10 Elvis Albums That Are Worth Owning

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A journey through Elvis Presley’s back catlogue is one long walk through a minefield of bad albums. In addition to his nearly unlistenable musical soundtracks from the 60’s and hit-or-mostly-miss string of 70’s albums, he is perhaps the most over-anthologized artist in the history of music. All of this makes selecting an Elvis record at best a crap shoot. Here are ten Elvis records that any fan of music can own and enjoy without shame:

Elvis - album
Elvis Presley (1956)

This is where the legend began. Elvis’ first album for RCA provided ample evidence of his greatness. ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and ‘Blue Moon’ are among his finest moments, and of course, the lettering on the front eventually inspired the cover of The Clash’s London Calling.

Elvis - album
Elvis (1956)

Every facet of Elvis’ influences are on display here – from Gospel to R&B to Pop to Country. But it’s all Elvis – confident, playful, but masterly. Tracks like ‘Rip It Up’, ‘Love Me’ and ‘Paralyzed’ are as good as his best work but much less well known.

From Elvis In Memphis - album
From Elvis In Memphis (1969)

A pure blue-eyed soul album before the phrase was coined, Elvis In Memphis has an authentic and heartfelt vibe that was sorely missing from much of his latter day work.

Elvis Country - album
Elvis Country (I’m 10,000 Years Old) (1971)

The King goes back to his country roots, with surpisingly pleasing results. As allmusic.com explains, “He was cutting songs that he was either very impressed with at the moment or had loved for a lot of years, but they were all songs he cared about, which gives him a commanding and charismatic vocal presence.”

Aloha - album
Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite (1972)

A strong representation of Elvis’ famous 70’s live show. A number of schmaltzy cover songs (‘Something’ ‘My Way’ ‘Steamroller Blues’) threaten to pull the proceedings down, but the opening sequence, including the 2001: A Space Odyssey theme, ‘See See Rider’, and ‘Burning Love’ more than make up for it. As the cover art says in so many languages, “Nous aimons Elvis.”

Having Fun - album
Having Fun With Elvis On Stage (1974)

This album of nothing but stage banter is a collectors-only kind of item, but it’s a doozy. An impossibly great talisman of how far the Elvis marketing machine had spread by the early 70’s – Col. Parker and Co. were packaging and selling his lame jokes for crying out loud. This one’s valuable for obvious reasons (ie, none were actually sold).

Sun Sessions - album
The Sun Sessions (1976)

The Rosetta Stone of Rock & Roll, this album is more than just a historical exercise. Rocking his way through a number of tracks that touch on all manner of influences, Elvis’ energy and enthusiasm will astound those only familiar with his later work. Mesmerizingly good.

68 Comeback - album
Memories: The ’68 Comeback Special (1998)

Of this television special that virtually invented the concept of ‘comeback’, writer Jon Landau said “There is something magical in watching a man who had lost himself find his way home.” After eight years on the sidelines of serious music, Elvis showed that he still had it.

TT&F - box
Today, Tomorrow & Forever (2002)

This four disc box set collected 100 rare and previously unreleased tracks to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Presley’s death. From his first studio recordings to his last sessions, this box has a little bit of everything and remains the definitive collection for the above-average fan.

30 #1 Hits - album
Elv1s: 30 #1 Hits (2002)

Finally collecting all of Elvis’ #1’s in one place, this welcome compilation had an added bonus: the JXL remix of ‘A Little Less Conversation’ went to #1 itself in 20 countries and proved that Elvis’ voice and energy remain utterly contemporary.

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16 Responses to “10 Elvis Albums That Are Worth Owning”

  1. Chuck Says:

    C’mon then where is the Elvis Christmas Album, a few years ago they released a CD that had every xmas tune he recorded on it and it is absolutely a must own CD, never mind a must own Elvis CD.

    respect the holidays

    -C

  2. cordell Says:

    While I completely agree with your description of The King’s discography as a minefield, his self-titled 1956 album absolutely stands on its own as one rock & roll’s biggest moments, based purely on its musical merits. The same can probably be said for his Sun sessions.

    Those efforts will never be “owned without shame.” They should be owned by anyone who remotely considers themselves a music fan.

    While there’s no shortage of evidence that Elvis tarnished his own star from 1960 on, at one point in time he was definitely among the brightest ones ever.

  3. ted Says:

    I completely disagree with the generalization that the soundtracks are unlistenable….there are novelties galore, many insipid and having little to do with rock but there are some gems in there as well. King Creole, Do The Clam, Viva Las Vegas….also to Cordell with the tarnished his star comment above: if you want to say that as specifically a comment regarding the studio, I might give leeway. However, the 68 Comeback was not just a slick marketing ploy. The live show residency at the International was the live peak of Elvis’ career. Never was a better pure rock band assembled and those shows were off the chart…many associate Vegas with the bloated 74-77 years but the 70. 71, 72 years are stellar and unmatched..

  4. dkpresents Says:

    Good points all. Let me take these in order:

    1) Chuck, you’re absolutely right, a Christmas album was undoubtedly called for, and ‘White Christmas’ (the compilation I think you’re referencing) is a winner, and an album that can be enjoyed all year ’round.

    2) ‘Shame’ was a poor choice of words here. I probably should have said something like “…can purchase without fear…” but I was jamming on a hairy deadline, and, well, nobody cares about my lame excuses anyway.

    3) Totally agreed. Well, mostly agreed. If there was one solid compilation that brought together all of the gems from his soundtrack years [is there??], it would be well worth consideration here. I also want to thank you for introducing the song ‘Do The Clam’ to the conversation (insert Beavis joke here) – I freakin’ love that track!!! However, I think my comment on “his nearly unlistenable musical soundtracks” isn’t that far removed from your own “…novelties galore, many insipid and having little to do with rock” – let’s call that one a draw.

    Thanks for commenting, and long live the King!

  5. Theresa Gregory Says:

    I have Elvis’s 1971 Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite album, is it worth anything? It’s still in its original jacket.

    phone # 515-246-9838

  6. CLAY MURRAY Says:

    To say that Elvis only put out a handful of great records is insane and the author of this topic has no clue just how many awesome songs Elvis recorded.Elvis recorded some 800 + songs and yes there were some silly songs but mostly there were alot of great songs.To really listen to Elvis voice singing rock,gospol,country,ballads,is a gift of of his talent.

    • dkpresents Says:

      First of all, I never said that Elvis only put out a handful of good records – I said that he put out a lot of lousy records. There’s a big difference between those two statements – I’ll let you see if you can figure it out for yourself.

      Listing 10 albums that every Elvis fan should own was not intended as an insult to the artist, even if my intro points out that much of his work wasn’t up to his own high standards. To claim that most of his 800+ songs are great is a zinger. Even his most ardent fans admit that the bulk of his 60’s work is subpar (and yes, I’m allowing for the odd great track like ‘Do The Clam’). And if that wasn’t the case, then why was his ’68 comeback such a big deal? You don’t “comeback” unless you’ve been away…

      Finally, my intro was more of a slap at Colonel Tom Parker than it was at Elvis. Colonel Tom bled the Elvis legend for every nickel it would give, and along the way made some atrocious marketing decisions and forced his prized client into some questionable artistic corners. Acknowledging that and encouraging buyers to beware doesn’t make me insane, it makes me a realist.

  7. RM Says:

    I know this is heresy to say this, but you are “wrong” – in a sense, about that “A Talking Album Only.” First of all, I bought it, on 8-track, as a young teen, and fortunately cannot play it anymore. BUT. This is only true with the censored, out-of-context Parkerized version. A lot of this stuff came from the ’69 very first Vegas appearances: his first paying shows in front of thousands since he was a pimly kid.
    And he decided that this was THE PERFECT PLACE to be more rebellious than ever. The rebellion moved from his hips to his mouth {God, that sounds awful, and it should!}. He did EVERYTHING he could think of to REALLY piss off the damned hotel to which he was lashed. In context of the shows, the jokes are no longer “lame” {and those there will attest to it: sharp rock critics, etc.}, but continuously, and purposefully FILTHY! He especially liked to be disgusting during the annoying “Dinner Shows” where a fine rock band is interrupted by forks and glasses, and he has to wipe his face with dirty napkins and return them. Would piss ANYBODY off, if they had any dignity at all. So he got ‘em back for it.
    And he was facing a crowd of people, any one of whom would have had sex with him without even having to be formally asked! And he knew this, too. The young women looking old in their cheap hotel hairdo’s {everything in Vegas was cheap back then}, even the guys knocked out by his looks, children crying in unexplored ectasy that they should not have felt . . . GOD! It was like some kinda Roman horror shindig. And his singing, missing from the Parkerized thing, is wild, soulful, and more than powerful. He’s clearly on speed, and Lord knows what else, and he’s utterly out of control. But he’s also angry. They keep telling him to “clean this show up” and you can tell he’s telling them to stuff it where the sun don’t shine – that it’s only gonna get worse, as his music gets better! It’s the rock ‘n’ roll impulse at his scuzziest. His old Crown Electric bosses, Mr. and Mrs. Tipler {still polite!} are in the audience on the 22nd, and yet he keeps being dirty, dirtier, dirtiest!
    Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man Cruisin’ for a Bruisin.’ He’s out of control, says that “something” is “burning THE HELL out of my eye” – which we now know was glaucoma brought on by all that dope, especially the speed. We know that for all the physical beauty you can see in all those still photos that won’t really stand still, that he’s gonna lose that beauty much too quickly as his whole being disintegrates, and then he’s gonna die. I mean, it isn’t “hindsight is 20/20″: you can hear all borders being crashed and smashed. And there’s NO ONE who can stop any of it. It’s great rock music, out-of-control rebellion – with the inevitable and horrible cost. The complete Aug. 22 “Dinner Show” is available, and wow. He got a “memo” after the show, given to him by Parker because The Hotel is furious at the filth. Doesn’t bother them that people are throwing smeared napkins at his face, no. And he’s still got the fight in him to get pissed at it all.
    In context, the jokes aren’t “lame”: they fit perfectly BECAUSE they are ugly. In other words, he’s saying: you wanna throw dirt in my face, well I’LL throw dirt IN YOUR face! In context, you can tell why he soon felt miserable, and then clearly suicidal about the whole damn thing. But in the beginning, when he still played guitar FOR REAL, he’s at least the same fiery rebel he was as an adolescent. Shoot, here he sounds LIKE an adolescent, only about 13 actually. And performs with a force that it is more like an electric shock. And with NO concern for “propriety” at all, because he’s been booked into perhaps the strangest kind of hell. The faux-Roman decor, some of which he truly hated, the waiters helping the audience to feed their faces, the whole lot of it. You can HEAR his wish for a loaded gun, and you don’t know in which direction he’d like to aim it. {A few years later, after he proudly told the story of how he’d surreptiously painted those “ugly, funky dolls on the walls” BLACK instead of pink and yellow, late at night, and got away with it, a woman yelled the “n-word” straight at him. Simply yelled, loudly, “N—–!” [Actually, of course, she said the real slur, which I refuse to repeat here.] He came unglued and didn’t know what to say. After some meaningless babbling while in shock, he said something about her belonging on “Hee-Haw” and finally, “aw, what are ya talkin’ about?!” Then, “let’s do Hawaiian Wedding Song.” Because he felt like killing her, and needed to calm down. THIS was his Vegas.}
    And you can buy this stuff LEGALLY, on the FTD sub-label.
    All the best,
    rm
    P.S. — During the show, a pretty young gal threw her room key on the stage. He stuffs it in his pants, and says “what I wanna do next is {thinks of set list}, is, is LEAVE!!” And he means it.
    Later he drops it, and picks it up, sounding a little desperate.
    At the end of the show, a man sticks up his hand, and Elvis thinks he wants a handshake. Instead, a voice sounding about ten or 15 years Elvis’s senior says, with genuine vitriol, “give me my key back.” It was a teeanaged kid, WITH her family! Elvis came real close to catastrophe later that night . . .
    And in the context of the shows, and in the shows themselves, YOU HEAR someone coming close to catastrophe. And despite the horrible ending to this tale a few years down that road, THIS is rock and roll. A genuine “minefield” of another sort, where real people get killed. But where the music is SO worth it, you almost, almost find yourself not giving a damn . . . at least until the album ends. And you realize he truly hasn’t long to live.

  8. RM Says:

    Oh, one more thing: his best “jumpsuit era” live album is not “Aloha” – he was in a rotten mood then, but the one recorded at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis. His performance of “How Great Thou Art” from that album won a Grammy.

    Ok, a couple more little things: Elvis didn’t have blue eyes! He was just a great, great soul singer, wasting his time in a Hollyweird prison.
    Next, the “Comeback” stuff is how it has been “seen” over the years, but Elvis jammed like that in private throughout the sixties with friends, some in the business. Lance LeGault has confirmed this. In fact, it was this private, “relaxed” jamming that gave Binder the idea to put it in the show in the first place. He was already doing it, but not in public.
    So, you’re right: Parker is totally to blame, and then some. All that great soul music in his own hometown, and he had to make HIS music in “secret.” Until the “comeback.”
    All done.
    All the best,
    RM

    • dkpresents Says:

      First of all, it’s not heresy to say that I’m wrong – people do it all the time in this space, and they’re usually right.

      Second, wow. Thanks for sharing your passion for Elvis. I always appreciate ardent music fans dropping knowledge in this space, and these comments certainly qualify.

      Third, if we’re going to talk about Having Fun On Stage With Elvis, we should focus on one word that popped up repeatedly in your comment(s): context. I can’t pretend to know Elvis’ state of mind during his early Vegas shows, but snipping out bits of stage banter and stringing them into a full-length LP that is totally devoid of any context is lame, both from a marketing and an entertainment perspective. He may well have been lashing out at his audience, but listening to 40 minutes of disconnected wisecracks and asides is a painful, hypnotically dulling experience. There’s nothing remotely humorous and/or charming about the album, so I believe it’s valid to question its reason for being. My answer: money. Your answer may vary, but for me Having Fun On Stage… is much more punishing than having Elvis toss a soiled napkin in my face.

      Fourth, you’re absolutely right – Aloha From Hawaii… is a bloated piece of crap, and wouldn’t make this list if I were compiling it today. I’d get ‘Elvis Is Back’ and/or one of his early gospel albums in here instead…

      Fifth, “blue-eyed soul” is an expression relating to white soul singers, not the color of Elvis’ peepers. I did not coin the phrase…

      Thanks again for the passionate comment – always appreciated!

  9. Debra Anne Nadeau Says:

    I have an From Elvis in Memphis LP Album 1969, what is the value of this Album ?
    Also, I have an Elvis-You’ll Never Walk Alone LP Album 1971, What is the value of this Album ?

  10. greg ciarlante Says:

    i have 5 o 6 full faces in color only 2000 made im 27 records in mint condtion there awesome wat the worth i wouldnt sell less than 20’ooo dollars

  11. greg ciarlante Says:

    elvis 10;000 years w hard plastic cover an photo with org price sticker what is it worth mint cond

  12. Kim Johnson Says:

    I have an org. in cover, mint condition, ELvis 50 years 50 hits, 2 albums in one…………

  13. シャネル 時計 Says:

    Thanks for finally writing about >10 Elvis Albums That Are Worth Owning | dk
    presents… <Liked it!

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