When Collector's Gold hit the streets back in early 1991, it was a crucial but mostly unheard step towards Ernst Jorgensen's and Roger Semon's successful attempt to reclaim Elvis' musical legacy with critics and fans. After
years of RCA dithering and rehashing the same hits to a diminishing audience, Jorgensen and Semon discovered, in 1988 with the Essential Elvis series, that there was an audience for Elvis' alternate performances of songs. Better,
the mostly positive reviews for those collections showed that these alternate takes displayed Elvis' musicianship to critics and fans who had taken it for granted.
"Collector's Gold" did not receive nearly the attention those records received. But it was an important prototype for the entire alternate take industry and BMG's series of blockbuster box sets that would continue to document
Elvis' career for the next decade.
Viewed today what stands out is the set's caution. There are few photos mostly all familiar and black and white. The material on the three discs clocks in at just over two hours and today would easily fit onto two discs.
Christopher Niccoli's liner notes don't have nearly the perspective or new information that Peter Guralnick and Colin Escott have given fans.
Yet back in 1991, this set was absolutely radical. Before "Beatles Anthology" and "Platinum", this was a multi-disc collection composed completely of unreleased alternate takes and live cuts. And although fans today are familiar
with many of this set's pleasures through their presence on other compilations, when it first came out this set held major surprises.
The set is completely devoted to Elvis' 60s music, in and of itself a radical concept, given the critical regard of Elvis' work during this period and Elvis' image as a 50s icon. Each disc was broken down to cover each of the
phases of Elvis' career during the decade with one disc for the movies, one for studio alternates and one disc of live material from Elvis' legendary '69 Vegas comeback season. The movie disc offers the most new thrills.
Chief among these was the first official US release of "You're the Boss" a sizzling Lavern Baker/Jimmy Ricks remake that Elvis and Ann Margaret cut for "Viva Las Vegas". The song had been available on the bootleg circuit for
years but this was a nice treat for fans who couldn't get to the trade shows. A new song and a good one seemed to justify the set already.
But there was more. There was a nice novelty with Elvis' re-record of "Flaming Star" under the title "Black Star". After years of hearing it as "Flaming Star", ""Black Star" doesn't sound right but, it's still fun. Better yet
was the inclusion of the full-length "One Broken Heart for Sale" with an extra verse, an item fans had been clamoring for on an official release for years. Then there was a beautiful acoustic version of "Lonely Man" that completely
re-characterized the song giving it a poignance not present in the original recording. On top of that you had a radically different version of "Whistling Tune" recorded at the "Follow That Dream" sessions. It wasn't a great tune in
the "Kid Galahad" version and it's even lesser here but again it's well-sung and a new spin on Elvis. Capping everything was an alternate of "Girl Happy" at a normal speed that was marred by what sounds like Elvis blowing his nose.
But, that fly on the wall atmosphere was as much a selling point as the music itself. The rest of the movie tracks weren't nearly as surprising but all were brilliantly sung (especially the underrated "So Close, Yet So Far") and
proved how serious Elvis took recording even on these often dubious sessions.
The second disc featured a group of close to original alternate takes from studio sessions from 1960-1968. No real surprises but again excellent performance and fun studio banter.
Some fans would argue that disc three is the most vital musical disc of the three. This set featured songs many fans never dreamed they would hear live including "Rubberneckin", "This is the Story" and "Inherit the Wind" all
performed respectably. The real gems though were Elvis familiars like "What'd I Say", "Blue Suede Shoes" and "I Got a Woman" all given an edge that Elvis would forego as he became more accustomed to live performing. Although some of
the songs on this disc are rushed and Elvis' voice is not nearly so sharp as it would be in his 1970 engagements, the material on here is absolutely essential live music. And this was the first dose of it fans got in 22 years.
Perhaps as revealing as the music was Elvis' interaction with the audience. You can sense his joy in them and how much he also means to them. When Elvis throws the crowd a tidbit of "Loving You" they go wild. They had shared a
About half of the music on "Collector's Gold" has been issued in some other form since 1991, making the set even more of a straight collector's issue. But back in 1991, it sent an important message to fans and critics: the
people in charge of Elvis' music actually cared- about Elvis and about them.