RCA Offers '59 Elvis Classic in Its Budget Rack

Times Pop Music Critic

Elvis Presley's "A Date With Elvis" CD is classic rock 'n' roll and a classic dilemma--for consumers.

The just-released album contains some of the best and most influential rock music ever made, including five tracks from Presley's landmark Sun Records days and three numbers from "Jailhouse Rock," one of his most celebrated films.

For a consumer, however, there are problems with "A Date With Elvis," notably its length: just 23 1/2 minutes. It's not that RCA, in re-releasing the 1959 package, has eliminated any songs. Most rock albums in the '50s and early '60s simply ran 22 to 25 minutes.

For historical reasons, RCA was justified in re-releasing "A Date With Elvis" in its original form. Still, it forces a consumer to consider the options. Because five of the album's 10 songs are in the essential 72-minute "The Sun Sessions CD" album, the only lure here is the remaining five songs.

Recognizing the issue involved, RCA is dangling a carrot. The album is part of the company's increasingly attractive CD budget line, which means it can be generally found around town for between $9 and $10. (The albums are also available in budget vinyl and cassette packages.)

Other interesting new budget titles from RCA: Harry Nilsson's "Nilsson Sings Newman" (originally released in 1970), Guess Who's "Canned Wheat" (1969) and "The Best of Nina Simone" (1970).

The best of the RCA budget batch:

***** "Spike Jones' "Spike Jones is Murdering the Classics"--Jones was a marvelously inventive humorist and satirist, whose music abounded with good-natured fun and warmth--traits never more apparent than in this 1971 collection of his romps through classical music.

**** Ennio Morricone's "Once Upon a Time in the West"--Pop fans often find instrumental sound tracks uneventful when separated from the screen action, but the best of Italian composer Morricone's scores--including this sound track for the haunting Sergio Leone Western--are memorable on their own.

***** Elvis Presley's "A Date With Elvis"--A classic is a classic, even when it runs just 23 minutes. Among the gems: "Baby, Let's Play House," "Blue Moon of Kentucky" and "(You're So Square) Baby, I Don't Care."

BONUS TRACK: Speaking of Sun Records, Rounder Records has just released the first three of what may be a series of CDs drawn from the legendary blues/rock/country Sun Records' catalogue. The initial titles: Howlin' Wolf's "Cadillac Daddy," Carl Perkins' "Honky Tonk Gal" and "Harmonica Classics," a compilation featuring such artists as Walter Horton, Doctor Ross and Joe Hill Louis. Rather than concentrate on the artists' best-known numbers (i.e. Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes"), the "Honky Tonk Gal" and "Cadillac Daddy" CDs concentrate on rare tracks or tracks that haven't been available in the U.S.--except, in some cases, on import collections.


*** The Chi-Lites' "Greatest Hits" (Epic)--This Chicago-spawned quartet, led by singer-songwriter Eugene Record, is best known for its classy, if sometimes overly sentimental soul ballads (including "Have You Seen Her"), but the group--influenced by the Temptations--also dipped into social commentary, as on "Give More Power to the People" and "We Are Neighbors." Budget package.

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