From “Harbor Lights” to “Unchained Melody” in 14 days

A few months ago, I spent three weeks listening in release order to all Elvis albums issued during his lifetime. Though I owned these songs for years, I had never played them in such a sequential manner before. I probably never would have, either, were it not for the convenience of modern technology – using iTunes and my iPod.

All of the great coverage around the web about Sony’s The Complete Elvis Presley Masters collection inspired me to undertake a similar journey in recent weeks. Using the Elvis Presley master recordings list as a guide, I created a new playlist to listen to all of the songs in recording order this time. While I was at it, I also tagged each song with a number so that I can easily sort them by recording order in the future.

It took me only two weeks to listen to over 700 Elvis songs, and it was an even better listening experience this way. As expected, the hardest years for me to sludge through were 1964 and 1965 (from about “Poison Ivy League” on down to “Queenie Wahine’s Papaya”). Even then, there were the occasional highlights like “Please Don’t Stop Loving Me” or “This Is My Heaven” – but most songs from this time represent the worst of the movie tunes.

Outside of that long rough spot, though, playing the songs in a coherent fashion like this made it even more obvious how solid most of his other recordings were over the years. It really made me appreciate the “sound” of individual sessions, something that is not always evident when listening to many of his albums. As a fan, it was an emotional experience as well, even more so than listening to them as albums.

When the Graceland sessions came to a close with “He’ll Have To Go,” I realized there were only three Elvis recordings left before he did just that. As he sang “If You Love Me,” and “Little Darlin’,” I knew the inevitable was coming. It was going by so fast, I wanted it to slow down, I wanted it not to happen this time.

He launched into his breathtaking version of “Unchained Melody” and when it was over . . . silence.

I sat and listened to that silence for awhile . . . and thought about what it represented.

4 thoughts on “From “Harbor Lights” to “Unchained Melody” in 14 days

  1. Wow…it must be incredible to do it…I can’t imagine doing this…listening to a lifetime recordings of Elvis in cronological order from the begining to the very end…a chilling experience!
    One of the most incredible things about the man, is that he stayed loyal to his musical roots from 1954 right through 1977, ok, everybody knows that Hollywood was “almost” an exception to the rules (even if in Tickle Me the songs included were some Elvis fav & The Trouble With Girls had a great rendition of Swing Down Sweet Chariot).
    I am a music lover, and I can tell you that it’s very hard to find anyone else who did the same like Elvis.
    One of the most incredible things from the last tour of 1977 is the chosing of singing again(especially the way he did) the song I Really Don’t Want To Know.
    We all know how bad he was both mentally and physically but, all the same he has been able to give his heart & soul in that song.
    As one said, America had many presidents, but only one king…Elvis Presley.

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    • “I Really Don’t Want To Know” is definitely a standout on Elvis In Concert. I actually enjoy a number of songs on that album, though.

      It probably helps that I’ve been listening to it since I was a kid. It was only later that I learned I wasn’t supposed to like it.

      As far as the movies, while they were definitely the source for many of his worst songs, we also wouldn’t have “Jailhouse Rock”, “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” and a number of other top-notch songs without them.

      Have you heard the alternate version of “Swing Low” from Trouble With Girls on the recent “I Believe” set? Thomas over at Elvis Today posted about it, otherwise I would have missed it as I did not buy that set. It’s much better than the previously released version from that film. It features female backup singers instead of males. I may even like it better than the His Hand In Mine version. I purchased the individual track from either Amazon or iTunes, I forget which now.

      Anyway, thanks for reading and posting.

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