Review : I Believe - The Gospel Masters 4 CD Set

By: David Tinson
Source: Helium
May 30, 2009

I Believe - The Gospel Masters
I Believe - The Gospel Masters
Elvis Presley's greatest gospel songs included on one stunning collection: I Believe - The Gospel Masters 4-CD. The rock 'n' roll King's first musical love was gospel when attending church with his mother Gladys.

He sang in church as a young boy barely knowing the words but the early influence added gospel music to his musical arsenal culminating in a potent musical mix - ultimately entitled rock 'n' roll.

Elvis received three Grammy awards for his gospel music and none for his legendary rock 'n' roll sides, itself a travesty, but there's something special about his gospel music when heard for the first time and it strikes a powerful emotional chord with the listener and there's no doubt it inspired Presley too becoming an important part of his make-up.

Sony Music have struck gold with this release which comes well annotated with photos and text, plus eco-friendly packaging. It features all of his multi-platinum albums Peace In The Valley, His Hand In Mine, How Great Thou Art and He Touched Me, plus bonus songs from his movies.

Disc one collects early cuts I Believe, (There'll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me) Take My Hand Precious Lord, followed by the peerless His Hand In Mine album with gorgeous vocal backing by the Jordanaires (Gordon Stoker penned the forward for the collection).

The set is front-loaded with soothing spiritual gospel music with Elvis' effortless full baritone revelling on the tongue-twisting Run On. A plea of support and inspiration on Stand By Me and the finger popping intro and bluesy piano of Where Could I Go But To The Lord - just some of the highlights of the second disc.

I was born about ten thousand years ago, there's nothing in this world that I don't know, saw Peter Paul & Moses playing ring around the roses, I licked the guy that said it isn't so, sings Elvis on CD-3 opener I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago - the song from Presley's 1971 album, Elvis Country (i'm 10,000 Years Old) and was a continuing theme through the album and a great addition to the 4-CD set. It also features good harmonica work from session great Charlie McCoy who blew-up a storm on many Presley recording sessions.

The complex story of life's origins follows Life, plus Only Believe Love Letters From Elvis (1971) before the whole of the classic Grammy-winning album, He Touched Me (1972) is featured - bluesy and just oozing spirituality Elvis taps a mainline to his maker - Amazing Grace; the galvanising Lead Me, Guide Me; righteous vocal power on Mahalia Jackson's gospel classic An Evening Prayer; and the rocking guitar of James Burton's Fender Telecaster on Put Your Hand In The Hand are the standouts besides a sincere and moving - Reach Out To Jesus - Elvis sings: Is your burden heavy as you bear it all alone? Does the road you travel, harbour dangers yet unknown? - you can feel the sincerity in his voice, and it's immaculately performed with a delicious piano accompaniment. The fourth disc adds 1960s movie songs, Down By The Riverside/When The Saints Go Marching In (Frankie And Johnny), Sing You Children (Easy Come Easy Go), Swing Down Sweet Chariot (The Trouble With Girls) and Let Us Pray (Change Of Habit). The '68 Comeback Special gets a nod with a gospel medley and the inspirational If I Can Dream. The 1974 album, Elvis: Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis often gets overlooked but three songs are included here: Help Me, Why Me Lord - and a staggering version of How Great Thou Art ( won him his final Grammy), and sound incredibly in sparkling new remastered audio. In-fact the whole collection sounds superb with the instruments and Elvis' voice never sounding better.

A gospel jam from the 1972 Elvis - On Tour documentary is also featured here and proves like fine wine Elvis Presley's music just gets better with age. Three unreleased home recordings complete the set.

Presley's strong faith and belief in all things spiritual shines through on this collection - and was a key element in his rise to superstardom, sustaining longevity through the excessive Vegas years.

You don't have to be of a religious calling to enjoy the music, just an appreciation of good music is the only requirement and this extraordinary collection is the definitive word on Presley's gospel recordings - proving the devil doesn't have all the best tunes.

Buy I Believe - The Gospel Masters 4 CD Box Set

Review : I Believe - The Gospel Masters 4 CD Set
Ron Wynn - CityPaper - Nashville

Every conceivable type of American vernacular music influenced Elvis Presley, but perhaps the least recognized of these styles was gospel. That was not only an incredibly important part of his arsenal, it was the only genre in which Presley ever won a Grammy award, something that speaks volumes about that process.

Indeed, Presley won three Grammys for spiritual music, and his choices in that realm were just as diverse as the ones in the secular arena. White or black, quartet or choral, Presley knew and loved many composers, vocalists and groups, and he made sensational gospel albums. Presley also often included gospel numbers in films that were otherwise rather forgettable, providing moments of awe in the midst of tedium on such movies as The Trouble with Girls and Easy Come, Easy Go. The often spectacular four-disc boxed set I Believe - The Gospel Masters (RCA/Legacy) finally puts all the Presley spiritual material in one collection, with every selection remastered from the original master tapes via the newest engineering process called DSD. Whatever this means, if you've ever heard the originals, these are much cleaner, yet haven't had the life processed out of them to the point that the results are sterile and lifeless.

I Believe - The Back cover
I Believe - The Back cover
The first three discs contain all the songs from the classic albums His Hand in Mine, How Great Thou Art and He Touched Me. The 51 selections include old time spirituals, hymns, numbers he often worked into live performance like Crying in the Chapel and some other pieces where he would sometimes cut loose with a sound or two that wasn't far removed from the rock mode (I Got a Feelin' in My Body, and Put Your Hand in the Hand).

The fourth disc blends cuts that appeared in films with songs included in his 1968 comeback special, most notably a rocking medley of Where Could I Go but to the Lord / Up Above My Head / Saved and the masterful If I Can Dream. There are also definitive live versions of How Great Thou Art and Help Me.

Plus some bonus cuts from the 'Elvis on Tour' sessions and three home recordings that nicely complement the package. These are three beautiful pieces culled from private Presley home recordings, among them Show Me Thy Ways, O Lord and Hide Thou Me.

Presley once unsuccessfully tried out for the Blackwood Brothers, and he was a lifetime lover of the Statesmen Quartet. Who knows how the course of popular music history would have changed if Presley had made the Blackwood Brothers and San Cooke never left the Soul Stirrers.

While neither of those things occurred, I Believe shows that Elvis Presley might have enjoyed the same impact in spiritual circles that he did in secular ones had he opted to concentrate solely on gospel. Buy I Believe - The Gospel Masters 4 CD Box Set

Disc 1:

I Believe
Peace In The Valley
Take My Hand, Precious Lord
It Is No Secret
Milky White Way
His Hand In Mine
I Believe In The Man In The Sky
He Knows Just What I Need
Mansion Over The Hilltop
In My Father's House
Joshua Fit The Battle
Swing Down, Sweet Chariot
I'm Gonna Walk Dem Golden Stairs
If We Never Meet Again
Known Only To Him
Crying In The Chapel
Working On The Building

Disc 2:

Run On
How Great Thou Art
Stand By Me
Where No One Stands Alone
So High
Farther Along
By And By
In The Garden
Somebody Bigger Than You And I
Without Him
If The Lord Wasn't Walking By My Side
Where Could I Go But To The Lord
You'll Never Walk Alone
We Call On Him
Who Am I?

Disc 3:

I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago
Only Believe
Amazing Grace
Lead Me, Guide Me
He Touched Me
I've Got Confidence
An Evening Prayer
Seeing Is Believing
A Thing Called Love
Put Your Hand In The Hand
Reach Out To Jesus
He Is My Everything
There Is No God But God
Bosom Of Abraham
I, John
I Got A Feelin' In My Body
Help Me
If That Isn't Love

Disc 4:

Down By The Riverside / When The Saints Go Marchin' In (from Frankie And Johnny)
Sing You Children (from Easy Come, Easy Go)
Swing Down, Sweet Chariot (from The Trouble With Girls)
Let Us Pray (from Change of Habit)
Where Could I Go But To The Lord / Up Above My Head / Saved (from the '68 Comeback Special)
If I Can Dream (from the '68 Comeback Special)
Why Me Lord (live)
How Great Thou Art (live)
Help Me (live)
I, John (from Elvis On Tour)
Bosom Of Abraham (from Elvis On Tour)
You Better Run (from Elvis On Tour)
Lead Me, Guide Me (from Elvis On Tour)
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus / Nearer My God To Thee (from Elvis On Tour)
Oh, How I Love Jesus (home recording)
Show Me Thy Ways, O Lord (home recording)
Hide Thou Me (home recording)

Buy I Believe - The Gospel Masters 4 CD Box Set
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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.

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