Pot Luck – Elvis Presley

Pot Luck released on May 18, 1962

Track Listing

  1. Kiss Me Quick
  2. Just for Old Time Sake
  3. Gonna Get Back Home Somehow
  4. (Such an) Easy Question
  5. Steppin’ Out of Line
  6. I’m Yours
  7. Something Blue
  8. Suspicion
  9. I Feel That I’ve Known You Forever
  10. Night Rider
  11. Fountain of Love
  12. That’s Someone You Never Forget

Pot Luck, released on May 18, 1962 is Elvis’ 7th studio album. Recorded in 6 days spanning a year, the album was primarily recorded in Nashville and Hollywood. The primary songwriters on Pot Luck were Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, who also wrote the album’s most well known song, “Suspicion”.

My lukewarm reaction to the last album and the increasing watering down of Elvis Presley made me hesitant to listen to this album. At first, it felt like my fears were justified, and I found myself dreading the fact that I had to continue listening to Elvis’ discography. However, after just two songs the album picked up the pace for me, opening up the possibilities of a new, still affecting sound from Elvis. Here’s hoping. This album has many enjoyable bops.

The album gets right into it with “Kiss Me Quick”, but it still spends much of the running time trying to find its groove. Elvis’ voice does sound good, and he is not holding back too much. But therein lies my problem with Elvis’ offerings from this period, he sounds 50s-lite, a cheap imitation of the power he used to bring on his earlier hits. “Just For Old Time Sake” is gospel hymn like and understated. However, the piano in the second verse is very distracting and unfortunately, my biggest takeaway from this song.

“Gonna Get Back Home Somehow” is where this album began to pick up for me. The song is very influenced by the surf rock genre that was beginning to be in vogue at this time. And while the guitar and Elvis’ voice are on the verge of sounding edgy and cool, the lush arrangement keeps the song from going anywhere approaching dangerous or forbidden. The ending does try to salvage it though! Elvis comes in strong, his voice and the instruments building together in frantic desperation.

For cool, breezy vibes turn to the 4th track, “(Such an) Easy Question”. I have the most vivid picture of this song in my head. I picture Elvis standing outside, nonchalantly leaning against a telephone pole, and being coy (and maybe smoking a cigarette?). There is such a knowing smirk to this song that it made me blush and feel all flustered. Elvis: 1, Maria: 0.

Elvis in 1962

Elvis goes rockabilly on “Steppin’ Out of Line”. The baritone backing vocals are great on this short song, but the true star of this song is the sax solo, by legendary player Boots Randolph. I could spend days talking about this sax solo, but to spare you, I will not. Let’s just say that the sax brings the dance party to this one and I am forever grateful. With the ballad “I’m Yours”, Elvis brings softness. Much like the ballads on his early records, particularly his cover of “Blue Moon”, this ballad is very soft and loopy, serving as a casual declaration of his love. If you rearranged this song ever so slightly, it could easily be performed by a barbershop quartet, this is especially true considering the wonderful and ridiculous speaking part by Elvis that functions as the bridge of this song…ahh the early ’60s and their spoken bridges.

My favorite song on the album is the heartbreaking track 7, “Something Blue”. The piano part greets you first, and it is so beautiful and melancholy, setting the tone for the rest of this very sad song. The vocal melody here is pretty and there are some surprising melodic fluctuations throughout. The song is a play on the wedding saying “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”. While this extended metaphor could have easily turned corny, the lyrics evolve during the song, telling more and more of this story of sadness and separation. The last time Elvis sings “his wedding band” sounds like he has legit tears in his eyes. This is made even more palpable by the fact that he tries to recover on the next line, “something borrowed” but quickly gives up, resigning himself to the fact that he is to remain broken hearted. Amazing vocal performance that choked me up.

The most well known track on the album is the aforementioned “Suspicion”. Like the first track, this song kicks right into gear, which is probably not a coincidence as they were written by the same songwriting team, Pomus/Shuman. Elvis’ incredible vocal streak continues here, as he portrays a sense of onomatopoeia, sound a little sketched out every beat of the way. This song has a really fun groove to it, and I love the line, “maybe I’m suspicious because love is hard to find”. Ain’t that the truth.

The way Elvis sings “forever” on the ninth track, “I Feel I’ve Known You Forever”, is why people still talk about Elvis. He can instill a book’s worth of meaning in just one word, and it feels so sincere. While the backing vocals are a little overpowering on this one, they sound so heavenly and reminiscent of a church choir that is is hard to complain about it. Lovely song. The surf rock influence emerges again on “Night Rider”. “Oh my!”, was my reaction when this song started. This is a fun one. While I am not exactly sure what a night rider is, it sounds like he is a bit of a party animal, which, after being stuck inside for almost 8 months, sounds like a blast and a half.

“Fountain of Love” is very busy right away. There’s a lot going on, which is not my favorite sonic landscape for Elvis, simply because his voice is powerful enough on its own. There is a warm, velvety guitar part that stands out here, which suits Elvis’ warm, velvety vocals just fine. In the middle of the song all the elements that were previously doing their own thing come together. It’s nice, but I just wish it had happened sooner.

The album ends on a very sad note. Rumored to be about Elvis’ recently deceased mother, “That’s Someone You Never Forget” is different in tone, conveyed by the backing vocals which are seeped in minor chords that permeate the entire song with a mournful undercurrent. Elvis even sounds vulnerable here, his fragile vocals emphasizing this song is about a tough loss. Such a sad, emotional, beautiful way to end this album.

Listen to Pot Luck here

Personnel:

  • Scotty Moore – rhythm guitar
  • Jerry Kennedy – lead guitar on “Night Rider”
  • Hank Garland – lead guitar on “Kiss Me Quick,” “I’m Yours,” and “That’s Someone You Never Forget”
  • Tiny Timbrell – rhythm guitar on “Steppin’ Out of Line”
  • Harold Bradley – guitar
  • Grady Martin – guitar, vibes
  • Floyd Cramer – piano, organ
  • Dudley Brooks – piano
  • Gordon Stoker – piano
  • Bob Moore – double bass
  • D.J. Fontana – drums
  • Buddy Harman – drums
  • Millie Kirkham – backing vocals
  • The Jordanaires – backing vocals
  • Boots Randolph – saxophone

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