- And I Love You So
- Susan When She Tried
- Woman Without Love
- Shake a Hand
- Pieces of My Life
- I Can Help
- Bringin’ It Back
- 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
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This song was written by Don McClean and originally made famous by Perry Como.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.”
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.