Elvis #1 Singles

by: Elvis Presley

CD replicas of original singles and EPs from the '50s and '60s have been a hot item in collectors' circles since the latter half of the '90s, yet they remain a rather bewildering item to a wider audience. After all, for listeners who don't fetishize original packaging -- the photo sleeves, the shifting logos on the label -- it's hard to grasp the purpose of a set that contains 40 songs spread out over 20 discs, as they are on Elvis #1 Singles, a set that rounds up 20 of the King's chart-topping hits and serves them up as two-track CDs, complete with original B-sides and artwork. This, to put it mildly, doesn't make for easy listening: most of the CDs clock in at roughly four to five minutes, which means even a full five-disc multi-disc player would need to be reloaded after 20-25 minutes. But listening isn't the point of sets like these: nostalgia is, and on that level this set is a success. Each of the individual sleeves is appealing -- occasionally, there are some subtle differences from the original artwork (these changes are acknowledged in the liner notes, where it's stated that legal reasons necessitated these changes), but the graphics are bright and the cardboard sleeves, while not thick, feel relatively sturdy. There's a booklet with a solid essay by Colin Escott, plus original release and chart information for all 20 singles, and there's a bonus poster of all 20 pictures sleeves as well. So, as packaging, Elvis #1 Singles is very good, filling all the basic requirements of this kind of collector-bait set, even if it doesn't quite wind up as an outright home run: frankly, there's not enough variety in the individual single artwork -- it's almost all portraits of Elvis, either smiling or serious -- to make this a truly noteworthy set for those who aren't already die-hard Elvis fans. But there are plenty of those diehards out there -- both in America, where this set was released, and in the U.K., where a series of CD single reissues was so successful in 2005 that it inspired this 2006 box -- and those diehards looking for creative repackaging to justifying buying the same hits yet again will find this an attractive set. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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