Various Artists

Elvis Mania

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This two-disc photo cube box set stands as quite an illuminating piece of work, the whole point being that from the time he emerged full-blown into the national consciousness in January of 1956, Elvis Presley was perceived as a one-dimensional character of idolatry back then, every bit as much as the white jumpsuit Elvis was in the '70s. There are 52 examples of what we're talking about on these two discs, ranging from the snide (Bobby Bare's too perfect "All American Boy") to the reverential (Jim Ford's too-dippy-to-believe "The Story of Elvis Presley"), and hitting all the high and low points in between. Actually, in the midst of the current glut of corny tribute albums out there, it's a pretty hip idea to collect up all the Elvis tribute and novelty records, the bulk of them coming out pre-1960. There are a lot of high spots here (Lalo Guerrero's hilarious "Elvis Perez," Stan Freberg's "Heartbreak Hotel"), and admittedly a lot of fluff and filler as well. But even that's not really fair; after all, every track on here was recorded with only one purpose in mind and that was to turn a profit off the phenomena of Elvis (much like collecting all of this up and putting it out on CD is now), so the art of this CD box set is its very artlessness. If you're expecting master-tape quality here just because it's on compact disc, forget it. Evidently, somebody had a good time taping up their Presley-tribute record collection with this one. As the market for Elvis collectibles never seems to dry up, this one could well be sold for big bucks before long. For those collectors with every promotional geegaw known to mankind; Elvis toilet seats, hairbrushes, wastepaper baskets, vials of Elvis sweat, you name it -- this CD set is the soundtrack to your collection.