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The "Classic Albums" issue - Your opinion please

Wed Aug 17, 2005 12:07 pm

The "The 50ies vs. the 70ies Elvis" discussion taking place in another thread made me rethink the term "Classic Albums" used by FTD to dispose their reissues of original albums generally (Loving You would be the first exception) no longer available in Sony/BMG's catalogue.

In your opinion what is a "classic album"? To me it has to be a work of art that is unassailable by the genereal rock/pop music critic (of course there'll always be people claiming that Pet Sounds was cr*p and Love's Forever Changes was "better" than Sgt. Pepper which BTW is overrated anyway ;) ). I'm talking about albums that generally are considered pop music's "classics".

IMO a classic album doesn't necessarily have to have revolutionized music and reinvented it. On the other hand it has to totally represent the artist in ways of being original, unique and "perfect" as the impression of this artist's way of making music (in this particular case).

To me of Elvis' original albums I think these albums were (in chronological order):

Elvis Presley (1956)
Elvis (1956)
Elvis' Christmas Album (1957)
Elvis' Golden Records (1958)
Elvis' Golden Records Vol. 2 (1959)
Elvis Is Back! (1960)
Elvis' Golden Records Vol. 3 (1963)
How Great Thou Art (1967)
ELVIS - NBC TV-Special (1968)
From Elvis In Memphis (1969)
From Vegas To Memphis / From Memphis To Vegas (1969)
On Stage - February, 1970 (1970)
That's The Way It Is (1970)
I'm 10.000 Years Old - Elvis Country (1971)
Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite (1973)
The Sun Sessions (1976)

Editing: I took Elvis' Gold Records Vol. 4 away from the list and added That's The Way It Is upon your request.
Last edited by see-see-rider on Thu Aug 18, 2005 10:00 am, edited 2 times in total.

Wed Aug 17, 2005 12:10 pm

chuck in Moody blue there

yeah i think you define what classic album means, just the over all feel of the album is just perfect, legendary, nothing is out of place

Wed Aug 17, 2005 12:16 pm

elvisjnr wrote:chuck in Moody blue there

yeah i think you define what classic album means, just the over all feel of the album is just perfect, legendary, nothing is out of place

"Blue" will be blown into little pieces by critics in just a matter of seconds. I wouldn't regard it a classic album, too ...

Wed Aug 17, 2005 12:21 pm

why do u think that?

Wed Aug 17, 2005 12:25 pm

Good definition.

I would also add His Hand in Mine and Thats the way it is - and possible Something for Everybody. The last choice is not as strong as Elvis is Back but is still a great album with a "perfect" Elvis.

I don't think I would add Elvis' Golden Records vol.4 to the list though...

Wed Aug 17, 2005 12:32 pm

elvisjnr wrote:why do u think that?

Because it's a fact. I am truly sick of all these "100 Best Albums / Singers / Album Covers Of All Time!" lists. They all look the same. You don't even have to open the magazine, you just know that "Sgt Pepper", "Exile On Main St", "Blonde On Blonde", "OK Computer", etc, will be in the top ten. It's so boring and pointless. It's so obvious that they don't give a sh*t about music anymore, they're just out to make a buck and write about stuff they listened to when they were 25 years old (about 134 years ago).

I hardly ever read music magazines anymore. Mojo, Uncut, Q - they are all f*cking guilty. If I see Thom Yorke or Michael Stipe on one more g*ddamn cover, I will reach for my gun! :D

Keith Richards, Jr.

Wed Aug 17, 2005 12:58 pm

I think the word 'classic' on FTD is being used to describe original albums...regardless of the quality of the original album.

Wed Aug 17, 2005 1:00 pm

It's a tough call but your definition is as good as any See See. My definition of a classic album would include the idea that the album is essential to understanding and appreciating the artist in question. I would also add that there has to be some sort of integrity in structure and some consistency in quality. I don't demand that every song be great but you can't have half the thing be classics and the other half duds.

It's very tough to decide if a greatest hits should be in the list since there are so many of them (not just by Elvis) and so many are interchangeable. There's no question that you need a greatest hits by Elvis, Sam Cooke, the Miracles, Prince, Chuck Berry etc. What one you choose is generally up to you. Some are better than others. But generally if you pick one of the classier versions (I.E. Good sound, good notes, decent amount of songs) of say Fats Domino's 20-25 greatest hits, it's hard to go wrong. So, I might leave Golden Records off my list.

"His Hand in Mine" deserves to be on any list of classic Elvis albums. It is an absolutely gorgeous album marked by the most delicate touch of Elvis' career.

I would also classify "That's the Way it Is" as it a necessary complement to On Stage-especially since it captures Elvis at a peak as a serious ballad singer. I really think Elvis is trying to say something on this album about moving into maturity and the consequences and rewards that come with the move.

I'm also tempted to lump "King Creole" onto your list. It's a very exploratory album in its mixture of rock and Dixieland and it's filled with stunning moments. The downsides are its brevity and some filler like "Steadfast Loyal and True".

On my list I would choose MSG over Aloha as the live choice as I feel Elvis sings so much better there and it captures the Elvis spectacle just as well.

I wouldn't classify albums like "Pot Luck", "Something For Everybody" or "Good Times" as classics. These are albums I would classify as worth hearing. Their best moments are some of Elvis' best moments but you're better off hearing them in the context of an anthology. "Something For Everybody" is a perfect case. This is really an album where the individual tracks come alive on their own. However, in succession in the slow side/rhythm side order they kind of run together. For some reason these songs lose their lustre when played together. I think the minor songs like "Gently", "In Your Arms", "I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell" are part of the problem in that they recall the best moments but offer nothing on their own. They kill the momentum of the good songs and their similarity to the good songs creates a kind of monotony.

"Moody Blue" is a different story. There's nothing to animate it. Unlike "Elvis Presley" there's not a consistency in quality. Unlike "That's the Way It is" there is no purpose to it's live and studio mix. And there is no consistency in character amongst the songs. "Let Me Be There" is even a retread from an earlier album. There are some classic moments like the title track and "She Thinks I Still Care" but even these are a hair short of "Bridge Over Troubled Water", "How the Web Was Woven", "Just Can't Help Believin', "Just Pretend".

Wed Aug 17, 2005 1:03 pm

Hey, CC Rider - looking at what you've done here I come to the conclusion that you choices are quite correct.

I think I see you points why you put these albums as "classic" albums.

I thought about From EP Blvd as a special one too, but in the end, Jungle Room Sessions is stronger than the original, I guess. So, no classic album in there.

I don't see why GOLDEN RECORDS 3 & 4 are classic albums in your opinion. 1 & 2 are definetely classics, the first volume for its songs, the second for its cover, no doubt about that.

But 3 and especially 4!? No, I don't see the point here.

To me, TTWII is a classic album, too, because in my opinion, it is the only Vegas-album Elvis ever did, in that sense, that it has the clishé Vegas sound. Elvis never soundend more than "Frank Sinatra-Dean-Martin-Siegfried&Roy-Vegas" than on this particular album. So, it's classic!

Wed Aug 17, 2005 1:13 pm

etp wrote:To me, TTWII is a classic album, too, because in my opinion, it is the only Vegas-album Elvis ever did, in that sense, that it has the cliché Vegas sound. Elvis never soundend more than "Frank Sinatra-Dean-Martin-Siegfried&Roy-Vegas" than on this particular album. So, it's classic!

To me TTWII is a classic album because it represents Elvis at what I consider to be his career peak. I don't think it sounds "cliche" or typically Vegas at all! I wouldn't buy a Dean Martin album and nor would I be particularly tempted to see a standard Vegas type show by an "easy listening" singer. TTWII transcends Vegas. It's classic because of the songs and the performances Elvis gives. 'Nuff said!


Wed Aug 17, 2005 2:04 pm

I might get shot for this, but I'd probably remove the 68 special from the list. As a TV show, as a spectacle, it's right up there, but the music on the album, taken on it's own merits, it a bit patchy. The backing on some of the tracks is awful - Don't Be Cruel, for example.

In the meantime, I'd have to wholeheartedly agree regarding TTWII. It's a fabulous album, with some of the best crafted songs of Elvis' career.

I think the Aloha album stand up better as a record than the MSG album - after all, Elvis seemed to restrict his movements and focus MORE on the music in ALoha. While that makes for, in my opinion, less of an exciting DVD, it makes for a better Album. The sound quality of the MSG album isn't fantastic either.

I'd probably be tempted to include Today or Elvis Blvd as well - perhaps Elvis Blvd, as Hurt, as much as any other song, defines the latter period Elvis, along with Love Coming Down, Danny Boy and others. Don't forget, this Album was a number 1 country Album at the time, which is where Elvis came in 20 years previously....

Wed Aug 17, 2005 2:30 pm

DarrylMac wrote:I might get shot for this, but I'd probably remove the 68 special from the list. As a TV show, as a spectacle, it's right up there, but the music on the album, taken on it's own merits, it a bit patchy.

I agree with this. The '68 Special is a classic piece of TV history, but doesn't really stand up as an LP record.


Wed Aug 17, 2005 2:47 pm

First: I think "Classic" was the wrong choice of words. They should have called it "Original" album series. What's classic to one may not be to someone else. Just release them all in 7 inch packaging.

Second: I don't give a damn what critics think about anything. Elvis included. Critics are ranked just below politicians on my list of things I dislike intensely.

Third: I remember Steve Binder quoted somewhere as telling Elvis "You make an album and I'll put pictures to it". I think Elvis(TV Special) stands up well as an album. I have the Japanese paper sleeve edition.
It's what I play when i want to "listen." It's short and to the point.
"Memories" Just goes on and on and..........

Wed Aug 17, 2005 4:22 pm

Thanks everybody for your replies! Wow, I didn't expect that much input in such a short spell.

What's really interesting to see for me is that TTWII has been "nominated" an by almost all of you yet. Did I forget or overlook it? Certainly not. I'm still not so sure whether it would stand up against mainstream criticism. For many this is as much Vegas Elvis as can be. He's even wearing a white jumpsuit (IMO the cover alone is almost worth calling it a classic album). I also think that stuff like Twenty Days And Twenty Nights, Mary In The Morning, You Don't Have To Say You Love Me, You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' and Bridge Over Troubled Water might discourage people to go deeper into what one could probably call the soul of this album.

I can already hear people whine about "Bridge" that this is overblown and nowhere near the "classic recording" by S & G (and I can literally see LTB blowing off when he reads this ;)) - but I'm affraid that's the way it is). I can also hear both the overproduction and "betrayed Rock'n'Roll" kind of arguments. And last but not least both the overdubbed applause and the fact that the album has almost nothing to do with the film of the same title ... All this doesn't really add to the album getting a true classic IMO.

But of course I have it on the list of albums that could have been there, too, if it wasn't for one or two small exception. Here they come: :roll:

Loving You (1957)
Strong first side with classic all over it, weak second side IMO

King Creole (1958)
LTB said everything about it

His Hand In Mine (1961)
Some named this before, for me there's a little too much Nashville sugar in there.

Blue Hawaii (1961)
If there's a classic soundtrack album it's this. You don't have to dig the movie Elvis but you have to admit that it has its classical moments.

Elvis That's The Way It Is (1970)
For obvious reasons. Still there's something that lets me hesitate. Convince me!

etp - Why "Gold(en) Records" 3 & 4? Look at the tracklisting and you'll see. ;) I have to admit though that these (plus "Aloha" - "Aloha" rather than "Golden Records 3") were the ones that made me think for awhile. In the end I think "Aloha" is a classic record because it has "Elvis" written all over it and was a statement of what he thought he could and would like to do. I agree that "Golden Records 4" came a few years late but then again it had songs that weren't available anywhere else on LP and that in January 1968 were the last sign of who Elvis was ... But probably you're right and it's better off in that second list.

Wed Aug 17, 2005 5:58 pm

Convince you about TTWII?

I Just Can't Help Believin. One of the standout performances from the film, and one of the best, most understated and underrated perfomances of Elvis's career. His voice is perfect for the song, the backing faultless. Listen to the instrumental break, the band and orchestra in perfect harmony, perhaps more so than any other song, and with split second perfect timing, Elvis is back in with "for more than just a day". Stunning!

There isn't a weak song on the album. Patch It Up, I Just Can't Help, You've Lost That Lovin Feeling and I've Lost You are all featured in the film, and all paint a picture of Elvis Summer Festival - Elvis in fantastic voice, and the band sounding fantastic. New, contempory material showing once and for all that Elvis was not only back, but was older, wiser and better. He was no longer singing to turtles, and guys he just beat up, that's for sure!

The studio tracks, while perhaps over produced, represent some of the finest of Elvis career. Stranger In The Crowd is fabulous, and I love Elvis voice in Next Step Is Love - a little hoarse, but gentle, and it suits the song perfectly. Whenever I play my friends this version of Bridge - withough the applause admittedly, they are awestruck. They don't see it as overblown, they see it as a powerhouse performance by Elvis at his peak - they love it. It's been known to generate it's own applause in my car!

In short, this Album should be included in anyones list of classics, as it represents Elvis voice at, in my opinion, it's peak, singing some of the best songs he was ever presented with.

Last edited by DarrylMac on Wed Aug 17, 2005 6:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Wed Aug 17, 2005 6:06 pm

DarrylMac wrote:Convinced?

Well you convinced me! But...uh...I didn't need convincing.

I don't even think the studio cuts are over produced. And as for Stranger In The Crowd and I Just Can't Help Believin' - those cuts alone are worth their weight in gold.


Wed Aug 17, 2005 9:42 pm

I too consider Loving You,King Creole and TTWII classics.
I don't consider though Golden Records series as classic
albums as I don't believe compilation or Greatest Hits sets
should count as classic albums.Great compilations they are
I will agree.

Wed Aug 17, 2005 10:15 pm

Good list See See.

I would include King Creole - for the first use of horns by Elvis.

Take away the many duplicated Gold seies and hand the list Ernst :!:

Thu Aug 18, 2005 12:31 am

Elvis' version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" is ten times the record of the S&G original. Art Garfunkel is one of the wimpiest vocalist I have ever heard and does captures any the gospel overtones of the piece. It's an overblown song and the production on the original is hardly subtle. The only bit of bombast on the Elvis version is in the climax and its well thought out bombast as it comes at the end of the long crescendo that Elvis had built throughout the entire tune. Compared to say a Whitney Houston record, it's downright subtle. (Aretha's remake, more oversung than Elvis', is also better than S&G.)

A dismissal of tracks like "Twenty Days and Twenty Nights" is simply of dismissal of ballads and I don't think that's fair. For someone to say that Elvis is caught in Vegas bombast here is simply to ignore the actual music. The record is the epitome of undersstatement. Darryl Mac captured the flavor of the rest of the album for me. Entertainment Weekly's Critic David Browne gave the expanded TTWII an "A" when it came out in 2000.

To me Gold Records 3 is better than Gold Records 2. The material is deeper and it's a more adventurous and diverse period. But I feel weird about greatest hits.

For me "Blue Hawaii" has sold enough and is popular enough with the general public to merit a place on the list despite its artistic deficiencies. It's at least as good as "Genius Hits the Road" which also features "Blue Hawaii".

The '68 Show is best represented by "Tiger Man" and "Memories".

Thu Aug 18, 2005 12:48 am

If fairness to Art he sang it the way Paul envisioned he wanted it sung when he wrote it.

This track goes hand in hand with The Boxer ('some guys just lost'), but Elvis has really combined the two with his verion of Bridge.

When Simon heard Elvis' performance of it, I believe he also saw it, he was quite taken aback not that he saw anything wrong as such in Elvis' version, just that he never thought of it as being performed that way.

I'm glad Elvis didn't take on The Boxer he could only ever have got a draw as a result. The inclusions of Simon on vocals bought a deftness to the delivery of the vocals in a manner I've never quite heard anyone else equal on any other songs.

Thu Aug 18, 2005 12:54 am

In fairness I have never been a fan of S&G. I thought Garfunkel was a mediocrity that weighed Simon down and Simon himself did not mature as a songwriter until the 1970s.

Thu Aug 18, 2005 12:59 am

I have to say, almost echoing Jerry, that I have a real affinity for
all of Elvis' albums, critics be damned. It's like talking about
family members. :oops: Nostalgia is hard to get around in
thinking about even Camden albums.

Seriously, though, it's worthwhile to think about what really stands up
to scrutiny.


I also think the GOLDEN RECORDS series should not be dismissed,
although I sometimes have a hard time thinking about them
as true albums. That said, hearing, say, Volume 1 as i did last
night, I was struck how much that song order means to me.

P.S. Jules: not so hard on "Vegas" acts like Dean Martin. You'd do well
to put the new greatest hits comp alongside all that classic rock in
your collection. :wink: Whether TTWII was Vegas or not, I have
no problem with it.

Re: The "Classic Albums" issue - Your opinion plea

Thu Aug 18, 2005 1:06 am

see-see-rider wrote:what is a "classic album"? To me it has to be a work of art that is unassailable by the genereal rock/pop music critic


With the above criteria I would reduce the list to this. I don't think greatest hits or other compilations should count.

Elvis Presley (1956)
Elvis (1956)
Elvis' Christmas Album (1957)
Elvis Is Back! (1960)
From Elvis In Memphis (1969)
I'm 10.000 Years Old - Elvis Country (1971)

I don't think I'm being particularly harsh, every other Elvis album is not "unassailable by the genereal rock/pop music critic", the above certainly are.

Thu Aug 18, 2005 1:11 am


Well, we are quick to dismiss the GOLDEN RECORDS series, but
couldn't a case be made that his debut ELVIS PRESLEY
was a hodgepodge of sorts, too? Some call his second album
his first real album. And what about those album covers above?!

I still hope to get that DVD that honors his first album as a
"classic album"...


Thu Aug 18, 2005 1:16 am

likethebike wrote:In fairness I have never been a fan of S&G. I thought Garfunkel was a mediocrity that weighed Simon down and Simon himself did not mature as a songwriter until the 1970s.

A cynic could make the case that great songwriters should stay
away from microphones!

Really, the whole singer-songwriter thing got way overinflated in
importance, as witnessed by the ROLLING STONE school of
much rock criticism.

And being a good singer and particularly a good entertainer
also often ends up being second to those ever-"meaningful"
singer-songwriters, a.k.a. "artists."] Accordingly, "Vegas"
often ends up being cast as some kind of insult, as witnessed
by the annoying comments in the new Oxford American magazine,
where Elvis gets a lot of backhanded compliments for his '69
live version of "Suspicious Minds."

Give me a good song mill any day and I bet '60's & '70s
Vegas had plenty to offer, too.

Voices like Elvis or Dean Martin or Tony Bennett or Billie Holiday,
or jazz & blues singers like Jimmy Witherspoon don't come along everyday. Most of us at one time would have to stop
and think to ask whether any of them ever picked up a
pen to write a song. We like their personal executions of a song,
and that's it. Make it yours and you own it.

What screams out in much of today's rock (and hip hop)
is how much even rudimentary levels of show business
craft are now history. But, oh, they "write" their own songs and ....
Please! Give me even the worse Doc Pomus-Mort
Shuman composition over any of today's
"vital" rap, for example.

Ironically, Elvis was accused of that in the '50s,
but in hindsight, he did open a brave
new world, for better or for worse.
Last edited by Gregory Nolan Jr. on Thu Aug 18, 2005 4:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.