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badly conceived late career Elvis CD
on 9 July 2011
Elvis' Gold Records - Volume 5 (Audio CD)
Elvis' Gold Records 1-4 were compilations released in the singer's lifetime. 'GR4' brought the series up to the end of 1967, at which point the old RCA Victor label deemed further instalments unnecessary. Elvis's strike rate did nosedive from 1971 but there were enough treats, particularly from 1968-70, to have maintained the series. RCA belatedly recognised this and released 'GR5' posthumously in 1984 with a patchy song selection. The present label Sony/BMG had the opportunity to overhaul 'GR5' but the CD under review really is a very disappointing affair. The single A- and B-sides that were obvious contenders for inclusion as bonus tracks are of staggering quality. They include: 'Hi-Heel Sneakers', 'A Little Less Conversation', 'Any Day Now', 'Don't Cry Daddy', 'Just Pretend', 'Where Did They Go, Lord', 'I'm Leavin', 'Always On My Mind', 'An American Trilogy' and 'Loving Arms'. Also, 'The Wonder Of You', 'Mama Liked The Roses' and 'I Just Can't Help Believin' did well on the UK chart and could have taken this collection up a level. All these terrific performances are missing. Instead, the new additions include an obscure psychedelic movie song, a terrible finger-pickin' country hoedown bursting with macho postal delivery metaphors, and Elvis's bombastic misreading of Dusty Springfield's fragile 'You Don't Have To Say You Love Me'. Moreover, the extras could have been woven in to maintain chronology, but they've been bunched together just before the end instead - The King's vocal timbre changed dramatically and his music became less edgy in the 1968-1976 time frame captured here, so this CD is leant a jarring unevenness by its atemporal sequencing. The single mix of 'If I Can Dream' used in the original vinyl album has been dropped in favour of the lower-spec NBC tv special LP version: awful overdubbed applause erupts from nowhere near the end and is then faded out in a rush before Elvis says his, “Thank you, goodnight,” line. This is no way to curate The King's legacy. Elvis's decline in the 1970s was spectacular, but it is easily possible to compile a terrific single CD of his best work in the era 1968-77. This 'GR5' album doesn't come close.