Sixteen years after its release, I still think If Every Day Was Like Christmas is the best Christmas compilation with Elvis. Featuring all the 20 Christmas songs Elvis recorded, as well as a couple of alternate versions it's the ultimate Elvis Christmas CD.
But no one or nothing is perfect. That's why I'd like to recommend the album Memories Of Christmas as well. Released on LP back in 1982 and then on CD five years later, it has a running time of only 28 minutes, but it features some great gems not available elsewhere.
I still remember the first time I heard track number one, take 2 of "O Come, All Ye Faithful". Running more than a minute longer than the original version, it has Elvis singing the first verse one more time, to the accompaniment of an organ, lending the song an almost sacred character. And the ending is dynamic, with Elvis raising his voice one octave higher than on the original.
Another highlight on Memories of Christmas is the third track, the (then) unreleased master of the remake of "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day." I recall the feeling of listening to this track for the first time as well, it just blew me away. From then on I've always preferred this bluesier June 71 version over the one recorded a month earlier, and it has of course been released elsewhere.
A track that can't be found anywhere else is the unedited/undubbed master of "Merry Christmas Baby" running for about eight minutes and outlasting the one found on If Every Day Was Like Christmas with over two minutes. Elvis just keeps pushing the band along, and I'm amazed the song hasn't been released in this format since.
Finally, there's the unreleased version of "If Every Day Was Like Christmas," that I always thought was another take. But according to Joe Tunzi and his book Elvis Sessions III it's the master with overdubs done by David Briggs on celest. Comparing the two this evening, I have to say he's probably right. But it sound different nonetheless, more "Christmas like."
To sum it up: No doubt the longer versions of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" and "Merry Christmas Baby" will be made available when Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas gets the FTD treatment. Until then Memories Of Christmas is the only place on earth where you'll find them. And David Briggs' celest.