An imaginary Elvis boxed set to replace Good Rockin’ Tonight

Chasing The Dream, The Legend of Elvis“Every dream that I ever dreamed has come true a hundred times.” –Elvis Presley

Sony Legacy is releasing in the US on Tuesday a new Elvis Presley boxed set. Arriving a month before the 75th anniversary of his birth, Elvis 75: Good Rockin’ Tonight is a four CD set claiming to be the “first major Elvis Presley retrospective to cover the full spectrum of the artist’s world-changing career.”

If you have been an Elvis fan longer than five minutes, you no doubt know the first career-spanning retrospective bit is all marketing hype. There have been countless career-spanning compilations since Elvis’ death in 1977, many on CD.

I think the only kernel of “truth” here is that this is the first release containing both the acetate demo of “My Happiness” that Elvis paid to record in 1953, ostensibly leading to the start of his career a year later, and 2002’s JXL remix of “A Little Less Conversation,” his most recent chart-topper.

Judging by Sony Legacy’s From Elvis In Memphis release, I’m sure the sound quality on Good Rockin’ Tonight will be outstanding. However, I already have all of these recordings from other releases, and this set really is not aimed at longtime fans like me.

For fun, I decided to try out the listening experience anyway by assembling a playlist on my iPod using the Good Rockin’ Tonight track listing – which you can view over on the Sony Legacy site.

While enjoyable (they are Elvis, after all), the 100 tracks Sony Legacy selected for Good Rockin’ Tonight ultimately left me unsatisfied when taken as a whole. Though I agree with about 70% of the song choices, I would probably not give this set to a new fan as a way of explaining, “This is Elvis.”

This left me to wonder what songs I would choose to accomplish such a goal. Which 100 songs would I select to represent best Elvis’ entire career for new fans or those who have only collected a small portion of his recordings? How would I sum up my concept of Elvis in 100 songs?

I soon found that I could not do much better in 100 songs than Sony Legacy did. Attempting to cover a career as wide-ranging as that of Elvis Presley in only 100 songs turned out to be a no-win scenario.

As any Star Trek fan can tell you, there is only one way to beat a no-win scenario.

Therefore, I cheated. For my imaginary Elvis boxed set, I decided to use five CDs rather than only four. The fifth disc, combined with using up more of the space on the first four than Sony did, allowed my ultimate Elvis retrospective to contain 145 songs.

When selecting songs, I followed a couple of rules.

1. Each song must have been officially released at some point in 1954 through 1977 (the years of Elvis’ career). This eliminated a lot of alternate takes and live performances released in the years after his death that are actually among my favorites, but really do not belong on this kind of retrospective.

2. Songs of historical significance to Elvis’ career must be given extra weight. This meant that certain well-known songs had to make the set, regardless of my personal preference.

By no means, therefore, would this be a listing of “my 145 favorite Elvis songs.” Instead, I will save a list like that for another time. Though some of the best-known Elvis songs are actually not particular favorites of mine, the purpose of this imaginary boxed set is to place his hits and other best-known songs within the context of his overall career. Expanding to 145 songs still left me plenty of room to add some of the lesser-known material that I tend to prefer.

Here is what I came up with for my imaginary five CD boxed set.

Chasing The Dream: The Legend of Elvis

01. That’s All Right (1954)
02. Blue Moon of Kentucky
03. Good Rockin’ Tonight
04. Baby, Let’s Play House (1955)
05. Mystery Train
06. Trying To Get To You
07. Heartbreak Hotel (1956)
08. I Was The One
09. Blue Suede Shoes
10. My Baby Left Me
11. Lawdy, Miss Clawdy
12. Shake, Rattle & Roll
13. I Want You, I Need You, I Love You
14. Hound Dog
15. Don’t Be Cruel
16. Any Way You Want Me
17. Love Me Tender
18. Love Me
19. Paralyzed
20. Too Much
21. Rip It Up
22. All Shook Up (1957)
23. Mean Woman Blues
24. Peace In The Valley
25. Teddy Bear
26. Is It So Strange
27. I Beg Of You
28. One Night
29. When It Rains, It Really Pours
30. Jailhouse Rock
31. Young and Beautiful
32. Baby, I Don’t Care
33. Treat Me Nice
34. Don’t

01. Hard Headed Woman (1958)
02. As Long As I Have You
03. Wear My Ring Around Your Neck
04. I Need Your Love Tonight
05. A Big Hunk O’ Love
06. A Fool Such As I
07. I Got Stung
08. Make Me Know It (1960)
09. Stuck On You
10. Fame And Fortune
11. A Mess Of Blues
12. Like A Baby
13. It’s Now Or Never
14. Dirty, Dirty Feeling
15. I Gotta Know
16. Such A Night
17. Are You Lonesome Tonight
18. Reconsider Baby
19. Surrender
20. Crying In The Chapel
21. Working On The Building
22. I’m Coming Home (1961)
23. I Feel So Bad
24. I Want You With Me
25. Sentimental Me
26. Can’t Help Falling In Love
27. Kiss Me Quick
28. His Latest Flame
29. Little Sister
30. Follow That Dream
31. Good Luck Charm
32. Anything That’s Part Of You
33. Night Rider

01. King Of The Whole Wide World
02. Fountain Of Love (1962)
03. You’ll Be Gone
04. Suspicion
05. She’s Not You
06. Return To Sender
07. Bossa Nova Baby (1963)
08. Devil In Disguise
09. Witchcraft
10. Long, Lonely Highway
11. Viva Las Vegas
12. Memphis, Tennessee (1964)
13. It Hurts Me
14. Please Don’t Stop Loving Me (1965)
15. Run On (1966)
16. How Great Thou Art
17. Indescribably Blue
18. I’ll Remember You
19. City By Night
20. Let Yourself Go (1967)
21. Guitar Man
22. Hi-Heel Sneakers
23. You’ll Never Walk Alone
24. All I Needed Was The Rain
25. US Male (1968)
26. If I Can Dream
27. Memories
28. Tiger Man (Live, Burbank)
29. Heartbreak Hotel/Hound Dog/All Shook Up (Live, Burbank)
30. Clean Up Your Own Backyard

01. Long Black Limousine (1969)
02. Wearin’ That Loved On Look
03. Don’t Cry Daddy
04. In The Ghetto
05. Rubberneckin’
06. Suspicious Minds
07. Stranger In My Own Home Town
08. Power Of My Love
09. After Loving You
10. Do You Know Who I Am
11. Kentucky Rain
12. Any Day Now
13. My Babe (Live, Las Vegas)
14. The Wonder Of You (Live-1970, Las Vegas)
15. Polk Salad Annie (Live, Las Vegas)
16. I’ve Lost You
17. Little Cabin Home On The Hill
18. How The Web Was Woven
19. Stranger In The Crowd
20. Just Pretend
21. I Really Don’t Want To Know
22. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (Live, Las Vegas)
23. Amazing Grace (1971)
24. Early Morning Rain

01. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
02. It’s Still Here
03. I’m Leavin’
04. Separate Ways (1972)
05. Burning Love
06. Always On My Mind
07. The Impossible Dream (Live, New York)
08. An American Trilogy (Live-1973, Honolulu)
09. I’ve Got A Thing About You, Baby
10. It’s Midnight
11. Thinking About You
12. Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues
13. Promised Land
14. Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming
15. Why Me, Lord (Live-1974, Memphis)
16. Shake A Hand (1975)
17. Bringing It Back
18. Moody Blue (1976)
19. For The Heart
20. Hurt
21. Way Down
22. Pledging My Love
23. He’ll Have To Go
24. My Way (Live-1977, Rapid City)

I made a playlist on my iPod with these songs, and I absolutely love it. If you already have these songs, you should try it, too. Once you listen to them in sequence, you feel as if you have experienced Elvis’ entire music career, as if you were with him on the journey.

If Sony Legacy would only make this “Fan Edition” CD set some day, this is something that I would gladly give any new fan, a release that perfectly captures the career of Elvis Presley. A fan can dream, can’t he?

Though it may look like it at first glance, the above is not simply Elvis 75: Good Rockin’ Tonight plus 45 more tracks. In addition to bumping up the total number of tracks, I also tossed out a fair number from Good Rockin’ Tonight to make room for others.

My Happiness (1953)
I Forgot To Remember To Forget (1955)
I Got A Woman (1956)
One-Sided Love Affair
I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry
Blue Christmas (1957)
Trouble (1958)
King Creole
Thrill Of Your Love (1960)
Doin’ The Best I Can
Pocketful Of Rainbows
There’s Always Me (1961)
I Need Somebody To Lean On (1963)
This Is My Heaven (1965)
Adam And Evil (1966)
Tomorrow Is A Long Time
Big Boss Man (1967)
Too Much Monkey Business (1968)
Only The Strong Survive (1969)
The Fool (1970)
Funny How Time Slips Away
I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water
I Just Can’t Help Believin’ (Live, Las Vegas)
An American Trilogy (Live-1972, Las Vegas)
Steamroller Blues (Live-1973, Honolulu)
Loving Arms
T-R-O-U-B-L-E (1975)
Unchained Melody (Live-1977, Ann Arbor)
A Little Less Conversation (Remix-2002)

Some of the above were harder to part with than others, but these decisions helped expand the horizons of the imaginary set.

Trying To Get To You (1955)
Shake, Rattle & Roll (1956)
Any Way You Want Me
Rip It Up
Is It So Strange (1957)
I Beg Of You
When It Rains, It Really Pours
Young And Beautiful
Baby, I Don’t Care
As Long As I Have You (1958)
I Got Stung
Make Me Know It (1960)
Fame And Fortune
Like A Baby
Dirty, Dirty Feeling
I Gotta Know
Working On The Building
I’m Coming Home (1961)
I Want You With Me
Sentimental Me
Kiss Me Quick
Follow That Dream
Anything That’s Part Of You
Night Rider
King Of The Whole Wide World
Fountain Of Love (1962)
You’ll Be Gone
Witchcraft (1963)
Memphis, Tennessee (1964)
Please Don’t Stop Loving Me (1965)
Run On (1966)
Indescribably Blue
I’ll Remember You
City By Night
Let Yourself Go (1967)
Hi-Heel Sneakers
You’ll Never Walk Alone
All I Needed Was The Rain
Tiger Man (Live-1968, Burbank)
Heartbreak Hotel/Hound Dog/All Shook Up (Live, Burbank)
Clean Up Your Own Backyard
Long Black Limousine (1969)
Wearin’ That Loved On Look
Power Of My Love
After Loving You
Do You Know Who I Am
Any Day Now
My Babe (Live, Las Vegas)
The Wonder Of You (Live-1970, Las Vegas)
I’ve Lost You
Little Cabin Home On The Hill
How The Web Was Woven
Stranger In The Crowd
Just Pretend
I Really Don’t Want To Know
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (Live, Las Vegas)
Amazing Grace (1971)
Early Morning Rain
Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
It’s Still Here
Separate Ways (1972)
The Impossible Dream (Live, New York)
An American Trilogy (Live-1973, Honolulu)
I’ve Got A Thing About You, Baby
It’s Midnight
Thinking About You
Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming
Why Me, Lord (Live-1974, Memphis)
Shake A Hand (1975)
Bringing It Back
Moody Blue (1976)
Pledging My Love
He’ll Have To Go
My Way (Live-1977, Rapid City)

To be fair, what would happen if Sony actually released my imaginary set? Other Elvis fans would likely come up with their own improved versions on their MP3 players. I guess that is all part of the fun of being an Elvis fan in the 21st century.

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Update: Wow, folks. Check out Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection, a 36-CD, 711 song Elvis set being released by The Franklin Mint. The cost is $500, which works out to only 70 cents a song – much cheaper than downloading them separately on iTunes or Amazon. It looks like an incredible set: You can also order them on a subscription basis where you receive three CDs a month for a year. It is about $100 more expensive that way, but allows you to pay in installments. I am not sure what to make of the “creative” way they have compiled the tracks over the 36 volumes, though. Seems a bit strange, plus the first three volumes are only 10 songs each.