The 50 Greatest Elvis Presley Albums of All Time (Part 3)

This is Part 3 of a countdown of Elvis Presley’s best albums. Read Part 2.

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 reissued content.

And now . . . back to our countdown.


#30 Stereo 57: Essential Elvis – Volume 2
Recorded: 1957 | Hollywood
Released: 1989 (BMG)
Essential Song: Take 14 of “Mean Woman Blues”
What Makes It Great: Elvis did not begin making recordings intended for stereo release until 1960 (“Stuck On You”/”Fame And Fortune,” Elvis Is Back!, etc.). During certain Elvis sessions in the 1950s, however, RCA made safety copies in “binaural” format – essentially, Elvis is in the left channel, while the backing music and vocals are in the right channel. Stereo 57 releases 15 of these binaural recordings for the first time, capturing alternate takes. While his 1950s mono recordings will always remain the real classics, of course, these binaural outtakes provide a freshness that holds up even in 2016.
What Holds It Back: Only eight different songs are covered. Multiple versions of “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” and “I Beg Of You” can take away from the value of repeated listens to this album.

#29 A Date With Elvis
Recorded: 1954-1957 | Memphis; Hollywood
Released: 1959 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Baby, Let’s Play House”
What Makes It Great: Cobbled together to keep product on the shelves while Elvis was serving in the US Army, A Date With Elvis primarily consists of SUN recordings and (mostly) quality movie tunes that had not yet been released on album. This is yet another Elvis release that should not work, yet turns out terrific.
What Holds It Back: The unfortunate inclusion of the wretched “We’re Gonna Move” from the Love Me Tender soundtrack. Right from the start in 1956, Elvis’ movie tunes were often of lesser quality than his standard recordings.

#28 The On Stage Season: The Opening And Closing Shows – February, 1970
Recorded: 1970 | Las Vegas
Released: 2013 (FTD)
Essential Song: “True Love Travels On A Gravel Road” (January 26, 1970, Opening Show) – with extra points because Elvis plugs his From Elvis In Memphis album prior to singing it.
What Makes It Great: This 2-CD album includes the January 26, 1970, Opening Show, and the February 23, 1970, Closing Show from Elvis’ 57-show engagement at the International Hotel in early 1970. Though RCA recorded portions of several concerts in the middle of this series to compile the majority of the On Stage album, these two soundboard recordings are actually the first and only complete concerts officially released from this engagement. Both performances are terrific, but the Closing Show is really something special. It features a segment where Elvis plays piano for “Blueberry Hill” & “Lawdy, Miss Clawdy” and later picks up his electric guitar to play “One Night” & “It’s Now Or Never.” Pure magic.
What Holds It Back: “All Shook Up” does not work very well as an opening song – especially compared to the likes of “That’s All Right” (August 1970 season) and “Blue Suede Shoes” (August 1969 season). Also, keep in mind that this is a soundboard recording, so it does not have the sound quality of RCA’s recordings for the On Stage album. While both shows are definitely very listenable, the Opening Show has more sound issues due to peak distortion on Elvis’ vocals. The Closing Show is much easier on the ears.

#27 Elvis Presley
Recorded: 1954-1956 | Nashville; Memphis
Released: 1956 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Blue Moon”
What Makes It Great: This is Elvis’ first album. Of course it made the list!
What Holds It Back: Think of how much stronger his debut album would have been if “I Love You Because” and “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry” were replaced by “I Was The One” and “Heartbreak Hotel.”

#26 Elvis’ Gold Records: Volume 4
Recorded: 1958-1966 | Nashville; Hollywood
Released: 1968 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Witchcraft”
What Makes It Great: This is a compilation of some of Elvis’ best singles of the 1960s. Even the two movie tunes included are strong.
What Holds It Back: Though unique, “Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello” fails to hold interest on repeat listens.

#25 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong: Elvis’ Gold Records – Volume 2
Recorded: 1957-1958 | Hollywood; Nashville
Released: 1959 (RCA)
Essential Song: “One Night”
What Makes It Great: This is another installment chock full of classics, this time from the 1950s.

Trivia Interlude: Of those released in his lifetime, the odd volumes (1 & 3) in this series were called Elvis’ Golden Records, while the even volumes (2 & 4) were called Elvis’ Gold Records. Now you know!

#24 From Elvis In Memphis (Classic Album Edition)
Recorded: 1969 | Memphis
Released: 2013 (FTD)
Essential Song: Take 7 of “Power Of My Love” (undubbed master)
What Makes It Great: Alternate and undubbed versions help present a new perspective on a truly classic album.

#23 From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis
Recorded: 1969 | Las Vegas; Memphis
Released: 1969 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Mystery Train/Tiger Man” (August 25, 1969, Midnight Show)
What Makes It Great: Elvis’ first 2-record set includes a killer compilation of highlights from his 1969 Vegas concerts as the first record – later re-released separately as Elvis In Person.

#22 Hot August Night: The Complete Midnight Show, August 25, 1969
Recorded: 1969 | Las Vegas
Released: 2013 (FTD)
Essential Song: “Suspicious Minds” (August 25, 1969, Midnight Show) – a mistake actually makes this one better! When Elvis apparently misses his intro, James Burton keeps going with a longer guitar lick until Elvis is ready. You gotta crank this one up.
What Makes It Great: Speaking of those fantastic 1969 Vegas concerts, here is a full concert that contributed to the Elvis In Person compilation. Sound quality is incredible.

#21 Live In Vegas: August 26, 1969 Dinner Show
Recorded: 1969 | Las Vegas
Released: 2011 (FTD)
Essential Song: “Mystery Train/Tiger Man” (August 26, 1969, Dinner Show) – a perfect mix
What Makes It Great: This is the very next show after the above CD, and Elvis is still on fire. A couple of songs from this show also contributed to Elvis In Person.

To Be Continued . . .

Read Part 4.

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

9 thoughts on “The 50 Greatest Elvis Presley Albums of All Time (Part 3)

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

    • Thank you, Sammy. I appreciate you taking the time to keep up with this series.

      I agree about Elvis’ awesome music. One of the toughest parts of compiling this list was having to leave certain albums out.

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  2. Great countdown Troy. I’m really appreciating your list and reasoning behind your choices. I especially wholeheartedly agree with your observations on “Elvis Presley”. I am fascinated with “Blue Moon” the vocals are brilliant, swapping out the songs mentioned would have added so much more to the initial release. Again a great list thus far Troy.

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    • Thank you, Ray. I’ve enjoyed putting this list together – my first large-scale Elvis feature since the days of The Mystery Train Blog.

      “Blue Moon” is an Elvis song that had to grow on me over the years. I was first familiar with the Marcels version, and the Elvis recording almost sounds like an entirely different song. Once I finally “got it,” though, I fell in love with the Elvis version. (Ironically, I have a hard time listening to the Marcels version, now.)

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  3. Yes, in regards to his debut album: visiting Sun Studios this week got me thinking of the tracks cut there. It baffles me that RCA did not make more use of great tracks like “That’s Alright” or “Mystery Train”. As great as his first record is, you’re right, we can only imagine how great it could have been with the inclusion of the best of Sun, Heartbreak Hotel, etc. But I always say: as huge as his legacy is, imagine how much ‘huger’ if RCA had done a lot of things differently.

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    • It is hard fully to blame RCA (or even Tom Parker), though. Elvis could have been more aggressive about taking the reigns of his career. On those rare times he did, the real magic happened.

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      • This discussion is a whole other thread, I guess. And I’ll admit I tend to err on the side of giving EP a pass but I’ll agree it is essentially up to the artist to chart his own course.

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  4. Pingback: The 50 Greatest Elvis Presley Albums of All Time (Part 4) | Pastimescapes

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