When the album becomes Immersion
Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., Dec. 9, 2011
Elvis PresleyYoung Man With the Big Beat (RCA/Legacy)
Thirty-four years after his death, after most if not all of his recorded output has been issued and re-issued, and after last year's massive 30-CD The Complete Elvis Presley Masters box set, this 5-CD set demonstrates how and why Elvis Presley became an international sensation. Concentrating exclusively on 1956, his first year with RCA and one in which he sold 10 million singles, 3 million EPs, and 800,000 albums, it's exhaustive, fascinating, and probably just for the obsessive. Few won't be familiar with the contents of the first two discs, containing his first two RCA albums plus every other studio master Presley recorded that year, 39 tracks in all, from "Blue Suede Shoes" to "Love Me Tender." The third CD, live performances including a recently discovered and previously unreleased 10-song Shreveport, La., show from December '56, is the headliner of Young Man With the Big Beat. While the live fidelity is subpar, the show is solid gold. Disc four contains outtakes, including 11 of "Lawdy, Miss Clawdy" and 12 of "Shake, Rattle and Roll," so while it exposes Presley's process in the studio, it's one of those discs in a box set that gets listened to once or twice. The final entry is a previously unreleased interview and monologue, "The Truth About Me," a cool, measured response to some of the wild rumors that spread with his fame. In the LP-sized box, there are also concert posters, 8-by-10 photos, a ticket stub, and an 80-page book with unseen photographs and a day-to-day time line of Presley's extraordinary 1956, when he was 21 years old and crisscrossing the country, making lots of big purchases and causing riots nearly every time he appeared in public.