Elvis 75 presents 100 Presley rock and pop hits, gospel songs, live stunners, and passable movie tunes on four CDs, wrapping them up in a bunch of photos and a literate essay. All the hits are there, from 1954’s trail-breaking “That’s All Right” to “A Little Less Conversation,” a 1968 trifle that gave the King a chart-topper in 2002 when it was electronically sliced and diced for a Nike ad campaign. The chronological presentation shows how Presley mainstreamed, adding drums, strings, and the amazing Jordanaires as his market expanded.
The gospel material is particularly stirring, but even throwaways “Bossa Nova Baby” and the painfully dated “U.S. Male” have impact, helped considerably by Presley’s remarkable phrasing. Showstoppers like “An American Trilogy” and the mawkish yet moving “In the Ghetto” are astonishing, thanks to Presley’s supple voice. Unlike his individual albums and movies, Elvis 75 demonstrates Presley’s range, from the rockabilly of “Mystery Train” and “Blue Suede Shoes” to the cracker baroque of “King Creole” and the delirious rock of 1969’s “Suspicious Minds,” his last hit within his lifetime. Elvis 75 is the initial salvo in Presley’s 75th birthday celebration; he was born January 8, 1935. As he has since the early ’50s, Presley, who died in 1977, affirms that commercialism can be charming. — Carlo Wolff