Often overlooked oddity
Phil S. | USA | 12/21/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Without a doubt, one of his best albums, almost by accident: RCA wanted something out there to commemorate his 10th Anniversary with the label, and in 1965, they had to sift through non-commercial movie material, unfinished ballads, and alot of other stuff not destined for the Top 10.
But that's fine with me, because these "leftovers" are all listenable, and some, unbenownst to me at age 14, were true "gold", in the non-financial sense: a pearl of a blues ballad, "Tomorrow Night" pressed at 2:48, not the expected 2:58 [it's possible tht a power-that-be realized that the overdub was applied to a slowed down master], from the Lonnie Johnson and Lavern Baker catalogues, given royal post-production (11 years later!) by Mr. Chet Atkins. (Interesting that the vocal group actually echoed Lonnie Johnson's 1958 re-imagined [overdubbed] release of his '40s Classic.) This is pure Elvis, "real" Elvis, which back in '54/'55?, when Elvis cut the number, might have enraged fans who associated him only with the uptempo numbers that Sam Phillips believed in. Research of course shows that these heart emanations were possibly more "personal" and meaningful to the man himself.
Talkin' about ballads, well as you might expect, there are some brilliant and expressive cuts here - don't worry about *underproduction*, if you will on the film songs, because you can't argue with Elvis and guitar-only efforts - again, when I first heard "Forget Me Never" and "In My Way" [alternate take here!], I didn't associate Elvis with strumming for real on a recording. At that point, I wasn't sure that he was hitting the right chords on "Poison Ivy League", or something, from the movies.
History has enriched the tale of "When It Rains, It Really Pours", yeah, who knew it was a "remake" for Elvis at that point. Now this one does sound a little empty, it's not quite *there*, but Presley's raw vocal cascades over the tentative beat and licks. It's the 1957 sound, a year of successful experiments resulting in some of the most exciting sounds captured in the medium (to this day!).
"You're Cheatin' Heart" didn't find it's way out of the vaults back in 1958 - again, a progressive country-jazz-rock mixture, which despite some very entertaining vocal effects, actually good-natured imitations of Elvis from the Jordanaires, just couldn't find a B-side, or EP, or album spot. (Probably shoulda found it's way to that "It Happened at the World's Fair" 1963 album - boy, if an Elvis soundtrack ever needed a "bonus song"!!). Perhaps, Elvis was consciously injected some Jackie Wilson-feel into the traditional Country tune.
"I Met Her Today" is pure early '60s Nashville balladeering, Elvis employing that new near-falsetto, on the gentle, melancholy reflection. The rhythm approaches medium beat ballad, but it's been reported that after many takes, it was what it was. Perfect mix of an imperfect record.
He only reasonably contemporary track was the 1964 "Memphis, Tennessee", a double-drum entry, well-mixed despite what some critics have said. It was smart to recut the tune, which in that "Lost Session" session of '63 sounded tired and off-balance. That drum intro. was hooky enough to find a chart wormhole, but Elvis again tries something different - a soft, crooning style on an upbeat rock and roll classic. The great R & B group, The Spiders were specialists at this, but one would expect the Memphis Flash to take it higher.
Chuck Berry's masterpiece was all over the map at vthat time, garnering high numbers, so maybe El, Colonel, and co., said....whatever....we don't need it.
I have to assume that RCA at the time did not expect a release with such historical resonance. It's really is an Elvis showcase - turning those proverbial lemons into lemonade...for Everyone!
[By the way, It was Elvis For Everyone in the U.S.A. and Elvis For Everybody overseas].