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…and now I have this on my CD shelf:

As an Elvis fan, I’ve accumulated quite a number of The King’s albums over the years. From greatest hits collections to live and rare recordings, I’ve pretty much got Elvis covered when it comes to the CDs on my shelf. Unfortunately–and this tends to be the case with a lot of legendary performers–quite a bit of material gets doubled up in the process. For example, “Suspicious Minds” might show up on three or four different collections. Of course, it’s not that big of a deal, but it does take up a lot of space.

This four-disc set might not be the end-all collection of Elvis’ catalog. (And, let’s be honest, short of a definitive, 100-disc set that collects every recording the man ever made, no set ever will meet those standards.) But what this set manages to do is span a wide range of Elvis’ music, collecting 100 tracks from throughout his career, making it possible for Elvis fans to at least consolidate some of their collection.

Starting with Elvis’ self-financed demo recording of “My Happiness” in 1953 and ending with a live performance of “Unchained Melody” in 1977, the set marries the classics with the rarities, the live recordings with the demos. (Note: The set actually ends with JXL’s terrible remix of “A Little Less Conversation,” but I don’t include that song in the set because, well, it’s not Elvis.)

His Christmas classics are here (“(There’ll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me)”), as are his gospels (“Crying in the Chapel”) and country music (“Funny How Time Slips Away”). It’s an eclectic mix, sure, but it’s hard to be entirely cohesive when you’re collecting nearly 25 years worth of recordings.

The package it comes in is darn pretty, too. The box set opens up to reveal a thick, 80-page booklet that documents the life and times of Elvis with an essay from music critic and historian Billy Altman, and a bunch of rare photos of Presley throughout his career. The design of the booklet isn’t essential to the music on the discs, but because of its attention to detail the set becomes a collectible shelf piece.

If you like Elvis but aren’t interested in getting a bunch of different discs, this comprehensive set should be more than enough for you. If you’re like me and own a bunch of this music already, pick it up and have it all in one condensed package.

Time to free up some CD shelf space,

-Shady

Knitting Factory Records is my new best friend. Why? Because they’ve taken on the major task of remastering and reissuing Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti’s entire catalog.

Since Fela’s catalog reads like a White Pages, Knitting Factory has decided to release this collection in batches. The first batch of reissues–titled “Chop ‘N Quench”–collects nine albums of some of Fela’s earliest work. The nine albums are collected in a six-disc set (some of his albums were short enough to fit two on a disc) and are available both as digi-pack hard copies and digital downloads.

The albums included in the set are: “Confusion/Gentleman”; “Koola Lobitos/The ’69 L.A. Sessions”; “Live! (with Ginger Baker)”; “Open & Close/Afrodisiac”; “Roforofo Fight/The Fela Singles”; and “Shakara/London Scene.”

The work here spans from 1969 through 1974, documenting Fela at a time of great experimentation. Long before he honed the Afrobeat genre he’d forever become synonymous with, Kuti tested the waters of sound. Fela became known as the ringleader of numerous big bands (Africa ’70, Nigeria ’70, Egypt ’80, etc.), but here his bands and their sound are stripped down.

The result is familiar, of course, but the music feels more like a glimpse of things to come. These earliest albums serve as sketchbooks and capture a sound that many fans might not be all that familiar with. A good example of this is the collection’s live album; recorded in 1971, the disc features Fela’s Africa ’70 with guest drummer Ginger Baker of the band Cream.

As we get further into the 1970s (especially on “Confusion/Gentleman”) Kuti is coming upon what would become the golden years of his career. It’s his most well-known music (and it sounds better than ever now that it’s been remastered), but now having heard what came before it the music becomes just another step in the evolutionary ladder of Fela’s sound.

Luckily, Knitting Factory is busy at work on re-issuing the next step. I can’t wait.

To learn more about the Fela reissues, click here.

Fatboy brought me to Fela,

-Shady

Old Poop!