From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee

From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee
Released on May 16, 1976

Track List:

  1. Hurt
  2. Never Again
  3. Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain
  4. Danny Boy
  5. The Last Farewell
  6. For the Heart
  7. Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall
  8. Solitaire
  9. Love Coming Down
  10. I’ll Never Fall in Love Again

From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee is Elvis Presley’s 23rd studio album. It is also his penultimate studio album, as his next record would be his last. This album once again topped the country charts, the 4th in his discography to do so. Since he was veering towards a completely country sound by this point, it does make you wonder if his career would have continued to go in that direction had he lived. This album was recorded mainly at Elvis’ studio at Graceland, despite it saying “Recorded Live” on the album cover.

Like some of Elvis’ previous records, I recognized some of the songs, specifically, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”, “Danny Boy”, and “Solitaire”. Having really enjoyed his late career albums, and really loving the three aforementioned songs, I found myself excited to hear his take on these numbers. Like everything in my life, I should have kept my expectations in check. I had been so bolstered by the high quality of Elvis’ past few releases that I found myself deflated by the middling qualities of this one. There were some great moments sure, but ultimately, this record made no deep impression on me.

*notes recommended tracks

  1. Hurt

This swirling song gives the album a rousing start. The music is on fire, but Elvis is singing a little too big here. The smoky guitar and the magnetic pull of the backing vocals and piano is almost enough to redeem this track…almost.

Elvis in 1976

2. Never Again

I really love a good 70s ballad and this one is trying so hard to be that. Too hard. All the parts of this song are too much on their own, so that when they are put together, it’s all too much. The lyrics are also incredibly trite…which prevents this song from going anywhere good.

3. Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain

I really love this song so, because I’m a glass half full person, I was hopeful. It started off fine, with Elvis serving up some Willie Nelson flavored vocals which is appropriate, since Nelson has the definitive version of this song. But then the chorus kicked in. Like the previous number, Elvis just tries too hard. The guitar is awesome though and it pains me to think how amazing this cover could have been if Elvis had just reined it in a little vocally. The end slightly redeems itself but again…not enough.

4. Danny Boy*

The version of this song that I know best is from my Pap (my dad’s dad) who could often be found humming “Danny Boy”, as it was one of his favorite songs. Originally written in 1913, it has been covered by many artists. This was my first time hearing Elvis’ amazing version. It’s softer, acoustic arrangement fits this one like a glove. It is a poignant delivery of this beautiful ballad, with Elvis’ vocal chops on full display as he shows how versatile he can be as a singer. Stunning.

5. The Last Farewell*

The groovy rhythm section on this jam is pure 1970s schtick. Combined with fantastical strings and cool vocals this song achieves what every soft rock song of this era was striving for: to sound perfect as the soundtrack to driving in the car, windows down, on a sunny day. It also features background vocals that sound as if they are all singing along to it in an old english pub. This is a contagious effect: I found myself also singing along by song’s end, despite never having heard this song in my life.

6. For the Heart*

This is a rockin’ bop with a ferocious piano shuffle interwoven throughout the song. Shoulder shimmy rating: 7.8.

7. Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall

The sound is so muddled here, it was hard to tell what they were singing. Even Elvis’ voice was hardly distinguishable from that of the back up singers. It’s like they were trying to achieve another sing-a-long effect as they did on “The Last Farewell”, but layered it on way too thick, with some vocal parts actually causing me to do a double take.

8. Solitaire

This is a very sad, melodramatic song. You really need to have some understatement if you are going for the desired effect on this Neil Sedaka penned tune. A good example, and my favorite version, is the Carpenters cover. So I was nervous before this song started playing. However, this one is not too bad. The lilting vocals Elvis employed actually work for this one. It’s a nice rendition. Nothing less, nothing more.

Elvis onstage, 1976

9. Love Coming Down

A song contemplating one’s errors that led to the downfall of a relationship are usually like cat nip to me. The introspection, the heartbreak, the angst…give me more! This one failed to make an imprint on my heart though. I found myself getting distracted throughout which is never a good sign.

10. I’ll Never Fall in Love Again*

Not the Burt Bacharach/Hal David tune, but still a great closing number nevertheless. Most famously performed by Tom Jones, I really enjoyed this sweeping, bluesy number. Elvis’ vocals on the chorus are particularly spectacular as he blends them beautifully with the instrumentation. Despite being a little shouty in parts and a rather abrupt ending, its a pretty bop.

Listen to From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee here

Today

Today, Elvis Presley’s 22nd Studio Album released May 7, 1975

Track List:

  1. T-R-O-U-B-L-E
  2. And I Love You So
  3. Susan When She Tried
  4. Woman Without Love
  5. Shake a Hand
  6. Pieces of My Life
  7. Fairytale
  8. I Can Help
  9. Bringin’ It Back
  10. Green, Green Grass of Home

Elvis Presley’s 22nd studio album, Today, was released on May 7, 1975. The entire album was recorded in Los Angeles two months before, March 10 – 12, 1975. These sessions are notable due to it being Elvis’ last time in a recording studio before his untimely death 2 years later. This album was a moderate success. Its sonic landscape is pop and country – much like Elvis’ other 70s offerings. However, the first single, “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” managed to crack the Top 40. The album is also noteworthy for featuring covers of songs from a diverse array of artists ranging from Perry Como to The Pointer Sisters.

The fact that this album has such a diverse helping of songwriters did not detract from the quality of this album. It is by far my favorite Elvis album as a whole that I have heard in a long while. The sound fits him perfectly, the songs are all top quality, and he is in great vocal form – especially since he recorded this album in two days. The album is sequenced beautifully, helped in no small part by the cohesiveness of these album tracks. Despite the longer length of these songs in comparison to most of Elvis’ previous studio releases, the songs fly by, and unfortunately for me, the album was over before I knew it. I highly recommend checking out this album. I’m recommending 8/10 songs which, let’s be real, is basically the entire album. And the two that I’m not recommending aren’t even that bad. Just some light filler compared to the rest of the album’s strengths. Give it a listen!

*marks notable songs

  1. T-R-O-U-B-L-E*

Elvis’ voice had me at hello, a good sign of things to come for the rest of the album. The spelling here is so fun and suggestive rather than being a novelty gimmick as I had feared. I make many references to Elvis’ halcyon days in the 1950s, but he really does capture that rebellious, troublemaking spirit on this one. It is so danceable in the most carefree way. In fact for it’s danceability rating? I’m giving it a 10/10.

2. And I Love You So*

This song was written by Don McClean and originally made famous by Perry Como. Elvis really Elvis-ed it up and the effects are marvelous. The piano, played by Glen Hardin, is so sparkling, lending to the song’s movie soundtrack feel. Elvis’s passion can also be felt here. And while sometimes the idea of dramatic Elvis is a bit iffy for me, it is kept just enough in check to sound sincere while also keeping the meaning of the song.

3. Susan When She Tried*

Pure country fun. This song would serve as a perfect precursor to George Strait’s “All My Exes Live in Texas”. It’s a delightful, jaunty number. It was also at this point in the album that began to pick up on how brilliantly sequenced it was thus far. A trend that would thankfully continue to the end.

4. Woman Without Love

A countrypolitan/L.A. soft rock hybrid. Most of the time when I complain Elvis’ vocal volume, it has to do with him being too loud. However, this song features him singing way too quietly in a manner which does nothing to match the melancholy mood of the song’s meaning. The dispassionate vocals were so lackluster that halfway through the song, I had already heard everything I needed to hear.

5. Shake a Hand*

Today just got back in the game with the fifth track, “Shake a Hand”. It has a lovely acapella beginning, setting the stage for Elvis bringing his full swagger on this country blues jam. His vibrato is present and is just right, perfectly complimenting the seductive horn instrumentation that was skillfully interwoven throughout this song. Its infectious chorus will have everyone singing along by the end. I certainly was.

6. Pieces of My Life*

The lively nature of this album is in direct contrast with Elvis’ current stage of life. He was only two years away from death when recording this. The poignancy of a song like “Pieces of My Life” cannot be overstated. Beautifully sung, the story here is of a man reflecting on his life. While it is a love song, it has a doomed feel to it. As if the man knows there is not much time left for him in this world. One can’t help but wonder if Elvis had even an inkling of this same feeling – so meaningful is his lyric interpretation. This lyric is most haunting: “I’m looking back on my life to see if I can find the pieces/ I know that some were stolen/ and some just blew away/ Well, I found the bad parts/ found all the sad parts/ But I guess I threw the best part away.”

7. Fairytale*

Don’t let the title of this song (written by Anita and Bonnie Pointer of The Pointer Sisters!) fool you. This country tune is so filled with sarcasm and irony it is easy to see Elvis in the recording booth, singing this with a smirk on his face. Although his vocals tread into overdoing it territory, it works on this playful, humorous, kiss off number.

8. I Can Help*

This is the second track where I noticed how consistent the excellent sequencing has remained on this album. Elvis takes on a noble persona here, and as a listener, we all wish to root for/and in my case be helped by his efforts. It’s a lighthearted banger. In a world where concerts exist, this song would be the perfect one for getting the crowd to put their arms around strangers and sway and sing along together until song’s end. Sigh.

9. Bringin’ It Back

This album features a soothing gospel beginning, then Elvis’s strained vocals enter the chat. Thankfully, the wonderful background vocals continue on the gospel theme and add plenty of nuance to the song that otherwise would not be there. Like I mentioned above, this is by no means a bad song, but the elements never fully came together for me.

10. Green, Green Grass of Home*

A closing song with a Twilight Zone worthy twist. The narrator is a man who goes back to revisit his childhood home, where he is greeted by the loving embrace of his parents and siblings. All seems heavenly until he wakes up and realizes “that I was only dreaming.” Instead of his lovely childhood home, he is greeted with the grim 4 walls of a prison cell. He’s in for life. And the next time he sees his family will be “in the shade of that old oak tree/as they lay me ‘neath the green, green grass of home.” A depressing song that still works as the final destination of this whirlwind journey of an album.

Listen to Today here

Promised Land

Promised Land
released on January 8, 1975

Track List

  1. Promised Land
  2. There’s A Honky Tonk Angel (Who’ll Take Me Back In)
  3. Help Me
  4. Mr. Songman
  5. Love Song of the Year
  6. It’s Midnight
  7. Your Love’s Been a Long Time Coming
  8. If You Talk in Your Sleep
  9. Thinking About You
  10. You Asked Me To

Promised Land, Elvis’ 21st album, was released on his 40th birthday, January 8, 1975. The record was made up of tracks leftover from the sessions of his 20th album, Good Times. While the stronger songs were thought to have gone on the previous album, Promised Land fared better on the charts, peaking at number 47 on the Billboard 200 and at number one on the Billboard country charts.

While the 1975 record buying public seemed to prefer this album to his last, I think team Elvis was right in declaring this the weaker set of songs. While some of the album strengths have carried over here (namely: production prowess and incredible musicianship) the songs and vocal performances are noticeably weaker (especially concerning my personal Elvis pet peeve: way too much vibrato). Despite this, there are still a few riches to be found among this track list.

*notes key tracks

  1. Promised Land*

A cover of a Chuck Berry tune, this song perfectly blends the rock n’ roll vibes of the 50s and of the 70s; the rollicking piano is pure 50s and the rhythm section is especially groovy in a perfectly 70s way. This song was the album’s first single, and peaked at number 14 on the Billboard 100. It is easy to see why this song performed so well compared to some of Elvis’ other late career singles.

2. There’s A Honky Tonk Angel (Who’ll Take Me Back In)*

This is a song you can definitely tell was from the same recording sessions as Elvis’ last album, Good Times. While the song is a tad too long, Elvis’ voice sounds phenomenal on this country western waltz.

3. Help Me

Elvis never sounds as passionate as he does on religious songs. And this bluesy gospel number is no different. While passion is good, this song loses points for both the utterly mismatched harmony singer and Elvis going a little too far with the vibrato.

4. Mr. Songman

This song is so reminiscent of The Byrds that I had to check to see if it was written by one of the band members (it wasn’t). Despite being a perfectly nice song, it’s about 7 or 8 years behind the times, and sounds rather like a muzak version of 1960s soft rock.

5. Love Song of the Year

Oh dear. The vibrato on this is simply too much…to the point where I had to turn the song down at some points. This song is quaint in all the wrong ways, too compressed in some parts, and way too loud in others. Shoutout to Per Erik “Pete” Hallins for providing the shimmering piano in this song – which is the only redeeming part of it, and even that doesn’t do much to rescue this one.

6. It’s Midnight

What appeared at first to be a sleepy, slumbering ballad suddenly juxtaposes into an overwrought, overdramatic drama. A very disjointed track.

7. Your Love’s Been a Long Time Coming

Similarly to the last track, the chorus is way too much on this tune, and the instrumentation is not helping matters. Just another overzealous mid-tempo track.

8. If You Talk in Your Sleep*

Whenever Elvis attempts a soulful sound during this period, it’s usually a winner. This is no exception and I really enjoyed this tune. It sounds of crawling seduction and is a very sassy and fun number.

9. Thinking About You*

Nice opening filled with chill vibes that perfectly capture the ever elusive 70s aesthetic: a sunny day in southern California, driving down the highway. The verses are reminiscent of “Danny’s Song” in melody and since I have a particular inclination towards that song, I am admittedly biased in my praise for “Thinking About You”. Still, this is a simple, lovely little ditty.

10. You Asked Me To*

This romantic, fun closing track has a sparse arrangement that really works. The backing vocals are very similar to a train whistle, which gives the song a feeling of being in constant in motion. This song is given an edge by the honky tonk guitar woven throughout, which is played masterfully by James Burton.

Listen to Promised Land here

Good Times

Good Times, Elvis Presley’s 20th studio album, released on March 20, 1974

Track List

  1. Take Good Care of Her
  2. Loving Arms
  3. I Got a Feelin’ in My Body
  4. If That Isn’t Love
  5. She Wears My Ring
  6. I’ve Got a Thing About You Baby
  7. My Boy
  8. Spanish Eyes
  9. Talk About the Good Times
  10. Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues

Well we have come to Elvis’ 20th studio album, Good Times. Released on March 20, 1974, Good Times was largely made up of songs recorded during a single session at Stax Studios in Memphis in December of 1973, with two tracks (“Take Good Care of Her”, “I’ve Got a Thing About You Baby”) being recorded at Stax Studios in May of the same year. While the album did spawn two hit singles, “I’ve Got a Thing About You Baby” and “My Boy”, it failed to make an impression on either music journalists, who gave the album meddling reviews, or the record buying public, and so the album was relegated to the discount bin fairly quickly.

I think it was a mistake for listeners to dismiss this album. While it is typical of his mid-70s releases, and does get off to a slow start, this album absolutely has its moments. Felton Jarvis did a superb job producing this time around, and the colors of the instruments and vocals are vividly realized. I find myself really digging Elvis’ mid-70s soulful, country, and sometimes dance-y vibes. I was in a meh mood when I pressed play, and by the end of the album I was toe tapping along to songs I had never heard before. Seems like a worthwhile listen to me!

*notes the songs especially recommended 

  1. Take Good Care of Her

This song comes blazing in chorus first. The music to this tune has a gospel like tone to it. While it does feature a pretty piano part played by Bobby Wood, the song tends to ramble on and never goes to a place where it achieves real meaning.

2. Loving Arms*

I was very intrigued by the opening and its soulful groove. Elvis’ smooth yet weathered vocals showcases a voice defined by hard living and heartbreak. He sings very passionately and, in a rarity for this era, manages to keep his vibrato in check on this ballad.

3. I Got a Feelin’ in My Body*

The harmonies on this song are very much in the style of ABBA, meaning we are fully into the 1970s. This swampy blues number features a fine vocal performance that is backed by a smoking hot band. I found myself tapping my feet almost immediately, and the back and forth vocal play between Elvis and his backup singers really pushes the energy of this number over the top. This song was born to be an extended jam onstage, and it is very easy for me to visualize this 3:37 song being stretched out to 10 minutes during a live performance. When a studio cut manages to capture that spontaneous energy, you know you’ve got a good tune (and a great band) on your hands.

4. If That Isn’t Love*

This is a lovely tune. However, in lieu of analyzing this simple song, I want to give a shoutout to longtime Elvis producer, Felton Jarvis. The way he produced Elvis’ vocal performance on this album is phenomenal. Rather than getting ready to cringe when Elvis reaches for a high note, Jarvis was able to harness Elvis’ more wobbly musical impulses and showcase that iconic voice, all the while framing it with impeccable musicians and background vocalists. He manages to really let Elvis hang loose and shine vocally. And that is very apparent on “If That Isn’t Love” as he sounds both powerful and smooth in a way only Elvis can.

5. She Wears My Ring

Elvis sounds like he might be singing with a cold on this light country shuffle. And although expressing the significance of a commitment made by his loved one wearing his ring is an honorable one, this song fails to make a big impression. It’s just a simple little romantic ditty.

6. I’ve Got a Thing About You Baby*

This song, which began side B of the original record, shoots the album’s energy right up to 10. Frankly I found it impossible not to dance in my chair at least a little. Elvis’ understated vocals work brilliantly for this exasperated, fun tune.

7. My Boy

Speaking of ABBA, this song would fit in perfect sequence with their seminal mother/daughter track, “Slipping Through My Fingers”. It is extremely dramatic and show tune worthy. The song, a message from father to son, is heartfelt in its vulnerability. The problem is it borders on histrionics at times, and there is no musical center to ground the very loud emotion coming from Elvis.

8. Spanish Eyes*

This flamenco inspired track makes me feel like I should be enjoying an elegant dinner on a beach somewhere. It’s smooth ocean vibes, especially the gorgeous musical interlude, lend the song a gentle spirit that is so soothing.

9. Talk About the Good Times*

The title track of this album is a very jaunty country jam, with bombastic backup vocals that turn this song into a BOP! The infectious toe tapper rating of this song is at about an 8.8, and it keeps building into an excited frenzy.

10. Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues*

While this track features a hypnotic guitar part, and a stunning Elvis/guitar solo duet on the chorus, the lyrics are sobering. At the center of this tune is a peter pan type who can’t get over his partying ways, and it is hard not to make the comparisons to Elvis’ own life. He would be gone three years after this album was released. It’s a shame he did not take this song’s heed to maybe slow his life down a little. Despite the darker context, the threads of this song are intricately woven together to create a somber, quiet closer to this album.

Listen to Good Times here

Raised on Rock/For Ol’ Times Sake

Raised on Rock/For Ol’ Times Sake released on October 1, 1973

Track Listing:

  1. Raised on Rock
  2. Are You Sincere
  3. Find Out What’s Happening
  4. I Miss You
  5. Girl of Mine
  6. For Ol’ Time’s Sake
  7. If You Don’t Come Back
  8. Just a Little Bit
  9. Sweet Angeline
  10. Three Corn Patches

Raised on Rock/For Ol’ Times Sake was released on October 1, 1973 and is the nineteenth studio album by Elvis Presley. The album was recorded at Stax Studios in Memphis and Elvis’ home in Palm Springs, and featured some songwriters with whom Elvis had previously worked. Unlike his previous efforts this album failed to chart in the UK.

If I had to pick two words to describe my thoughts on the album those words would be: perfectly adequate. This album is not an album you listen to deeply but rather an album that you put on in the background on a sunny Saturday afternoon while you clean your living room. And we all need an album for that. While it does suffer from the typical problems Elvis had in this era *cough* too much vibrato *cough*, the understated, breezy production helps to reign in some of those issues, making this a nice, light listen.

*notes the songs especially recommended 

  1. Raised on Rock

This song is a weird one. This is mainly due to the fact that he is singing, from a first person point-of-view, about being a child in the 1950s when rock n’ roll first started to take over. He keeps listing his favorite songs and artists, and yet…he was at the forefront of the rock n’ roll movement? This discrepancy makes it very hard for me to take this song seriously. Add to that the clunky arrangement and corny (even for Elvis) lyrics, and you’ve got a bit of a dud to start the album.

2. Are You Sincere*

Arranged like other ballads in the early 1970s, the lush instrumentation of this song is serene and calming in the best way. It also marks the first time in many albums where Elvis has managed to make my heart skip a beat. Despite losing some points for an awkward spoken word portion in the middle, this is a lovely tune.

3. Find Out What’s Happening

A hybrid of ’70s soft rock and ’50s rockabilly, the bass and backing vocals make this song a fun toe tapper. Despite the good parts of the song, Elvis himself fails to match the energy.

4. I Miss You*

Hazy, dreamlike production. If I had to paint a movie picture based on this song it would go something like this: a dream sequence (of course) wherein someone finds themselves in an old-time country western saloon, having a drink and reminiscing of times with their loved one. Also shoutout to the key change that arrives towards the end of the song. It elevates the track while still keeping the mellow sentiment in tact.

5. Girl of Mine

The chill, honky tonk vibes of this song are graciously provided by piano player Bobby Wood. However, Elvis is singing like he is trying to win the award for most vibrato on a single song ever recorded. Elvis also tries to belt here, which adds to the song’s suffering.

6. For Ol’ Times Sake*

Elvis sounds worn and tired here, which fits with the pleading yet plaintive tone of this song. I very much enjoyed the understated arrangement, which keeps Elvis’ sometimes wobbly voice in check.

7. If You Don’t Come Back

The music sounds like a Motown song from this era, which is totally groovy. I think Elvis is trying to sound menacing on this song. It never fully goes there though, making the half baked vocal attempt diminish the power of the rest of the song. Major applause to the real stars of “If You Don’t Come Back”: the backup singers (Mary and Ginger Holliday and Kathy Westmoreland) for bringing the power to this song.

8. Just a Little Bit

Elvis must have recorded “If You Don’t Come Back” and this song on the same day, because he is yet again trying to sound vaguely mysterious and yet it doesn’t quite come to fruition, and because he only puts about 50% of the effort in, the song never goes anywhere. However, as in the previous song, others are stepping up to bring the energy. This time it’s the rhythm section (Tommy Cogbill and Ron Tutt) who put the work in.

Elvis onstage, 1973

9. Sweet Angeline

Such a “sweet” opening! This is a lullaby ballad with backing vocal arrangements very reminiscent of Elvis’ past collaborators, The Jordanaires. A very quaint and wistful number that I was originally going to recommend. However, the clumsy vocals by Elvis at the end nixed that idea.

10. Three Corn Patches

Sounds like it could have been a fun rockabilly number. Unfortunately it is tarnished by two things: a.) too much vibrato and b.) Elvis sounds hoarse and like he is losing his voice. Another shoutout to Bobby Wood for supplying a rollicking piano part, and bringing some much needed spirit to this closing track.

Listen to Raised on Rock/For Ol’ Times Sake here

Elvis “The Fool”

Elvis “The Fool”
released in July 1973

Track List:

  1. Fool
  2. Where Do I Go From Here?
  3. Love Me, Love the Life I Lead
  4. It’s Still Here
  5. It’s Impossible
  6. (That’s What You Get) For Lovin’ Me
  7. Padre
  8. I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen
  9. I Will Be True
  10. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right

Elvis Presley’s 18th studio album, Elvis (The Fool), released in July 1973, is a typical late period Elvis album, with songs cobbled together from different recording sessions to attempt to make a cohesive album. Mostly recorded at RCA Studios in Nashville, this album is mostly notable for the three tracks that feature Elvis on piano (“It’s Still Here”, “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen”, and “I Will Be True”).

Like every Elvis album during this period thus far, Elvis (The Fool) does contain some goodies, but it is by no means a fully cohesive effort. Elvis’ voice, particularly his vibrato, is too much at times, and the sound has moved away from the soul genre towards an amalgamation of love ballads, pop, country, and strangely enough…a hint of mariachi? There’s a lot here. Here goes…

*notes the songs especially recommended 

  1. Fool*

The first thing I noticed about this song was how modern its production sounded, the second thing I noticed is how appealing the melody is. I am usually wary of ballads for Elvis during this period, but this one works. Elvis presents himself as either a benevolent spirit or friend here, giving his friend some advice about romance. Also, it is a nice thematic callback to “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You”.

2. Where Do I Go From Here?

Written by the incredible songwriter Paul Williams, meaning we are truly at the peak of the early-70s world of music. This song absolutely has “We’ve Only Just Begun” vibes, especially during the chorus. However, rather than waxing poetic about the uncertainty during the beginning of marriage, this song focuses on the disillusion and jadedness that comes later on, perhaps when that couple is on the brink of divorce. However, the song quality is no “We’ve Only Just Begun.” The chorus is a little messy and hurried, causing the message of the song to get muddled. Also, it’s about 45 seconds too long.

3. Love Me, Love the Life I Lead

Yet another song highlighting the word fool, and also a second semi-callback to “Can’t Help Falling in Love”, yet this song is of a lesser quality. This one is also the perfect example of why Elvis should refrain from doing ballads at this point in his career. The particular vocal flaw of this song? Elvis keeps grasping for a meaningful moment in this song by reaching for the high notes in the most awkward way possible.

Elvis onstage in 1973

4. It’s Still Here

Uh-oh. Another ballad. This one features a nice bluesy arrangement, which does tend to suit Elvis’ voice better. As much of a subtle vocal reflection that Elvis can achieve during this era. It amounts to an adequate acoustic ballad.

5. It’s Impossible*

It is always anxiety inducing when you see that Elvis released a cover of a song you already love, as is the case with “It’s Impossible”. However, this cover is worthy of this song. The strings and Elvis’ nuanced vocals really lend a dreamy quality to this song. This version feels as though it should soundtrack the montage where the two people fall in love in the romcom.

6. (That’s What You Get) For Lovin’ Me*

Elvis goes honky tonkin’ alert! I am really digging the banjo woven throughout this song. It’s a really fun, sassy, little ditty.

7. Padre

This is the one with the aforementioned mariachi vibes. It adds some needed spice to this album, but Elvis’ overwhelming vibrato shows up again here. Particularly at the end when he decides to turn it up even more, making everything way too intense, to the point where I am not sure if the song is supposed to be a fun bop or an angry bop.

8. I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen

Elvis’ melodic piano part on this song is very fitting for this extremely old piece; it was written circa 1875.

Elvis 1973

9. I Will Be True

A love ballad that made me a little sleepy, though that may be intentional. Elvis is playing piano yet again on this one, and his playing is incredibly soothing.

10. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right*

Another jaunty country tune, this one striking a tone that is more low-key and reassuring. Elvis’ vibrato works here and this is a stunner of a closing song.

Listen to Elvis (The Fool) here

He Touched Me

He Touched Me released on April 1, 1972
  1. He Touched Me
  2. I’ve Got Confidence
  3. Amazing Grace
  4. Seeing Is Believing
  5. He Is My Everything
  6. Bosom of Abraham
  7. An Evening Prayer
  8. Lead Me, Guide Me
  9. There Is No God But God
  10. A Thing Called Love
  11. I, John
  12. Reach Out to Jesus

Elvis Presley’s third and final gospel album, He Touched Me, was released on April 1, 1972. While it did not chart, it resulted in Elvis winning his 2nd of three Grammy awards. The album, produced by Felton Jarvis, differed from Elvis’ previous gospel outings by featuring a more contemporary sound. The album eventually went gold in 1992, and platinum in 1999.

Elvis in 1972

Having loved both of Elvis’ previous gospel releases, I was excited to hear He Touched Me. Especially given its modern, 1970s sound. What I found was an album that, while being the same quality as Elvis’ most recent studio releases, it suffered from many of the elements that plagued a lot of Elvis’ music from this period: a little too schmaltzy, a little too much Vegas, and a failure to know when enough vibrato is enough. However, Elvis has a passion for gospel music and this once again shines through, as there are indeed quite a few gems here.

*notes the songs especially recommended 

  1. He Touched Me

A very solemn start to this album. The beginning of this song almost has a Kingston Trio vibe to it. It showcases a shimmering, beautiful piano part throughout, and an incredible ending courtesy of the backup singers.

2. I’ve Got Confidence

The modern, soulful sound of Elvis’ recent releases kicks in on this one. The chorus is very raucous and fun, but perhaps just a chorus too long.

3. Amazing Grace*

When I perused the titles before listening to the album I was excited to hear Elvis take on this classic. The backup singers add an electric intensity to this song, and Elvis’ voice is perfectly centered slightly back in the mix. While I used to prefer his vocals mixed upfront, he tends to suffer from too much vibrato on albums of this period, so this is a good thing. While not due to Elvis himself, the backing vocals are the reason this song is getting a recommendation. Their powerful performance lends the song a literal heavenly magic.

4. Seeing is Believing*

The smoky guitar provides a really nice counterpoint to lyrics about seeing and believing. The ending is a real toe tapper.

5. He Is My Everything

It’s a really pretty listen and all the right elements are there (piano and vocals especially) but the emotional impact is absent.

6. Bosom of Abraham*

Short, sweet, and just what this album needed. The stand-out of this song is the “jack-in-the-box” vocals with different vocal ranges “popping out” at different times.

7. An Evening Prayer

This song features such a grand, passionate vocal from Elvis that it feels like it could have been sung by Gordon McRae in one of the Rodgers & Hammerstein movie musicals of the 1950s. Not to mention the sentiment, praying about one’s own faults, is very touching.

8. Lead Me, Guide Me

Another one with a vibrato problem. Making this song, which already borders on the too sincere, sound overwrought. It’s a shame, since so many other parts of the song are enjoyable.

9. There is No God But God*

This song has got some country flare and some softer vocals which works much better. While the other songs have no question been genuine, this song’s sunnier disposition has been missing from this album. A really welcome change of sound.

10. A Thing Called Love*

Elvis again experiments with his own vocal range on this song, with his deeper register (with a helping of reverb) showing up here. The cheery vibes continue with this song; it sounds dreamy and is a lovely sentiment.

11. I, John*

Features the same vocal effect as “Bosom of Abraham” which I am a fan of, particularly for its contagious quality, as it can cause you to involuntarily sing and clap along. Just a really fun number.

12. Reach Out to Jesus

The album circles back around to a solemn tone for the end, which may have been a little abrupt, but I prefer this song to the album opener. It’s parting message is peaceful and gets to the point of all of Elvis’ gospel records, and is the perfect closer on his final one: “reach out to Jesus, he’s reaching out to you.” Despite the awkward final note, it’s a great closer to complete Elvis’ trio of Gospel albums.

Listen to He Touched Me here

Elvis Now

Elvis Now
Released on February 20, 1972

Track List:

  1. Help Me Make It Through the Night
  2. Miracle of the Rosary
  3. Hey Jude
  4. Put Your Hand in the Hand
  5. Until It’s Time for You to Go
  6. We Can Make the Morning
  7. Early Mornin’ Rain
  8. Sylvia
  9. Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear to Tread)
  10. I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago

Elvis Presley’s 16th studio album, Elvis Now, is a bit of an irony. Mostly consisting of songs from past recording sessions, with a few new songs mixed in, this album is a grab bag of musical genres from gospel, to country, to pop, to rock. This is evident in the diverse array of songwriters on this album: Kris Kristofferson, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Johnny Mercer, Lennon & McCartney, and Gordon Lightfoot to list the most well known songwriters. While the album itself did not chart on the Billboard 200, the album’s sole single, “Until It’s Time for You to Go” did reach number 9 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and the song “Sylvia” became a hit for Elvis in Brazil. Since its release in early 1972, the album has been certified Gold by the RIAA.

Elvis Now definitely sounds like an amalgamation of musical genres, with so many different genres coming together to offer something that may not be cohesive, but certainly offers the listener some options. Which is a good thing at this late stage in his career. As with the previous few album reviews (except for Love Letters, but we don’t talk about Love Letters) there’s some gems here, but the album as a whole is nothing outstanding.

  1. Help Me Make It Through the Night*

I was already familiar with this song, and the gentle, rolling 70s vibes on this one really work for me. Elvis himself sounds grounded and sincere, managing to balance the soft verses with the bombastic chorus. This lyric: “and it’s sad to be alone, help me make it through the night” is simple and devastating.

2. Miracle of the Rosary

Elvis, who released two gospel album in the 1960s, is no stranger to singing religious music, and he takes songs of this sentiment very seriously. This one starts out very somber and then gradually turns into a celebration with a choir that is absolutely ecstatic to be singing on this song.

3. Hey Jude

This gospel-tinged version of The Beatles’ hit feels a bit like entering a mind warp. Here you have two artists who are rock n’ roll superstars and now their paths are crossing. It doesn’t feel right. While this ends up being a perfectly adequate cover, it is way too long for how it is arranged and contains none of the intensity of the original in order to sustain the emotional energy and length of the song. Perhaps the greatest example: the infamous “la la la la la la la” part that serves as a coda at the end of the song is so devoid of any of the anthemic excitement in the original version.

4. Put Your Hand In the Hand*

This is a song about faith, and as mentioned above, faith is an important concept to Elvis. This song is a really lovely gospel tune with a rad dance break in the middle.

5. Until It’s Time for You to Go*

Romantic and groovy. Elvis’ voice cuts through a hypnotic, twinkling piano as if he is speaking through a dreamscape, especially when he sings “don’t ask why, don’t ask how, don’t ask for forever, just love me now.” Trippy 70s goodness.

6. We Can Make the Morning

A steady groove with intricate instrumental parts woven throughout. Can’t ask for more than that. The only issue I have with this song is the chorus comes in a bit too fast, however it was all building to an incredible crescendo and everything comes together nicely in the end.

7. Early Mornin’ Rain*

A spritely banjo part frames this folksy number. This song is refreshing and light, and it turns out folk music looks really good on Elvis. Who knew?

8. Sylvia*

This melodramatic ballad sounds like a soulful waltz and I must say it is awfully catchy. While I usually don’t enjoy Elvis singing these overwrought ballads, this one works. Elvis is throwing himself so passionately into this song, that it is charming and theatrical to listen to.

9. Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear to Tread)*

This jaunty song belongs on a rom-com, backing some playful montage or other. There is a distinct, shining guitar part and light, clean backing vocals that work together to give this song some depth. Due to the title, it feels like the comic yet wiser sequel to “Can’t Help Falling in Love”. Very enjoyable.

10. I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago*

Due to fragments of this song being played throughout Elvis’ country album, I already knew I liked it – I was just thrilled to get to hear a full version! Elvis is having fun playing a character here. In my mind, he is playing a snake oil salesmen using his immortality as a selling point to random passersby as to why they should buy the latest product he is peddling. Elvis is having a blast singing this one, and it’s a really rollicking, light hearted way to end this album.

Listen to Elvis Now here

Elvis sings The Wonderful World of Christmas

Elvis sings The Wonderful World of Christmas
Released on October 20, 1971

Track List:

  1. O Come, All Ye Faithful
  2. The First Noel
  3. On a Snowy Christmas Night
  4. Winter Wonderland
  5. The Wonderful World of Christmas
  6. It Won’t Seem Like Christmas (Without You)
  7. I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day
  8. If I Get Home On Christmas Day
  9. Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees
  10. Merry Christmas Baby
  11. Silver Bells
  12. If Every Day Was Like Christmas (Christmas Bonus)

Elvis sings The Wonderful World of Christmas is Elvis’ 15th studio album, second Christmas album, and his third album released in the year 1971. While this album was not quite as popular as his previous Christmas album, Elvis’ Christmas Album, it still performed very well, topping the Billboard Holiday Albums chart and eventually going 3 times platinum. The only reason it did not chart on the Billboard 200 is because during the years 1963-1973, holiday albums were prohibited from charting.

Elvis’ second Christmas album is in fact a mixed bag containing quite a few gems, some duds, and a few that are just ok. Overall, managed to get me into the spirit of the season (I am writing this on December 16th) and that makes for a solid holiday album in my book. The quality of the album can be determined by bookends, with both beginning and ending being solid, in some cases even spectacular, offerings, and the middle ranging from meh to a song that would never work on its own. However, they weren’t standalone songs, and were part of a collection that made me feel cozy, nostalgic, and ready to embrace the Christmas season.

*notes the songs especially recommended

  1. O Come, All Ye Faithful*

Very serene and yes, faithful, to the version that can be heard in many churches this time of year. What I love about this take is that it’s not perfect, in fact it’s a little clunky, but going with the authentic church vibe, it works. It puts you in a pew, singing along with other reluctant singers who just can’t help singing along to a Christmas carol that have heard all their lives. The second half is where it picks up, even getting a beat, albeit a tame one, behind it, with a phenomenal backing choir.

2. The First Noel*

At first listen, I thought Elvis was maybe being too dramatic on vocals, however, the light touches of the instruments provide a nice counter effect to that. With the lovely soprano choir, this is a really solid version of this Christmas standard.

3. On a Snowy Christmas Night*

This song made me smile. As cheesy as that might sound, it perfectly evokes a peaceful feeling that we all long for around this time of year. It actually put me by the fireside on Christmas night, surrounded by family and loved ones after a wonderful day. My favorite line of the song: “mother nature wears a bridal gown, for the world is dressed in white”. Beautiful.

4. Winter Wonderland*

A fun, honky tonk take on this classic song of the season and I am not mad about it. The understated music lends itself to the holiday square-dance feel, and goes perfectly with Elvis’ vocals, and a counterpoint guitar playing throughout in a way that is almost duetting with Elvis. Just a good yeehaw Christmas tune.

5. The Wonderful World of Christmas

The title track of the album which maybe Elvis is trying to emphasize a bit too much. The song has a very beautiful sentiment, but the way it was presented here just didn’t connect with me.

6. It Won’t Seem Like Christmas (Without You)

Yet another song where I feel Elvis is affecting his vocals too much and using way too much vibrato. He almost sounds like a parody of himself on this one.

Elvis, Priscilla, and Lisa Marie Presley. Circa 1971

7. I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day

Some soulful bass to start which deceived me into thinking this song would be better than the previous two. The nice musical buildup does frame Elvis’ voice well, and he sounds a little like Willie Nelson on this track. However, the song itself is blustering and doesn’t really go anywhere.

8. If I Get Home On Christmas Day

The second of the two “Home” songs, this tune is a lot better than the previous, but this time, it’s Elvis’ vocals that are slacking-a-lacking. They do start out nice at the beginning, and, despite the reoccurring vocal issues, it is a perfectly pleasant song to listen to. It also gets extra points for the euphoric choral moment at the end, which lends this song a needed sprinkling of magic.

9. Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees*

This reflective, quiet number needs a deeper, softer vocal….which Elvis delivers stunningly. A contemplation of what Christmas used to be when you were a kid, this song is nostalgic, bittersweet, and so very relatable.

10. Merry Christmas Baby*

Sultry warning for this is about 100/10 and I for one was not prepared! This song is oozing with that raw, sensual blues that Elvis does so well. He’s even got all the instruments acting up. The bass is playing hide and seek. The guitar is teasing folks relentlessly. The piano is being flirty and fabulous. This is a rousing, raunchy Christmas romp and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

11. Silver Bells*

Reeling the flirtatiousness back in, we come to a beloved version of a Christmas classic. I have so much affection for his cover of “Silver Bells”. The perfect orchestration, Elvis’ tender vocals, even his iffy vibrato lends the song a certain nuance. A forever favorite.

12. If Every Day Was Like Christmas**(Christmas Bonus!)

This song was not on the original album release, but it was on Spotify’s version of the album, and after I heard it, I just had to include it here. The song is contemplative and wistful and the perfect ending song for this album. Elvis’ gentle and sweet singing expresses a feeling I believe many of us are familiar with. After all, why can’t the holiday magic last all year round?

While this album review will be posted after Christmas, it will be posted on December 28, in that special in between period when the festivities are ongoing and holiday spirit still lingers in the air. However you celebrate, I extend to you a hearty season’s greetings. I wish everyone a 2021 that is happy, healthy, and yes, maybe even a little magical.

Listen to Elvis sings the Wonderful World of Christmas here

Love Letters from Elvis

Love Letters from Elvis released on June 16, 1971

Track List:

  1. Love Letters
  2. When I’m Over You
  3. If I Were You
  4. Got My Mojo Working/Keep Your Hands Off of It
  5. Heart of Rome
  6. Only Believe
  7. This Is Our Dance
  8. Cindy, Cindy
  9. I’ll Never Know
  10. It Ain’t No Big Thing (But It’s Growing)
  11. Life

Love Letters from Elvis, released on June 16, 1971 is what some may call a dud of an album. Elvis’ 14th studio album was culled together from a mega recording session he did that resulted in 35 tracks being recorded. While the bulk of these songs had been put on his previous two releases, Elvis & Co. were going to try and squeeze one more album out of it. Bad choice. The album was critically panned, and failed to crack the top 20 on the Billboard 200.

Despite the lack of hype, I tried to listen to this album with an open mind. I really did. But sometimes the critic’s original opinions are correct. This album is by far the worst one I have heard on this Elvis journey. I should have known from the album cover. That quintessential, later years uniform that Elvis is so associated and parodied with pointed to this album being very cheesy, very schmaltzy, and very, very Vegas. The two definitive markers of this album being bad? 1. I have no song titles highlighted in my notes so that I might recommend them later; 2. I just glanced at the track list again and realized that I do not remember anything specific about any of the songs…none of the 11 tracks made an impression on me. Zero. I was just grateful it was over.

  1. Love Letters

Already the opening lines of this album are pure cheese (“Love letters straight from your heart, keep us so near while apart”). The piano is pretty and this is one of the songs on the album that I feel could have been fixed by better singing and production values. But the vocal is way off and the song never achieves the oomph factor.

2. When I’m Over You

Track 2 starts out with a funky sound and then for some reason transitions into a muzak sound, which unfortunately is a common theme throughout this album. Turns out muzak and Elvis do not exactly mix. I could feel this song trying to find its emotional core but it never does.

3. If I Were You

This honky tonk wannabe is decent sounding, with Elvis singing in his sometimes neglected softer tone which is very nice. However, I found myself just getting distracted here, a reoccurring issue during this listening session. Also, sorry but what are these lyrics?? “If I were you I’d know that I’d love me”…huh??

ELVIS PRESLEY ‘SINGER & ACTOR’ (1971) 01 May 1971 CTS65879 Allstar/Cinetext/MGM

4. Got My Mojo Working/Keep Your Hands Off of It

This song was originally a long jam session that was edited into this mash-up. It feels that way since the editing is such that we are abruptly thrown into this raucous tune. It sounds like they tried to come across as rough and energetic but their goal was not achieved. Also, they should have tried to edit it down more because this song was way too long.

5. Heart of Rome

The beginning of this song feels like it might work but shocker….it doesn’t. Why are all these songs so bad?? So. Much. Cheese.

6. Only Believe

Oh. I guess Elvis found his passion somewhere?? This is the best he has sounded on this album. However, the song itself is only subpar.

7. This Is Our Dance

It’s always bad news when a singer sounds sleazy on a song that is supposed to be romantic. Elvis is just trying wayyyy too hard on this semi-waltz, and he ends up sounding leering and desperate which is honestly not a good look for him. Instead of being the charmer that he once was, he’s now the creepy guy you cross the street to avoid.

8. Cindy, Cindy

This is the first (and turns out only) song that attempts to be a rocker on this album, and Elvis’ raw vocals are nice. However, this tune was bogged down by such meh material elsewhere on the album, that the song itself did not stand out.

9. I’ll Never Know

Typical saccharine drudge of this album. I got so sidetracked during this one that it just passed me by.

10. It Ain’t No Big Thing (But It’s Growing)

Track 10 was the moment I realized that some of these songs would be so much better if some production changes were made. For example, the twangy guitar on this one is too bright and distracting, taking away from all the other elements of the song. Also, why oh why did they ever think muzak would be the right choice for Elvis Presley?? It’s a total waste of an album.

11. Life

So I think on this one he is singing about the actual beginning of life on Earth?? It is just so broad and out of left field. And again some of the production choices are beyond cringe. Whoever opted to loop the woodwind instrument throughout this whole song absolutely made the wrong choice. But honestly at least the album is over.

Listen to Love Letters from Elvis here

(Caution: I wouldn’t)