"He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Presley'

Sat May 21, 2011 9:41 am

In 1980 Elvis Presley's record label, RCA, cleared the boards and placed ALL their focus for the year on an ambitious project.


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Elvis Aron Presley (RCA CLP8-3699, 1980)



Called Elvis Aron Presley, it would be a limited edition, 8xLP box set, 250,000 copies only.


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Billboard - July 19, 1980


The collection was a big success, from the clean, colorful art direction to the inclusion of unreleased music from the 1950s to the 1970s. It even made it to Billboard U.S. Pop #27 and achieved Platinum status. It would be reissued as a 4xCD offering 18 years later.



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Elvis Aron Presley (RCA/BMG 07863 67455, 1998)



Producer Joan Deary was no doubt finally acknowledging the many, many superb bootleg releases that had appeared in the three years since Elvis' death in August 1977. Although the hardcore fans found that the collection seemed to still fall short of some of the more recent, amazing underground releases, overall there were few complaints. Surely, this was the start of something new in terms of Presley reissues.

Meanwhile, Rolling Stone, the #1 U.S. rock magazine offered their take on the project, from longtime critic, historian and Presley fan, Greil Marcus. He was not amused. Although some of his points were very debatable, his words were not cavalier or superficial. Marcus basically suggested that the Presley legacy should neither be trivialized nor white-washed. If you haven't read it, now's your chance.

Enjoy.

P.S. An ironic, full-page ad in the midst of the review is also included.


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Thankyouverymuch.
Last edited by drjohncarpenter on Sun May 22, 2011 2:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sat May 21, 2011 9:56 am

Interesting read, thank you for posting.

Nice to see the nod given to the obvious highlights (Hawaii '61, the Monolog, Burbank '68, the piano songs, "Little Sister"), but I find such anger in Marcus' words.

Anger at RCA? The Colonel? At Elvis?

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sat May 21, 2011 9:59 am

what does the Doc think to this release?

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sat May 21, 2011 10:03 am

Thanks for posting! As a ten year old child, I was knocked down by this set. Oh Lord, it was a true sensation for me.

//Björn

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sat May 21, 2011 10:10 am

Interesting review, thanks for posting it Doc.
Marcus seems to be seeking something more in depth than what was delivered in the set.
I liked it at the time as something `new' from Elvis, although there seemed to be a need for just a little bit more. Some of the sides seemed very short too.
It has been a long time since I've played this set, might go and give it a listen.

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sat May 21, 2011 10:16 am

Nice one, Doc... Thanks for sharing ::rocks

Billboard were quite enthusiastic about this box set in their August 16th 1980 edition:

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Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sat May 21, 2011 11:40 am

dreambear wrote:Thanks for posting! As a ten year old child, I was knocked down by this set. Oh Lord, it was a true sensation for me.

//Björn


As a 15 year old I had the same sensational experience.

Lennart

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sat May 21, 2011 1:38 pm

yeah I spent a weeks wages on this and collected in my lunch hour and took afternoon off sick... :lol:

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sat May 21, 2011 1:59 pm

Thanks for posting DJC, an interesting read

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sat May 21, 2011 4:48 pm

I certainly respect Marcus' perspective, and it is clear he did not choose his words lightly. However it does distress me a bit that he sees little difference in Elvis' 56 banter, which was used to disarm the grownups who were not ready for him in Vegas and the late 70s stage comments that were band aids on gunshot wounds. Elvis always used humor in his shows, that is a given. But there is a difference between lively comedy and charming the audience and covering up for fear and nerves about his appearance and substandard show. I wonder if Marcus has heard of the FTD series, and what would he think of the dozens of concerts and outtakes that have been released since this set...would he find enjoyment in them? Or find a chatty, overly disarming king of rock?

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sat May 21, 2011 5:29 pm

Thanks Doc .. I really appreciate this kinda stuff.

Cheers mate.

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sat May 21, 2011 6:18 pm

To me this is/was the most important post-death release ever. If only for the fact that it gave us fans/collectors the promise of a future for Elvis releases besides just reissues.

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sat May 21, 2011 7:33 pm

It is an interesting perspective to say the least. Some of his analysis is intriguing while some of it seems to miss the mark. That being said, I can see how a project of this magnitude might leave one scratching their head. Frankly, I always found it as a revealing listen. I actually picked it up for the first time in 1998, knowing what I was getting and not expecting flawless performances. I suppose in 1980, it may have come across as awkward release with performances that didn't exactly highlight Elvis' genius or meet other artistic expectations. The box set is not a perfect vault project, but I think in this instance, Deary has to be given credit for releasing something of this magnitude as a mainstream release, particularly in that era of music releases.

I do think Marcus sums up the 1975 hybrid show quite well, " The music, distracted and by now wholly irrelevant, babbles on to the inevitable ending of "Can't Help Falling In Love"…. I have always felt this particular "concert" - and live work from that period in general - as being overrated.

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sat May 21, 2011 9:04 pm

Lennart wrote:
dreambear wrote:Thanks for posting! As a ten year old child, I was knocked down by this set. Oh Lord, it was a true sensation for me.

//Björn


As a 15 year old I had the same sensational experience.

Lennart


Likewise as a 35 year old. Thanks for posting Doc. It is always interesting to read what critics have to say about a product at the time of its release, as against a reprospective review.

Chris.

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sat May 21, 2011 9:15 pm

Thank you Doc! The edited 1975 Dallas,Texas show was the first ever (concert) soundboard release. The "escapes" came much later.

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sat May 21, 2011 10:08 pm

Thanks for taking the time and effort for making posts like these. Great for debate and for new members to see.

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sat May 21, 2011 10:33 pm

Lennart wrote:
dreambear wrote:Thanks for posting! As a ten year old child, I was knocked down by this set. Oh Lord, it was a true sensation for me.

//Björn


As a 15 year old I had the same sensational experience.

Lennart



As a 29 year old child I was pretty happy with it also. At the time the concert from 75 was a bit of a mystery to me. Wondered why it was in mono. I didn't know anything about soundboards.

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sat May 21, 2011 11:10 pm

I couldn't lay my hands on this set and it took me a couple of years to find it on the last days of a holliday in Antwerpen.............with an empty wallet. So I had to get home, pick up the cash and made a train-trip of 2.5 hours back to Antwerpen to pick it up. I was thrilled finally owing this set and I really enjoyed it. One of my most exciting buys ever. I loved the Polk Salad from august 13 at the time only knowing the versions of That's The Way It Is which never made it on a official album, the On Stage version - which is great but missing the 'punch'of the silverset - and the Madison Square Garden version. I just loved it at the time and still like it these days. At the time it was my most valuable record.

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sat May 21, 2011 11:54 pm

Hans wrote:I couldn't lay my hands on this set and it took me a couple of years to find it on the last days of a holliday in Antwerpen.............with an empty wallet. So I had to get home, pick up the cash and made a train-trip of 2.5 hours back to Antwerpen to pick it up. I was thrilled finally owing this set and I really enjoyed it. One of my most exciting buys ever. I loved the Polk Salad from august 13 at the time only knowing the versions of That's The Way It Is which never made it on a official album, the On Stage version - which is great but missing the 'punch'of the silverset - and the Madison Square Garden version. I just loved it at the time and still like it these days. At the time it was my most valuable record.

Now, that is devotion. But I do agree, when this material was rare and unique, a 2+ journey to obtain it doesn't seem unreasonable.

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sun May 22, 2011 2:23 am

Thanks for the kind words. Elvis Aron Presley was a pretty big deal in 1980. Some comments:


George Smith wrote:Interesting read, thank you for posting.

Nice to see the nod given to the obvious highlights (Hawaii '61, the Monolog, Burbank '68, the piano songs, "Little Sister"), but I find such anger in Marcus' words.

Anger at RCA? The Colonel? At Elvis?

Maybe all three? Sometimes it seems like his review was a delayed reaction to Elvis' tragic, early death. Marcus was well aware of the incredible underground releases issued between 1977 and 1980, and he may have been peeved opportunities to collect these stellar moments were ignored by Deary.


kevinstevenage wrote:what does the Doc think to this release?

It was exciting to own at the time, although it didn't feel like RCA had matched the work of underground labels like Golden Archives or Audifon, in terms of rare recordings or art direction. And the RCA LPs issued after the box set were a huge letdown, aimless collections that satisfied no one.


Juan Luis wrote:Thank you Doc! The edited 1975 Dallas,Texas show was the first ever (concert) soundboard release. The "escapes" came much later.

Well, don't forget the 1977 and 1978 B-side releases of "America" and "Softly As I Leave You," culled from a SB of the December 13, 1975 MS in Las Vegas.

---

Can anyone imagine a Presley set capturing the public's attention in 2011?

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sun May 22, 2011 2:53 am

I got the old record set oput for a spin last night, mainly to enjoy the 1961 concert.
It remains an interresting set that covered a lot of Elvis career, but I tend to agree it could have been a lot better. How could four songs be justified for one side of a record?

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sun May 22, 2011 3:28 am

the 61 benefit show is the highlight for me,sure the sound is poor but if you can manage to get past that you can feel the electricity going on.Overall it was a dream for the Elvis devotee and since that who it was aimed at it was a success.Now we have FTD and the "essential Elvis" series and of course the erm "imports" it may not stand up today as essential but in it;s day it sure was.


norrie

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sun May 22, 2011 3:35 am

Yes Doc, thank you for this post. Fascinating material all around. The Marcus review especially of course, though upon seeing it I realize it's not one of his best, and am not surprised that it was never reprinted in Dead Elvis. His idea that the set is designed to turn Elvis into an ordinary person strikes me as over-determined, the sort of idea reviewers often hold on to to give a review cohesion, even if it doesn't really work. I doubt Deary made her selections with the level of thought Marcus ascribed to her. I think Marcus nails the '56 Vegas tracks, which he obviously found the most interesting. He seems to be in a hurry to get through most of what follows, sometimes with a dismissiveness that verges on being cavalier. "Utterly forgettable" is not a description I would ever apply to "They Remind Me Too Much Of You" or "Shoppin' Around," though some of the other songs in "Collectors' Gold" would merit the description. He's right to praise the "At the Piano" section, but again waves off the lost singles as unmemorable, despite the presence of material such as "I'm Leavin." And though the live material on the set isn't the strongest of the period, it at least deserves more to said about it than a tossed off line about being "distracted" and "by now wholly irrelevant" (to what exactly? His career? But it was wholly so.) Marcus is right in saying the set fails to give a true portrait of Elvis or say anything revelatory about the man. At the time such a failure would have been far less forgivable. Today, the set's status as an elevated grab-bag seems less to get upset about. It's a bit odd though for Marcus to give a list of recommend albums for those who want to hear Elvis--I doubt that anyone buying a big expensive box set would be an Elvis newbie, or that they'd be unfamiliar with the material he prescibes. If his review doesn't quite work, perhaps it's because he wanted a box set that would sum up the quintessence of Elvis to any sort of listener--new or hard-core fan--and instead got a hodge-podge of miscellanies devoid of a comprehensive vision.

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sun May 22, 2011 4:36 am

norrie wrote:the 61 benefit show is the highlight for me,sure the sound is poor but if you can manage to get past that you can feel the electricity going on.

Frankly, the audio isn't that bad, I'll call it average-to-good. It should have been taped by a professional like Bill Porter.



Revelator wrote:Yes Doc, thank you for this post. Fascinating material all around. The Marcus review especially of course, though upon seeing it I realize it's not one of his best, and am not surprised that it was never reprinted in Dead Elvis. His idea that the set is designed to turn Elvis into an ordinary person strikes me as over-determined, the sort of idea reviewers often hold on to to give a review cohesion, even if it doesn't really work. I doubt Deary made her selections with the level of thought Marcus ascribed to her. I think Marcus nails the '56 Vegas tracks, which he obviously found the most interesting. He seems to be in a hurry to get through most of what follows, sometimes with a dismissiveness that verges on being cavalier. "Utterly forgettable" is not a description I would ever apply to "They Remind Me Too Much Of You" or "Shoppin' Around," though some of the other songs in "Collectors' Gold" would merit the description. He's right to praise the "At the Piano" section, but again waves off the lost singles as unmemorable, despite the presence of material such as "I'm Leavin." And though the live material on the set isn't the strongest of the period, it at least deserves more to said about it than a tossed off line about being "distracted" and "by now wholly irrelevant" (to what exactly? His career? But it was wholly so.) Marcus is right in saying the set fails to give a true portrait of Elvis or say anything revelatory about the man. At the time such a failure would have been far less forgivable. Today, the set's status as an elevated grab-bag seems less to get upset about. It's a bit odd though for Marcus to give a list of recommend albums for those who want to hear Elvis--I doubt that anyone buying a big expensive box set would be an Elvis newbie, or that they'd be unfamiliar with the material he prescibes. If his review doesn't quite work, perhaps it's because he wanted a box set that would sum up the quintessence of Elvis to any sort of listener--new or hard-core fan--and instead got a hodge-podge of miscellanies devoid of a comprehensive vision.

Nice reply. It is uncertain whether Marcus was being literal or not in regards to Joan Deary's vision for the box set. His derision may have been general in nature as far as what the public was getting with Elvis Aron Presley. It's funny no one has leapt to debate the "flaccid" comments regarding the 1973 and 1977 TV tracks.

Re: "He May Be Dead ..." - Rolling Stone on 'Elvis Aron Pres

Sun May 22, 2011 10:10 am

Interesting but there is a lot to enjoy over those eight albums. The pressing was a bit noisey but it was such an education for me to hear it as a young Elvis fan (age 7) in 1982. LP 4 is disposable, but I enjoy the rest very much to this day. LP 5 is still one of the best live samplers of later day Elvis and LP 2 was one of Elvis' best concerts. Through in some alternately funny and impressive movie tunes, a GREAT 1956 show in Vegas, the interesting "monolog", some great single sides (better then much of what was on the LP's of the era) and a good spirited if not knockout concert from 1975. Really what's not to like? Hell Dave Marsh gave it zero stars in his Rolling Stone record guide 1983 edition. I never understood that at all. Ok it could have been programed better, had a longer playing time, and maybe given us recording dates, but considering what was around in 1980 it was really good. Were some bootlegs better? Yes as I was to find out but they weren't easy to get back then and I certainly didn't know how as a child.