Review: Elvis 75: Good Rockin Tonight 100 Track 4 CD - Career Retrospective Box Set

By: Steve Horowitz
Source: PopMatters
January 2, 2010

Elvis 75: Good Rockin' Tonight, First Definitive 4-CD Overview of Entire Recording CareerElvis is back. RCA/Legacy has begun unearthing his catalog and reissuing all of his titles on newly remastered compact discs. The process began in July with an expanded edition of the classic Elvis in Memphis. The second release, a deluxe four-CD, 100-song compilation that spans the King's career has just come out. Then the floodgates open and everything else will find its way to the marketplace, purportedly to commemorate Elvis turning 75. Is this a commercial move by his record company? Of course, but that's in the tradition of Elvis recordings dating back to the '50s. The whole point of RCA signing the singer was to market him for profit, which it did in an extreme way.

Even Elvis' song selections were chosen with an eye for profitability. So let us not damn RCA/Legacy for putting a heap of music back on the market, but praise the label for doing so in such a classy way. Elvis 75: Good Rockin' Tonight is packaged in a sturdy black box that contains an 80-page booklet with lots of iconic photographs, intelligent liner notes by culture critic Billy Altman, and an informative discography. More importantly, the sound quality is first rate. The songs sound bright and shiny, the way this kind of pop music should be. One can hear every nuance of the King's voice, whether he's hitting a low note, sighing into the microphone, or reaching back for operatic effect. The clarity of his vocals can be heard even on Elvis' first recording, the demo acetate of 'My Happiness' that he made at the Memphis Recording Service of Sun Records as a gift for his mother.

'My Happiness' opens the box set, which ends with the 2002 JXL Radio Remix Edit of his 1968 single 'A Little Less Conversation' commissioned for Nike's World Cup ad campaign that became a worldwide number one hit. These two anomalies frame the other 98 songs most associated with Elvis during his lifetime. As with all collections of this type, one could quibble with the song selections (i.e., why aren't there more songs from the Sun years, where's 'Moody Blue', etc.), but the box contains the classic Elvis tracks in strict chronological order of when they were recorded to reveal a musical portrait of the man.

Much has been written about Elvis. Peter Guralinck's epic two-volume biography is especially noteworthy. These four discs provide a different type of story. One could say Elvis peaked early. John Lennon once smartly remarked when he learned that Elvis died that he thought that had happened 20 years earlier when Elvis entered the U.S. Army in 1958 as his music changed from hard rock to softer material. Yet, Elvis remained a gifted musical interpreter with a splendid voice and oodles of charisma. There was a reason he was the one that lasted with audiences, while his contemporaries from the '50s had turned into oldies acts with diminished fan loyalties. It was not just nostalgia, Elvis was damned good until the end.

Still, the first disc (1953-1958) is the best. The electricity that flows from Elvis' voice on his first single, 'That's Alright Mama', still jumps right out of the speakers and grabs the listener. The first seven songs here are from the Sun sessions, but the stuff he recorded soon after at RCA in 1956-57 still rocks. Not only on the more famous tunes like 'Blue Suede Shoes', 'Jailhouse Rock' , and 'Don't Be Cruel', but even lesser known gems like 'One-Sided Love Affair' and 'I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry Over You' still rock hard. Elvis warbles and hiccups rockabilly to full effect without ever sounding gimmicky. He sounds like a man possessed.

The second disc (1958-1962) shows Elvis still rocking on songs like 'Little Sister' and '(Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame', but also stretching out in sultry ways on 'Are You Lonesome Tonight' and 'Can't Help Falling in Love'. This was the period during which Elvis was in the service, his beloved mother died, and he re-entered the public consciousness as a more adult performer via a television special with Frank Sinatra. At this point in his career, Elvis still plays for record crowds and his discs sell well, but one can sense from the different types of material he is performing that he does not want to remain just a teen idol.

The period from 1963-1969 might be the most turbulent in America's history. Elvis' musical output shows him doing everything from campy, faddish numbers (e.g., 'Bossa Nova Baby', 'Viva Las Vegas') to songs of social relevance like 'In the Ghetto' to more mature country rock style tunes, such as 'Kentucky Rain' and 'Suspicious Minds'. This was the period of Elvis' famous comeback on a television special that made him hip again with young audiences as well as older fans from his youth.

The final disc covers the King's last years, and his song choices and performances show him to be a vital entertainer. He covers Tony Joe White's 'Polk Salad Annie' and James Taylor's 'Steamroller Blues' with a sneer as if to say, I am still a man baby—'a churnin' urn of burnin' funk', so to speak. Sometimes the arrangements get flashy and reveal that Las Vegas was now his kingdom, not to mention Hawaii where he had the world's first live concert satellite broadcast that reached at least a billion viewers live and launched a number one live album that spent a year on the charts. The other material shows that for the most part he has slowed down some ('I Just Can't Help Believin', 'Always on My Mind', 'Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues', etc.) but that his voice is still as strong and rich as ever. There are no unreleased cuts or alternate takes on this collection, just 100 of the King's best songs pristinely recorded. These are the jewels of the royal collection, and as anybody who has seen pictures of Elvis in costume can tell you, you can never have enough jewelry.

10 - The Best of the Best. Transcendent, essentially perfect, important, and more than likely to remain a classic touchstone for years to come.

Elvis 75 is the best single box set of Elvis' recordings ever ...
L. Kent Wolgamott - Lincoln Journal Star

Elvis 75 is the best single box set of Elvis' recordings ever. The now out-of-print '50s, '60s and '70s boxes released 15 years ago are more comprehensive than the new set, and the various greatest hits collections, Sun Records sets, gospel and live discs are more concise. But for an overview of Presley's career, nothing matches this compilation. It starts with his 1953 $4 demo of 'My Happiness' and wraps up with a haunting live version of 'Unchained Melody', recorded live a few months before he died in August 1977. It's followed by the remix of 'A Little Less Conversation' that sent the King of Rock 'n' Roll back up the charts in the 21st century.  

Elvis 75: Good Rockin' Tonight, First Definitive 4-CD Overview of Entire Recording CareerProduced from digitally restored masters, the 100 songs sound great, especially the songs from the '60s, which come across cleaner than on previous sets. More important, the selection isn't just the same old hits. Rather, producer Ernst Mikael Jorgensen chose a combination of the familiar along with deep album cuts and rare tracks, and it paints a more complete aural picture of Presley. In doing so, songs from his oft-dismissed '60s films like '(It's A) Long Lonely Highway' are rescued and take on a new powerful resonance. The consistent quality of his work comes into focus.

I'm a major Presley fan. I've got the essential '50s, '60s and '70s boxes, a half-dozen other multi-disc compilations and most, if not all, of his albums. Yet, listening to 'Elvis 75' I was struck by how great a singer he was from start to finish, whether yelping his youthful rockabilly, going 'continental' (in the term of liner note essayist Billy Altmann in the '60s) or delivering the passion live on 'Polk Salad Annie' and 'Unchained Melody' in the '70s.

The set also shows that, despite dreck like 'No Room to Rhumba in a Sports Car' (thankfully not included), Presley recorded some superb songs by some of the greatest writers, from Chuck Berry to Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and James Taylor, along with the likes of Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller and Otis Blackwell. That said, the new set is the best package spanning Presley's career, stands up to repeat listening ...

Grade: A

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Elvis Presley CD, Book and DVD Reviews Review - Elvis 75: Good Rockin' Tonight, First Definitive 4-CD Overview of Entire Recording Career

Elvis 75 - tracklisting

Disc 1 (1953-1957)

01 My Happiness
02 That's All Right
03 Blue Moon Of Kentucky
04 Good Rockin' Tonight
05 Baby Let's Play House
06 Mystery Train
07 I Forgot To Remember To Forget
08 I Got A Woman
09 Heartbreak Hotel
10 I Was The One
11 Blue Suede Shoes
12 My Baby Left Me
13 One-Sided Love Affair
14 I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You)
15 Lawdy, Miss Clawdy
16 I Want You, I Need You, I Love You
17 Hound Dog
18 Don't Be Cruel
19 Love Me Tender
20 Love Me
21 Paralyzed
22 Too Much
23 All Shook Up
24 Mean Woman Blues
25 (There'll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me)
26 (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear
27 One Night
28 Jailhouse Rock
29 Treat Me Nice
30 Blue Christmas
31 Don't

Disc 2 (1958-1962)

01 Hard Headed Woman
02 Trouble
03 King Creole
04 Wear My Ring Around Your Neck
05 I Need Your Love Tonight
06 A Big Hunk O' Love
07 (Now And Then There's) A Fool Such As I
08 Stuck On You
09 A Mess Of Blues
10 It's Now Or Never
11 Thrill Of Your Love
12 Such A Night
13 Are You Lonesome Tonight?
14 Reconsider Baby
15 Doin' The Best I Can
16 Pocketful Of Rainbows
17 Surrender
18 Crying In The Chapel
19 I Feel So Bad
20 There's Always Me
21 Judy
22 Can't Help Falling In Love
23 (Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame
24 Little Sister
25 Good Luck Charm
26 Suspicion
27 She's Not You
28 Return To Sender

Disc 3 (1963-1969)

01 Bossa Nova Baby
02 (You're The) Devil In Disguise
03 (It's A) Long Lonely Highway
04 I Need Somebody To Lean On
05 Viva Las Vegas
06 It Hurts Me
07 This Is My Heaven
08 Adam And Evil
09 How Great Thou Art
10 Tomorrow Is A Long Time
11 Guitar Man
12 Big Boss Man
13 Too Much Monkey Business
14 U.S. Male
15 If I Can Dream
16 Memories
17 Don't Cry Daddy
18 In The Ghetto
19 Suspicious Minds
20 Stranger In My Own Home Town
21 Kentucky Rain
22 Only The Strong Survive

Disc 4 (1970-1977)

01 Polk Salad Annie
02 The Fool
03 Funny How Time Slips Away
04 I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water
05 I Just Can't Help Believin'
06 I'm Leavin'
07 An American Trilogy
08 Burning Love
09 Always On My Mind
10 Steamroller Blues
11 Loving Arms
12 Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues
13 Promised Land
14 T-R-O-U-B-L-E
15 For The Heart
16 Hurt
17 Way Down
18 Unchained Melody
19 A Little Less Conversation (JXL Radio Remix Edit)

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Elvis Presley Video Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD

Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever. + Plus Bonus DVD Audio.

This is an excellent release no fan should be without it.

The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people. Highly recommended.

Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD Video with Sound.