Review Summary: Containing all the classic #1 hits, this is best single disc collection you'll find on the King, and the best introduction for curious fans. Classic rock & roll, all the way through
The thing about compilations is some fans are always going to feel their favorite tracks are unjustly left off the album. This album sidesteps that particular problem by simply promising you the #1 hits, and only the #1 hits. No other top 10 or top 40 hits. No key album tracks. No live favorites. You're only getting the cream of the crop as far as chart performance. And while, obviously, chart success or sales do very little to tell someone of any music's quality, with an artist like Elvis Presley, it does tell you how often you'll hear those songs on oldies radio. And Elvis isn't just the King of Rock & Roll, he's also the Kind of Oldies Radio. These songs tell the story of why.
Every song on this album will be familiar to even the most casual Elvis fan. Be forewarned, not every song is an official Billboard #1 hit. A dozen of these songs either topped the charts in the UK or in the US in Cashbox (Billboard's main competitor back in the day). Then there's the remix of "A Little Less Conversation" which is a terrific 'new' track.
"A Little Less Conversation" was remixed by Junkie XL for a Nike television ad. You may or may not find use of popular music in advertising to be distasteful, but the fact remains that this remixed version turned a forgotten non-hit into a smash that went all the way to #1 around the world, was featured George Clooney's remake of the Ratpack "Ocean's 11" movie, and was added to this particular album at the last minute because it had become too big not to include.
But the meat of this collection are the 50s classics. "Heartbreak Hotel", "Don't Be Cruel" & "Hound Dog" start the disc off with three indisputable classic rockers. "All Shook Up" & "Jailhouse Rock" are among the rockers that come up next, sprinkled with ballads like "Don't" and "A Fool Such As I". By the time the collection works its way through the 50s and early 60s material, you can't help but begin to understand why Elvis was called the King of Rock & Roll in the first place. Sure, Chuck Berry came first and he rocked harder, but Elvis took just enough of the edge off rock to make it palatable to the masses.
When the album starts winding down with late 60s songs like "In The Ghetto" and "Burning Love" you can hear how Elvis’ music had changed. What was once a cutting edge sound going against the grain is now clearly more of an ‘establishment’ sort of sound. Compare Elvis' late 60s output to that of the Beatles or the Stones - bands that were among the ruling class of rock at the time, and the difference is stark. Elvis had begun making music that sounded downright mature, but also sounded maybe just a little stodgy. At least if stood side by side with his classic era material, as this album has done.
But just because the music isn't as flawless later on the album, that doesn’t mean that taken as a whole, the album's not a 5 star classic. It is. One of my personal favorite Elvis tracks, 1969's "Suspicious Minds", is on this disc as well. When I hear it, I know it doesn't hold a candle to "Heartbreak Hotel", but that doesn't make me love it any less and doesn't make "Suspicious Minds" any less of a killer track. Just not quite as killer as that early music, that's all. But really, how much music in the world of rock & roll can keep up with early Elivs anyway?
If you're at all curious about Elvis Presley, there isn't a single better single disc album out there where you can get a nice surface level introduction and a pretty good idea of what to expect if you dig deeper. If you don't like what's here, you can put the shovel away. But if you end up grooving with the King on this, then dig deep, because there's a lot more to him than these 31 tunes.