ELVIS PRESLEY Platinum - A Life In Music (1997 UK limited edition 4-CD album set contains 100 digitally remastered tracks featuring 70 previously unreleased performances including the recently discovered demo Ill Never Stand In Your Way. Housed in a 10 x 6 hardback book style pack with a 48-page full-colour booklet)
By the end of his life, Elvis in concert was a bloated caricature of his former self, churning out lacklustre medleys of hits. Memories of these sad dog-days on the road and the avalanche of indiscriminate releases which followed his death in 1977 have, at times, threatened to obscure Elvis' position as the founding father of rock & roll. But--thanks to Ernst Mikael Jorgensen, Roger Semon and Colin Escott who systematically overhauled his enormous library of recordings and sequenced them into definitive box-sets covering the 1950s, 60s and 70s--by 1992 Elvis' reputation as King was restored. The four CD box-set Platinum
was released to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Elvis' death. While much of the material here is made up of familiar hits such as "Love Me Tender", "Hound Dog", "Can't Help Falling In Love" and "Moody Blue", there are also 77 unreleased performances spread over the set.
Of course, "unreleased" doesn't necessarily mean "better". The original versions of "Heartbreak Hotel", "Rip It Up" and "That's All Right" are so firmly embedded as the foundations of rock & roll that the new versions here can add little lustre. But what makes Platinum a real treasure-trove is hearing Elvis off-mic--whether off-duty or working up songs in the studio prior to recording.
While never analytical in his approach, Elvis had an instinctive grasp of all manner of music--and as you can hear on these tracks, he could slip with ease from rock & roll to gospel, ballads or the blues. Among the most revealing recordings are Elvis relaxing at home, tackling such diverse material as "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen", "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Blueberry Hill". Other intriguing moments come from eavesdropping as Elvis warms up before a session--perhaps mindful of the fact that rock & roll was "the devil's music", Elvis always chose gospel music to limber up with prior to recording. The version here of "Oh How I Love Jesus" is called "perhaps the best sense we'll ever get of Elvis sitting around at home singing for himself and friends". It is worth recalling that the only time Sun Records' superstars Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins ever got together in a studio--for the 1956 "Million Dollar" session--it was also to sing gospel songs.
Platinum may not be ideal as an introduction to the music of Elvis Presley, but--filled as it is with rare photos and a sensitively written song-by-song commentary--for real fans it provides an illuminating insight into the man whose shadow casts itself long into the 21st Century. --Patrick Humphries