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Elvis: Today, Tomorrow & Forever (BMG)

Although Elvis sightings continue to be reported by the tabloids, little notice was given to the Presley CDs that quietly vanished from the BMG catalog in recent months. The conglomerate has been making the King's music scarce in anticipation of a six-month campaign to cash in on the 25th anniversary of his demise with a series of CDs, DVDs, books, and other merchandise, beginning with the release of the four-disc Elvis: Today, Tomorrow & Forever.

This is material that, for the most part, was never intended for public consumption. Who but the most compulsive Presley collector would want to hear inferior takes of many already inferior songs from '60s films like Harum Scarum and Paradise, Hawaiian Style? Duds abound, but there are also numerous diamonds in the rough, including a rendition of "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" from 1956 that's longer and more raucous than the originally issued take, and a poignant "farm version" of "Loving You" from the following year with just guitar and harmonica accompaniment. The pricey, handsomely packaged set provides some new insight into the singer's creative process and is thoughtfully annotated by Canadian pop music historian Colin Escott. The cash register remains the bottom line, however, and BMG is betting that it will be ringing today, tomorrow, and forever.

More by Lee Hildebrand

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