Elvis Presley’s “Elvis For Everyone” Reviewed
An odds and sods ka-ching ring the cash register move, Elvis Presley’s album # 23 is proof that when it comes to making albums for Elvis, he can pull them out of the blue sky and put them together with ease. This, his first album not tied to a movie in two years, a life time in Presley album terms, is a hodge podge of unreleased tracks, some from the aborted 1963 sessions, some dating as far back as 1954, “Tomorrow Night”, first re-recorded but the version we have today is the Sun Session original. Al twelve songs in less than 30 minutes, hell , less than 25 minutes, it is short but not shortchanged.
There is no reason why Elvis for Everyone should be better than his movie recording studio sessions, but it sure is. The (1958) “Your Cheating Heart” doesn’t really work for me, though Scotty Moore’s solo to open it does. Elvis sounds great but it is the definition of countrypolitan and the Jordanaires are a major annoyance. The thing about Hank, is: it should be sung solo, it is all break up and heart break, and swinging it or having background singers isn’t such a great idea. Though as rock critic Bill Holdship noted, Presley’s “yeah”, just after Scotty’s second solo, adds magic to the magical, for me it is not quite enough.
Much better is a truly Elvis take on “Memphis Tennessee”. Chuck is setting you up for “Marie is only six years old” on the song, so he has a youthful, not quite callow. Berry takes what we know of his teen romance, his “Almost Grown”ness, and he plays with our expectation by playing it youthful: it sounds like puppy love gone wrong till you realize you’ve been fooled and it is too late. Presley doesn’t do that, he wears his heart so on his sleeve and his voice aches with feeling,. It is a marvelous vocal, the band have sped it up, it is rockabilly, but Presley neither hides behind the beat nor chases the band, he sets his own pace and when he is singing, you think he is going to break apart: his voice isn’t soft, he isn’t crooning, it is a rock and roll performance. He doesn’t oversell “Marie is only six years old information please”, he doesn’t stress please the way Berry does, but he digs so deep into the song it is more moving without the trickiness, And it is prescient, Lisa Marie wasn’t born till four years later, in 1968. Berry suddenly becomes a man on that line, Presley has been a man all along. And one more thing, Presley is Memphis’ favorite son and that is just behind the song.
“Memphis Tennessee” is so good it pulls the entire album with it, but it isn’t alone. “Santa Lucia”, hijacked from “Viva Las Vegas”, might not be as good as “It’s Now Or Never”, but it has the same DNA. As does the very next song, though “I Met Her Today” isn’t opera, it has a similar tone. And for the third song in a row, there is a certain restraint to Presley’s vocal. The entire album ends one song later, with the true Presley blues “When It Rains, It Really Pours” . I thought it was Leiber-Stoller but it isn’t.
There are four songs off Presley movies, all pretty good as far as it goes. Especially “Finders Keepers” –a cool little rocker which has some of “(I Wanna Be Your) Teddy Bear” novelty about it. The “Flaming Star” outtake “Summer Kisses, Winter tears” is just about a perfect ballad.
Like I said, there is no reason for this to be such a good album, or even an album at all, but the material is a step above the movies, and his singing has never been in doubt anyway. Though only 24 minutes in length, all of them are pretty darn good. Elvis for Everyone went Top Ten in the US. As Nipper the Dog, sitting on a cash register, might add: not a bow wow in sight.