All posts with more than 3000 Hits, prior to 2008

Elvis Aron Presley Box ahead of its time?

Sun Jan 21, 2007 3:41 pm

In 1980, RCA ventured into somewhat unknown mainstream commercial territory with with the release of the multi-LP boxed set Elvis Aron Presley. The set met with great commercial success moving nearly all of its limited run of 250,000 copies and making, a then unheard of for a box set of #27.

Critically it didn't do as well. The set was almost universally panned and- Greil Marcus' even handed albeit essentially negative RS review aside- panned with great malice. Dave Marsh, a big Elvis supporter, went so far as to give the set a zero star review in the Rolling Stone Record Guide. It's hard to see what would inspire such hostility other than the fact that people were not yet ready to deal with a set devoted almost exclusively to rarities.

In 1980 a boxed set was still a rare beast. There were some for jazz artists, folk artists and the complete oeuvre of doo wop artists like the Orioles aimed at exceptionally small audiences, greatest hits sets like the Worldwide Hits collections and documents of big events like the concert for bangladesh. To go the boxed route with the biggest artist in the world and come up with basically a fill in the blanks collection was largely virgin territory.

I wonder if some fans and critics when they heard that RCA was digging into the vaults for this release were expecting unheard never before released songs, the one area where this set was woefully short.

Not that there wasn't a lot to initiate beefs. As many critics have pointed out, one disc, Elvis Piano, played out to only 12 minutes. Others have pointed to the flimsiness of the packaging with sleeves that in Neal Umphred's words "broke apart as soon as you pulled out the discs". And in true RCA fashion, not everything was a rarity. The songs on the TV disc were all readily available in print on their own soundtrack albums.

More than 25 years down the line, it's biggest flaw seems to be a lack of character. It has a hodgepode type feel to it. Some of the ideas like Elvis at the Piano aren't even fully formed. The songs on that disc were generally good but what was the overall point of the disc? There was the mix of released and unreleased. There was the jumble of periods and jumble of types of rarities as well. Of course, in many ways today it's also been surpassed.

Still, there is a LOT of good music on this set. There's the astounding 1961 Hawaii benefit which may be the definitive document of the young Elvis on stage. More accomplished than the '50s Elvis, more raw than the '70s showmen. The unreleased "Beyond the Reef" was one of Elvis' most haunting songs. The movie disc which seemed to take a lot of the criticism gave us Elvis at his most intimate on "They Remind Me Too Much of You" and solid work on "Shopping Around" and a fresh insight with the accappella "Thanks to the Rolling Sea". The live Vegas tracks were generally brilliant with maybe Elvis' best version of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling". The final disc of live recordings from 1975 was respectable and gave fans some unusual live numbers like "T-R-O-U-B-L-E'. There was also some first rate history. The singles collected were generally classy. The interview with Lloyd Shearer was fascinating and provided much insight into Elvis. More insight was available in the 1956 Vegas recordings. You can hear the clash of cultures in the lack of audience reaction and Elvis' asides. "Music lovers" he taunts the obviously bored crowd.

In 1980 I think people weren't yet ready to deal with the fact that Elvis Presley wasn't here anymore and wasn't going to be making any new music. EAP was the first Elvis album to understand that the story was complete and that to understand the Elvis riddle it was important to examine what was and how Elvis got there. As each year passed and Elvis became more and more of a historic figure seeing how he worked became that much more important and really the years after his death underlined just how important that music was. Without Elvis around to tell us how we did it, we needed these recordings to show us. Really though they made a statement that was probably beyond Elvis' capacity in an interview. As fans got past the fact that I have this song and critics got passed that there weren't any new Sun treasures coming and gradually accepted that Elvis didn't die in 1960, people also realized just how entertaining these fill in the blanks could be.

Today, in our collector mad world, we take sets like this for granted but in 1980 it was different world and this set helped rewrite the rules.

Sun Jan 21, 2007 4:35 pm

That's true about the sound on the benefit. I just so badly wanted to hear that show, anything was acceptable. I also agree about "Datin'" and "Dog's Life". They were great for me to hear the first time I heard them because for the first time it was confirmation that Elvis knew the absurdity of what he was singing.

Sun Jan 21, 2007 4:44 pm

great post i aways loved this boxset it was the first one i ever bought. i got it with my first pay packet when i started work just after i left school in 1984 and did not stop playing untill a year later when the 50th ann boxset came out.

Sun Jan 21, 2007 8:38 pm

The EAP was an innovative set. Up to that point, no major recording artists had extensive boxsets full of rarities. Historic content was given priority over sound quality in some instances. The set still stands up well today.

Sun Jan 21, 2007 10:30 pm

Great LP boxset! Loved EPs signature on the discs which was at the end of every side. Loved the sound of 56 vegas even though the crowd was bored with him and he almost apologised for his singing! "If you can call that singing" he told the audience! Plus funny country/hillbilly jokes.." get out of the stables grandma! youre too old to be horsin' around!" :lol: :lol: I agree with LTB about Lovin' feeling being the best version..for me it is hands down the best! The recording quality was great and for the first time we heard stereo of Follow That Dream even though if it was an outtake. Really liked the 75 live show edit..but could not (not happy) pin down why RCA had such an inferior live sound in 75 compared to 69!!! I did not know it was a soundboard until years later. Plus those 75 discs (half of one and and one complete ) were marked STEREO and were not.... I hated when Ernst stated it was going to CD straight transfer of masters for money reasons etc...today I am happy that they did not remaster for CD...specially with the track record of the PAYED audio people that have been used to this very day.. to the detriment of sound . IMO...

Mon Jan 22, 2007 3:16 pm

I remember that I felt a bit disappointed when "A golden celebration" arrived, compared to this box.

//Björn

Mon Jan 22, 2007 3:24 pm

LTB: Another scholarly winner. I'm thinking that RCA probably wasn't to concerned with less than critical raves when the set moved 250,000 units.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I've never let a critic's opinion persuade/disuade me from doing anything.

Yes, EAP was ahead of it's time. I still even today enjoy EAP more than Golden Celebration.

Mon Jan 22, 2007 3:41 pm

likethebike wrote:I wonder if some fans and critics when they heard that RCA was digging into the vaults for this release were expecting unheard never before released songs, the one area where this set was woefully short.

This is quite probable. I've read a quote from, I think, 1977, saying that the unreleased material (read: the new songs) will suffice to release albums for years to come (can't find the source). Maybe the critics had the output from 1969-1973 in mind and extrapolated involuntarily. Which must have led to a disappointment.
likethebike wrote:More than 25 years down the line, it's biggest flaw seems to be a lack of character.

They tried to prevent that impression by its thematic sorting. So it had 8 characters in the end.
Last edited by Guest on Mon Jan 22, 2007 6:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Mon Jan 22, 2007 6:07 pm

Well, I bought this box set on CD recently, on Ebay, as I was only 3 when it was released the first time around.

I bought it to add to my collection, but didn't really pay much attention to it. Except for the 1961 concert that is..

Having just read through this post, I went back and had a listen to 'Beyond the Reef'. I'm ashamed to say, this was the first time I'd ever heard the song.
I also played 'It's Only Love', which is one of those songs that I love, but don't play very often..

So thanks LTB for bringing this set to my attention once again..

K.

Tue Jan 23, 2007 11:07 am

KevinK wrote:Well, I bought this box set on CD recently, on Ebay, as I was only 3 when it was released the first time around.


Hey Kevin, you mind tellin' me what you paid for this box? I was looking for a copy yesterday, but they were all ridiculously over priced. And I can't spend too much on anything EP related right now because I've just paid £22 for issue 8 of Elvis - The Man And His Music! :shock: :D

Although most of the stuff on "The Silver Box" can be found elsewhere, and although FTD will release an upgraded version of the Hawaii '61 show eventually, I still want to get myself a copy. It seems like a pretty cool listen, and I'm also curious about the booklet. And it's an essential part of the Elvis story I think.

Keith Richards, Jr.

Tue Jan 23, 2007 11:29 am

Nice review LTB !

I remember being a tad disappointed in 1998, when the two boxsets were finally released on CD, but without any [noticeable] improvement with the audio.

yeah, ok!

Tue Jan 23, 2007 1:11 pm

Nice post -- a few comments are below.

likethebike wrote:More than 25 years down the line, it's biggest flaw seems to be a lack of character. It has a hodgepode type feel to it. Some of the ideas like Elvis at the Piano aren't even fully formed. The songs on that disc were generally good but what was the overall point of the disc? There was the mix of released and unreleased. There was the jumble of periods and jumble of types of rarities as well.

It's pretty simple, actually. Project Producer Joan Deary basically created an expanded version of her "A Legendary Performer" series from 1974, 1976 and 1978. It has a deluxe booklet with lots of photos and memorabilia, outtakes and previously-released material, an interview (of sorts), and proceeds in roughly chronological order.

Besides the fact that the set did quite well financially -- obviously one goal -- it was also a clear response to the plethora of incredible underground releases that appeared in the wake of Elvis' tragic death.

Between 1978 and 1980, bootleggers offered SUN outtakes, the October 16, 1954 "Hayride" debut, 1955 "Hayride" songs, a March 19, 1955 gig, most of the 1956-57 TV appearances, bits of the December 15, 1956 "Hayride" finale, "King Creole" outtakes, "Blue Hawaii" outtakes, the 1961 Hawaii show, 1961-1965 soundtrack outtakes, the June 27, 1968 sit down shows, the June 29, 1968 stand up shows, amazing live and studio acetates from 1968-1971, "TTWII" and "EOT" soundtrack recordings, the 1973 "Aloha" rehearsal show, the 1976 New Year's Eve show in Pittsburgh, and the final gig in Indianapolis on June 26, 1977, while RCA issued Elvis Sings For Children ... And Grown-Ups Too! and other garbage.

Some of the disappointment for 1980's Elvis Aron Presley may be traced to the fact that its contents more or less failed to measure up to the bootleggers prodigious output, save the 1956 Vegas tape, 1962 "monologue" and 1961 Hawaii show. And there were issues like the Feb '70 live version of "Kentucky Rain" on 1979's Behind Closed Doors (Audifon) box set kicking ass on the one Joan Deary selected for EAP. It was irksome!

Also, note that "Elvis At The Piano" was only one side of LP seven, the other housing the start of the May/June 1975 live recordings. The total running time of the entire disc is reasonable.

likethebike wrote:There's the astounding 1961 Hawaii benefit which may be the definitive document of the young Elvis on stage.

I wouldn't call this period "young" Elvis. His professional career had begun about seven years before. He'd been in the Army, he'd lost his mom, and in his career he'd made more than half a dozen films, even more TV appearances and sold countless millions of 45s, 78s, EPs and LPs.

In any case, the show was indeed a great inclusion, it was more complete, accurate and in superior audio quality when compared to the 1978 bootleg on the Golden Archives label. Of course, the bootleg packaging was insanely good.

Frankly, I've never understood the complaints about the sound of Hawaii '61 -- it is at least decent. And, when coupled with the AMAZING performances done that day, is nothing but a wonderous listening experience.

likethebike wrote:The live Vegas tracks were generally brilliant with maybe Elvis' best version of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling".

Interesting choice -- it's from a rehearsal (no audience) on August 10, 1970 just before the opening show later that night.

likethebike wrote:The interview with Lloyd Shearer was fascinating and provided much insight into Elvis.

Of course, it is not an "interview" per se -- Shearer's queries were excised, leaving only "An Elvis Monolog [sic]."

Tue Jan 23, 2007 1:47 pm

At the time -early 80's- this box set was fantastic. As I had not heard any bootleg records the material was all new to me. My personal favorites were the Vegas record and the Hollywood record but Hawaiian gig was another great moment (wish they would re-release the concert with an improved audio). To hear Elvis crackin up while trying to record Datin' was a thrill. Of course now we have had so much similar material that it isn't as great as it was then. Still the I thought the packacing was great too. I still prefere EAP set to the Golden Celebration which I thought had a strange selection (almost 100% 50's tv-performances with Sun outtakes, home recordings and '68 comeback material thrown in).

Tue Jan 23, 2007 2:00 pm

Marko wrote:
At the time -early 80's- this box set was fantastic. As I had not heard any bootleg records the material was all new to me. My personal favorites were the Vegas record and the Hollywood record but Hawaiian gig was another great moment (wish they would re-release the concert with an improved audio). To hear Elvis crackin up while trying to record Datin' was a thrill. Of course now we have had so much similar material that it isn't as great as it was then. Still the I thought the packacing was great too. I still prefere EAP set to the Golden Celebration which I thought had a strange selection (almost 100% 50's tv-performances with Sun outtakes, home recordings and '68 comeback material).



My thoughts exactly!

I never owned the LP Box of Elvis Aron Presley, but I bought the LP Box of A Golden Celebration when it first came out.

I remember being a little bit disappointed when first listening to the Golden Box Set, since I wasn't really into the 50s Live TV performances at the time.

The variation on the Silver Box, on the other hand - was more to my liking. The Vegas live recordings and the Hollywood alternate takes were my favorites (and still is). The '61 gig would've been a smash if the sound quality had been better, though...

Over the years, the Gold Box has grown on me - but I still think the Silver Box was at least as good.

And yes - one might say this box set was ahead of it's time!

Br
Kristian

Wed Jan 24, 2007 2:33 pm

Keith Richards, Jr. wrote:Hey Kevin, you mind tellin' me what you paid for this box? I was looking for a copy yesterday, but they were all ridiculously over priced. And I can't spend too much on anything EP related right now because I've just paid £22 for issue 8 of Elvis - The Man And His Music! :shock: :D


Hi Keith,

I think I only paid about about 15 pounds sterling for it at the time. I was looking for on Ebay for ages though. It's luck of the draw I'd say..

Kev.

Thu Jan 25, 2007 5:18 pm

Great post LTB. I don't know the answer to your question?? These are my nostalgic and fond thoughts though.

I was 14 years old when this set came out. I was not in contact with any other fans at that time and certainly was not aware of any reviews. The Dave Marsh review that you mentioned is very surprising.

I remember being disappointed with the TV special LP as I had all the songs. That is where the disapponitment ended. This set consumed me - I was really into the 70's Elvis by then and was totally fascinated by an unreleased live concert (albeit spliced with two dates) - I loved the rough version of How Great Thou Art!!! The movies outtakes were marvelous - I was amazed at the monologue and remember thinking can't Elvis talk for a long time and he seems so intelligent (yes I do know now that the questions were edited out before I get dressed down)

I too was disappointed with the Golden Celebration set - at that time I wasn't into the 68 Special stuff!!!

Anyway great memories for me.

Thu Jan 25, 2007 6:03 pm

I was 16 and impressed but not like something new but something cool by Elvis. So not ahead of its time IMO. Nevertheless as I mentioned one word. GREAT!

Tue Jan 30, 2007 10:37 pm

I just listened to it, not a very positive review by that gentleman by any means. I also found it strange that he would play tiny snippets of EP recordings, then when he played the impersonator Ral Donner's recordings of EP's music, he played them for a much longer time, almost like he was promoting him or something. Either way, thanks for the link Stan.

Wed Jan 31, 2007 9:09 am

I just downloaded those old reviews, Stan. Tha's really neat to hear. God love this site!

Of course, nearly all of us are interested in such things, so thanks very much. I'll listen more closely tomorrow.


Nice review, LTB.

re:
Critically it didn't do as well. The set was almost universally panned and- Greil Marcus' even handed albeit essentially negative RS review aside- panned with great malice. Dave Marsh, a big Elvis supporter, went so far as to give the set a zero star review in the Rolling Stone Record Guide.


I recall getting "Elvis Aron Presley" as a gift that year, but my parents inadvertantly bought the cassette version. Still, I got into the set and really liked the rare '50s Vegas set and the Hawaii '61 set, save for the screaming girls. I had never heard such rare Elvis stuff outside of maybe the "Legendary Performer" sets and would not have a Elvis bootleg for over 20 years, although I saw them advertised in some occasional Elvis magazines.

I liked "Elvis Aron Presley" (today known as "the Silver Box" by many fans) but recall that I was impressionable enough that Marcus' review (and later Marsh's) essentially made me feel like I had been had by RCA.
And that is too bad when a reviewer (even pro-Elvis ones) can make you doubt your own ears.

I guess it was a guilty pleasure to enjoy the laughing "Are You Lonesome Tonight" (we had a ball with it) but the "Paradise, Hawaiian Style" tracks were something that the still in shock (?) pro-Elvis critics like Marcus/ Marsh felt compelled to trash, no matter how instructive they are on this set.


It was bold to put "Datin'" and "A Dog's Life" there in outtake form, as it was the first time I'd ever heard him putting down his own material. (At the time, it reminded me of a scene in Kurt Russell's TV movie...)

But as is pointed out here, the box was thoughtfully put together thematically, and chronologically, one that has been followed since, such as in the order of the Madison "Legendary Performer" Volumes 5,6,7 and 8 and more recent RCA boxes like "Today, Tommorrow, and Forever" and "Close Up."

I had not heard those "Lost Singles" so I really enjoyed songs like "It's Only Love." Little did I know at the time that the song went to #3 in the UK apparently, but for some reason was not issued here at the time.


I recall really liking that '70 "Polk Salad Annie" as I did not have (and would not have) "On Stage" until the early '90s.

I found the piano cuts hard listening, but also deep in their depressing way. I'd never heard Elvis alone like that before.

I enjoyed the TV set - and love how they knew that '77 indeed had some highlights-but did have all that stuff. But I played it.

"Beyond the Reef" was a haunting revelation for me. I recall falling asleep to that song- intentionally.

Years, later, upgrading to the CD box , I unfortunately sold off my cassette version with those nice LP-size photos -and the cassette-only extended (spliced) version of "It's Only Love." :evil: :cry: :oops:

The CD box also cut out some pictures (that little girl with the Elvis collection) and probably more, and that was a slight demerit, too.

I was driving around with the '75 show (mostly Dallas, as I recall) about five or six years ago when I really got back into Elvis in earnest and have to admit that I found some of his sloppiness on some of these songs really off-putting. They've since unearthed so many better live concerts on FTD, but it was a nice touch overall.

Personally, Jerry, I came to prefer the "A Golden Celebration" box a few years later, which I also got as a gift ..and this time properly on LP, which I've still saved. They were lower-fi, but it was a revelation to have his old '50s TV shows and that Tupelo show , etc as well as more sitdown '68 stuff, albeit in really raw form.

Wed Jan 31, 2007 11:02 pm

Stan from Tintane wrote:i think the reasons for the its only love issue making number three on the uk charts were as follows and rca got it right.

1. it was no longer available as a single and was indeed lost at that time - i couldnt afford the box set at the time but i loved the single

2. the single was in stereo and previously the track had only been released in mono

3. the b side contained a previously unreleased elvis recording

4. rca also released an extended 12" which boosted sales

it was the right choice at the right time and it also helped promote the box set


It had never been a UK single, we got it first on the In Demand album in 1977.

Wed Jan 31, 2007 11:32 pm

I love this set, for sentimental reasons if nothing else. Like Greg, I got it as a gift, when I was about 12 years old. To answer likethebike's question, it definately was ahead of its time. This kind of release, mixing unreleased material, live recordings, interviews, etc, became much more common in the CD era. It is an interesting mixture of highs and lows, the brilliant and the mediocre. Pretty typical for RCA back then, they didn't really have a clue how to treat EP's legacy - but still they got it right from time to time.

The Vegas 56 side was a revelation, and even though the 61 concert had been released on bootleg already, most people had not heard it. The "Elvis Monolog" somehow made me feel I understood him a little better.
"It's Only Love" wasn't the only hit from the set, BTW. The laughing version of "Are You Lonesome Tonight" was released as a single in various European countries. In Sweden it was a HUGE hit. Here they actually released the "Las Vegas Years" disc as an album in its own right, which I believe did pretty well too.

I enjoyed the 75 concert disc(s), and still do, but it is hard to understand why they chose a soundboard recording when they had a number of multi-track shows in the vaults. I agree with Greg that he is a bit sloppy at times (although certainly not more than he usually was at the time - there are several really solid performances here) but I think his good mood compensates for it.

Wasn't there plans to include a 76 soundboard on the "Golden Celebration" box, by the way?

Thu Feb 01, 2007 2:20 am

Stan, that would be very interesting! If you have the time...

Thu Feb 01, 2007 2:29 am

Stan from Tintane wrote:... her golden celebration concept was taken over by greg geller even though she is credited along side him for the gold set.

As I cited somewhere else recently, Joan is given a production credit for the live 1956 Tupelo recordings, the 1959 and 1966 home demos from Germany and California only. Gregg Geller is the "Project A&R Director" for the remainder of A Golden Celebration. It was a good decision to omit the 1976 soundboard from the set.

Geller was a more sophisticated fan than Deary. He did some excellent work while at RCA, not only for Elvis. He released the previously-unknown, 1963 Sam Cooke Harlem Square Club tape in 1985 to well-deserved critical reviews -- it was a revelation for Cooke fans and rock enthusiasts worldwide. Geller's Presley reissues like Reconsider Baby (1985) "set the table" for the great achievements to follow by Ernst Jørgensen.

Thu Feb 01, 2007 2:35 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:It was a good decision to omit the 1976 soundboard from the set.


I agree. I'm more fascinated by the fact that it was considered for the box set from the start.

Thu Feb 01, 2007 7:47 am

Stan from Tintane wrote:i think the reasons for the its only love issue making number three on the uk charts were as follows and rca got it right.

1. it was no longer available as a single and was indeed lost at that time - i couldnt afford the box set at the time but i loved the single

2. the single was in stereo and previously the track had only been released in mono

3. the b side contained a previously unreleased elvis recording

4. rca also released an extended 12" which boosted sales

it was the right choice at the right time and it also helped promote the box set


But Stan, I just think it had more to do with being a catchy song that some ten years later still sounded contempory enough for modern tastes. The typical radio fan / pop music record buyer of the time bought a song simply because he or she liked it. I would have gladly traded hearing "It's Only Love" in the summer of '80 for Christopher Cross' "Sailing," which dominated the U.S. pop chart for way too long. It would have pleased me to know that he had such a big UK hit at the time. I would have thought that RCA in the US would have noticed what was happening in the UK....

As for Joan Deary, the little I know about her is quite favorable, although I agree, more an old-school, "can-do" lady at RCA' Camp Elvis which reaped some refreshing results: the Legendary series, and the interesting if flawed "Our Memories of Elvis" series and the poorly-named "Greatest Hits, Vol. One." One of the documentaries (mostly of European origin) I got in the last year or two on DVD-R had her briefly interviewed, as I recall. Stan, we very much would like to hear the Deary interview.

Greg Geller, in turn, is maligned in some audiophile camps today, but for the time, he received some nice press and (with a straight face) discussed the wonders of remastering Elvis recordings in Rolling Stone at a time when the Elvis image had tanked. I would agree that this set the stage for the likes of Ernst Jorgensen, Roger Semon, Kevan Budd and numerous undersung Elvis "import" wizards.
Last edited by Gregory Nolan Jr. on Sat Feb 03, 2007 9:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.