Elvis Presley’s “Love Letters From Elvis” Reviewed
Although still seven years away from his death, album number forty three is precisely how Elvis Presley would release studio albums in the future: welcome to the end game. Elvis goes into the studio for a week or so, records five, six songs a day, and harvests them on albums just about randomly. This is the third album made from his 1970 Nashville recording sessions, largely considered not qute the equal of ’69, but in retrospect, if the Elvis country concept wasn’t such a thermonuclear disaster, I think we could praise all three albums. More country than rock or soul, but with plenty of Elvis ballads and a coupla rockers, this ain’t a Girls Girls Girls Hollywood soundstage recording, this was serious business: good songs, well played and very very well played,
Felton Jarvis over produced and mixed it when they attempted to scrape together, but not so much, he wasn’t Phil Spector or the Philadelphia Philharmonic orchestra being laid behind the album, no, this was a seriously good set of songs and let’s assume that the universal panning was more hipsters pissed off at his last album. There isn’t that much of consequence but some of it is worth a revisit. Returning to Love Letters for the first time in decades, I assumed the terrific rocking Muddy Waters classic “Got My Mojo Working” was taken from some Las Vegas show, actually it is a love jam and it is terrific with a soul r&b “Keep Your Hands Off Of It” . I wish he’d played it on tour, it shake and it rattles and it rolls, the guitars are rockabilly, the horns are Memphis and the two generate a lift off that is the top moment. Not as good but if we are talking Elvis Country (which we aren’t, we’re talking Elvis country). “It Ain’t No Big Thing (But It’s Growing)” is the real deal 70s country sound of the USA, as good as any of his contemporaries including those named Johnny, and better sung than just about anybody else. Those two songs are good enough to have you give a little more than a friendly smile to the rest of the songs, with only “Love Letters” a memorable track.
Look at Presley in 1971 this way: if it isn’t good enough to make the live show, it isn’t good enough. Not one song here did make the live show. And the critics didn’t like it, the fans didn’t like it, and I gotta admit, with the exception of the two songs already mentioned, maybe the oldie rejuvenated title track as well, I am not crazy about it myself.Too much goop on top of too many songs