It all began in 1954 on a July day in a small recording studio in Memphis Tennessee. On that day, a young hillbilly walked into Sam Phillips’ Sun Records and set in motion a cultural revolution. That song was “That’s Alright”…the artist was Elvis Presley…and the phenomena known as Rock and Roll had its King…
“As a mass phenomenon that changed American culture, Elvis Presley is a legitimate starting point for the beginning of rock ‘n’ roll,” says Rolling Stone’s deputy managing editor Joe Levy. “That’s where the music became a phenomenon, and the phenomenon grew into a culture that would change the culture and the rest of the world.”
With that said, Surroundablog.com is proud to offer up a review on one of Elvis Presley’s most cherished releases. In 2002, RCA dug through its extensive Presley catalogue and came up with a semi-definitive package of his #1 hits. These songs were either #1 hits in the U.S, #1’s in the U.K or a combination of the two. This collection covers a period of some 30 years…from 1956 right through to just weeks before his death in 1977. It even includes the post-mortem JXL dance remix of “A Little Less Conversation”.
It’s immediate impact is long lasting. The set begins where it ended…with the 2002 remix of “A Little Less Conversation”. In actuality, the timeline is turned upside down. His first #1 for RCA was “Heartbreak Hotel” which was placed at the end of the disc. In between, we get all the #1’s from “Don’t be Cruel” to “Way Down” which was released just weeks before his death in August of 1977.
Now then, on first glance this is a reasonable collection. Some critics are quick to dismiss this disc because it doesn’t have Presley’s Sun sides on it or the critic’s own personal favorites. I for one would’ve liked to have heard “T-R-O-U-B-L-E”, “Viva Las Vegas”, “Moody Blue”, “That’s Alright”, “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” and “My Way” here. Oh well, I guess that’s why it isn’t called “Ron Wheeler’s “#1″‘s…”
(As an aside, RCA put out a companion disc last year…”Elvis – Second to None”, which covers the missing pieces..)
I have to admit though….”Wooden Heart” is a pretty questionable choice. It was derived from a German children’s song and features the big E singing in German…blecch. Although the song never charted in the U.S….it reached #1 in the UK and stayed there for a remarkable 6 weeks! What’s the matter with you english…
Others slam it because the album could’ve been….should’ve been titled “31 #1 Hits”. And that’s because JXL’s bonus remake went to #1 as well…
Minor quibbles aside; this disc is meant to be a starting point. It was designed and track-ordered to compete with the previous year’s number one “#1” compilation from The Beatles. With that in mind, RCA decided to include his biggest hits from the most respected charts in the U.S. and the UK only. Here’s an example of his chart impact and how confusing this compilation could’ve been…
Elvis has had no less than 149 songs to appear on Billboard’s Hot 100 Pop Chart in America. Of these, 114 were in the top forty, 40 were in the top ten, and 18 went to number one. His number one singles spent a total of 80 weeks at number one. He has also had over 90 charted albums with ten of them reaching number one. These figures are only for the pop charts, and only in America. He was also a leading artist in the American country, R&B, and gospel fields, and his chart success in other countries was substantial.
THAT’S alright mama…In 2002, “Elvis Presley – 30 #1 Hits” was transferred and remastered to DVD-Audio. This recording can be played through a home theater set-up rigged for 5.1 surround sound or simple 2 channel stereo. Important to note: this is a dvd disc…therefore it will not play in your crappy shower stall cd player.
Although its a “DVD-A” disc it does not come with any visual content…no set-up menus, no pictures, no lyrics, no liner notes. It does; however, come with the traditional pull-out jewel case liner notes…but no video info. How odd. Why release an album on dvd, which is specifically geared to provide visuals, and not include any visuals..
As for the music itself, the set begins with the techno-ized “A Little Less Conversation”. By adding synthesizers and drum machines, JXL revamped this little known song from 1968 into a #1 for all you rave-up, ecstacy dropping, glow-stick-waving kids out there….even old Elvis fans like me can appreciate its kick-up-it-ness.
That is; unfortunately, the only true 5.1 mix on the album. All other tracks use the back channels too sparingly or too quietly. The sub-woofer too is only utilzed on this techno remake.
More examples of its un-5.1-ness arise during “Burning Love” when from out of the rears all I hear is a very small woodblock going “tick tick tick”. Wow…tick tick ticked off. On “Suspicious Minds”, the strings and horn parts are saved for the rears…good…but the volume is too low for a center of the room experience…bad. The entire purpose of a surround sound recording is for all of the channels to be timed and “volumed” in such a way
Other than the lack of a true 5.1 experience, the songs all sound, stereo-ee, lush and exceptionally audiophiled. Just to prove that point, the Producer included 3 extra tracks at the end that switch back and forth from the original master versions to the newly mixed and mastered stereo versions. The difference is really quite astonishing…
As an aside, my first reaction to a clever A:B test “remaster-master” switch on the bonus version of “Burning Love”
Back to the review…or rather the end of it…..this is quite an extraordinary collection representing most of the best of Elvis Presley. But given the absence of visual content and a mediocre 5.1 transfer, this collection would’ve been better represented as a stereo hybrid SACD disc…Thank you…thank you very much…Powered by Sidelines