Elvis Presley’s “Elvis” (NBC 1968 Special) reviewed
So the legend enters the third part of his career, the touring years, with the famous 1968 NBC Special, a return of the King with all his skills exactly where he left them in1960. At least, that’s the party line. I agree but not 100%, in the eight intervening years, Presley wasn’t the disaster he appeared to be, there was a wealth of great material and in retrospect, what stymied him in the 60s was as much culture shock as barbiturates and bad taste. . On an album by album case, well, some of the material was absolutely beneath him. “Old MacDonald Had A farm” comes to mind. But not all of it. Maybe not even half. I could envision Elvis going on a Movies songs only tour and being quite spectacular. After all, he had Scotty and DJ by his side through the whole lot.
Just, truly, for no reason but that it popped into my head, how much worse is “I’m Not The Marrying Kind” to “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” ? Teddy bear may be better but it isn’t BETTER… they are both very playful pop moves of the first degree.
So on album number 34th, Elvis (NBC-TV Special), it is not that the original release, (five medleys plus two songs, taking him from the beginning, the fourteen minute prime Presley romp medley nestle on side one of the original LP, to the end, the latter day “Guitar Man”, with some Christmas songs and Christian contemporaries, and later hits in between) is worse than it was, but rather, it feels less of a resurrection. Listening to his first thirty three releases, he never was as lost as we thought he was.
As the years went by, the 68 Special was released and released and expanded upon, and now we have everything, and it is just as great as original November release, just with more of it. If Elvis seemed genuinely happy, I don’t think that means he was genuinely miserable the rest of the time. Certainly, How Great Thou Art was the real deal by any sense and meaning of the world.
It neither stands up nor does it not stand up: it has nothing to stand up to because it is a stand alone and exists alone. After listening to his first 33 albums, it is more of the same only better.