Elvis Presley

Elvis Chante Mort Shuman & Doc Pomus

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This is one cool Elvis Presley compilation, and it's embarrassing that it comes from French BMG -- why can't the American catalog support releases like this? Mort Shuman and Doc Pomus never loomed as large in Elvis' legend as Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, coming along a little later, when his music was no longer on the cutting edge of rock & roll. On the other hand, they wrote brilliant blues, rockers, and ballads for him, and 14 of the 16 of the compositions of theirs that he cut between 1960 and 1969 are among the best songs he recorded during that decade. Not every one of them was an A-side, or a huge hit -- though several were -- but all except two of the numbers here could stand alongside any competition of their era. This double-disc set is dazzling, not only for sound but also for the subtleties in his persona that one picks up from the songs -- some of the best of what we knew, saw, and heard of Elvis in the 1960s, the mix of maturity and boldness, passion and vulnerability, came from songs like "(Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame" and "Viva Las Vegas." Established jewels like "Little Sister," "Surrender," and "Suspicion," and diamonds-in-the-rough like "Gonna Get Back Home Somehow" and "(It's A) Long Lonely Highway," all help loft such lesser fare as "Double Trouble" to new heights; and the collection ends on a high note with one of the great Elvis B-sides, "You'll Think Of Me." Disc one consists of the finished masters, while Disc two is made up of 12 alternate takes and one live Presley cut, plus four bonus tracks featuring Mort Shuman. The Presley alternates have different emphases in the accompaniment, or a looser approach by the singer, and they'd be regarded as perfect versions by any other artist. What's more, Shuman's versions of "Suspicion," "His Latest Flame," and "Viva Las Vegas" are hardly filler material; he cut a few singles of his own in England during the early/middle '60s, and was a more than competent singer in his own right; Presley's producers sought to emulate his demos in their sound, texture, and tempos. The set also contains a well illustrated booklet, thoroughly annotated in French and English, and the only part of the package that may be useless to most Americans is the short Shuman interview, which is entirely in French.

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