Counting Down Elvis: His 100 Finest Songs explores the full range of Presley recordings, from his earliest number to his end-of-career (and even posthumous) hits, combing through gold record hits and unpolished gems to distill the best Presley had to offer his generation, his successors, and listeners today.
In this energetic and insightful look at the songs of Elvis Presley, Duffett, a media professor at the University of Chester in the U.K., lists his "personal 100 countdown" of songs from the more than 700 master recordings that Presley released in his lifetime. Duffett does not analyze Presley's music in a chronological fashion, preferring instead to look at the singer's creative contribution to popular music. He argues that Presley was "innovative in picking and interpreting material." Rather than distinguishing between early (rock) and late (easy listening) Presley, Duffett is interested in the big picture of an artist who drew "on a full gamut of instrumentation, engulfing a variety of different genres in a broad and unique style" and "could see into the emotional core of each piece of music." Though he clearly prefers the rocking Presley of "Heartbreak Hotel" (at #4) to the country Presley of "Gentle on My Mind" (#91), he expertly conveys the subtleties of both performances. And though fans may differ with, for example, Duffett ranking Presley's version of "Bridge over Troubled Water" (at #5, with its "colossal feeling of spectacle") over "Good Rockin' Tonight" (a "rockabilly classic" at #68), most will appreciate the writer's enthusiasm. Elvis Presley fans will find this a fascinating and useful look at the King's work.