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RCA Album Collection

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Auteur: Elvis Presley
Kunstenaar: Elvis Presley
Platenlabel: Sony Music
Platenlabel: Legacy


Back in 2010, Legacy released The Complete Elvis Presley Masters, a 30-disc box that rounded up all existing Elvis masters along with many relevant rarities; in other words, it was as complete as it could get. Six years later, Legacy covered similar ground with The Album Collection, a 60-CD box offering replications of every album Presley released during his lifetime, supplemented with three bonus discs called "From the Vaults" containing miscellaneous non-LP cuts, some released during his lifetime, some not. Bonus tracks taken from singles, sessions, and EPs are also scattered throughout, so this winds up having nearly every cut Elvis released during his lifetime (there are some alternate single versions and other strays missing, but nothing major). The trick is, Elvis Presley's discography isn't necessarily easy to navigate album by album. His earliest long players often recycled singles -- standard procedure for most pop music in the '50s but RCA relied on the practice even more once Elvis entered the Army in 1958 -- and most of the '60s was devoted to soundtracks to his movies. Even after he refocused his energies on albums in 1968, RCA issued a live album nearly every year and their budget branch, Camden, littered the market with compilations of leftovers. All of these are here, presented in handsome cardboard sleeves and accompanied by a hardcover book filled with release details, because it's not only the easiest way to get all of Elvis at once, but this is how the music was presented during his lifetime. Posthumous reissues usually cover this same music according to session order, offering collections that are often more coherent than the original albums, but listening to all the LPs does provide some revelations, particularly in regard to how Presley was presented at the time. RCA moved swiftly to push Elvis into the pop market and the product was often careless, assembled without much regard for coherence or taste (the epitome of this may be Singer Presents Elvis' "Flaming Star," a title that doesn't bother to hide its place on assembly line). That said, there's a period charm in immersing yourself in Elvis this way. You'll realize that, even at his mature peak in the late '60s and early '70s, the label cranked out nonsense like I Got Lucky -- a record with a jumpsuited Presley on the cover comprised of nothing but uncollected soundtrack tunes. Despite all of this, his music endures such crass packaging. Certainly Elvis hit some bumps along the way -- the snazzy silver screen charm of the initial soundtracks tarnishes by the mid-'60s, the early '70s live albums often play to Vegas' middle of the road -- but in each phase, Presley could achieve transcendence. By the end of this lengthy set, it's hard not to marvel at the length of his career and how well his music endures; it feels like a bedrock of the American century. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine