The '70's Supplement
In 1995 RCA/BMG released the box set "Walk A Mile in My Shoes-The Essential '70's Masters". The box was the natural follow up to the respective '50's and '60's collections, but it's compilers felt that in this case a different approach was needed. Like the 50's and '60's sets the '70's box would be a five disc collection. However, whilst the 50's collection had included the complete masters, and it's'60's counterpart had concentrated on all the secular recordings from that decade, things were a little more complicated with Elvis' 70's recordings. Firstly, the complete secular '70's studio recordings would not fit onto a 5 disc set, and the producers were not allowed to exceed this. Secondly, a number of essential 1970's Presley recordings including songs such as "I Just Can't Help Believin'", "Walk A Mile In My Shoes", "Proud Mary", "Polk Salad Annie", "You Gave Me A Mountain", and "Never Been To Spain" were only recorded during concert appearances. To exclude performances of this calibre on the basis that they were not studio masters, would have been detrimental to the overall quality of the set. Elvis' '70's output was often criticized by the serious music press, and it was important that this set showed Elvis in the most positive way, in order to re-address the balance on this period of Elvis' career.
Another point that certainly seems to have been considered when compiling the set is that throughout the '70's Elvis' manager and record company did him no favours with their release policy. In today's music industry it's highly unlikely that an artist of Elvis' standing would release one new album a year, but back in the '70's Elvis' record company was putting out three our four albums a year. This meant that a productive session like the June 1970 Nashville session, which had already produced two great albums in "Elvis - That's The Way It Is" and "I'm 10,000 years Old - Elvis Country", was also responsible for the much weaker "Love Letters From Elvis", when RCA decided to issue most of the leftovers as a full priced album in 1971. It wasn't that every track on the album was bad. It included a great cover of "Got My Mojo Working/Keep Your Hands Off Off It ", for example, but the songs collectively just weren't up to the standard of the previous two releases.
For these reasons it was decided that the 70's box would be split into three different themes. Two discs would cover the '70's single releases, with all the A & B sides being included except for a couple of gospel performances which would appear on a gospel collection. Two discs would cover the rest of the studio highlights from 1971 - 1976, with a few previously unissued recordings added to make the set more appealing to the collector, and the final disc would concentrate on the best of the 70's live cuts, and showcase the songs mentioned earlier in this article amongst others. This made for a very entertaining set which showed that Elvis still made some great music during the last seven years of his life, and most music critics agreed with this assessment in their reviews of the set. For these reasons I think the decision to present the '70's masters in this way was the correct one, but as an Elvis fan I would have liked remastered versions of the complete studio recordings for my own collection.
RCA/BMG now had a problem with regards to how the "missing tracks" were made available. They were not strong enough to release as an album in their own right, and the albums that they were originally included on had been deleted from the catalogue. A series of upgraded versions of some of the more popular '70's albums have been issued since the release of the '70's box, and a number of the "missing tracks" were added to these albums as bonus tracks. The less popular albums were not given the upgraded treatment though, and a number of songs are now unavailable in the current Presley CD catalogue. All of the '70's albums were issued during the 1990's and many fans have compiled their own collections of missing masters using these releases as the source for most of the tracks. Below is my own three disc "seventies supplement" with cover art added for those of you that would like to make your own versions of these discs. The missing tracks would easily fit on to two discs, but I've added a third disc of "loose ends" for completists.
The Essential 70's Masters Six - The Missing Tracks
The Essential '70's Masters Seven - The Missing Tracks
The Essential Seventies Masters Eight - Loose Ends
I'm not claiming all these tracks are essential, and the last disc in particular is exhaustive really, but it does make a nice companion to the set. I used undubbed versions of "Softly As I Leave You" & "America" from Fort Baxter's "Just Pretend" bootleg as I think the sound is slightly better, and I never understood why RCA added fake applause to these tracks. Similarly, I used the undubbed version of Elvis' June 1977 version of "Unchained Melody" which first appeared on the "Great Performances" as I wasn't keen on the overdubs used on the single version. The original single masters have been added as bonus tracks.