(Not) The King of rock and roll

He might have changed the face of music in the 20th century, been one of the most exciting performers ever and known how to shake a pelvis or two, but Elvis Presley – the king of rock and roll – don’t make me laugh!? Over the space of twenty years he managed to record just about enough quality songs to pad out a greatest hits CD. Lennon and Macca managed around the same number in Abbey Road’s Studio Two on an average wet Tuesday afternoon. Minor Duke or even a Marquis, but certainly not the King. Besides if Elvis is the king of rock and roll how come arguably his best album, From Elvis in Memphis, has hardly any rock and roll on it?

Recorded in Memphis in 1968, the imaginatively titled From Elvis in Memphis captures the Marquis doing what he did best – interpreting the music of the southern states of his birth – soul and country. A distant cousin of white soul albums like Dusty in Memphis and Bobbie Gentry’s Touch ‘em with Love, both of which incidentally were recorded in… well you know, Elvis’s album gets some lip service from the fans as it includes his biggest later day hit – the glorious In the Ghetto.

Yet energised by his recent TV special and backed by a crack team of musicians he delivers twelve songs that rank amongst the best of his rather chequered career. The opener Wearing That Loved On Look sets the template – funky backing, brilliant vocals, groovy girl backing singers. From here on in its gems all the way. He never sounded quite as mournful as Long Black Limousine or as potent as on the lock-up-your-daughters groin thrust of Power of My Love. At the other end of the spectrum there’s Gentle on my Mind, a souped version of the song made famous by Glen Campbell, that could well be the definitive take.

Fork out for the extra tracks boxed set and you also get Suspicious minds and Kentucky Women, two more of his finest singles. Buy this, the Sun Sessions and, for sheer entertainment value, the soundtrack to the movie he made with Nancy Sinatra – Speedway. You’ll then have pretty much all Elvis’s essential moments. Is that a great return for twenty years in the biz?

Elvis Presley – From Elvis in Memphis 1969 (RCA)


3 Responses to “(Not) The King of rock and roll”

  1. Matt Hill Says:

    Yes this is a great great album. Country – Soul at it’s best. But I have to take exception at saying elvis was not the King of rock n roll. Nevermind the Sun sessions his early albums for RCA were just brilliant and surely heartbreak hotel, blue suede shoes, don’t be cruel and hound dog are enough to earn the title King of rock n roll?

    If you don’t believe me check out the 5 cd 1950’s Complete Masters box set. The man was a genius.

  2. Mike Sigers Says:

    I’d have to agree that his early work was where that title came from. And not so much his music as his changing the face of rock-n-roll.

    No one person can stay the King forever, but there’s still a lot of people at Graceland EVERY day.

    He’s still in people’s conversations EVERY day.

    Perception is reality, except when it ain’t 😉

  3. trakka Says:

    its the comments of contemporaries that make this a moot argument in 2005 i reckon…’before elvis there was nothing, after elvis there was something’…

    agree w/ y’all about the vitality of From Elvis in Memphis: if only he’d recorded more stuff w/ Chips Moman at the helm…

    But i count my blessings that Sam Phillips was such a passionate and principled man that he captured Elvis, Scotty & Bill ‘goofing around’ and changed our cultural landscape forever…

    we’re lucky these days in that we can also get hold of his Louisiana Hayride appearances too…

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