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.