Download the End of Lonely Street: Top 5 Elvis Starter Albums on iTunes

While I buy much of my music online these days, the overwhelming majority of my Elvis Presley purchases continue to be in the form of CDs.

The times I tend to download Elvis are when I only need a few tracks from a new album or set. For instance, I purchased a December 15, 1956, concert and various non-music tracks as online downloads from the Young Man with the Big Beat: The Complete ’56 Elvis Presley Masters set a few years back, as I already owned all of the other content.

However, iTunes and other online music stores certainly present great oppotunities to find jumping-on places for many artists, including Elvis. With that in mind, I thought I would take a look at the current iTunes offerings and suggest various starting points for exploring the music of Elvis Presley.

There are many possible paths when first listening to Elvis. The below starter albums represent only a few of those possibilities, focusing on different aspects of his career, avoiding duplication, and keeping a maximum $10 US budget in mind.

Cover of ELVIS-TV SPECIAL (1968 album)

1968’s ELVIS-TV SPECIAL is a strong starter album for those new to Elvis Presley.

#1 ELVIS-TV Special

This is the soundtrack of the 1968 television special that marked a turning point for Elvis. As he finally began to break away from repetitive movies that dominated so much of his 1960s career, he adopted a new, mature sound on songs like “If I Can Dream” and reinterpreted many of his older hits, such as a pounding version of “Heartbreak Hotel.”

The ELVIS-TV Special album thus serves both as an overview of his career to that point as well as a navigation beacon for the direction of his future, reinvigorated work.

#2 Promised Land (Expanded)

The first ten tracks of this release represent the original Promised Land album proper. Recorded in 1973 at Stax Studios in Memphis, Promised Land features a perfect blend of rock ‘n’ roll (the title track), country (“It’s Midnight”), and inspirational (“Help Me”).

This 2000 expanded edition includes several tracks from the inferior Good Times album, recorded at the same sessions. While this has the benefit of adding choice cuts “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues,” “Lovin’ Arms,” and “My Boy,” it also detracts by including clunkers “She Wears My Ring,” “If That Isn’t Love,” and “I Got A Feelin’ In My Body.”

#3 Elvis At Sun

Whoever decided to lead off this collection of Elvis’s earliest professional recordings with the lightweight “Harbor Lights” and nearly unlistenable “I Love You Because” allowed recording order to dictate over common sense and entertainment value. Producer and SUN founder Sam Phillips wisely rejected both of these cuts. Had they become Elvis’s first record, there might not have been a second.

Elvis then “stumbled upon” what became his first single, “That’s All Right” b/w “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” which should have started this collection of 1954-1955 recordings. Despite the sequencing issues, Elvis At Sun is a stellar release, with career highlights including “Mystery Train,” “Baby, Let’s Play House,” “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “That’s All Right,” “Blue Moon,” and “Tryin’ To Get To You.”

There is a certain appeal to starting an Elvis musical journey at the literal beginning, and this 2004 release does a fine job without delving too far into outtakes and alternates best left for more seasoned fans.

#4 Elvis’ Golden Records

Essentially picking up where Elvis At Sun left off, Elvis’ Golden Records captures the singer in his early years at RCA Records. These 1956-1957 recordings include many of his best known hits.

Along with his SUN records, these cuts represent some of his most influential work. Every song here is a classic, but “Jailhouse Rock” and “Love Me” manage to shine even among the top-notch competition.

#5 From Elvis In Memphis

After the success of the ELVIS television special in 1968, Elvis recorded for the first time in Memphis since his SUN days. His 1969 recordings at American studios eventually produced two albums and several singles.

From Elvis In Memphis was easily the strongest of the two albums and certainly one of the best of his career. Stand-outs include “Power Of My Love,” “Wearin’ That Loved-On Look,” “After Loving You,” “Any Day Now,” and “Long Black Limousine.”

9 thoughts on “Download the End of Lonely Street: Top 5 Elvis Starter Albums on iTunes

  1. Good work, sir, on a tough topic. Tough because I struggle to think of Elvis as an ‘album artist’ due, of course, to the atrocious handling he got from RCA. However, if you’re going to suggest albums as opposed to playlists or compilations, these are good places to start. But…BUT…”I Got a Feelin’ in My Body” a ‘clunker’??!! My blood is boiling here, buddy!

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      • His performances were always great. But considering the advances that artists around him were making in terms of presentation, to continue to release very short, ten-song albums (remember all the good Stax stuff getting stretched out to three albums) with no actual titles, no actual cover art, his last name never appearing, fleshing out albums with leftover tracks from years gone by, you have to admit: RCA could’ve done much better considering what a talent they had. Elvis is so huge today IN SPITE of all this. Imagine if he’d been handled better!

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  2. UH OH! After seeing Wellsys’ comment above mine, I have to admit that “I Got A Feelin’ in My Body” is a BIG favorite of mine. Double Ditto!! However, my blood is too… ‘Old’….. to remember how to boil. LOL!

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  3. I agree with your choices Troy, but Wellsy and Clementine also have it right were “I Got a Feelin’ in My Body” is concerned because I too love it, it’s a great song as far as I am concerned. Cheers for the post.

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  4. We have two out of five but my top five starter albums for first Elvis listeners… Elvis’ Golden Records, 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong, Elvis’ Gold Records – Volume 2, For LP Fans Only, Elvis Is Back! and From Elvis In Memphis.

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    • Elvis Is Back! made my short list, but I prefer From Elvis In Memphis. It would have been #6.

      While 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong has some songs I love (“One Night,” “Don’t,” “A Fool Such As I,” and “A Big Hunk O’ Love”), many of the others drag the album down for me, such as “I Need Your Love Tonight.”

      For LP Fans Only was definitely a consideration, but I ultimately chose Elvis At Sun. It was a close call, but For LP Fans Only includes “Poor Boy,” one of his worst songs. On the other hand, it also includes favorites like “I Was The One,” “My Baby Left Me,” and “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.” In other words, I remain conflicted!

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  5. Regarding various comments on “I Got A Feelin’ In My Body,” I went back and gave this another listen. I still think it’s a clunker, folks. Sorry!

    I love the background vocalists, but Elvis sounds like he’s trying too hard. The “I got a … I got a … I got a …” portions are particularly awful to me.

    It is interesting how weak Elvis sounds on this one as opposed to “Promised Land,” recorded just a few days later.

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