Elvis Presley’s music continues to remain popular and relevant as we approach the 39th anniversary of his passing. His estate earned $55 million in 2015. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the release of Heartbreak Hotel, so RCA is releasing a box set of all 57 of Elvis Presley’s original albums released during his lifetime. I saw a ranking of best to worst and decided to make my own annotated listing of the originally released Elvis Presley albums in order of greatest to weakest. Elvis Presley’s recording career was VERY spotty. Other than his earlier albums, it is usually best to ferret out the good songs and download those. This doesn’t diminish his importance, of course, but as he continued his work contained few highlights among the dross.
1). Elvis Presley (1956)
His first album is his best. Along with being historically important as the album that pretty much began the entire rock and roll revolution, it nicely collects some of the important early material Elvis recorded at Sun before moving to RCA (who bought the rights to his Sun catalog). “Blue Suede Shoes,” “One Sided Love Affair,” “I Got a Woman,” “Just Because,” “Trying to Get to You,” and “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry Over You” are among the highlights.
2). Elvis (1956)
His second album, released later the same year, has great covers of Little Richard’s “Rip it Up” “Ready Teddy,” and “Long Tall Sally,” along with the ballad “Love Me,” and such highlights as “Paralyzed,” “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again,” and “How Do You Think I Feel.”
3). Elvis Gold Records (1958)
Back then, songs that were hits were released on 45rpm singles, not always on albums. So RCA created an album containing all the singles. I guess I am gilding the obvious lilly for praising what is contained on this album: “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog,” “All Shook Up,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Teddy Bear,” “Love Me Tender,” etc etc. Elvis Presley is the single most important figure in music from the second half of the 20th century because of these songs.
4). Elvis is Back! (1960)
This one came out after Elvis was in the army for a couple years, during which older material was released to keep his career aflame. This return album absolutely rocked with “Make Me Know It,” Dirty Dirty Feeling,” “Such a Night,” “The Girl Next Store Went a-Walkin,” and the bluesy “Reconsider Baby,’ among others. Absolutely phenomenal.
5). For LP Fans Only (1959)
One of the albums released while Elvis was in the army, this collection of older material contains his most important work at Sun: “That’s All Right,” “Mystery Train,” “My Baby Left Me,” etc, along with some early RCA material like “Poor Boy” from the movie “Love Me Tender” (1956). Until RCA released the compilation “The Sun Sessions” in 1976 this was the only way to get Presley’s incredible early work. A nice collection of important music.
6). A Date With Elvis (1959)
Released around the same time as “For LP Fans Only,” this is the other collection of Sun and early RCA material that came out while Elvis was in the army. Amazing early Elvis tracks like “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” “Good Rocin’ Tonight” and “We’re Gonna Move,” as well as a couple of songs from “Jailhouse Rock,” which never had a soundtrack album of its own: “Young and Beautiful” and “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care.”
7). Elvis Gold Records Volume 2: 50 million Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong (1959)
A collection of singles from 1958-1959, this one includes some of the wildest rockers of Elvis Presley’s career, including “I Need Your Love Tonight,” “A Big Hunk of Love” and “I Got Stung.” The bluesy “One Night,” the mid-tempo “A Fool Such as I” and “I Beg of You,” and the beautiful ballad “Don’t” are also included.
8). Loving You (1957)
Elvis’s second film and first soundtrack album contains cuts from the movie and some non-movie songs. The title ballad, the mega-hit “Teddy Bear,” and “Got a Lot o’ Livin’ To Do” are among the highlights. Non-movie songs include a neat take on “Blueberry Hill.”
9). King Creole (1958)
Elvis’s fourth movie and second soundtrack album (oddly, “Jailhouse Rock” never was released as a soundtrack album), this one features the only LP appearance of the single “Hard Headed Woman,” as well as the title track, “Trouble,” “Don’t Ask Me Why” and “Lover Doll.”
10). Elvis Gold Records Volume 3 (1963)
While it is sorely missing the hit “Return to Sender,” this collection of singles includes “It’s Now or Never,” “Surrender,” “Good Luck Charm,” “Stuck on You,” Little Sister,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” and “Marie’s The Name (His Latest Flame).” Elvis wasn’t quite as raw and rockin’ in the 60s as the 50s but there isn’t a bad song in this entire collection of singles.
11). Elvis! (1968)
In the post-Sgt Pepper era, after Beatlemania had eclipsed him on the charts, Elvis Presley put together a TV special that reminded everyone just who the king of rock and roll still was. This is its soundtrack. Excellent all the way through.
12). Elvis Gold Records Volume 4 (1968)
Tardy fourth collection of singles, mostly from 1964-65 includes Presley’s rockin’ rendition of Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say,” along with “Devil in Disguise” and “A Mess of Blues.” All great.
13). From Elvis in Memphis (1969)
Disillusioned by his movie career and the lackluster songs he had to sing for soundtrack albums during much of the 1960s, Elvis went back into the studio and cut such songs as the hit “In the Ghetto,” “Only the Strong Survive,” “I’m Movin’ On,” “Any Day Now,” and “It Keeps Right on A-Hurtin.’” He would return to touring shortly afterward. His Memphis sessions are among his best work of the 60s, concluding that decade nicely. Drawback: it does not include the great single “Suspicious Minds.”
14). Elvis Country: I’m 10,000 Years Old (1971)
Elvis explores rock’s country roots with outstanding renditions of “Little Cabin on the Hill,” “I Really Don’t Want to Know,” and “Tomorrow Never Comes,” among others.
15). Elvis Christmas Album (1957)
Rockin’ renditions of “White Chrismas,” the hit “Blue Christmas” and the relentless “Santa Claus is Back in Town,” as well as the upbeat “Here Comes Santa Claus” make this a yuletide favorite. It remains the best selling Christmas album of all time to this day.
16). C’mon Everybody (1971)
Budget album release during a period where Elvis Presley albums were not so good, this one digs up some great movie songs that never became hits. The title cut features Elvis at his rockin’ best, and it is in good company with “King of the Whole Wide World,” “This is Living,” “Easy Come Easy Go,” and the ballads “Today Tomorrow and Forever” and “Angel.” These songs are from movies that never had soundtrack albums of their own, so this is a good collection.
17). How Great Thou Art (1966)
The best of Presley’s gospel albums contains the title hymn as well as soulful redntions of “Where Could I Go but To The Lord” and his hit version of The Orioles’ “Cryin in the Chapel.”
18). Spinout (1966)
Elvis’s soundtrack albums were often filled with weak songs on which he merely shrugged off his ability. However, this movie’s songs feature some tough blues-rock and a lot of great upbeat tracks. The highlight is probably “I’ll Be Back,” but the title cut, “Never Say Yes,” and “Smorgasbord” all rock. A bonus: a song that was not in the movie, Bob Dylan’s “Tomorrow is a long Time,” which Dylan stated was his favorite cover of any of his songs.
19). Elvis For Everyone (1965)
Taking a break from movie soundtracks to do a studio album of new non-movie songs (although “Santa Lucia” from “Viva Las Vegas” is included), this contains a great version of Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” as well as Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” and several other strong upbeat tracks. Good all the way through.
20). Something For Everybody (1961)
Good, aptly titled album, his second post-army LP, with a mixture of ballads and rockers. A lot of little known but solid material here.
21). Pot Luck (1962)
Another earlier studio album (pre-Beatles) with a myriad of songs from all over the musical map. This is where you find his version “Suspicion,” which was a hit for Terry Stafford in a sound-alike version.
22). Girls! Girls! Girls! (1963)
This soundtrack album features great rockers like the title track and “We’re Comin’ in Loaded,” as well as “Return to Sender,’ one of Elvis’s biggest hits. But it also has lackluster material like the awful “Song of the Shrimp.”
23). Roustabout (1964)
The only Elvis soundtrack to hit number one on the charts, this has the great “Little Egypt” and the title track, but the rest of the album is hit and miss.
24). From Memphis to Vegas- From Vegas to Memphis (1969)
Uneven collection of Memphis session tracks and live Vegas material is generally pretty good. Elvis was starting to evolve from the classic raw rocker into the performer whose work was more bloated and orchestral, but this is a bit before the movie career transition had fully taken place.
25). He Touched Me (1972)
Another gospel album, containing both hymns and more contemporary spiritual numbers. This does have a nice version of “Amazing Grace.”
26). Blue Hawaii (1961)
Soundtrack album to Elvis’s biggest hit movie has the great “Can’t Help Falling in Love” but is filled with weaklings like “Ito Eats.”
27). GI Blues (1960)
Soundtrack album from his first movie after leaving the army, contains the title track, a lesser reworking of “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Shopping Around.” The rest are dismissible, including the ersatz hit “Wooden Heart.”
28). Love Letters From Elvis (1971)
After the great comeback special and the wonderful Memphis sessions by this time Elvis had settled into a niche of orchestra-based ballads. His voice is so outstanding that the ones contained here are quite listenable, but his best work was clearly behind him.
29). Moody Blue (1977)
Significant as Elvis Presley’s final studio album, this has the title track, “Way Down,” and a great rendition of Johnny Ace’s “Pledging My Love” as well as some pretty useless covers of Olivia Newton-John songs.
30). Elvis sings Flaming Star (1969)
Another budget album collection of songs from movies that didn’t have soundtracks of their own. The title cut is good. A few other things are ok. Not too bad.
31). Promised Land (1975)
More hit-and-miss orchestral ballads sustained by Presley’s great voice. A schlocky song like “Love Song of the Year” is bolstered by the great singing.
32). His Hand in Mine (1960)
First of his four gospel albums to be released. He does well with this material, as his voice is great and he sounds truly committed to the material.
33). Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas (1971)
Another Christmas album that is ok, but nowhere near as great as his first. It does have some highlights.
34). Elvis Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis, Tennessee (1974)
Elvis’s live performances didn’t have the raw urgency of his classic early recordings, but on this one he does revisit medleys of his great hits, as well as “I Got a Woman,” “Trying to Get To You,” “My Baby Left Me” and “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.”
35). Girl Happy (1965)
Another soundtrack album. The title track is quite good, and he does a nice job with Eddy Arnold’s “Puppet on a String.” This also contains the hit “Do The Clam.” But the rest is filler.
36). Fun in Acapulco (1963)
And another soundtrack album, this one featuring the great song “Bossa Nova Baby” and more filler.
37). Elvis Recorded Live on Stage at Madison Square Garden (1972)
Spotty live set of great songs like “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog,” and “All Shook Up” mixed with disappointing covers of “Proud Mary” and “Never Been To Spain.”
38). Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii (1973)
Huge satellite TV broadcast resulted in this album, another live mixture of great vintage hits and covers. The raw power of the original hits seem diluted by the orchestral additions.
39). It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963)
Great song: “One Broken Heart For Sale” and a lot of filler from this movie soundtrack.
40). Clambake (1967)
The Ray Charles ballad “You Don’t Know Me” and Jerry Reed’s “Guitar Man” are the highlights amidst more soundtrack filler
41). Elvis Today (1975)
Ok versions of Faye Adams’ “Shake a Hand,” Billy Swan’s “I Can Help,” and “Green Green Grass of Home” are the highlights of this mediocre studio album.
42). Speedway (1968)
OK songs and bad ones mix together for this soundtrack. “He’s Your Uncle Not Your Dad” is a real low point.
43). Kissin’ Cousins (1964)
The title track is fun. Long Lonely Highway is pretty good. The rest is more filler
44). From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee (1976)
Solid country flavored pop on For The Heart , a good version of Timi Yuro’s “Hurt,” otherwise not much to this studio album.
45). Almost in Love (1970)
Another budget collection of songs from the movies, this one has “Rubbernecking” and “A Little Less Conversation.”
46). Elvis Now (1972)
Early Morning Rain is a nice country cover, but we can do without his version of Hey Jude or the glitzy white gospel of Put Your Hand in the Hand.
47). Double Trouble (1967)
So, if you want to hear Elvis’s version of “Old MacDonald” this soundtrack album is for you – redeemed by “Long Legged Girl (With the Short Dress On).” The year of Sgt Pepper and Elvis is releasing this.
48). Let’s Be Friends (1970)
Yet another budget collection of songs from movies. The title cut for the film “Change of Habit” is ok.
49). “Paradise Hawaiian Style” (1966)
Songs range from fair to lousy on this soundtrack album.
50). “That’s the Way it Is” (1970)
Movie about his live show is interesting, but the soundtrack is only fair. His take on “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is good.
51). “Good Times” (1974)
Lush orchestral ballads slightly salvaged by Elvis’s great voice. “My Boy” is probably the best of a sorry lot.
52). I Got Lucky (1971)
Last and weakest of the budget albums of movie songs that didn’t have soundtracks of their own. “Yoga Is As Yoga Does” is probably the worst song Elvis ever recorded (from the movie “Easy Come Easy Go”).
53). On Stage (1970)
Do you really need to hear Elvis’s versions of Sweet Caroline, Runaway, Polk Salad Annie, Yesterday, and Proud Mary? Me neither. He really schlocks things up on this live album which contains no live versions of his classic hits.
54). Frankie and Johnny (1966)
Pretty bad soundtrack album has the title cut and little else.
55). Elvis (1973)
Not to be confused with the similarly titled 1968 soundtrack to his TV special. Not a good track in the bunch.
56). Raised on Rock (1973)
You wouldn’t know it from this disappointing collection of schmaltzy pop songs and ersatz country pop.
57). Harum Scarum (1965)
His worst movie. His worst movie soundtrack. His worst music.