Elvis Presley, Artist of the Century

Douglas Wolk

By Douglas Wolk

on 05.21.12 in Reviews

Artist Of The Century

Elvis Presley

Of the dozen-plus Elvis box sets out there, this one is the best introduction to the central work of a performer whose legend tends to get in the way of his music. His biggest hits are represented, of course, as he evolves from the feral hillbilly cat of the mid ’50s to the easy-listening king of the ’70s. The rest of this set, though, is made up of knockout performances that weren’t singles — the moments when his gifts slashed through the stifling Elvis Machine around him. Disc 3, in particular, is a first-rate reclamation job on the final decade of his career, unearthing performances in which that smooth, masterful baritone transmutes kitsch into genuine emotional power.