The 50 Greatest Elvis Presley Albums of All Time (Part 5: The Top 10)

This is the final installment of a countdown of Elvis Presley’s best albums. Read Part 4.

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 (no bootlegs).

Albums were judged solely on their new material and not on any of the reissued content they might have contained. Recording information noted below is also only for an album’s new content.

Though cultural impact was taken into account in various ways, that was not the lone consideration. Ultimately, personal impact — how much I love a particular album — was the most important factor.

Tomorrow marks the 39th anniversary of the death of Elvis at the age of 42. I am 41, so that 42 age seems younger and younger to me with each passing year. Though gone too soon, he accomplished much in that short time – as attested by the 50 incredible albums covered in this series of posts.

Elvis has been dead the majority of my life, yet has had a profound influence on it. His music has gotten me through some tough times … and has been there for many more good times as well.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, the ten greatest Elvis albums of all time.

#10 Promised Land
Recorded: 1973 | Memphis
Released: 1975 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Promised Land”
“Aw, get on it! I left my home in Norfolk, Virginia; California on my mind. I straddled that Greyhound and rode him into Raleigh and on across Caroline.”
What Makes It Great: Recorded at Stax studios, Promised Land is, in many ways, a perfect Elvis album – a mixture of rock ‘n’ roll, country, inspirational, and adult contemporary. It is a testament to the power of the remaining albums on this list that I was not able to nudge this one farther up in the rankings.

#9 Elvis’ Golden Records, Volume 3
Recorded: 1960-1962 | Nashville
Released: 1963 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Are You Lonesome Tonight”
“You know, someone said that the world’s a stage, and each must play a part. Fate had me playing in love, with you as my sweetheart.”
What Makes It Great: This collection of top-selling singles makes a strong argument against those who claim that, musically, “Elvis died in the Army.” There are so many treats here, like “Little Sister” and “His Latest Flame.”

#8 Almost In Love
Recorded: 1967-1969 | Hollywood; Nashville; Memphis
Released: 1970 (Camden)
Essential Song: “Rubberneckin’”
“People say I’m wastin’ time, yeah, but I don’t really care.”
What Makes It Great: Almost In Love is a hodge-podge of songs, including some movie tunes, that manage not only to work, but combine into what is, obviously, one of his best albums ever. This was a “budget” album on RCA’s Camden label. Unfortunately, most of Elvis’ Camden releases were of far lower quality.

#7 Moody Blue
Recorded: 1976-1977 | Memphis; Ann Arbor; Kalamazoo
Released: 1977 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Pledging My Love”
“Always and forever, I’ll love only you.”
What Makes It Great: Recorded at his home and on the road in front of his fans, Moody Blue ends Elvis’ career in style. Elvis’ last album is released on July 19, 1977, less than a month before his death. In the subsequent record store rush, many folks pick up this stellar album – pressed on blue vinyl. The album includes “He’ll Have To Go,” the last song Elvis ever recorded in a “studio” setting (actually, his den at Graceland).

#6 From Elvis In Memphis
Recorded: 1969 | Memphis
Released: 1969 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Power Of My Love”
“My love will haunt you, yes, haunt you night and day.”
What Makes It Great: From Elvis In Memphis capitalizes on the success of the ELVIS special and propels him forward in a new, adult style unlike anything he has recorded before.

#5 On Stage – February, 1970
Recorded: 1969-1970 | Las Vegas
Released: 1970 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Polk Salad Annie” (February 18, 1970, Midnight Show)
“Everybody calls it polk salad. Now that’s polk… [boom]… salad… [boom-boom]. Lord, have mercy.”
What Makes It Great: Primarily recorded in February 1970, with a couple of related highlights from August 1969 thrown in for good measure, On Stage illustrates the power of Elvis as a live performer in this time period. This album pairs well with Elvis In Person (August 1969). In fact, a 2010 “Legacy Edition” of On Stage does just that.

Trivia Interlude: Of those released in his lifetime in the United States, On Stage is one of only two Elvis albums that do not include his name on the front or back cover. The other is For LP Fans Only (#17 on this countdown).

#4 How Great Thou Art – As Sung By Elvis
Recorded: 1966; 1960 | Nashville
Released: 1967 (RCA)
Essential Song: “How Great Thou Art”
“I see the stars. I hear the rolling thunder. Thy power throughout the universe displayed.”
What Makes It Great: How Great Thou Art is Elvis’ masterpiece, which earns him his first Grammy Award. Out of all of the albums on this Top Ten list, it is undoubtedly the one he cared about most. The entire album is a must-listen when it comes to understanding his music.

#3 Elvis Country – I’m 10,000 Years Old
Recorded: 1970 | Nashville
Released: 1971 (RCA)
Essential Song: “I Really Don’t Want To Know”
“Just let it, let it remain your secret. Oh, for darlin’, darlin’ I love you so. No wonder, yeah, no wonder, I wonder, ’cause I really don’t want, I don’t want to know.”
What Makes It Great: Elvis Country is an album that rather haphazardly came together in the course of Elvis’ summer 1970 “marathon” session in Nashville. This, of course, makes it more perfect than any planned album would have been. Nashville was the ideal location for Elvis to delve into a definitive country album. Remember, it’s not just country, it’s Elvis country.

#2 Elvis’ Golden Records
Recorded: 1956-1957 | Hollywood; New York; Nashville
Released: 1958 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Jailhouse Rock”
“I wanna stick around awhile and get my kicks, let’s rock!”
What Makes It Great: The first of many volumes, Elvis’ Golden Records captures the songs that took him to international superstardom in 1956 and 1957. These classic songs have been compiled dozens and dozens of times since then, but Elvis’ Golden Records was the first and the best.

#1 That’s The Way It Is
Recorded: 1970 | Nashville; Las Vegas
Released: 1970 (RCA)
Essential Song: “How The Web Was Woven”
“At last I’m where you want me, don’t you know that’s where, where I wanna be.”
What Makes It Great: I have written about this album more than any other, so I am sure it landing at the top spot was no surprise to anyone who has followed my writing over the years. The That’s The Way It Is project – RCA album and MGM documentary – represents the culmination of the “comeback” that began with the How Great Thou Art sessions and caught fire with the ELVIS special. Elvis reached perfection in this time period as an artist. I cannot choose any album but this one as his absolute best.

Shopping Tip: If you buy the 2014 “Legacy Edition” of That’s The Way It Is (the previously unreleased material of which was already covered as #41 on this countdown), you will get the original album (#1 here), the associated singles, a few outtakes, and a complete live show on 2 CDs. Definitely a huge value, if you do not already have the material.

The 50 Greatest Elvis Presley Albums of All Time (click for larger version)

The 50 Greatest Elvis Presley Albums of All Time (click for larger version)

So, there you have them, the 50 Greatest Elvis Presley Albums of All Time – at least according to one fan on one day.

No doubt, your list will vary. Were you shocked by any inclusions or omissions? Make your case in the comments below.

Finally, I want to close out by saying how much fun this series of Elvis posts has been for me. By 2014, when I ended The Mystery Train Blog, I was burned out on writing about Elvis (not burned out on listening to his music, however).

I started Pastimescapes a year ago to continue writing about Elvis but also expand to other areas of interest. The flexibility of this “open topic” blog with the cumbersome name has been a tremendous help.

For Elvis fans, this is a special week – one that many of us use to celebrate his life, rather than dwell on his death. For me, that life was about music.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I intend to crank up that music a little louder than usual tomorrow.

Thank you for reading.

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.

12 thoughts on “The 50 Greatest Elvis Presley Albums of All Time (Part 5: The Top 10)

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

  2. “It’s not just country, it’s Elvis country”…..Love it!
    Thanks Troy for a well written & enjoyable ride. Two thumbs up from me, especially as 7 of my faves are in your Top 10.
    Happy Elvis week to all.
    Sammy from Oz..


  3. For sure the song “Promised Land” is on a VERY short list of his best songs. The ‘budget-ness’ of “Almost in Love” used to bother me but I love it! I had it (and “I Got Lucky”) on cassette in high school – I have such warm feelings for that album. For me, “Without Him” from “How Great Thou Art” has what we’d call in my church a special ‘anointing’ on it. I still own our family’s vinyl copy of this album. And “That’s the Way It Is”? Well, what can you say? Unique recordings with such a unique sound. Great job with this series, Troy, and enjoy your Aug 16.


  4. Great series Troy, really enjoyed reading it! I for one couldn’t have compiled such a list, there are so many great albums, and placing them in some sort of order is a mayor task. But as usual I agree with most of your choices, and no 1 is right on! By the way, wasn’t For LP Fans Only without Elvis’ name on the cover as well?


  5. Mate i have to say, that was an exceptional list, not an easy task by any means. I’m so glad that “How Great” made it into the top 10 as you have stated this is a work of passion and love for Elvis (not in those words) an album i listened to constantly as a teenager (believe or not) when my peers were into sex pistols and hard rock etc (not for me). You hit the nail on the head with #1 TTWII, so much so that i am now on the hunt for the “Legacy” edition. Thank you for your efforts Troy, we appreciate them very much. Cheers Ray


    • Thanks, Ray, for sharing your memory of the How Great Thou Art album. Those of us who came along after Elvis’ initial wave of fans definitely had to march to our own drummers/create our own paths.

      As far as I know, 2014’s 2-CD “Legacy Edition” of That’s The Way It Is was a worldwide release. It should probably run you no more than about US $15 to $20.

      Not to be confused with the 10-disc (8-CD/2-DVD) “Ultimate Edition” from that same year, which lives up to its name, but will run you around US $100 to $115.


  6. Great set of articles Troy, and I mostly agree with your choices. I was a bit surprised that King Creole wasn’t higher on your list, but your number 1 choice was spot on!


    • Thank you, Colin. Let’s see, King Creole landed at #43 – wedged before Today and after The Nashville Marathon.

      The songs I rate highest on King Creole are “As Long As I Have You,” “Hard Headed Woman,” “Don’t Ask Me Why,” and the title song – all of which I consider perfect.

      Only slightly below those is “Trouble,” and then “Dixieland Rock” is another slight step down from there – yet still an above average song.

      “New Orleans,” “Crawfish,” and “Lover Doll” descend to mediocre and slightly below territory for me. Finally, “Steadfast, Loyal And True” – which works fine in the context of the actual film – is one of those movie tunes that should have not been placed on an album. It brings the overall album way down.

      From a cultural standpoint, I gave the album “extra credit,” however, for hitting #2 on the Billboard album chart as well as achieving Gold record status. This helped it to leap frog #s 45, 46, 48, 49, and 50 on the list. Otherwise, it would’ve been even lower. This is mostly due to the power of the other albums above it on the list, rather than as a slam on King Creole. It is #43 out of hundreds of Elvis albums. As such, it is one of my favorite albums.

      I’m not sure if my convoluted explanation helps or not, but thanks again for commenting.


  7. Pingback: Which “Jungle Room” Elvis CD Should You Buy? | Pastimescapes

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