The 50 Greatest Elvis Presley Albums of All Time

August 15, 2016 

Tomorrow marks the 39th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley 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.

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.

Anyone who has entered my tiny corner of the universe over the last few years knows that I love over-analyzing and ranking stuff that I enjoy.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Elvis lately, which in itself isn’t that unusual, I guess, but it started me thinking about what I would personally consider his greatest albums ever — including those released before and after his death.

For those of you who do not follow Elvis releases, there have actually been far more albums of “new” (i.e., previously unreleased) material issued since his death in 1977 than during his lifetime. I’m mostly talking about alternate studio takes and live recordings. Such releases continue to this day.

In addition to various boxed sets, I currently own in the neighborhood of 225 Elvis vinyl and/or CD albums containing unique material.

To be eligible for consideration on my list, 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).

I judged albums solely on their new material, not on any of the reissued content they might have contained as well. In some cases, this worked to the advantage of an album; in other cases, against it. Note that recording data in the listings below are also solely for an album’s new content.

I now begin a countdown of what I currently consider the 50 greatest Elvis albums of all time. Though I have tried to take cultural impact into account in various ways, that was not the sole consideration. Ultimately, personal impact — how much I love the contents of a particular album — was the most important factor.

This is, of course, just one fan’s perspective.

#50 The Million Dollar Quartet
Recorded: 1956 | Memphis
Released: 1990 (BMG)
Essential Song: Elvis imitating Jackie Wilson imitating Elvis on “Don’t Be Cruel”
“He tried so hard until he got much better, boy, much better than that record of mine.”–Elvis on watching Wilson perform “Don’t Be Cruel”
What Makes It Great: Hearing Elvis in an impromptu jam session with fellow rock ‘n’ roll pioneers Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins (the fourth member of the “quartet,” Johnny Cash, showed up for the photo-op but is not audible on recordings released to date).
What Holds It Back: While interesting as a historical record, the amount of talking during the jam session can make it tough for day-to-day listening. Many songs are also just short, half-remembered snippets. Still, there is undoubtedly something magical about this recording.

#49 Elvis At The International
Recorded: 1969 | Las Vegas
Released: 2003 (FTD)
Essential Song: A sizzling, 8-minute rendition of “Suspicious Minds”
What Makes It Great: The August 23, 1969, Midnight Show is one of twelve concerts recorded by RCA during Elvis’ month-long engagement at the International Hotel, which marked his return to live performances after almost a nine-year absence. With something to prove, Elvis gave some of the best concerts of his career.
What Holds It Back: Most songs have better performances in other shows from this engagement. Though not often a highlight, the “Yesterday/Hey Jude” medley is particularly bad, with a poor, joking version of “Yesterday” followed by nearly four minutes of, “Dah dah dah dah-dah-dah daah, dah dah dah daah, hey Jude” repeated ad-infinitum.

#48 So High
Recorded: 1966-1968 | Nashville
Released: 2004 (FTD)
Essential Song: Take 1 of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”
What Makes It Great: Alternates/outtakes of a variety of quality songs for different projects, including several featuring Jerry Reed on guitar.
What Holds It Back: Some of the weaker tracks, like Take 2 of “Love Letters.”

#47 Blue Hawaii
Recorded: 1961 | Hollywood
Released: 1961 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” of course
What Makes It Great: It’s Elvis, Hawaiian style!
What Holds It Back: “Moonlight Swim.”

#46 Elvis On Tour: The Rehearsals
Recorded: 1972 | Hollywood
Released: 2005 (FTD)
Essential Song: Elvis rehearsing “Johnny B. Goode”
What Makes It Great: A behind-the-scenes listen to Elvis preparing for his April 1972 tour, also filmed for an MGM documentary.
What Holds It Back: As the title suggests, this is mostly rehearsals, so set expectations accordingly. Probably the biggest disappointment is “A Big Hunk O’ Love,” which is much stronger in the live shows of the time than as rehearsed here.

#45 Back In Memphis (Classic Album Edition)
Recorded: 1969 | Memphis
Released: 2012 (FTD)
Essential Song: Take 8 of “Suspicious Minds” (undubbed/unedited master)
What Makes It Great: Any album that contains every take of “Suspicious Minds” is, by definition, great.
What Holds It Back: Multiple takes of stinker “And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind.”

#44 Today
Recorded: 1975 | Hollywood
Released: 1975 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Bringing It Back”
What Makes It Great: Recorded during his last session in a true recording studio, Today is one of the more cohesive albums of Elvis’ original catalog.
What Holds It Back: “Woman Without Love” and “Susan When She Tried.”

#43 King Creole
Recorded: 1958 | Hollywood
Released: 1958 (RCA)
Essential Song: “As Long As I Have You”
What Makes It Great: This is the soundtrack to what many consider his best movie.
What Holds It Back: “Steadfast, Loyal, And True”

#42 The Nashville Marathon
Recorded: 1970 | Nashville
Released: 2002 (FTD)
Essential Song: Take 1 of “How The Web Was Woven”
What Makes It Great: Alternates and outtakes from the stellar recording sessions that produced albums That’s The Way It Is and Elvis Country.
What Holds It Back: “It Ain’t No Big Thing” (Take 6). It should be noted that this same comment applies to any album containing any take of this song.

#41 That’s The Way It Is (Legacy Edition)
Recorded: 1970 | Las Vegas
Released: 2014 (Sony)
Essential Song: “I Just Can’t Help Believin'” (August 12, 1970, Dinner Show)
What Makes It Great: Debut of the complete August 12, 1970, Dinner Show – one of six shows recorded by RCA during this engagement in conjunction with an MGM documentary.
What Holds It Back: A surprisingly poor version of “Polk Salad Annie.”

elvisTopAlbums41-50

#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.)

elvisTopAlbums31-50

#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.

elvisTopAlbums21-50

#20 His Hand In Mine
Recorded: 1960 | Nashville
Released: 1960 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Working On The Building”
What Makes It Great: Elvis’ first full-length gospel album is a beautiful collection of songs.

#19 From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee
Recorded: 1976 | Memphis
Released: 1976 (RCA)
Essential Song: “For The Heart”
What Makes It Great: “Hurt” establishes the tone of this album right from the start. Recorded at Graceland, From Elvis Presley Boulevard is no doubt his most thematically depressing album, but it is also his most introspective.

#18 One Night In Vegas
Recorded: 1970 | Las Vegas
Released: 2001 (FTD)
Essential Song: “Mystery Train/Tiger Man” – I know I choose various live performance of this again and again, but Elvis really tore this one up in 1969 and 1970
What Makes It Great: This release captures the August 10, 1970, Opening Show from the Las Vegas engagement documented by MGM’s Elvis: That’s The Way It Is – Elvis at his best as a live performer and showman. A few rehearsal tracks from the time of the documentary are also included as bonuses.

#17 For LP Fans Only
Recorded: 1954-1956 | Memphis; New York; Hollywood; Nashville
Released: 1959 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Mystery Train” – Elvis’ best recording of the 1950s
What Makes It Great: Covering his SUN to early RCA years, For LP Fans Only is a rock ‘n’ roll masterpiece.

#16 Elvis Is Back!
Recorded: 1960 | Nashville
Released: 1960 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Reconsider Baby”
What Makes It Great: Blues and rock ‘n’ roll dominate this stellar album, recorded shortly after Elvis returned from serving in the US Army.

#15 Memories Of Christmas
Recorded: 1966-1971 | Nashville
Released: 1982 (RCA)
Essential Song: Re-recording of “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day” – one of the bluesiest performances of his career unfortunately went unreleased for over a decade
What Makes It Great: Alternate and extended versions of Elvis Christmas classics.

#14 Elvis’ Christmas Album
Recorded: 1957 | Hollywood
Released: 1957 (RCA)
Essential Song: “Santa Claus Is Back In Town” – Elvis gets dirty
What Makes It Great: This is a true Christmas classic that, along with its slightly superior sequel below, has spawned dozens of re-release compilations. This original format of Elvis’ Christmas Album includes gospel songs, such as “Peace In The Valley,” as well as Christmas songs. Unfortunately, the gospels are often dropped from subsequent reissues – including a 1970 reissue on the Camden label, which went ten times platinum (versus three times platinum for the original configuration).

#13 Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas
Recorded: 1971 | Nashville
Released: 1971 (RCA)
Essential Song: “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day”
What Makes It Great: Another Christmas classic, with additional notable performances including “Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees,” “On A Snowy Christmas Night,” “Merry Christmas Baby,” and a rockin’ version of “Winter Wonderland.” His Christmas music was the most consistent of his career, which is why I placed his three key Christmas albums so close together in the countdown.

#12 ELVIS-TV Special
Recorded: 1968 | Burbank
Released: 1968 (RCA)
Essential Song: “If I Can Dream” – Elvis’ best recording of the 1960s
What Makes It Great: After allowing his music career to suffer in favor of his acting aspirations, Elvis came back in full force in the form of a television special – the excitement of which is ably captured on this soundtrack album.

#11 Memories: The ’68 Comeback Special
Recorded: 1968 | Burbank
Released: 1998 (BMG)
Essential Song: “One Night” (June 27, 6 PM Show; Disc 2/Track 15 version)
What Makes It Great: This 2-CD set provides an in-depth, audio documentation of the ELVIS special – including rehearsals and live versions that did not make the actual special or original album. The absolute highlight of Memories, though, is the debut of the complete June 27, 6 PM Show, which was taped before a small studio audience. This was the first (and best) of the two “sit-down” shows captured for the special. Elvis starts out on acoustic guitar. After a planned swap with Scotty Moore for his electric guitar, the informal jam session is energized as Elvis plays with a ferocity he would never display again after this night. Unfortunately, the majority of this footage did not appear in the 1968 TV special. Premium channel HBO aired the 6 PM show 17 years later in its entirety as Elvis: One Night With You in 1985. Unbelievably, it took another 13 years after that for the audio finally to receive an official release via this album.

elvisTopAlbums11-50

#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.

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