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As most of you know, I love free stuff. And guess what?!? Sometimes here at “The Blarg” people send me free stuff! I’ve got to be honest though, out of all of the stuff I receive very rarely do I get something that I love. But I recently got three things that I love sent my way!

BONUS ROUND!

Dig ’em:

Elvis Presley’s “Elvis is Back!” (Legacy Edition) – Elvis sounds best when completely remastered. Sure, I’m still a sucker for the hisses and pops that come with listening to the King on a piece of original vinyl, but Sony Music’s Legacy Editions never fail to impress me in both their crispness and clarity. This two-disc set is no exception. Collecting both Presley’s 1960 post-military return (and first true stereo release) “Elvis is Back!” and his 1961 followup “Something for Everybody,” this set offers up not only each of the album’s twelve original songs, but also twelve bonus tracks including “A Mess of Blues” and “Little Sister,” among others. Throw in the original album art (something a lot of compilation reissues fail to include nowadays) and a 24-page booklet of Elvis photos and memoirs, and you’ve got a CD I won’t be taking into Amoeba for trade! And to be honest, that’s saying a lot.

Johnny Cash’s “From Memphis to Hollywood: Bootleg Vol. II” – This two-disc followup to 2006’s “Personal File: Bootleg Vol. I” picks up exactly where the first in the series left off. This isn’t a collection of finely-tuned greatest hits; instead, it’s Cash’s musical sketchbook that gives listeners a reference for the hits that were soon to follow. Disc one collects rare radio appearances and early demos that Cash cut in the 1950s. Still in his twenties at the time, this is Cash trying to figure out his sound. Disc two collects various singles, outtakes and B-sides that, for whatever reason, never made it onto an official album release. Together, these two discs collect 57 tracks, 26 of which were previously unreleased in the States. Whether you’re a Cash fanatic or not, that’s a whole lot of music you’ve probably never heard before.

Neil Diamond’s “The Bang Years: 1966-1968” – Easily the biggest surprise in the batch! It’s expected that I’ll like anything Elvis or Cash that you send my way (after all, I have both men tattooed on my arm), but oddly enough I find myself listening to this album more than any of the previous two. Maybe it’s because I’m not as familiar with Diamond’s work. Of course, like most people, I know his more popular hits when they pop up on the radio (of which, many are on this disc), but I don’t know if I’ve ever sat down and listened to an entire album of his work in one sitting. This disc collects 23 original versions of songs he recorded for Bang Records in 1966 and 1967 including a lot of the hits that made him a household name, but also a few more obscure tracks I had never heard before. The disc is solid from beginning to end, but I especially love Diamond’s vocal reluctance (throughout the entire song) to cover the ridiculous bubble-gum hit “Hanky Panky.” Whether you like him or not, you have to respect a guy who has no problem badmouthing a dumb song smack dab in the middle of said dumb song.

Better than burns,

-Shady

Old Poop!