Long Live the King
New CD’s, a DVD and a new book commemorate the 30th Anniversary of Elvis’ Death
There has never been anyone quite like him, and it’s unlikely that we will ever witness another musical artist that will accomplish what Elvis Presley did in his short, but unparalleled, career. Since he first appeared on national television on Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey’s Stage Show in January 1956 (three weeks following his twenty-first birthday) until his last concert appearance in Indianapolis on June 26, 1977 at the age of forty-two, Elvis reigned as the King of Rock and Roll, and still remains the Number One artist of all time.
On this, the thirtieth anniversary of his untimely death (August 16, 1977), Elvis Aron Presley and his discography continues to produce new collections of recycled material, as the unseen footage and photos prolong his legend. He will undoubtedly go unsurpassed in the music industry in our lifetimes and many lifetimes beyond.
To celebrate his personal and professional life, RCA Records has released two new CD’s; Elvis: At the Movies, a two-disc, 40 track set of Presley’s most beloved songs from his films, and a remastered set entitled Elvis: Viva Las Vegas, which encompasses sixteen sterling tracks that were performed live at the International (now known as The Las Vegas Hilton) and includes a wide potpourri of songs that weren’t radio hits, but were nonetheless brilliant tracks, which Elvis was so famous for including as essentials at his concerts.
In addition to the two new CD’s, Elvis: The Miniseries (the Emmy-award winning 2005 film) has at long last been released, and it is the definitive film that features outstanding performances from Camryn Manheim (who played Elvis’ beloved mother, Gladys), Randy Quaid (who played Elvis’ longtime manager, Col. Tom Parker) and a tour de force performance by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as the King himself. Not enough? A new hardcover coffee-table book from Life magazine has been released, Elvis: 30 Years Later, which includes some of the most stunning and fascinating photographs from Elvis’ celebrated life.
Other reissues include Elvis: The Ed Sullivan Years, which consists of three episodes from his first appearance on September 9, 1956, which attracted a record-breaking television audience of 60 million viewers. His second appearance came six weeks later and includes performances of “Love Me Tender,” Hound Dog,” and “Don’t Be Cruel.” It was after these two gyrating-pelvis-performance episodes that prompted outraged parents to have Elvis banned from the airwaves. In a compromise, CBS and Sullivan agreed to have Elvis filmed from the waist-up, and that’s exactly what happened when Presley appeared on the show for the very last time on January 6, 1957, just two days before his twenty-second birthday.
Elvis Presley: Viva Las Vegas (Remastered 2007)
Maybe you’ve heard these recordings before and maybe you haven’t. Either way, listening to these sixteen tracks on one disc is as thrilling as when you may have heard them for the first time. Selected performances from Elvis’ heyday in Vegas were selected, and fortunately, this is not another retread of the “hits.” Instead, we are treated to some of the most authentic rare tracks that Elvis usually performed as fan favorites when appearing in his beloved second home of Las Vegas. The tracks include a variety of music such as the gospel inspiring performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and contemporary pop covers such as “I Just Can’t Help Believin’,” “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me,” “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” and “Never Been To Spain,” which makes you wonder if he would have had hits with these songs if had he recorded them first. Whatever the case, they are completely unique and sensational performances. Songs that Elvis is famous for only appear three times on this collection, and they include “See See Rider,” The Wonder of You,” and, of course, the title track. The album closes with one of the finest performances of “The Impossible Dream” ever captured on wax. It’s no wonder at all after hearing these tracks why he was, and always will be, considered the greatest live performer of all time.
Elvis Presley: At The Movies
Elvis has been repackaged to death (sorry for the inappropriate choice of words), but what I love about this particular double-disc forty-track set is that the music consists only of the best tracks from Elvis’ myriad of films, and they are placed in chronological order of release.
The set begins with one of the few critically acclaimed of Elvis’ films, Love Me Tender, and the title track is also one of the very few compositions ever written by Presley himself. It’s a shame, because this ballad is so gorgeous, one wonders what else he could’ve accomplished had he had more confidence in this aspect of his career. The second track is the hit record “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” from the film, Loving You. On the third, and last film that was taken seriously by the critics, Jailhouse Rock, Elvis not only choreographed the famous title track, but his acting abilities only got better in this rebellious teenage romp. The other song featured from the film is the less popular but polished “Treat Me Nice.”
After Presley’s first three films, he fell into the trap of being cast into every situation and ridiculous role from a race car driver to carnival barker, all the while mesmerizing the ladies with his charm that was thankfully enhanced by his phenomenal vocals.
Other films and songs included are King Creole, with the fabulous “Hard Headed Woman” as the films’ standout track. G.I. Blues was released to mirror Presley’s life in the Army, and produced the recordings “Frankfort Special” and the title track. Flaming Star featured its title track, as did Blue Hawaii, plus two more treasures, the stunning “Can’t Help Falling In Love” as well as “Rock-a-Hula Baby.” Follow That Dream featured the title track, and Kid Galahad offered the prophetic “King of The Whole Wide World,” as Girls! Girls! Girls! produced the smash hit “Return To Sender.”
The last three tracks on the first disc are some of the best tracks recorded for Presley’s films. It Happened At The World’s Fair gave us two, “One Broken Heart For Sale” and “They Remind Me Too Much of You,” while Fun In Acapulco’s “Bossa Nova Baby” and title anthem, Viva Las Vegas, closes out the first set.
Disc Two picks up with one more track from Viva Las Vegas, the gold-certified single “What’d I Say,” and Kissin’ Cousins is represented by the hit of the same name. Only Presley could’ve made “Little Egypt” a sensation from the film Roustabout. A sign of the times was most evident when Elvis performed “Do the Clam” from Girl Happy, as was “(Such an) Easy Question” and “I’m Yours” taken from the less popular 1965 film Tickle Me.
Harum Scarum scared up the bouncy “Shake That Tambourine,” while Frankie And Johnny’s anthem was delivered impeccably. Other highlights on the set include “This Is My Heaven” from Paradise, Hawaiian Style, Spinout spun out two great tracks, “All That I Am” and “I’ll Be Back,” and the lesser known “Long Legged Girl (With The Short Dress On)” was delivered much better than the film it came from, Double Trouble.
The monotonous plots of the Presley pictures seemed endless, and would’ve been, if it weren’t for such great tracks as “The Love Machine” from Easy Come, Easy Go, as well as the title tune from Clambake. Six less than stellar films that represent the music round out the CD, but the recordings (which this is all about) make it worthy. Speedway raced the single “Let Yourself Go” to radio, but is much more appreciated on this album than it was on the airwaves in 1968. The same could be said for the title track to Stay Away, but we must remember this is just months away from Presley’s infamous black-leathered “Comeback Special.”
“A Little Less Conversation” caused quite a bit of conversation when it was revived a few years ago from the 1968 film Live A Little, Love A Little. The title track from Charro!, is fun, as is the track “Clean Up Your Backyard” from The Trouble With Girls. The fierce closer “Rubberneckin’,” from the film Change of Habit, is sensational. The same can’t be said of the film that had our beloved Laura Petrie, a.k.a. Mary Tyler Moore, donned as a woman of the cloth. Thank the Lord the song was far better than the film’s implausible plotline.
You can thank Presley’s personal manager, Col. Tom Parker, for taking the naïve twenty-one year old and having him sign contracts that placed him in the kind of films that offered millions in revenue for both, but cost Presley his dignity and respect as an actor. He appeared in one miserable film after another. Thank goodness the songs fared far better, and that’s what this collection is all about. Even if you’re not a Presley die-hard, these songs are a part of the King and his legacy. If his songs weren’t worthy, we wouldn’t still be discussing this man. He may be gone, but his legacy definitely has not left the building.
© 2007 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.