It was probably inevitable that among Time Life Music's series of thematically arranged compilations of the recordings of Elvis Presley under the general title The Elvis Presley Collection there would be albums devoted to tracks from Presley's movies, and Movie Magic is one of the two (the other being the lighthearted Fun at the Movies). Liner notes author Charles K. Wolfe points out that Presley's film music "totaled almost 300 tunes, and comprised nearly half of the total Elvis discography" -- a frightening fact given how much of it was dreck. To overcome the generally low quality of the material, the compilers have avoided Presley's later movies, picking only two songs out of 31 from after 1964, and generally looked to the harder rocking songs, many of them written by such above-average songwriters as Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller (whose 10 selections make up a third of the album), Otis Blackwell, and Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman. They have also added interest by including such rarities as previously released alternate takes of "Loving You" (in an arrangement leaning more toward blues-rock than the original) and "Jailhouse Rock" (with a prominent backup vocal group), and a previously unreleased take of "Little Egypt." When Presley is singing songs like "Treat Me Nice," "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care," and "Viva Las Vegas," it's easy to forget how awful many of his film vehicles were. But even this carefully selected condensation of his film music is not consistently impressive, and is also an unusually short compilation: At a running time under 71 minutes, it could have fit onto one CD instead of being stretched onto a more expensive two disc set.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2