For those who lack the cash or incentive to invest in Bear Family's mammoth eight-CD Rock 'N' Roll Years box set, this two-CD, 40-song overview of Conway Twitty's 1958-1963 MGM sides is a fine summary of his early career. Nearly all his Top Hundred chart hits are here, as are numerous flops, B-sides, and LP tracks. It's true that these were the most rock-oriented years of Twitty's long career, and also that many of these sides are derivative of early Elvis Presley. But it can also be said that of the singers who owed much to Elvis, Twitty was one of the best -- not just on hits like "It's Only Make Believe," "Lonely Blue Boy," and "Danny Boy," but also lesser-known items like the growling rockabilly-pop of "Make Me Know You're Mine" and "Trouble in Mind," the "Mystery Train" imitation "The Long Black Train," and the ballad "Heavenly." Twitty was also one of the few sub-Elvis singers equally capable of summoning decent rockabilly-pop and slow deep-voiced ballads. It's not all pop
ock, either, with his incipient country-pop leanings coming to the fore on some early-'60s tracks like "What a Dream" and "Looking Back" (which sound a little like Brenda Lee's productions of the era), "A Man Alone" and "She Ain't No Angel" (both not far in mood from Roy Orbison's harder-rocking early-'60s cuts), and the melodramatic "The Flame." He didn't cultivate as strong an identity as any of his reference points, Elvis and otherwise, and some of these tunes are generic if spiritedly performed late-'50s/early-'60s period pieces, but overall it's a quite worthy anthology.