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Elvis Presley’s “A Legendary Performer Volume One” Reviewed

RCA’S “A Legendary Performer Series”? The one from back in the 1970s? Jim Reeves, Chet Atkins, Woody Guthrie, Perry Como, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman– they all got one volume. Glenn Miller got two volumes. And Elvis Presley? He was honored four times. In 1974 we got the first one, his 55th release, and it plays like a prelude to his post-life existence in the charts. Two interviews, one of which is a must hear (“rock and roll music, if you like it and you feel it, you can’t help but move to it”), a Gospel song, a couple of previously unreleased versions of released plenty of times songs, and a hits shuffle dating as far back as Presley’s truly legendary cover of Arthur Crudup’s “That’s all Right” to as current as a couple of previously unreleased songs from the ’68 special.

There is no internal tick tock to the album, it is a fistful of 50s-era hits and a fistful of soundtrack outtakes and some 68 unreleased material. Why? Why are these legendary and others are not legendary? There is nothing remotely close to biographical about the choices made, it just stops at 68 and that’s that.

Later on (as we will see), RCA and Tom Parker used this sort of album to regurgitate Presley over and over again, album after illogical album. Even now, even today, even with “Follow That Dream”, the catalog needs a serious remake. The same people who brought Miles Davis recorded output under control must do the same for Presley. I am not sure how, but perhaps like Armstrong’s 1920s on Okeh records re-releases taken on a year by year basis. This is my fifty-fifth review and I have a good feel for the timeline, the 60s should be relatively easy and can be taken on  movie by movie (and have been as well), but the 70s a yearly break down? Maybe put together albums by recording session? Including outtakes. Certainly whoever thought of three day sessions and doling out the songs willy nilly did the King no favors.

Tracking down A Legendary Performer was a nightmare. It isn’t available digitally or to be streamed. I found Volume One on Amazon but the version on CD that I got is missing four tracks for some reason, I researched a little further and it appears they re-released it with an additional four songs at a later date. I found Volume Two on Barnes and Nobles website and then was told they no longer have it,  but can’t find three and four, it is important to hear the original albums as opposed to manufacturing your own version as a playlist for the unreleased material. There are more volumes, but they are bootlegs and won’t be reviewed here.

I love the album anyway, but why wouldn’t I? All the songs are awesome, one of the interviews is perfection, and really, Elvis deserves the respect that RCA have afforded him here. Would I buy it? I just did. One more thing, I just found the Roy Carr and Mick Farren  “The Illustrated Record” on Amazon and it will be here by the end of July… expect these reviews to improve vastly, shortly.

Grade: B+

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