Sunday, November 29, 2009

Elvis In The 90's

November 1989 saw the dawn of a new era in the history of the RCA Presley tape legacy, for from Friday, 17th November 1989 and Monday the 20th onwards, the "Essential Elvis" team of Ernst Jorgensen, Roger Semon, Erik Rasmussen and Ger Rijff, "got down to business" and started on the massive and long term project of hunting down the "lost Elvis tapes" in the "box filling" system of RCA's New York tape vaults...

So began an article in the December 1990/January 1991 issue of the British fan club magazine, that I stumbled across while reading some back numbers a couple of days ago. Those of you familiar with my blog know this is something I like to do.

The article, in which the author David G Hall described the results of the initial searches of both the New York and Indianapolis storage vaults, was interesting in a couple of ways. For one thing, it made me realize that it's exactly 20 years this month since Ernst Jorgensen and his team started dedicating their time to locating elusive reels with Elvis music.

For another, it hit me (once again) how exciting it was to be an Elvis fan back then. When the article was printed, the 3 CD box set Collectors Gold was scheduled for release, and for me that's when it really started getting interesting. Certainly, the three first volumes in the Essential Elvis series had already been released, but Collectors Gold was the first package solely dedicated to unreleased outtakes.

It was also the start of what I suppose one could call "the box sets era." Elvis himself was again taken seriously by both the public and the critics with the release of The King Of Rock 'N' Roll: The Complete 50's Masters box set in 1992, that was followed by its two companions featuring essential masters from the 60's (1993) and 70's (1995).

Then in 1997, between the two Essential Elvis volumes 4 and 5 (featuring much of the outtakes described in the fan club article), came the Platinum: A Life In Music box set. 1999 saw the launch of the Follow That Dream collectors label, but that didn't stop the regular label from releasing a string of more box sets packed with unreleased material: That's The Way It Is - Special Edition (2000), Live In Las Vegas (2001), Today, Tomorrow And Forever (2002) and finally, Close Up (2003).

Yet that wasn't all that happened during those years. Under the slogan, "Elvis In The 90's," Elvis' back catalog was also taken care of. Practically all of the original albums were made available on CD, many of them with bonus songs. Now it's another story, altogether. The regular label has reverted to the 80's again, producing mainly compilations with the occasional exception, like the From Elvis In Memphis legacy edition released this year.

So nowadays it's entirely up to FTD to produce albums that put Elvis' music in the right context. That's ok for the fans, I guess, but what it means for the public's view of Elvis is another matter altogether.

A final thought: In 2000, RCA/BMG released Such A Night - Essential Elvis Vol. 6 while almost simultaneously FTD put out The Jungle Room Sessions. I've always believed that the latter was planned as The Jungle Room Sessions - Essential Elvis Vol. 7 and then re-scheduled for FTD release as the collectors label took off.

This post was inspired not only by the article in the British fan club magazine, titled "There's A Brand New Day On the Horizon," but also by a comment fellow Elvis fan Tygrrius posted on my blog in June this year.

1 comment:

MĂ„rtenbrother said...

Ah, what memories! The mid-nighties christmas and gospel sets are still the definitve versions too, despite all sacred releases since.
Very nice post! Got me interested in listening to some of those great box sets again.