The Essential Elvis Presley is a collection of live bootlegged performances from 1954-1956 that includes his first ever performance on the Louisiana hayride in October of 1954. The sound quality of these is dodgy but everything can be heard to be sure, and Scotty Moore at even half volume here sounds like a battle between good and evil raging from the heavens, so thunderous is his playing. There is a commentator on these performances who is hilarious. While all of this material has been released elsewhere, the only place it is all assembled in one place is on the Bear Family set, and there it is in far superior quality. However, this is all on one budget-priced import disc, and if a bit of tape hiss doesn't bug you too much and if you salivate when you hear Scotty Moore reveal why his reputation is so sacred, then this might be for you. There are 12 tracks here, ranging from "I Was the One," "Long Tall Sally," "Money Honey," "I Got a Woman," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Maybelline" (which is far inferior to any Chuck Berry version), "That's All Right," "Blue Moon of Kentucky," "Good Rockin' Tonight," "Hound Dog," and "Baby Let's Play House." Many of the tracks feature the Jordonairres and all of them feature the classic trio backing Elvis. His performances are full of spit and fire and have none of the rote detriments that the early '60s brought. As a bootleg this is tough to beat despite the shoddy sound; the performances are simply out of this world.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek