Here's where, somewhat ashamedly, I admit that I have only two Elvis Presley albums in my collection: From Elvis in Memphis and the two-disc sacred performances set Amazing Grace. I turned to David Quick and some of the other Elvisfest performers for guidance in adding more Elvis to my shelves, and below are what they consider to be the essential recordings.
Sun Sessions is a compilation of all his first recordings. I got a copy when I was 16 and never looked back. This stuff is the stripped-down, raw, naked, musical magic of the young Elvis Presley.
Elvis Presley is his first full-length album, the one that broke him nationwide, along with his appearances on television. It has "Heartbreak Hotel", his first RCA release and first national hit. It's music from the young Elvis Presley on the eve of ruling the world.
Memories: The '68 Comeback Special is Elvis at his absolute most electrifying, and it's unplugged for the most part. After 12 years of cranking out cheap films of various quality, the King literally sat down for a little rock 'n' roll session among friends. (Quick also highly recommends the video/DVD of the special, calling it a "you must see it to believe it" event.)
Craig Chmielewski of the El Caminos:
If the El Caminos were stranded on a desert island with only two Elvis records, they would hope they were Sun Sessions (Elvis at his rawest, this is where it all began) and From Elvis in Memphis (kickass set of songs and a return to form for Elvis in 1969).
Flathead Mike of Flathead Mike and the Mercurys:
I think everyone should own Elvis' first record out of Sun Records (Sun Sessions). The whole thing just has this awesome atmosphere to it. It is the sound I wish he had always stuck with.
Jimmy Psycho of Psychocharger:
While he recorded volumes of great stuff in the studio, the stuff that people absolutely must own are his live recordings: Memories: The '68 Comeback Special and Aloha From Hawaii--Via Satellite. Not only do you get some great tunes, you get a feel for the sense of energy, spontaneity, and humor that Elvis possessed. I mean, if you don't get goosebumps listening to him belt out "If I Can Dream" (from '68 Comeback) or "American Trilogy" (from Aloha), then you're just one unfeeling, heartless sumbitch!
Jay Thurman of the Octane Saints:
I have two Elvis records that I think represent him the best. Obviously, the first record, Elvis Presley, which he made with Sam Phillips at Sun Studios. It had so much heart. It's not only a great representation of Elvis, but also a nice little picture of rockabilly becoming pop. The second is Hunk of Burning Love. The first record I ever asked for was Elvis, and for my birthday, my folks gave me Hunk of Burning Love. But it's not here just for its sentimental value; it also represents the '70s Elvis well.