Review : No matter where you listen, Elvis By Request captivates

By: Troy Y.
Source: The Mystery Train Blog
August 30, 2012

Yesterday, [August 25] Sony Music Australia's Elvis By Request: The Australian Fan Edition arrived here - so I thought I'd take a few moments to present a brief review. Worldwide, but with a special emphasis on Australia, fans were able to select from over 800 Elvis performances in online voting earlier this year. The ranked results of that voting determined the contents of 'Elvis By Request', 40 songs spread over two CDs.

For those of you who are also in the United States, you may be wondering if we can even play an Australian CD in a US CD player. There are no issues. However, you will need to adjust your player's language settings in order to filter out Elvis' Australian accent. [Just kidding.] The number one Elvis song chosen by Australians should come as no surprise. It is that quintessential Australian song, 'An American Trilogy'. It's nearly impossible not to think of Australia when listening to 'An American Trilogy'. [Okay, I promise to get serious now.] Trilogy kicks off 'Elvis By Request' in impressive form, showcasing the power of Elvis in 1972. Rounding out the top five are 'If I Can Dream', 'Suspicious Minds', 'Always On My Mind', and 'In The Ghetto'.

Stellar performances, all. In fact, one is hard-pressed to find any clunkers on Elvis By Request. That's because the fans know what they are doing. The only exception is 'Wooden Heart', one of his worst movie songs. I'm not sure how that made it on here and at #14, no less. Using 2010's Elvis Presley: 50 Australian Top Ten Hits - 1956-1977 as the benchmark Australian compilation, here are the other fan-voted Elvis By Request choices, in addition to 'An American Trilogy', that did not appear on the older release :

  • Always On My Mind (#4)
  • I Miss You (#8)
  • Memories (#10)
  • Don't Be Cruel (#15)
  • Hawaiian Wedding Song (#17)
  • Just Pretend (#18)
  • My Way [Live] (#21)
  • A Little Less Conversation [Radio Edit Remix] (#23)
  • Amazing Grace (#24)
  • You Gave Me A Mountain [Live] (#26)
  • Peace In The Valley (#27)
  • How Great Thou Art (#28)
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water (#30)
  • A Mess Of Blues (#32)
  • Promised Land (#36)
  • Blue Hawaii (#37)

Sound quality is top-notch. This is one of those CDs that you'll want to keep cranking up louder and louder as the next terrific song comes along. Since I have most of these songs in this quality on the 'Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection', I really purchased this CD as a curiosity piece and to support this implementation of the fan-selected CD concept. A track listing was not even available when I pre-ordered it.

However, it turns out that there are a couple of real stand-outs on 'Elvis By Request' for me that I'm actually adding to my collection for the first time at this superb sound quality.

The first is the 1977 live version of 'My Way', first released shortly after Elvis' death. It has never sounded this terrific on CD before (my previous sources being the Elvis In Concert and Elvis Aron Presley CDs from the 1990s). [March 8, 2013 Update: Upon further review, the version of "My Way" contained on Elvis By Request is actually the April 1977 recording first released on 1997's Platinum: A Life In Music. I apologize for accidentally presenting misinformation here. Despite what the Elvis By Request liner notes say, this is not the June 1977 recording. Follow That Dream Records subsequently made the same mistake on the Hits Of The 70s 2-CD set.]

Second is Elvis' 1970 studio version of 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'. It turns out that this is the 1994 Heart & Soul mix, which is superior to the one originally released in 1970 that had overdubbed applause to simulate a live recording. Since it focuses primarily on the mixes as released during his lifetime,' Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection' includes the subpar 1970 mix.

I'm thrilled now to have the unaltered studio version in this sound quality on 'Elvis By Request'. [March 8, 2013 Update: Upon further review, the sound quality of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" actually appears to be about the same as on Heart & Soul and Walk A Mile In My Shoes: The Essential 70s Masters. I should have played the versions back-to-back. I was just having such a fun time listening to Elvis By Request!]

Overall, 'Elvis By Request' makes for an interesting, random look at the career of Elvis Presley. It reminds me of listening to Elvis specials on the radio in the 1980s and early 1990s, where local DJs would just play a bunch of Elvis songs in a row for a couple of hours without any real thought to the sequence. It would get boring if every CD presented the Elvis journey in chronological format, so I welcome the randomness in this case.

As far as the song selections themselves, 13 of them also appear in some form on my personal top 40 of Elvis songs, with 8 more appearing in my top 100, so I really can't complain there, either.

'Elvis By Request' delivers up exactly what it promises and in fine form. Score one for the fans.

Elvis By Request may be ordered from Elvis Australia

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