Elvis Presley – I Am an Elvis Fan (review)

Elvis Presley – I Am an Elvis Fan (RCA / Legacy) review

My aunt had a velvet wall-hanging of Elvis in her bedroom.  Even as a young kid, I remember being struck by how devoted someone must be to put a singer above her bed.  But, that’s what kind of effect Presley had on his audience.

Not just another Elvis compilation, I Am an Elvis Fan takes things from a fresh angle – that of the Presley devotee, comprising 21 tracks handpicked by the fans.  Earlier in 2012, RCA/Legacy Recordings set up iamanelvisfan.com, a website where fans were encouraged to vote on their favorite tracks from “The King.”  Yet, the producers had an ulterior motive besides just creating another list of his biggest songs.  By dividing the voting of Presley’s music into seven categories – 50’s, 60’s, movie soundtracks, love songs, country songs, live recordings, and gospel numbers, they set out to showcase the wide scope of Elvis’ recorded output.  The top three vote-getters in each category are included in this collection.

Although he will forever be known as “The King of Rock n’ Roll,” in truth, Presley’s own tastes were far more diverse.  He was just as much a fan of Perry Como and Bing Crosby, as Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup and Hank Williams.  And, if you were lucky enough to visit him at his home in Graceland, you were often treated to him belting out his favorite hymns.  I Am an Elvis Fan is, in many ways, the strangest collection of his music, with hits rubbing shoulders with album tracks and lesser-known material.  Yet, in a way, it shows off the artist for who he was – not just a rock n’ roller, but a multi-faceted performer.

While this may be a diverse set of songs, it also results in some strange bedfellows. The disc opens with the triple wallop of “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” and “All Shook Up” – all winners of Elvis’ Fifties category, and each one a stone-cold classic.  That’s followed by Movie Soundtracks, which kick off with the blistering “Jailhouse Rock,” before taking the first strange turn – with the loping “Blue Hawaii,” and then the campy “Viva Las Vegas.”  No one will argue that movies were a strong point in his career, so the inclusion of this category is somewhat baffling.

Then, we move into the Sixties category, with “In the Ghetto,” “Suspicious Minds,” and then, another curveball – the schmaltzy “Memories” –  a song that only barely scraped the Top 40 in 1969, beating out arguably more deserving tracks like “Return to Sender,” “Stuck on You,” and “Little Sister.”  But, this is the fans voting here.  Then, we move into the Love Songs section, with Presley’s finest ballad “Can’t Help Falling in Love” leading the way, with “The Wonder of You,” and “Always on My Mind” rounding out that category.  Although, “Love Me Tender” is a surprising omission.

Jim Reeves’ “Welcome to My World,” “Guitar Man,” featuring the great Jerry Reed on guitar, and “Kentucky Rain,” composed by a young Eddie Rabbit, are all culled from the Country category, and it’s hard to argue with the choices.  Then, we jump into the Live Recordings – incidentally, all three tracks come from the same Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite album – the bombastic “An American Trilogy,” a juiced-up version of “Burning Love,” and “Suspicious Minds,” making its second appearance on this collection.  The disc is rounded out by three cuts representing his Gospel excursions – a style of music probably closest to his heart.  “(There’ll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me),” “How Great Thou Art,” and “If I Can Dream” are all fine examples of this style.

I Am an Elvis Fan is the most-diverse collection ever assembled of Presley’s music.  Yet, it doesn’t come without a downside – it doesn’t necessarily make for a cohesive listening experience.  And, while it does show that Elvis was capable of a variety of styles, the biggest thing missing is his raw, early rock n’ roll.  Perhaps that’s left for another compilation – ELVIS ROCKS, maybe?  The upside is, in the Ipod era, you can throw this in your mp3 player and listen to it however you want.

And, because this is not your typical Elvis “best of,” caution should also be taken by the casual fan just looking for the hits – you’ll do much better with Elvis 30 #1 Hits – save this for the next go-round.

Also of note is the special cover art.  Fans were encouraged to send in photos of themselves to be included in an elaborate Elvis mosaic, featured on the front of the disc.  The booklet includes some great photos – there’s one where he’s surrounded by adoring girls, which is worth the price of the disc by itself.  –Tony Peters