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Elvis Presley’s “Elvis: A Legendary Performer Volume 2” Reviewed

The selling point on the 1976, album # 61 Elvis: A Legendary Performer Volume 2  is an outtake from the Sun Sessions, the first since 1965, the lovely ballad “Harbor Lights,” dating from 1954. Lyrics by Jimmy Kennedy (who also wrote, wait for it, “Teddy Bear’s Picnic”) and Wilhelm Grosz, who often composed with Kennedy, and they are responsible for “Red Sails In The Sunset. A strange mix of writers, Kennedy was the most popular UK (he was Irish to be precise) songwriter in the US till Lennon and McCartney stole his crown. Grosz was an Austrian who ran away from Austria after the Nazi’s took it off. Groz was a gifted melodist. A hugely popular song, first recorded by Frances Langford (a popular singer of the day) in 1937 and covered many times by the likes of  Sammy Kaye, Guy Lombardo, Bing Crosby, Ray Anthony, Ralph Flanagan,  The Ink Spots, Lawrence Welk, Engelbert Humperdinck, Willie Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Vera Lynn,  and Clyde McPhatter. It’s a good bet that Presley knew the Platters version, although Presley’s version doesn’t bother with the seashore seagulls Platters opening, has no orchestration, and switches keys to that it is lighter, the phrasing is the same. Both versions are excellent, and if you get the recent Sun Sessions complete, A Boy From Tupelo, you can hear eight takes.

Volume 2 is not one of Presley’s RCA Camden budget albums, it works more as a serious tip of the hat from RCA to its most prodigiously gifted performer of all time. According to Wikipedia, other unreleased material here included ” an alternate take of his 1956 hit “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You”, several performances from the 1968 NBC TV special that had not been previously issued, the song “A Cane and a High Starched Collar” from the soundtrack of the 1960 film Flaming Star, and an alternate take of his 1960 recording “Such a Night”. The live “Blue Suede Shoes” is specifically excellen. My version of Vol 2 on CD does not include the Flaming Stars song, nor does it have the interviews, but it does have everything else, plus “How Great Thou Art,” and a previously unreleased “Blue Hawaii”. This is all great stuff, the ten tracks are flawless Presley and for what was really just a greatest hits lives up to its billing.

Grade: A


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