Elvis 75—Good Rockin’ Tonight

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For those of you who still vividly remember where you were the day Elvis died in 1977 at age 42, it seems all but impossible that he would have turned 75 on Jan. 8, 2010. While the Elvis of the mid-’70s was not the snarling, hip-shaking, parent-panicking testosterone machine of his early career, he still possessed a level of charisma beyond anything most performers will ever know.

Anyone who saw his late-career shows—when he was no longer able to prowl the stage like the lithe cat he once resembled—will tell you that Elvis still had “it.” He was still able to make women swoon by removing a sweat-soaked scarf and offering it from the stage to the first outstretched female hand he saw. He was still able to elicit gasps with a curl of his lip and a sideways glance. So, yes, it was more than simply the music that made Elvis the megastar he was. But it all began with the music—the lynchpin of his astounding career.

A new 100-track, four-CD commemorative set of digitally restored masters, Elvis 75–Good Rockin’ Tonight, covers every fascinating era of the King of Rock ’n’ Roll’s incredible career. From that first, tentative vocal and acoustic guitar performance of “My Happiness” at what is now the legendary Sun Records in Memphis—a demo recorded as a gift for his mother in 1953—through the turbulent ’60s and the remainder of his unmatched career, it was apparent that Elvis was different. He had a sound like no other before him or since, a musical style that, in effect, wasn’t a style, but more an amalgamation of the myriad musical and cultural influences on his young, Southern life.

The new commemorative box set gives an excellent overview of Elvis’ recording career, with the only disappointment being the scarcity of gospel.

Of course, all of his best-known hits are included—“Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog,” “Love Me Tender,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “All Shook Up,” “Jailhouse Rock,”  “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “Crying in the Chapel,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “In the Ghetto,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Burning Love” and many more.

Rare cuts and live performances are also included among the four CDs, which are appropriately arranged in chronological order—1953–1957, 1958–1962, 1963–1969 and 1970–1977. There’s also an 80-page full-color booklet, with rare photos and a 7,000-word essay on the King. The package launches a yearlong slate of Elvis catalog releases, including a 26-track single CD due early next year called Elvis 75, featuring selections from the box set.

For those who want more than music to celebrate Elvis’ 75th birthday, a Jan. 7–10 celebration will take place at his longtime Memphis home, Graceland.

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