HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA — A little over a year ago, "1," a collection of the Beatles greatest hits, was released, and gave the band another bestseller 30 years after their breakup. Now, in a case of promotional deja vu, BMG and RCA are about to release a collection of Elvis Presley's bestsellers, some 25 years after his death. Like "1", the Presley release is being promoted via a matching website, and while the site primarily exists as an online enticement to buy the album, "Elvis: 30 #1 Hits" has material of interest even for the non-consuming Elvis fan.
#1 Hits opens to the music of "Jailhouse Rock" and narration connecting the King to such developments as the birth of television censors and Britney Spears' decision to play Las Vegas. The site's homepage then offers a few titbits of current Elvis developments (no sightings when I was there), and sets the atmosphere with music from the "Jukebox," a continuously rotating selection of clips from the album. To date, 11 of the 30 hits are available in the Jukebox, and the rest will be posted periodically (as incentive to return to the site) as the album's release date approaches. In addition to automatic playback, there is also the option of skipping from song to song, or even stopping the playback entirely. (A useful feature if you've been at the site long enough to exceed your daily limit of "a hunk a hunk a burnin' love.")
Just below the Jukebox is "Singles," the first in a series of horizontal navigation bars that allow exploration of Elvis' career. "Singles" takes a song-by song approach, with access to an impressive amount of material related to each release. Each hit has its own page, with a bit of anecdotal information (the echo effect in Heartbreak Hotel was created in a hallway at the RCA Building), plus streaming audio and video clips, and photographs. (Stills include sheet music, publishing contracts, newspaper ads and even samples from the King's wardrobe.) For the more thorough Elvis musicologist, US and UK release dates are posted, as well as lists of the musicians who played on each title.
The next bar offers a timeline: Early Years, Army and Post-Army Years, Movie Years, and Vegas Years, with each offering a collection of introduction and multimedia, as well as links back to the Singles pages related to each period. Below the timeline are exhibits about the various roles played by Elvis, from "Singer" to "Producer" to "Style Setter." Finally, the bottom navigation bar includes access to the complete onsite collections of multimedia files, a bulletin board, some online amusements, and of course, merchandise.
Not surprisingly, #1 Hits employs a good deal of overlap between its main sections. These crossovers are easily recognized, though, and you're not likely to spend much time retracing your steps unless you choose to. The quantity of the multimedia files is exceptional, and available in sizes to accommodate both high and low bandwidth surfers.
And while the Jukebox/Singles selections are only partial clips from the featured songs, the streaming video files were complete performances - albeit only of streaming video quality. Still, whether your Elvis-consciouness began with Ed Sullivan or Lilo and Stitch, #1 Hits makes for an entertaining online diversion.
Elvis: 30 #1 Hits can be found at http://www.elvisnumberones.com.