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Elvis Australia : Official Elvis Presley Fan Club

Elvis At The Movies CD

By Mark Cunliffe
Source: Elvis Australia
June 1, 2007 - 2:54:00 PM

Elvis at the Movies CDSony BMG will release Elvis At The Movies 'the most comprehensive Elvis Presley 2 CD movie package ever produced' in June. According to the sales blurb the double-disc, 40-song collection features some of the popular  tunes from Elvis Presley's remarkable run of 31 Hollywood movies, including show-stopping numbers like 'Jailhouse Rock', 'What I'd Say' from Viva Las Vegas, and 'Rock A Hula Baby' from perennial fan-favorite Blue Hawaii. Also included are such #1 hits as 'Love Me Tender' and 'Teddy Bear' plus 17 more Top 40 singles and classic contributions from legendary songwriters Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman, and Otis Blackwell.

Whilst this is a welcome focus on what is one of the now more ignored and derided parts of Elvis's career the question remains. Did they get it right in terms of song selection and balance? Putting together a movies hits compilation spanning 13 years of a person's career, encompassing 31 movies and over 225 songs  of various styles and varying quality represents one a most daunting challenge to even the most knowledgeable of complier.

Problems the compiler has to face include:

- Putting together a 40 song compilation from a 31 movie career inevitably means you have a limit of just 1 song from the majority of movie soundtracks. What to leave in, what to leave out? It's a big call and tough choice.

- The temptation to choose at least one song from each movie regardless of the quality of the movie soundtrack. Without question whilst some of Elvis' movie soundtracks scaled the heights others plumbed the depths. Therefore by adding a song from a disappointing soundtrack you risk emitting a song of considerable quality from a stronger soundtrack as a result.

- Getting the balance between up tempo and slower tempo/ballads content right. Elvis movie soundtracks tended to include a mix of up-tempo songs and sincere ballads. If you have to choose just 1 or 2 songs from a movie what do you opt for, the up tempo song or the ballad? And what have you left out as a result of that choice.

- The inclination for selecting the theme song from the movie (G.I Blues for G.I Blues, Flaming Star from Flaming Star etc)

So, did they get it right? Here's one man's opinion. Mine. I'm a 44 year old life-long fan who has lived and breathed Elvis Presley for over 30 years, has an in depth knowledge of all things Elvis, and most pertinent to this review, has a extensive familiarity with the Elvis movies soundtracks.

Below I look at the song selected, consider other songs that could have been included and come to a conclusion as to whether the selection decision taken was good or poor.

At the Movies song selection Other songs that could have been considered Comment Judgment
Disc 1      
Love Me Tender
(from Love Me Tender movie 1956)
  Of the 4 songs sung in the Love Me tender movie this enduring smash hit demands selection. The other 3 songs from the soundtrack are all lightweight in comparison.
Loving You
(Loving You 1957)
Got A Lot Of Living To Do
(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear
Party
Mean Women Blues
A questionable decision to opt for a nice but plodding ballad in favour of some classic up-tempo songs. Whilst 'Loving You' is a decent heartfelt ballad, the top 3 songs listed on the left are surely much stronger candidates for selection. x
Jailhouse Rock
(Jailhouse Rock 1957)
  An era defining song and the iconic dance routine that rocked the world.
Fully agree with selection.
Treat Me Nice
(Jailhouse Rock 1957)
Young And Beautiful
Baby I Don't Care
An unacknowledged classic. If this was a DVD release you might opt for the impeccably performed Baby I Don't Care, arguably the coolest Elvis dance routine ever, but it's hard to argue with the inclusion on this CD.
Hard Headed Women
(King Creole 1958)
  The best dramatic movie Elvis ever performed in and arguably his best location themed music (Blue Hawaii is a contender here) the movie soundtrack oozes flawless and evocative performances. This is a marvelous fast paced rock song stunningly performed. A good choice.
King Creole
(King Creole 1958)
Trouble
As Long As I Have You
Don't Ask Me Why
No disputes, a much stronger song than any other that could be included - a worthy inclusion in this compilation.
G.I Blues
(G.I Blues 1960)
Wooden Heart
Doin' The Best That I Can
Pocketful Of Rainbows
Tonight Is So Right For Love
A dubious inclusion. 'G.I Blues' is a lame song compared to the possible alternatives. Wooden Heart was a multi million selling single across the globe and is still a huge favorite. This should have been included instead. x
Frankfurt Special
(G.I Blues 1960)
Wooden Heart
Doin' The Best That I Can
Pocketful Of Rainbows
Tonight Is So Right For Love
The compiler has gone for another up tempo song rather than including at least one of these magical love songs. I'd have chosen 'Doin' The Best I Can' any day in favour of 'Frankfurt Special'. x
Flaming Star
(Flaming Star 1960)
A Cane And A Starched Collar Only 2 songs in this movie, neither worthy of a 'best of' compilation when better songs from other movies could be included instead. Presume the compiler was under orders to include a song from every movie, in which case he choose the better of the 2 songs featured in this soundtrack.
Lonely Man
(Wild In the Country 1961)
Wild In The Country
I Slipped, I Stumble, I Fell
In My Way
Good songs and exquisite singing from Elvis makes this non rocking movie soundtrack a winner. The sincerely sung Wild In The Country and In My Way are far superior to the song selected. x
Can't Help Falling In Love
(Blue Hawaii 1961)
  A firm favorite of fans and general public everywhere. A must have inclusion for this compilation.
Blue Hawaii
(Blue Hawaii 1961)
Moonlight Swim
Hawaiian Sunset
Island Of Love
The Hawaiian Wedding Song
Hard to justify the inclusion of 'Blue Hawaii' Then you have to ignore the far superior 'Hawaiian Wedding Song'. x
Rock A Hula Baby
( Blue Hawaii 1961)
  One of Elvis' great movie rock songs. No question- it has to be included.
Follow That Dream (Follow That Dream 1962) Angel The strongest song is selected. It's a shame an additional song couldn't have been chosen - Angel is such a beautiful ballad winningly sung by Elvis.
King Of The Whole Wide World
(Kid Galahad 1962)
This Is Living
Riding The Rainbow
Home Is Where The Heart Is
I got Lucky
Whistling Tune
A major mistake to include just one song from this superb movie soundtrack. Kid Galahad has arguably the strongest selection of non location themed songs of any of Elvis's 1960's movies. Elvis sings each with a zest and sincerity that is irresistible. All these songs deserving of inclusion.
Return To Sender (Girls!Girls!Girls! 1962) Dainty Little Moon Beams /Girls!Girls! Girls! The big hit song from the movie. No Arguments!
One Broken Heart For Sale
(It Happened At The World Fair 1963)
  A wonderful song that continues to charm even today.
They Remind Me Too Much Of You
(It Happened At The World Fair 1963)
I'm Falling In Love Tonight Two great romantic songs vying for inclusion. You can take your pick. The compiler gets the nod on this one.
Bossa Nova Baby
(Fun In Acapulco 1963)
Guadalajara If you're not a fan of Elvis singing Mexican songs then you can't really argue with the song selected here. A strong candidate for film soundtrack not to be represented on this compilation.
Viva Las Vegas (Viva Las Vegas 1964)   A song that has become more popular and ingrained in the public conscience over the years. Difficult to resist.
Disc 2    
What'd I Say
(Viva Las Vegas 1964)
C'mon Everybody C'mon Everybody competes with What I'd Say as the best choreographed song of Elvis's mid- 1960's movie career. What I'd Say is the more recognized song and is rightly included here.
Kissin' Cousins
(Kissing Cousins 1964)
Tender Feelings Tender Feelings is the standout ballad from this movie and far superior to this less than magical title song. x
Little Egypt
(Roustabout 1964)
Poison Ivy League
Wheels On My Heels
Hard Knocks
One of Elvis' poorer movie soundtracks leaves little option to go with a very ordinary version of Little Egypt. Elvis would bury this version years later in his Comeback Special.
Do The Clam
(Girl Happy 1964)
Girl Happy
Puppet On A String
I Got To Find My Baby
A lamentable inclusion with little to redeem it. However overall this movie contained few outstanding songs. The chirpy Girl Happy or ballad Puppet On A String would be preferable. x
(Such An) Easy Question
(Tickle Me 1965)
It Feels So Right
Dirty Dirty Feeling
It's A Long Lonely Highway
I'm Yours
A poor song to select when the other contenders are so much stronger. 'It Feels So Right' and 'Dirty Dirty Feeling' are superb rockers and far superior to this lightweight song. x
I'm Yours
(Tickle Me 1965)
  A fitting inclusion. This is a lovely ballad winningly sung.
Shake That Tambourine
(Harum Scarum 1965)
So Close Yet So Far From Paradise
My Desert Serenade
Mirage
Selecting a very ordinary up- tempo song from a soundtrack crammed full of engaging love songs is questionable. The wonderful ballad So Close Yet So Far From Paradise heads the list of more deserving options. x
Frankie And Johnny
(Frankie And Johnny 1965)
  Taken from the low point in Elvis 1960's soundtracks, this movie has few redeeming features when it comes to the songs. Preferable not to represent this movie than include this awful version of Frankie and Johnny. x
This Is My Heaven (Paradise Hawaiian Style 1965)   The standout ballad of the soundtrack, sung with a sincerity and simplicity that connects.
All That I Am (Spinout 1966)   The best song from a disappointing soundtrack.
I'll Be Back
(Spinout 1966)
  Difficult to justify the inclusion of another song from this movie when previous movies (as indicated) had so many better quality songs that could have been included instead x
Long Legged Girl (With A Short Dress On)
(Double Trouble 1967)
  The best song from a dire soundtrack.
The Love Machine
(Easy Come, Easy Go 1967)
Easy Come, Easy Go
I'll Take Love
Sing You Children Sing
This was a fun filled soundtrack with sassy sounds and a delightful up tempo gospel song thrown in for good measure. No really outstanding track so we'll give the compiler the nod.
Clambake
(Clambake 1967)
A House That Has Everything
You Don't Know Me
The best of the up tempo numbers but another mindless up tempo movie name song. A lamentable inclusion but little choice from another wretched soundtrack.
Let Yourself Go (Speedway 1968) Your Time Hasn't Come Yet Baby
Speedway
A song worthy of inclusion.
Stay Away
(Stay Away Joe 1968)
  A catchy and stirring song. A good choice.
A Little Less Conversation (Live A Little, Love A Little 1968) Edge Of Reality
Almost In Love
Towards the end of his movie career the number of songs in Elvis movies was drastically reduced. This had the effect of improving the quality. The 3 songs in this movie are all strong. You can't really argue with the song selected.
Charro
(Charro 1969)
  A non soundtrack movie containing just one song.
Clean Up Your Own Back Yard (The Trouble With Girls 1969) Swing Down, Sweet Chariot 2 standout tracks out of 3 aren't bad. The movie version of CUYOBY is a revelation and is worthy of inclusion.
Rubberneckin' (Change Of Habit 1969) Let Us Pray The stirring gospel of Let Us Pray is a strong contender but as the compiler has clearly decided to keep religion out of this compilation we'll go along with his choice.

Key :

A Good decision (I agree with the compiler)
x A poor choice (I disagree with the compiler)

Conclusions:

Having rationally looked at this compilation and judged it's merits in a meticulous way, it is pleasing, if somewhat surprising, to note that I am broadly in agreement with the song selection for the Elvis At The Movies CD. The compilation has fared far better than I initially expected after glimpsing at the song list.

Rating Total %
A good choice 29 73%
A poor choice 11 27%
  40 100%

I agree with 73% of the selections, all be it with some reservations (which I outline below). Given the difficult choice the compiler has had to make it's reassuring to know that in the vast majority of cases he has, in my opinion, made the correct decision.

The Elvis At The Movies CD succeeds well at showing the diverse nature of his music, how he moved on from rock and roller to all round family entertainer.  The quality of material Elvis was given to work with in his movies over the years did vary, and this compilation is testament to that given some of the songs that have been included.

The compilation shows without question of doubt is Elvis'  intuitive and magical talent to inject life and meaning into any song he sang, even those where he was given very little to work with. Fortunately this compilation includes plenty of examples high quality material where Elvis really shines. His ability to instill a heartfelt sincerity into his ballads and a zestful sense of fun into his more up beat songs never falters. In many cases, the music still connects with a force and directness that surprises.   It goes to prove, against most popular perceptions, that Elvis' years at the movies weren't totally wasted years, that in it he left a commendable body of work that does enthrall even today.

For me, where the Elvis At The Movies compilation falls down is in its basic concept. Whilst it is laudable to want to include at least one song from every movie Elvis made, the effect is to dilute the package from a 'best of' his movie songs to just an assembly of songs of varying merit. Not that the Elvis At The Movies CD doesn't work as a compilation but it would be so much better if only the very best of Elvis' music output during the Hollywood years was included. It's an opportunity missed.

The Elvis At The Movies CD is also let down by a determination to select up-tempo songs in favour of some  quite remarkable slower ballad and love songs that Elvis sang during his movie period. Whilst Elvis was and is the King of Rock and Roll, he could sing love songs like no other, and many of his songs of this period reflect this. Unfortunately, due to the focus on his more up-tempo numbers much of his slower love songs are ignored, in my view, to the detriment of the CD set as a whole.

However, the Elvis At The Movies 2 CD set is as it is, containing the 40 songs as selected by the compiler. So, should you buy it? I would say yes. Although the CD compilation falls just short of being an exceptional release, it is well worth owning. It is a comprehensive representation of Elvis' musical output during his time as Hollywood superstar and it does feature some of the better songs of his movie years. Listening to it is an enjoyable experience and an interesting diversion from his better known 50's and 70's output.

I would urge fans to take the opportunity to revisit the vastly overlooked area of Elvis' career and buy Elvis At The Movies CD now. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how rewarding a compilation this is.

Buy Elvis At The Movies

Also read Elvis at the Movies by Nick Keene from March 2005


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