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'Sides' Offers 'B' Gems--and First Day of Issue Elvis Stamp

THE VAULTS / CD REISSUES

ELVIS PRESLEY "The Other Sides--Worldwide Gold Award Hits--Volume 2" *** RCA

October 25, 1996|ROBERT HILBURN

When this album was released as a four-record vinyl set in 1971, RCA offered fans a bonus: a piece of Elvis' actual clothing.

The problem in putting out the CD edition 25 years later is that RCA apparently ran out of his old shirts, jackets and pants.

So the label has come up with a substitute lure: a first day of issue Elvis stamp on a limited-edition RCA envelope that is graced with a photo of Elvis and the words, "The Greatest Record Artist of All Time 1935-1977." It's suitable for framing or mailing.

The package also contains a 12-page souvenir booklet that contains photos of RCA executives trying on some of the Elvis clothing that arrived in 1971 at the company's offices in more than a dozen wardrobe cases.

And the music?

The album was designed as a companion to "Worldwide 50 Gold Award Hits, Volume 1," which was released in 1970. Where that collection contained the "A"--or hit--sides of Elvis' singles, this one contained the "B" sides of the singles.

There are, however, some gems here, including a half dozen or so vocals, including "One Night" and "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care," that are as good as or better than many of the "A" side hits. The problem for the consumer is that they are all confined to the 1956-58 material found on the first disc. Much of disc two is fairly marginal.

If the stamp is not enough to make you take the plunge, you ought to spend some time at the Elvis bin of a good-sized record store. This is a perfectly acceptable set, but you might find more of the recordings you really want on other packages.

** Georgia Gibbs' "The Best of Georgia Gibbs: The Mercury Years," Mercury Chronicles. Gibbs had lots of pop hits before the rock era, and her singing on them was acceptable if hardly distinguished. But Gibbs became known to '50s teens only as the woman who did those terrible remakes of such R&B hits as LaVern Baker's "Tweedlee Dee." This record isn't likely to lead to any explosion of fan clubs, but it should at least show that there was more to Gibbs' pop career than the hapless rock forays.

** 1/2 Various artists, "Mission Accomplished: Themes for Spies & Cops," Hip-O. This compilation of more than a dozen TV or movie spy/cop themes is such a winning idea that it doesn't even matter that several of the tracks aren't the original hit versions. In fact, the alternate versions, including the Hellecasters' version of "Peter Gunn" and Billy Strange's "James Bond Theme," will make it a bit more challenging at a party if you ask guests to see who can identify the themes the fastest. The themes are drawn from such films or TV shows as "Miami Vice," "Goldfinger," "Hill Street Blues" and "The Avengers."

* Various artists, "Texas Super Hits," Columbia. Here's another compilation, but the results aren't nearly as inviting as "Mission Accomplished." A few of the songs, including Gene Autry's "Deep in the Heart of Texas" and Marty Robbins' "El Paso," belong in a good country-minded salute to the Lone Star State, but most of the recordings--from Rick Trevino's "San Antonio Rose to You" to Willie Nelson's "No Place but Texas"--are either too obscure or too flat to make the collection work.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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