Since earlier titles in Time Life Music's The Elvis Presley Collection series of mail-order compilations were subtitled Love Songs and From the Heart, while this one is called The Romantic, one may ask, what distinguishes these similar-sounding collections? The answer is that they all contain ballads, but of differing levels of familiarity. Among the 31 songs on Love Songs are 20 that were chart singles for Presley, seven of them #1 hits. From the Heart features 12 chart singles, two of which got as high as the Top 10, and many of the non-hits are standards. The selection on The Romantic actually contains one more chart entry than From the Heart, but none got into the Top 10 and just four made the Top 20. The only songs that could be called standards are Cole Porter's "True Love," Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's "Blue Moon," Don McLean's "And I Love You So," and Kris Kristofferson's "For the Good Times" (presented in a previously unreleased studio outtake). "The heart of this collection," as annotator Charles K. Wolfe puts it, "...is comprised of... hidden gems, ones most Elvis fans have never heard before." If they haven't, it isn't because these "gems" were unreleased, but because they failed to achieve prominence. Half the selections come from the period 1960-64, when Presley was charting a new course as a middle-of-the-road entertainer after coming up as a rock & roller. That in itself is not a problem; he could be an effective balladeer, as the material on Love Songs demonstrates. But he was restricted in what songs he could record by a combination of what he was already familiar with and what his publishing company -- which gave him a cut on every song of theirs he did -- came up with. Given the pressing demands of his recording schedule, this meant that he recorded a lot of mediocre material, and much of it is on this album. This is not to say that the singer and his usual backup of A list Nashville session players don't give the songs respectable treatment; indeed, they often put more into their performances than the material deserves. But it's a wasted effort. With a few exceptions, this is a collection of costume jewelry, not gems.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann