It's a simple, yet real classy package, with the format being just a little bigger than a usual digipack, but with a hardback binding including a 92 page book. And what a book! Most of the pictures I have never seen, and with additional stuff like Elvis' first Hayride contract and ads, and a real informative text, it's worth the admission alone. And the layout is nice, too.
My favorite pictures are those from March 1956 with Elvis in a sleeveless shirt. Boy, does he look mean! There are also a lot of photos from December 1956, his last Louisiana Hayride visit. And that brings us to the music, a full CD of all the surviving Louisiana Hayride material.
You can have your doubts about the December 1956 material being included, since it was on Sony's Young Man With The Big Beat just a few months ago, but it runs longer here and it sounds as if everything is from the same source. I can't imagine why Sony left out the classic ”Elvis has left the building” comment, but here it is.
Since the first part of “Heartbreak Hotel” is missing, MRS used the start of the song from the Tupelo concert, recorded half a year earlier. It works fine. The back cover boasts that the show has been speed corrected, and comparing it to Sony's release, I think they are right.
Even without the December 1956 material, this CD would have been great, since it collects all the Hayride material on one disc. Why Sony hasn't done that is way beyond me. (The only previously released live material from 1954-1955 which is not here is the Houston concert from March 1955 and could have been included as a bonus if it hadn't been for the December 1956 songs.)
My favorite part is the August 1955 segment, with Elvis – and Bill Black – all geared up! Their treatment of “Maybelline” is fantastic and it was nice to hear it again. And everything is unedited, like it should be. This was not the case when parts of this material was officially released in 1999 on Sony's Sunrise.
I'll return to this album over and over again. It's Elvis live in the fifties, dammit! Not much can beat that. Or this release.