Elvis Presley

The Elvis Presley Collection: The Rocker

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Since an earlier volume in Time-Life's mail-order series The Elvis Presley Collection is subtitled Rock 'n' Roll, it's worth asking what distinguishes it from this one, subtitled The Rocker. The answer, in general, is that Rock 'n' Roll contains recordings that were written for Presley and that he made into hits, songs like "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Jailhouse Rock," while The Rocker consists of covers of other people's rock & roll hits, such as his versions of Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally" and "Tutti Frutti," recordings that were used to fill out his LP releases but not issued as singles. "The ways in which he paid tribute to his rocking mentors are celebrated in this collection," is the way annotator Charles K. Wolfe puts it. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, however, as the set does contain songs written especially for Presley, such as Leiber & Stoller's "Dirty, Dirty Feeling," and some minor hit singles, such as "Rock-a-Hula Baby." But the most notable tracks on the collection are Presley's versions of rock & roll evergreens like "Shake, Rattle and Roll." Typically for this series, the two CDs/cassettes are in rough chronological order, but run concurrently instead of consecutively, so that the second one starts over back in the mid-1950s. These compressed histories, each running 37 minutes (both could have fit on a single CD), therefore take the listener quickly from the inspired rockabilly of tracks like "Mystery Train" through the somewhat hokey movie material like "Kissin' Cousins" to overdone concert recordings like "See See Rider." Thus, Elvis Presley the rocker deteriorates before your ears -- twice! (Each volume of The Elvis Presley Collection is baited with a previously unreleased track. In this case, it's a rehearsal version of "Burning Love.")

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