought it would make sense, as the final article of my Elvis triple, to zero in on some of the more interesting comps that have appeared in the last sixty years. Most of the comps that made the 1996 boxset are looked at, primarily because one of them was “altered” by the German arm of RCA so it differed from the original UK release, but I have also included important releases that were issued from the 70s onwards by RCA Victor. It’s by no means definitive, but I hope that it makes the situation regarding Elvis on 45 (and beyond) a bit easier to understand.

Gold Records Volumes 1-5

It makes sense to look at these en masse, especially given that there is a boxset from 2011 which includes all of them in one place, even though the timeframe between volume 1 and volume 5 spans some twenty six years (5xCD, Sony 88697 928882).

As the title(s) suggests, these compilations were based around Elvis hits which had sold enough to be certified “gold”. Four were released during the 50s and 60s, and thus appeared in the 96 box, and as referred to last month, between them, housed a sizeable chunk of Elvis a-sides that had been issued in the UK.

In America, chart positions were also applied to B-sides, partly because radio play played a factor, which explains how some flipsides were also certified as gold, and thus were also eligible for inclusion on these releases. As a result of this, tracks like “Treat Me Nice” (the flip of “Jailhouse Rock”) made Volume 1. Volume 4 was issued in the mid sixties, by which time some of the material appearing on these sets was not what you might call “famous” Elvis material, and B-sides filled up quite a bit of the set (“Ask Me”, “Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello”).

Volume 5 was a posthumous release from 1984, and as such, went some way to bringing the story up to date, by covering the period from Volume 4 up to 1977. But because the records included all had to have sold enough to obtain a gold standard, this meant that some big latter period hits were included (“Suspicious Minds”, “Burning Love”) whilst others were thus missing (“Guitar Man”, “Always On My Mind”). This one also differed from earlier releases in that whilst the first four editions more or less consisted of non-album material, 45’s that had been lifted from an Elvis studio album were used on this one (such as “If You Talk in Your Sleep”, from 1975’s “Promised Land”).

In 1997, all five records were reissued in expanded form, adding other hits from the relevant period, which may or may not have gone gold, but generally, this was material easily available elsewhere already. “Volume 1” was expanded to include material from the Sun era, such as “That’s All Right”, whilst “Volume 5” included some more of the latter period hits, but still not all of them. As a result, despite the fact that the 2011 box includes these expanded versions and thus gives you some 90 tracks in total, it doesn’t actually operate as a complete overview of Elvis’s UK 45’s - but it’s a nice starting point, especially as a lot of the tracks on here were never included on any Elvis studio album.

For LP Fans Only

As the title suggests, this album was issued in 1959 to try and mop up some of the “missing” material that had eked out on 45, and was thus being included on an Elvis long player for the first time. Not only was it used to collect earlier non album singles that had failed to appear on LP (such as the Sun era recording “Mystery Train”) but also compiled some of the other Sun material that had not officially been available in the UK at that point at all, such as “That’s All Right”.

Also on here are early period tracks that appeared as B-sides, such as “I Was The One”, “My Baby Left Me”, “Playin’ For Keeps” and “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”. It was also later subject to an expanded reissue (CD, RCA ND 90359), with other material from the early days, although the inclusion of “Blue Suede Shoes” on the expanded edition was only done to try and tart the album up, as it was already easily available on Elvis’s debut LP. It’s even on the expanded “Gold Records 1” as well.

By this point, Elvis had been inducted into the army, and RCA would end up issuing two more compilations after this as Elvis’s next albums, given that no new material would be surfacing anytime soon, but there was plenty of stuff tucked away on 45 that could be exhumed to keep the label in profits.

A Date With Elvis

The second comp from 59, this one followed the same path as it’s predecessor - Sun material, UK flipsides like “Baby Let’s Play House”, along with EP material. Between them, the first two “Gold Records” releases (Volume 2 appeared after this in the fall of 59), “LP Fans” and this one included every non album A-side and non album B-side Elvis had released in the UK by the end of the decade. A lot of EP material was included as well.

For some reason, the German edition of the album (CD, RCA ND 90360) omitted several tracks that had originally appeared on the “Jailhouse Rock“ EP and which had made the UK version of the LP (“Baby I Don’t Care“, “Young And Beautiful“ and “I Want To Be Free“ - and also swapped one of the Sun recordings for another), and replaced them with the likes of “Blue Moon”, as well as adding extra tracks. Last time I looked on Amazon, the version you could buy was a version with the same track listing (and the 1996 boxset uses this variant edition as well), but anybody hoping to track down the missing material can find them on CD via the “King Of Rock N Roll : The Complete 50’s Masters” boxset, issued back in the early 90s but reissued in “book” form a couple of years ago (5xCD, Sony 87254 732020).

It is also worth pointing out that the material from the Sun era has resurfaced again and again over the years, even though most of the songs released on 45 in the USA had appeared in the UK soon after, and certainly, all ten songs had appeared by the end of 1976. Various outtakes then started to materialise at this point, and there is an “Elvis At Sun” album, issued in 2004 (CD, RCA 82876 61308 2), which puts them all in one place. In total, eighteen songs (including the ten from the singles) were recorded, some more than once, and anybody simply wanting to grab this stuff in one go is well advised to track this - easy to find - album down.

Jailhouse Rock

Already mentioned back in my original Elvis blogs in 2011, was the curious repackaging of the Elvis movie albums from the 1960s in the 1990s, before “proper“ reissues were conducted for most of them a few years ago. We also looked at how some EP’s later got expanded into album form.

Of course, Elvis had made several movies earlier on in his career, and whilst the likes of “Blue Hawaii” got normal soundtrack albums at the time, and appeared in the same format come the 1990s, a couple of other movies did not spawn full blown albums either, but instead, were the recipient of EP releases in the 1950s. The films concerned were “Love Me Tender” and “Jailhouse Rock”, and one can only assume that no attempt to shoehorn these onto a “Double Features” style CD at the time was because the material, in the UK at least, had mostly appeared on “A Date With Elvis”. So what do you do if, like me, your “Date With Elvis” is the truncated German album and the “50‘s Masters“ boxset is slightly out of your price range?

Well, you buy this “soundtrack album after the event” release from 1997 to compensate (CD, RCA 07863 67453 2). To clarify, “Jailhouse Rock” was released as both a single and a 5 track EP, the latter release featuring four (at the time) exclusive recordings, and this CD includes all of the songs from these two releases, all four songs from the “Love Me Tender” EP (another release that shared it’s lead song with a UK 45 - the flipside of that single, not on this EP, called “Anyway You Want Me“, can be found on “Golden Records”), alongside the usual barrage of alternate takes of the same songs. I do believe you can find a hyper expensive edition if you so wish, but the relatively cheap CD referred to here is a good starting point.

Hits Of The 70s

In 1974, RCA released this best of (LP, RCA LPL1 7527), which I guess was done to try and update the history of Elvis on 45, given that “Gold Records 4” had been issued some six years previous, and Elvis had been quite productive since then. Again, it wasn’t a complete set, as space constraints probably played a part, but as for what made the album, well, you can’t complain - “The Wonder Of You”, “Always On My Mind”, “I Just Can’t Help Believin’”...truly awesome stuff.

In 2012, the Follow That Dream label reissued the album in expanded form - basically, every other Elvis a-side from the 70s up to and including “Way Down” were added, whilst a second CD includes the accompanying flipsides. Thrown in as a bonus is a red vinyl 7” of “My Way”, Elvis’s first posthumous 45, released later in 1977 as a promo tool for the “Elvis In Concert” LP. Whilst quite a lot of these songs were lifted from albums, or have appeared on various other best of sets (such as “It‘s A Matter Of Time“ on the budget “Burning Love“ record, or “Don‘t Cry Daddy“ on “Elvis 75”), there are still a few obscure tracks buried away here, such as “Where Did They Go Lord”.

It is worth pointing out that as with the “50’s Masters” boxset, a “70’s Masters” one also exists called “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” (5xCD, Sony 88697 856812), which has two CD’s also devoted to Elvis on 45 from the 1970-77 period. This box goes down an alternate route - “Mama Liked The Roses”, present and correct on the FTD album is missing, because it was taped in the 60s, whilst the songs are presented with the a-side, then the b-side, then the next a-side...and so on and so forth, before concluding with “Way Down” and “Pledging My Love”. The remaining discs are devoted to selected album tracks, outtakes and live (both previously and not previously available) material, including a rare live take of “The Impossible Dream“ previously tossed away on an earlier compilation. There is also a “60’s Masters” box, which is called...

From Nashville To Memphis

Now, I like this one. As mentioned before, dribs and drabs of Elvis material went AWOL when the soundtrack albums got “replaced” by the Double Features sets from the early 1990s, whilst the budget albums hid other rarities away quite well. But this set does a decent job of trying to get chunks of them into one place. Now, what with all those movies, the amount of material Elvis taped in the 60s was quite ridiculous, so this box concentrates on the non gospel, non movie-songs, material. The hits are here (as are those B-sides) but it’s the rarer stuff that makes this one worth the money (5xCD, Sony 88697 787832).

Virtually all of the “missing” tracks mentioned in my October 2011 movie albums blog are here - ie. “Western Union”, “Never Ending”, “You’ll Be Gone”, etc, etc. Only black marks are that “I’ll Remember You” appears here in unedited form (although some might see that as a selling point) but “Goin’ Home” from the “Speedway” LP is totally absent. It can be picked up on a bizarre 1991 CD from America coupling edited highlights from that LP and the “Clambake” album, in a tacky 1970s era sleeve if you so wish (CD, RCA CXD-3017), or it may simply be easier to track down a vinyl pressing of “Speedway“, as even though no CD reissue exists, it was reissued cheaply by RCA International in 1980, and copies of this repressing are only worth about £5-6.

Also on here is the obscure 1965 A-side, “Blue River”, along with some other stand alone A-sides like “Kentucky Rain”, and - as mentioned a couple of months back - the reasonably rare b-side “Fools Fall In Love”, one of the few flipsides that had not been hoovered up by the “Gold Records” releases. A lot of Elvis B-sides from the 60s were lifted from albums, but “Come What May” and “Hi Heel Sneakers” were not, and even though both appear in the box, they are - again - alternate mixes. Nice, but not a box ticking exercise. The aforementioned “Mama Liked The Roses” is on here though, which gets a thumbs up from me, as are a lot of flipsides which you may have already found on budget releases (such as “Rubberneckin’”).

Although designed to avoid the gospel stuff (a 2-CD set called “Amazing Grace” was issued at some point to stick all that stuff together), “Who Am I” from the 1971 Camden release “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is on here, as is “Too Much Monkey Business“ from the 1969 “Flaming Star“ album covered on this site a few months back. Most of the unreleased stuff appears at the end of disc 5, alternate takes of things such “In The Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds”.

Elvis Gospel

Come the 21st century, and RCA decided to put out a series of “themed” albums, ostensibly done as limited edition pressings, to mark Elvis’s arrival (sort of) into the millennium. There were twelve such releases, including several “hits” sets, although none of them included anything rare. The albums themselves were housed in card slipcases, whilst several were coupled up as 2-in-1 or 4-in-1 boxsets.

How easy these things are to find now, I don’t know. Certainly, look for “Elvis Gospel” on Amazon, and you will get various gospel comps, but not necessarily this one (CD, RCA 74321 765232). But as it’s the one I own, then it gets a mention here.

Of course, most of Elvis’s gospel tunes were issued on “How Great Thou Art”, “He Touched Me” and “His Hand In Mine”, and indeed, those records are used as the source for most of this LP. But you also get the “Where Could I Go”/”Up Above My Head”/”Saved” medley from the NBC show, “Peace In The Valley” from the 1957 EP of the same name (all of which was then put onto the “Elvis Christmas Album“) and “We Call On Him”, a mid 60s B-side available on some other comps, but still relatively obscure.

In 2006, another series of themed albums such as “Elvis Rock” appeared, and although there was no “new” version of this one, a similarly themed “Elvis Inspirational” was one of the six titles that RCA released. These ones also are getting increasingly hard to find.

Elvis 56

Once you get past the studio albums, live albums, budget albums, compilations and movie albums, there is still more Elvis to find. Unreleased material from the vaults really started to emerge in the mid 70s, when a series of unreleased recordings appeared on an LP called “A Legendary Performer Volume 1” - which as the title suggests, spawned several later volumes. Later ones ramped up the amount of outtakes, with “Volume 4” from 1983 including an early version of “One Night” entitled “One Night Of Sin”, later included as the bonus track on the 2005 reissue of said 45.

The amount of compilations that have been released with previously unheard material is something I can’t even begin to talk about, mainly because - certainly when you include all the FTD albums - I don’t own hardly any of them. So all I can do is mention the odd ones I do have, like this one.

Although the theme of the album might seem a bit random, “Elvis 56” (CD, RCA 07863 65135 2) relates to the fact that 1956 was the year in which Elvis released his first UK 45 on HMV, and his first RCA Victor LP in the USA. What this one included, in the main, was highlights from the first two studio albums where the material had been taped in 56, and selected single material, along with a previously unreleased take of “Heartbreak Hotel”. My copy is a reissue to tie in with the “30 #1 Hits” promo campaign, and the packaging of it is beautiful and unusual, for it’s a non-Japanese album that has an obi strip attached to the outside.

Where do you go once you’ve got this one? Well, you could try 2003’s “2nd To None” (RCA, 82876 57085 2), a follow up to the “30 #1 Hits” release, which includes the previously unreleased “I’m A Roustabout”, along with the remixed version of “Rubberneckin’”. As for the Follow That Dream releases, well, there are so many it’s now mind boggling, your best bet is to look at the official Elvis FTD site to see which ones take your fancy.

Newspaper Freebies

A few of these knocking about as well. I think I have already mentioned the free “Christmas Peace” album in my original March 11 blog, and there are a few more in existence. There is probably more than just one Elvis record called “Love Songs” (such as the RCA International LP, cat number NE 1062), but The Mail on Sunday issued a 15 tracker in Feb 2011, just in time for Valentines Day (CD, Upfront UPLVSNG001), which you might be able to find in a charity shop where they put all those newspaper freebies in a big box, and it takes ages to go through them all. Nothing rare on it, but some nifty big hits again.

When the “30 #1’s” campaign was up and running, The Mail also issued the “Before Anyone Did Anything Elvis Did Everything” freebie, a 10 track disc consisting of live recordings from a boxset called “Close Up” and stand alone 45’s like “Don’t Cry Daddy” and “Suspicious Minds”. Two versions of this one exist - the original from 2003 (CD, RCA ELVIS 01), and a revamped one from 2004 to help plug “2nd To None” (CD, RCA ELVIIS 01).

When live Elvis material from the 50s first appeared many years ago, bits and pieces were shoehorned onto RCA issued comps, which were probably of great interest at the time. Post copyright expiry time, this stuff has now appeared routinely on albums like “Louisiana Hayride” whilst at least one newspaper freebie has been issued with some of this material, as part of a bizarre 2-CD set which when “completed”, featured Elvis on Disc 1 and Tom Jones on Disc 2 (CD, DMEPTJ CD01)! This was issued by the Daily Mirror, whose sister paper the Sunday Mirror also put out a “Legends” CD two years later in 2007 (CD, DMLCD 01) which included 10 oldies, padded out with several songs by random, unsigned acts, something that for some reason occurred routinely in the UK a few years back - whereas you don’t really get ANY newspaper freebies anymore.

More Hits Albums

Where do you start? Well, maybe with the glorious 1975ish Reader’s Digest mail order release “Greatest Hits” (7xLP, RCA GELV-6A), issued in conjunction with RCA so it comes complete with proper RCA labels, but with a “Reader’s Digest” legend as part of the label. It’s a 7-LP box, six themed albums in their own sleeves, and a “bonus” LP with booklet. The six main albums have parts of a photo of Elvis on the rear which, when placed in the correct order on the floor, or on a table, complete a much larger picture of The King. There are some 100+ tracks on here, including oddities like the aforementioned EP rarity “Baby I Don’t Care”, rockers like “Long Legged Girl” and enormous hits like the masterful “An American Trilogy”, my favourite Elvis record ever. Much of it is in reprocessed stereo, but it all looks quite charming.

“Elvis 75” has been mentioned before (3xCD, RCA 88697 619482), issued to mark what would have been Elvis‘s 75th birthday. There are in fact a few comps issued in very similar titles, but the one I am talking about is the officially endorsed RCA one from 2010, which is a quite comprehensive - 75 song - run through the singles including “My Way”, the remixed “A Little Less Conversation” and climaxing with “That’s All Right”. Top drawer.

There are numerous ones that never made it onto CD, or if they did, were superseded by later comps that covered the same ground, such as “Elvis At His Best” (2xLP, RCA SDL 004), “Elvis Sings Country Favourites” (Cassette, Reader’s Digest ROC 91405, which according to my notes was pressed in Scotland!), and “From The Heart” (Cassette, RCA PK 90642). There are also at least two variations of the “Elvis’ 40 Greatest” hits set, including an RCA pressing on pink vinyl (2xLP, RCA PL 42691(2)). A shout must also go out to the beautifully designed “The Real Elvis” (3xCD, RCA 88697 915472), a recent 90 track plough through the early days, with a few rarities included (“A Cane And A High Starched Collar” from one of the DF albums, “Young And Beautiful” from the “Jailhouse Rock” EP), but nothing not available already. A single disc version also exists, but given that both are budget releases, it shouldn’t break the bank either way.

Jason has left the building.

1 comment:

  1. Re: "Speedway". I happened to be in HMV very recently, and noticed there was, in the new releases, an "Elvis At The Movies" CD box, called 'The Movie Soundtracks'. There is a repressing of the "Speedway" LP inside, although not 100% sure on the tracklisting, but might be worth a look if you are interested in this (and other) movies albums.