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4.8 out of 5 stars51
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 12 January 2007
It's fascinating to hear the evolution of Elvis's voice across these 5 CDs, spanning the decade 1960-1969, from the chocolatey-brown smoothness of 'It's Now Or Never' to the mature power of 'Suspicious Minds'.

The 130 tracks also illustrate Presley's unique ability to 'inhabit' a song. He can be slyly sensual ('Fever'), defiantly wounded ('It Hurts Me'), rugged and manly ('Inherit The Wind'), cheeky and playful ('Stuck On You')......any number of moods, in fact.

Everyone knows the million-sellers on the first disc, 'It's Now Or Never' and 'Are You Lonesome Tonight' but there are plenty of minor classics here too - 'A Mess Of Blues', 'The Girl Of My Best Friend', 'Like A Baby', 'I Feel So Bad' and so on.

They are all overshadowed, though, by 'Reconsider Baby.' Robert Matthew-Walker, in his excellent book, 'Elvis Presley: A Study In Music', says of this song - "It is a classic blues performance; timeless and awe-inspiring in its power and emotion. This track is a refutation of those who do not recognise what a phenomenal artist Elvis Presley was."

Disc 2 is not nearly as satisfying. The spirit of adventure, of trying out different musical styles, that characterises his first batch of post-Army recordings, is conspicuously absent by now. In their place we find formulaic pop songs and an over-reliance on sentimental ballads. There ARE some gems here - 'His Latest Flame', 'Little Sister' and 'Devil In Disguise' are all stylish cuts - but there's also feeble guff like 'Easy Question' and 'Echoes Of Love.'

Even Elvis's singing, though technically superb throughout, lacks passion and commitment on occasion; he doesn't believe in some of the material. Two exquisite ballads are notable exceptions though - 'Anything That's Part Of You' and 'That's Someone You Never Forget.'

Disc 3 is marginally better, if only due to the inclusion of the brilliant 'Guitar Man' and 'Big Boss Man.' 'It Hurts Me', 'Indescribably Blue' and 'Love Letters' are also love songs of considerable power and beauty.

But the real revelation here is Elvis's version of Bob Dylan's 'Tomorrow Is A Long Time.' Apparently, Elvis was haunted by the lyrics, especially the verse "I can't see my reflection in the water/I can't speak the sounds that show no pain/I can't hear the echo of my footsteps/I can't remember the sound of my own name", which seemed to sum up how he'd lost his way artistically in the mid-60s. Elvis delivers a mesmerising performance, one that sheds a whole new light on him as an artist.

Discs 4 and 5 comprise the legendary Memphis '69 sessions. 'Suspicious Minds' and 'In The Ghetto' both receive towering performances but there are several other songs of similar stature - 'Stranger In My Own Home Town', 'Wearin' That Loved On Look', 'Long Black Limousine', 'Any Day Now', 'Power Of My Love' etc. Elvis also revels in the tougher, more adult dilemmas of 'You'll Think Of Me', 'Kentucky Rain' and 'This Is The Story'. Even lesser tracks like 'After Loving You' and 'True Love Travels On A Gravel Road' are elevated above the ordinary by Elvis's fiery vocal.

You can hear Elvis rediscovering his love of singing on the Memphis recordings. In its gravelly authority, his voice really is a thing of wonder on these songs. He would never sound so impassioned or soulful again.
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Most of you have your favorite era of his music. I like them all in different ways, but I like the sixties best, and this box shows why. There were many aspects to his music, but this set focuses on those secular recordings that were made in the studio and which were not connected to a movie. The best of the movie music is available on Command performance - Essential sixties masters volume 2, which I've already reviewed, while the gospel and live recordings are also available separately.
With those exceptions, every song Elvis recorded during the sixties is here. These include most of his big hits from the period, among them It's now or never, Are you lonesome tonight, Surrender, His latest flame, Good luck charm, Suspicion, She's not you, Don't cry Daddy, In the ghetto and Suspicious minds. Of course, there are a few missing, because they were from the excluded categories, but anybody who wants a Greatest hits collection will find plenty to choose from.
Apart from the hits, you get all the album tracks, many of them long forgotten except by fans of Elvis. These include covers of Fever (Peggy Lee), Memphis Tennessee (Chuck Berry), And the grass won't pay no mind (Neil Diamond), Just call me lonesome (Eddy Arnold), Gentle on my mind (Glen Campbell), I'm movin' on (Hank Snow) and I'll hold you in my heart (Eddy Arnold) among them.
Among the songs written for Elvis but which remain obscure to all but his fans, there are many good songs, any of which might one day be rediscovered and used in a movie or TV advertisement. The song Gently, from one of his early sixties albums, was translated into French and recorded by Petula Clark. I can't ever remember another cover of this song in any language, though there probably is one somewhere - just one of many great songs in this set that you're not likely to hear on the radio.
The last half of the final CD is made up of selected alternate takes of some of the songs, although the most famous alternate take, his laughing version of Are you lonesome tonight, is not among them. Nevertheless, this is a fine collection which will appeal to a far wider public than just his dedicated fans.
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on 20 February 2002
After "The King of Rock'n'Roll" box, compiling the 60s box must have been a headache for RCA. They've left off the film soundtracks, gospel and live recordings to present Elvis' studio tracks in crystal clear sound and chronological order, complete with out-takes. Lacking the "must-have" appeal of the preceding and following boxes, this remains a superb and intelligent compilation.
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on 28 February 2013
First off, this boxed set of 5 generously filled CDs is excellent value for money. These days, it's easy to purchase it for less than £20. Around 15 years ago when I was a teenager, I got this boxed set for Christmas and it was over £60 at that time! In subsequent years I sold the boxed set and at last I have recently reacquired it. And it really has been a true rediscovery. It also comes with a full colour, glossy handbook packed with fascinating data and rare pictures of the king.

If you are seeking a source for Elvis non-movie output, this is without doubt the product to buy. It's criminally forgotten (especially by a cruel media) that Elvis non-movie output during the sixties was of an extremely high quality. If you purchase this set you won't need to buy albums such as Elvis Is Back, Pot Luck, Something For Everyone, and From Elvis In Memphis. There is no gospel/Christian material on this set and the neither the `68 Comeback Special nor the early `69 Vegas shows are here. So essentially, this set covers everything else.

Contrary to what you may have heard, the quality and strength of the non-movie songs was EXCEPTIONALLY high - far stronger than those from soundtracks. In fact, it's interesting that there was a counterpart boxed set to this dealing with only the 60s movie songs that only came to two CDs. Evidently, those compiling that boxed set (Command Performances: The Essential 60s Masters II) didn't think there was enough quality material to justify any more than the two CDs.

All the true quality of Elvis in the 60s is to be found right here, in `From Nashville to Memphis: The Essential 60s Masters I'. Additional Elvis 60s material worth getting would be:

Elvis In Person at The International Hotel
Complete '68 Comeback Special 4CD boxed set
Such A Night In Pearl Harbor (live 1961)
His Hand In Mine
How Great Thou Art

As a side note, regarding the packaging; i cannot speak for the new 'book' style format as i bought the boxed set in it's original 'LP' style format, which is excellent - very sturdy and looks classy.
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on 19 November 2010
The year is 1993 and after the release of the essential 50's, it is time for the 60's now!
Again a wonderful box set was presented by BMG, with all the masters on it from this time period, except from the soundtracks and gospels.

The box set looks really great, well taken care of with all the information in a very complete booklet. The pictures of the covers are wonderful and in excellent quality of course. BMG really did a fine job here.

Sound: They also did a great job remastering the sound. The quality is outstanding and makes it possible to enjoy this release over and over again.

No where else you will find such complete image of the roaring 60's, which in Elvis' case are really a bit undervalued. Here is the ultimate proof Elvis did a lot more then making movies after he returned from the army. 130 high quality songs will reach your ears, listening to these great CD's.

Are there plans to reissue the 50s/70s box sets aswell ?
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on 29 March 2013
Elvis' career was misguided at times despite his colossal talent, I think we all can agree on that. During the 60's, Elvis became trapped under contracts that compelled him to make film after film, a successful formula for a while, but eventually it took its toll on Elvis as an artist, and the music, certainly. However, when he focused on music, the thing he loved the most, he really delivered. This compilation shows his musical career without any soundtrack songs, and we can see several peaks of his career, e.g., his successful return from the Army which included his early hits from the sixties and high quality songs and performance. Then we have the songs which were released as bonus tracks of soundtracks and A and B sides of singles (not so easy to get) and finally, his awesome comeback TV special and the monumental closure of the decade in Memphis and a very promising fresh start.
This compilation has all that and at a very convenient price, As the name suggests, this is ESSENTIAL.
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on 20 May 2016
This 5-CD boxed-set of Elvis’s 1960’s studio recordings was released in 1993 and omits his film music, sacred albums and his 1968 NBC TV Special. The highlights are the bookends - the 'Elvis Is Back!' sessions from 1960 and those recorded at the American Studios in Memphis in 1969. Though Elvis sings beautifully throughout this collection, it's noticeable that the quality of the songs made available to him - even discounting his notorious, low-budget Hollywood soundtrack tunes - dipped alarmingly from as early as 1961. 'His Latest Flame’, 'Little Sister' and 'Devil In Disguise' are infectious toe-tappers, and there are some gorgeous ballads here too, none more so than 'It Hurts Me'. But the strike rate is terribly low in contrast to Elvis's peerless 1950's output. The roots of Elvis's late-decade comeback can be traced to 1966 when he roused himself for the stunning gospel album 'How Great Thou Art'. Although there are signs of an overall improvement from around that time, Elvis continued to find himself confronted with material such as 'Singing Tree', 'Fools Fall In Love' and 'US Male' that were unworthy of his talents. It isn't until 1969 that a sea change in the songwriting is conspicuous. The sound quality of this set varies – the bookending sessions from 1960 and 1969 lack sparkle and are inferior to the Sony/BMG Legacy masters. The unreleased bonus tracks include only one standout - the terrific, unedited version of ‘Hi-Heel Sneakers’; 'It's Now Or Never' stripped of some of its post-production overdubs (Why?) barely constitutes an unreleased recording at all. In summary, it made good commercial sense to follow-up the 1950's box-set 'The King of Rock 'n' Roll' with a 1960's collection. Elvis spent his US Army downtime 1958-60 improving greatly the technical aspects of his singing, and the outcome - particularly on the first 2 discs - is a series of bravura vocal performances. But too often they are all but wasted on songs that are formulaic and bland and are simply not good enough for an artist of Elvis's stature. The set isn't helped either by the omission of ace soundtrack tunes like 'Can't Help Falling In Love', the NBC Special closer 'If I Can Dream' and the classic 'His Hand In Mine' and 'How Great Thou Art' albums. This is a document of a truly exceptional talent being compromised by avaricious, opportunistic, immediate-term thinking.
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on 9 February 2011
If you need evidence that Elvis didn't 'die' when he went in the army, as John Lennon once famously said, this set is it. The studio sides spanning five discs from 1960-69 are of the highest order and show that Elvis was a creative force throughout the decade.
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on 3 November 2011
As this is a re-issue of the 1993 LP-sized boxset at a fraction of the original cost, one can hardly complain about the lay-out of the box itself !
It contains the cream of Mr. Presleys 60's output - without the film hits (and the ghastly movie fillers) and the spiritual songs. In my book he reached his artistic pinnacle during this period. Add to this songs, sidemen and producers of the highest order. This is good music.
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on 26 December 2000
I have not had this box set long, a matter of days in fact, but already it has assumed a pivitol place in my collection. While i would concure with the general concensis that Elvis's 60's recordngs are not as essential as his 50's work (the spawning ground of rock and roll) that in no way devalues the overall excelence of this outstanding set. The songs are vital throughout and the good vastly outways the bad, you will be rocking along to this from the word go. For the collector the rarities and alternative takes are essential, and this set delivers on both counts. If you've got a bit of Elvis already and are considering this box set (or the 50s or 70s masters) stop considering and start buying, i did (or rather my girlfriend did for me) and i don't regret it one bit, now how to get that Roy Orbison box set...
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