Friday, November 18, 2011

Reviews From The Past 2

Reading the other day that Elvis Country will be the next Elvis legacy release from Sony (coupled with Love Letters From Elvis) made me remember my brother telling me of the high praise the album received in a review by Rolling Stone's Peter Guralnick when it was originally released.

My brother had read the review after bying a box set called Rolling Stone Cover To Cover, featuring a searchable digital archive on DVD, from the first issue in 1967 through 2007. He recently gave me the box set as a gift, which enabled me to study the review first hand. I'd like to quote one of the passages Peter Guralnick wrote in issue 77, published on March 4, 1971:
It's the singing, the passion and engagement most of all which mark this album as something truly exceptional, not just an exercise in nostalgia but an ongoing chapter in a history which Elvis' music set in motion. All the familiar virtues are there. The intensity. The throbbing voice. The sense of dynamics. That peculiar combination of hypertension and soul. There is even, for those who care to recall, a frenzied recollection of what the rock era once was, as Elvis takes on Jerry Lee Lewis' masterful "Whole Lotta Shakin'" and comes out relatively unscathed. He has never sung better.
While reading this, I imagined how exciting it must have been being an Elvis fan back then, reading the review and then buying the record and listening to songs such as "Tomorrow Never Comes," "Funny How Time Slips Away," "I Really Don't Wan't To Know" and last but not least, the hard-driving "I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water."

Four months later, though, I bet it wasn't as fun to read what reviewer Jon Landau had to say about Love Letters From Elvis in Rolling Stone issue 87, from July 22, 1971:
The first cut is "Love Letters" and it's a beautiful song. Presley's voice is all there and then in comes the schizoid background, half funk and half muzak. And thus it goes for two sides of Presley's latest. The voice is there, some of the material is OK, James Burton is picking away, the rhythm sounds passable, but oh those strings, horns, background voices, and what not. It's enough to drown a grown man - precisely what it does to Elvis on this album. Love Letters is the most discouraging event of the last three years of Presley's career.
So, do you agree with these reviews from the past? After reading the one by Peter Guralnick I gave Elvis Country a spin, and have to concur with what he wrote: Elvis has never sung better.


ReMMeZ said...

I agree, after the high pitched American Sound studio's in 1969 .. in 1970 Elvis is as far as i am concerned on top of his game. His voice sounds delightfull.


Michael said...

Well I definitely agree with the Elvis Country review, as it's my favorite Elvis album ;)

Thomas said...

ReMMeZ: Nice to hear from a fellow Elvis blogger! Yes, the songs recorded in 1969 are right at the top as well.

Michael: Elvis Country is certainly one of my favorites as well!

MĂ„rtenbrother said...

Yes, this is my all-time favourite Elvis album! I had hoped the Legacy treatment would have included the original album + all the tracks without the "I Was Born About 10,000 Years Ago" inserts on the second disc (as well as a selection of bonus songs). I mean, Love Letters? It must have been a little strange being an Elvis fan in 1971 ...