- There’s Always Me
- Give Me the Right
- It’s a Sin
- Sentimental Me
- Starting Today
- I’m Coming Home
- In Your Arms
- Put the Blame on Me
- I Want You With Me
- I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell
Elvis’ album Something for Everybody, released on June 17, 1961, had a unique sequencing. The album, recorded at Studio B in Nashville, was sequenced so the first half of the album consisted of all ballads, while the second half of the album was made up of upbeat rock n’ roll numbers. Initially, this format piqued my interest, as I am always down for some interesting sequencing. But listening to it made clear how much better it is for songs of different tempos and genres to be interwoven together. In fact, this album could serve as the argument as for why that is absolutely the best way to go. Although managing to reach number 1 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart, it is by no means his best collection, or sequence(!), of songs.
Possibly the strongest, and definitely most popular song here is “There is Always Me”. The lush piano immediately sets the sonic tone of the album. Elvis displays wonderfully nuanced vocals here, starting out timid and shy, but building into a stronger, more confident voice that reaches a crescendo at the end, all guided by powerful backing vocals courtesy of Elvis’ vocal sidekicks, The Jordanaires. This song is also notable for it’s slightly stage musical feeling, as other songs on this album also have the same vibe. It works here, but there are other songs where the feeling will be overwrought. From the first brazen vocal note, “Give Me the Right”, the second song on the album, has a sensual tint to it, despite residing on the ballad side. This is especially evident in the lyric, “why make me plead for something you need”. The raunchy sax, courtesy of Boots Randolph, really plays that point home.
“It’s a Sin” sounds like a cross over between a country ballad and a lullaby. Elvis sounds beautiful and understated here. Particularly on the word ‘of’ in “to keep this memory of you”, and again on the word ‘love’ in “again in how I love you”. The next track, “Sentimental Me”, features a bluesy shuffle that sounds like a callback to his 50s music. While this track is perfectly nice, with some intriguing baritone backing vocals, it was here where I already started getting a little bored with all the ballads. It was hard for me to judge this song on its own merits, as I was ready for something musically different.
“Starting Today” is a very soft ballad about resolving to get over someone and setting an expiration date in which to do so. This sentiment will be sung about until the end of time, but what I really loved was hearing it in ballad form. In today’s music, these songs are frequently upbeat and have an “in-your-face” attitude to them. But in this song, Elvis is resigning himself to getting over someone, not because he wants to but because he feels like he has to. The last song on the ballad side, “Gently”, is led by guitar hero Scotty Moore, in a part that is the personification of the song’s title. The melody and music sound like it could be placed at the end of a movie, with the two main characters in love and riding off into the sunset together. I truly cannot say enough about the looping guitar, which really ups the ante on this song, keeping it from becoming a dull tune and turning it into a really pretty ballad.
Finally we are into the rock n’ roll songs! This was my thought when “I’m Coming Home” began to play, a fun bop that is absolutely perfect for doing the twist. The bass and piano work really well together on this one, especially during the extended dance break in the middle of the song, with Elvis’ voice literally ‘bringing it home’ in the end (pun absolutely intended). The next number, “In Your Arms”, has an Elvis Sultry Warning! This song wins the award for best simile on the album with, “like a kitten with a ball of twine”. And also features a sexy saxophone part that will ring all the sultry alarms.
“Put the Blame on Me” is yet another sassy song in Elvis’ catalogue. There is not much that standout on this tune but musically it does function as a brief preview of Elvis’ Las Vegas era. However, on this song, it is not too schmaltzy and the showbiz effect does work. The way Elvis sings the name Judy in the next track of the same name is so fluid and smooth, and flows so well. It is yet more proof of how Elvis can sing one just one word of a song and completely up the quality of it. There is a different sound to the piano here, as it almost sounds more keyboard like.
“I Want You With Me” begins with Elvis singing in a style so reminiscent of his 1950s vocals that it makes you miss that time period so much. Because this ain’t the 50s anymore, folks, and that is my big problem with some of the musical choices on this album. Despite the song’s lyrics begging for it, the arrangement is much too lush for Elvis to really let loose vocally. His voice is buried so far back in the mix that everything else (instruments, backing vocals) overpowers him. The problem continues into the final song of the album, “I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell”, which features some interesting, very early ’60s gimmicky backing vocals. But, yet again the glaring problem here is why are Elvis freaking Presley’s vocals not the focal point? It is very frustrating to listen to, knowing that the song could be radically different by just changing that one thing.
There are some very enjoyable songs on this album, most of them falling on the ballad side (“There’s Always Me”, “Give Me the Right”, and “Gently”). However, because you are so bogged down with the ballads or uptempo tunes of each respective side, it can be hard to see the song as individual. Let’s hope Elvis decides to forgo this format on future albums.
- Elvis Presley – vocals, acoustic rhythm guitar
- Millie Kirkham – backing vocals
- The Jordanaires – backing vocals
- Boots Randolph – saxophone
- Scotty Moore – electric guitar
- Hank Garland – electric guitar
- Floyd Cramer – piano
- Bob Moore – double bass
- D.J. Fontana – drums
- Buddy Harman – drums
- Tiny Timbrell – lead guitar
- Dudley Brooks –piano
- Meyer Rubin – double bass