One hundred previously unreleased cuts from Elvis Presley would be greeted with enthusiasm any time, and arriving near the 25th anniversary of his death, this lavishly packaged and meticulously annota

One hundred previously unreleased cuts from Elvis Presley would be greeted with enthusiasm any time, and arriving near the 25th anniversary of his death, this lavishly packaged and meticulously annotated four-CD set from the RCA vaults does not disappoint aesthetically or historically. In many cases, alternate takes become alternates for a reason (namely because of subpar quality), but here they often vary only slightly—sometimes undetectably—from the best-known versions. At times, this is a fascinating chronicle, with hugely informative liner notes, studio snafus, humorous exchanges, and incredible performances. The abrupt shift between the languid "Harbor Lights" in 1954 and the hard-charging "I Got a Woman" two years later, for example, is monumental. The live stuff is particularly engrossing: A 1956 performance, though weak in audio quality, is well worth inclusion if for no other reason than to record a meteor on the rise. To hear the local DJ introduce "Heartbreak Motel," then Elvis' contention that "Long Tall Sally" is "real hot around the nation and some parts of Africa," is a trip. Hidden gems shine everywhere, like the false starts and faltering narration on an otherwise perfect "Are You Lonesome To-night?"—and the strange "Wonderful World" from '68 juxtaposed against the insinuating "Guitar Man" is a blast. The title cut, a duet with Ann-Margret that appeared as a solo performance in Viva Las Vegas, is a lilting, melodic beauty, and other movie fare like "Follow That Dream" and "Roustabout" are as light and fluffy as popcorn. A 1969 live performance of Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away" is priceless, as is the wide-open take on Del Shannon's "Runaway" from the same midnight show. Again, the live material is,

in many cases, the most enjoyable, concluding with a manic "See See Rider," simmering "Polk Salad Annie," and anthemic "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" from a 1970 Vegas stint. Tilted mostly toward less familiar but nevertheless stirring recordings, the set represents Elvis' Hollywood period particularly well, but also includes country, blues, rockabilly, gospel, and Vegas efforts. Masterfully assembled

and beautifully presented, this

set is a must for any serious Elvis collector or fan.—RW

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