"Here's somebody who just loves to sing." Over the telephone, Peter Guralnick sounds sad, incredulous. "But he's unable at the end of his life to force himself into the recording studio—the fear of completion, fear of exposing your untrammeled idea to execution. What a terrible thing to lose that ability, that faith in yourself."
No artist in the history of sound recordings has a more confused recorded legacy than Elvis Presley. Thanks to several generations' worth of ruthless avarice by his label, the constant machinations and eventual fire sale by his manager, Col. Tom Parker, and his own pathetic sloth, due in part by a 20-year addiction to prescription drugs, Elvis's recorded catalog is an absolute disaster: cut and pasted, issued and reissued as both budget and full-priced collections, exploited beyond all recognition. Keeping track of Elvis's catalog is one of, if not the most, labyrinthine discography in rock 'n' roll history. When all the foreign issues and reissues of his work are taken into account, it is, (speaking from recent experience) an endeavor which severely tasks the human capacity for tedium.
As January 1, 2000 approaches, and the MP3 whirlpool continues to swirl, one simple fact has made me feel as if I'm stuck at the starting line of the entire download controversy: The sound quality of MP3 has yet to improve above that of the average radio broadcast. Until that changes, I'm merely curious—as opposed to being in the I-want-to-know-it-all-now frenzy that is my usual m.o. when to comes to anything that promises music you can't get anywhere else.
GEORGE JONES: Cold Hard Truth Asylum 62368-2 (CD). 1999. Keith Stegall, prod.; John Kelton, eng.; Mark Nevers, Brady Barnett, Steven Crowder, John Stolpe, asst. engs. AAD? TT: 34:16 Performance ****? Sonics ****?
DUKE ELLINGTON: The Centennial Edition: The Complete RCA Victor Recordings Duke Ellington, piano; and his bands, 1927-73 RCA Victor 63386-2 (24 CDs). 1999. Orrin Keepnews, coordinating prod.; Keepnews, Steven Lasker, reissue prods.; Steve Backer, exec. prod.; Lasker, Dennis Ferrante, digital transfer engs.; Lasker, Paul Brizzi, CEDAR restoration engs. AAD? TT: 27:33:35 Performance ***** Sonics ****
BILL LLOYD: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants Koch LOC-CD-8035 (CD). 1999. Bill Lloyd, Scott Baggett, prods., engs.; Brad Jones, prod.; Robin Eaton, Marshall Crenshaw, engs. AAD? TT: 56:46 Performance ****? Sonics ****