The voice is thin, nasal, with a feminine vibrato and an attack of naked innocence. The song is a noble-masochism ballad called I'll Never Stand in Your Way; the singer is Elvis Presley, right around his 19th birthday. This primitive demo tape is among the treasures in RCA's four-CD, 100-song set Elvis Presley Platinum: A Life in Music. The package, eloquently annotated by Colin Escott and with 77 newly released tracks, means to scrape away the crust of camp idolatry from Presley's image and recast him as a powerful vocalist.

The early stuff is still great. We are startled, on the...

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