The 50 Greatest Elvis Presley Albums of All Time (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a countdown of Elvis Presley’s best albums. Read Part 1.

As a reminder, to be eligible for consideration, a release had to consist of no more than two discs (CDs/records), contain at least one-third previously unreleased content (not including singles and Extended Plays), and be from an official label. Albums were judged solely on their “new” material, not on any of the reissued content they might have contained as well.


#40 The Return To Vegas
Recorded: 1969 | Las Vegas
Released: 2014 (FTD)
Essential Song: “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” which has a strings arrangement that was changed mid-engagement
What Makes It Great: Likely recorded during the first week of August 1969, this undated Dinner Show represents the earliest concert yet to be officially released from Elvis’ first engagement at the International Hotel. The concert features a similar setlist to the shows RCA recorded later in the month. However, like mentioned, arrangements on a couple of songs are slightly different. Many of the songs are also performed just a tad slower.
What Holds It Back: Captured for reference purposes from the auditorium’s soundboard mixing station, the recording’s sound quality is not up to par with RCA’s multi-track recordings later in the month. (However, compared to other soundboard recordings of Elvis concerts, this is certainly one of the best in terms of both sound and performance.) As far as the actual show goes, it is yet again the “Yesterday/Hey Jude” medley that fails to deliver. “Hound Dog” is also a disappointment.

#39 Elvis (Fool)
Recorded: 1971-1972 | Nashville; Hollywood; Las Vegas
Released: 1973 (RCA)
Essential Song: “It’s Still Here,” a haunting performance featuring Elvis on piano
What Makes It Great: Too often dismissed as a lost opportunity because it was the next album released after the hit Aloha From Hawaii TV special and album, this compilation of apparent “leftovers” from earlier sessions actually features a wonderful mix of entertaining songs.
What Holds It Back: “Padre” as far as the performances, and the sequencing (order of songs) as far as the album.

#38 Essential Elvis: The First Movies
Recorded: 1956-1957 | Hollywood
Released: 1988 (BMG)
Essential Song: KX-Take 21 of “Loving You” — the uptempo version
What Makes It Great: Hearing Elvis singing unusual versions of classic movie tunes, chatting, and playing around in the studio. Elvis’ laughter when he breaks up at the beginning of KX-Take 20 of “Loving You” still gets me every time.
What Holds It Back: A-Take 7 of “Party” for the cheesy “I feel it in my leg, I feel it in my shoe” alternate lyric that was fortunately absent from the version ultimately put out on the Loving You album.

#37 Elvis Now
Recorded: 1969-1971 | Nashville; Memphis
Released: 1972 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Early Morning Rain”
What Makes It Great: This is one of those “little bit of everything” albums that illustrate Elvis’ range of musical styles and interests. Because I have picked on Elvis’ live recordings of the Beatles classic in other entries on this list, I also want to note that he turns in a fantastic jam-like version of “Hey Jude” here, recorded during his sessions at American Sound Studio in Memphis. Just listen to how much fun he is having!
What Holds It Back: “Miracle Of The Rosary.”

#36 Elvis
Recorded: 1956 | Hollywood; New York
Released: 1956 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Love Me”
What Makes It Great: Elvis’ second album is rightly regarded as a rock ‘n’ roll classic. Yet, even this album has huge variety. From rock ‘n’ roll to pop to country, and that is just the first three songs!
What Holds It Back: “How Do You Think I Feel.”

#35 From Elvis At American Sound Studio
Recorded: 1969 | Memphis
Released: 2013 (FTD)
Essential Song: This is a tough call, but I’m gonna have to go with the undubbed master of “Rubberneckin'”
What Makes It Great: Alternate takes and undubbed versions from Elvis’ 1969 sessions in Memphis that produced some of the best music of his career.
What Holds It Back: Take 1 of “Hey Jude.”

#34 Singer Presents Elvis Singing Flaming Star And Others
Recorded: 1960-1968 | Hollywood; Nashville; Burbank
Released: 1968 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Tiger Man” (June 27, 1968, 8 PM Show)
What Makes It Great: Consisting almost entirely of 1960s movie tunes, Flaming Star illustrates that gems can be cherry-picked from Elvis’ soundtrack recordings.
What Holds It Back: “The Eyes Of Texas.”

#33 Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite
Recorded: 1973 | Honolulu
Released: 1973 (RCA)
Essential Song: This is another tough decision, but “An American Trilogy” has to win
What Makes It Great: From Hawaii, Elvis conquers the world one last time in this January 14, 1973, concert performance.
What Holds It Back: A 45-second version of “Hound Dog,” obviously sung entirely out of obligation. If he could not find inspiration in them anymore, I would rather he skipped songs that bored him. It is not like the man did not have an incredible back catalog of music from which to choose.

#32 Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden
Recorded: 1972 | New York
Released: 1972 (RCA)
Essential Performance: “Also Sprach Zarathustra/Opening Riff/That’s All Right”
What Makes It Great: Though live performances had been compiled from 1968, 1969, and 1970, this was actually the first complete Elvis concert that RCA ever released. Even today, this album, which captures his June 10 Evening Show, still stands as a prime example of the power of his 1972 concerts.
What Holds It Back: As with Aloha, bored versions of some of his classics – such as “All Shook Up.”

#31 The Alternate Aloha (CD Edition)
Recorded: 1973 | Honolulu
Released: 1988 (BMG)
Essential Song: “Suspicious Minds” — Listen to Ronnie Tutt pounding the drums!
What Makes It Great: Taped before a full audience, this January 12, 1973, “dress rehearsal” and backup for the live Aloha From Hawaii satellite event two days later actually betters the “real” concert in a number of ways – perhaps because Elvis is less nervous. Another factor is that when timing of the rehearsal revealed that the planned concert was actually a few minutes short, Elvis added songs to the setlist of the real show at the last minute (“Johnny B. Goode,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” and “Long Tall Sally/Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”). The original setlist, as performed on the concert portion of The Alternate Aloha, actually works better as a logical flow than the expanded version.

Be sure to listen out for Elvis saying, “Okay, I’m ready when you are. Here we go,” just prior to “Also Sprach Zarathustra” on The Alternate Aloha CD (not the vinyl version, which was heavily edited). Unfortunately, this moment was cut from a 2013 re-release of this concert as part of the Legacy Edition of Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite. The Legacy Edition also has a more standard mix, while I prefer this concert 1980s-style.

What Holds It Back: “Something” – Elvis sounds as bored as he does on “Hound Dog,” and certainly there is no similar expectation that this Beatles song be performed. (For a committed version of “Something” by Elvis, check out his awesome August 11, 1970, Midnight Show performance of the song. Forget the Aloha versions.)

To Be Continued . . .

Read Part 3.

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2016 marks the 60th anniversary of my Mom and millions of other people around the world becoming Elvis fans. I dedicate this series of posts to her and other first generation Elvis fans. Without you, the rest of us might never have heard of The Memphis Flash.

6 thoughts on “The 50 Greatest Elvis Presley Albums of All Time (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: The 50 Greatest Elvis Presley Albums of All Time (Part 1) | Pastimescapes

  2. Pingback: The 50 Greatest Elvis Presley Albums of All Time (Part 3) | Pastimescapes

  3. One of my biggest beefs with my man is his seeming disdain for his back catalog. Whether it’s laughing his way through “Lonesome Tonight” or racing through 1-min-or-less versions of songs from ’56. For comparison I’ve seen Tom Jones live three times in the past ten years and he still delivers his early hits with respect and passion. So I understand your objections to some of the ‘bored’ versions of ’70’s live ‘Hound Dog’, etc. I understand “Aloha” being down in the 30s on your list but, man, for me, I cherish that concert as it dates back to my earliest listening to Elvis.

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    • While I get your overall point, I have to disagree on one aspect in particular. “Are You Laughing Tonight” (1969) is a bonafide classic. I believe I repeat this every time the song comes up, but I’ll do it again in order to stay consistent… Someone once said that if everybody listened to the laughing version of “Are You Lonesome Tonight” when waking up each day, the world would be a much happier place. Wise words.

      Regarding Aloha From Hawaii, landing at #33 out of hundreds of albums should not be perceived as a slight. I cherish it as well.

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      • Y’know what happened? I got stuck on the idea of someone back in the day loving and cherishing “Are You Lonesome Tonight”. This person saves up and travels hundreds of miles to see Elvis in the hopes of hearing him sing this song – and this is the version they get. I know, that’s a bit ridiculous. It certainly is a joy – not to mention infectious – to hear him stumble his way through “Laughing”. Lately I’ve been listening to the FTD version of the “Paradise, Hawaiian Style” OST and to hear him crack up during the recording of some of the more ludicrous songs is great. Mostly because you have audible proof of him having a good time – which wasn’t always the case throughout his life and we know he certainly deserved.

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