http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/083c33e87cc4f224d042efa8d6f1896b4ed85a7b.jpg The Complete Elvis Presley Masters

Elvis Presley

The Complete Elvis Presley Masters

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October 26, 2010

If ever a catalog required smart curating, Elvis Presley's does. There are good examples of that: The Complete 50's Masters, The Essential 60's Masters and The Essential 70's Masters each tell stories about different aspects of the King's talent. But this mammoth 30-CD collection, consisting of every track Presley recorded during his lifetime, simply reinforces the often-told narrative of his life: an explosive debut in the mid-Fifties followed by intermittent sparks of renewal until his death in 1977.

Photos: Look Back at the King at 21  

Obviously, Complete Masters (available only at CompleteElvis.com for $750) is for completists and fat cats only. Which is too bad, since the 103 rarities, outtakes, alternate versions, jams, demos and home recordings — all previously available — portray Presley as he should be remembered: rollicking, intent, joyful. The live material on Disc 29 — including a 1955 tear through Chuck Berry's "Maybellene" and a soaring version of "Unchained Melody" in 1977 — proves that Presley was capable of greatness at every phase of his life. But the later tracks in particular could use some cherry-picking: You shouldn't have to hear his deeply moving gospel recordings and hits like 1969's "Suspicious Minds" in the context of his long, dispiriting downward spiral.

Keep up with rock's hottest photos in Random Notes.

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