RCA and the Elvis estate made no bones about their intention on replicating the blockbuster success of the Beatles' The Beatles 1 with their own single-disc collection of number one hits -- hence, the 2002 release of Elvis: 30 #1 Hits. The idea of collecting all the number one hits is simple enough, but there are problems inherent with the concept ...
RCA and the Elvis estate made no bones about their intention on replicating the blockbuster success of the Beatles' The Beatles 1 with their own single-disc collection of number one hits -- hence, the 2002 release of Elvis: 30 #1 Hits. The idea of collecting all the number one hits is simple enough, but there are problems inherent with the concept, not the least of which is that RCA did this once before. Unlike the Beatles, who went through numerous changes in just seven years of recording, Elvis had nearly three times as many years' worth of material and hits to choose from. Also, he hit on a number of different charts -- not just pop, but also R&B, country, and adult contemporary. Furthermore, where almost all of the Beatles' number one hits sampled at least part of their music, there are significant chunks of Elvis' best material -- including the visionary sides for Sun -- that didn't hit the top of the charts. All of this makes assembling a similar comprehensive sampler of Elvis' biggest hits much more difficult, and it doesn't help that RCA has decided not to have a rigid aesthetic and sample from different charts all over the world, resulting in a collection that feels more of a patchwork than it should, even if the bulk of the material is from the early '60s; at least five songs feel like they should have been replaced with better, and better-known, sides. And, even if much of this material is exceedingly familiar, there also feels like there is a lot missing because, frankly, there is. No Sun singles and very little from his classic 1968 comeback or early-'70s hits like "Moody Blue," not to mention sides that would showcase Elvis "the rocker" better than what's here, which plays closer to Elvis the '60s pop crooner than anything else. And, let's face it, no matter what the packaging is, Elvis: 30 #1 Hits can't feel that new because of the veritable flood of Elvis collections RCA has issued since the King started having hits. This is a very good compilation, covering many of the basics, but it's hardly close to the only Elvis disc you'll ever need, and it's not even that great of a starting place, since it lacks so much of his best material. (Also, even though this is one of the most carefully considered compilations of Elvis hits, it can't help but feel a little shoddy since there's actually 31 number one hits here, with the addition of the JXL remix of "A Little Less Conversation" tacked onto the end, no matter how good the single is.) ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi