"Young Man With The Big Beat
RCA/Legacy (88697 93534 2)
By Gillian G. Gaar
This five-CD set, subtitled “The Complete ’56 Elvis Presley Masters,” was designed with collectors in mind. The first two CDs have every studio recording Presley made that year, drawn from the albums “Elvis Presley” and “Elvis,” and all the non-album singles; these two CDs are also packaged in the two-disc set “Elvis Presley: Legacy Edition.” (For casual fans, the “Legacy Edition” is all they’ll need, but it’s just the starting point for this set.)
The third CD has live performances. The Vegas show first appeared on “Elvis Aron Presley,” and the Arkansas show on “Elvis: Today, Tomorrow & Forever.” But the December “Louisiana Hayride” show is previously unreleased. It’s a great new show to have; Presley is relaxed and goofing around (especially on “I Was The One”), and he rips through the closing “Hound Dog” with gusto.
The third CD has outtakes from various ’56 sessions. None are previously unreleased, but they’re drawn from various compilations; for example, all the takes of “Lawdy, Miss Clawdy” are drawn from four different collections. One quibble might be that multiple takes of another song more representative of Presley might have be used instead — “Heartbreak Hotel” or “Hound Dog,” for example.
The last track of the fourth CD and all of the fifth CD draw on interviews — the kind of thing that appeals most to serious fans. Before he was locked away in Graceland, Presley spoke his mind a lot, and while these interviews have previously appeared on various fan recordings, it’s great to have them all together in one collection. There’s even an interview with Presley’s manager, Tom Parker.
There’s also facsimile memorabilia, but what really completes the set is the hardback book that’s included. The book has a day-by-day timeline of Presley’s activities in 1956, and it is lavishly illustrated. It’s like an expanded edition of the 1956 chapter in the book “Elvis Day By Day,” which ran to 36 pages; the book in the “Young Man” set is 80 pages, and it also has a complete discography. It’s the new live show, interviews, and the book make this set of special interest to collectors.