Elvis Presley’s “Raised On Rock” Reviewed
I feel oddly ambivalent about Elvis Presley’s 54th album, 1973’s Raised On Rock. It is a major release, the true follow up to Aloha, and despite the lack of a hit single went platinum. The band is great, Elvis is in superb voice, the performances are the definition of Adult Oriented Rock meets Middle Of The Road hausfrau music. Between “Raised On Rock” –a rollicking rockabilly track by “Suspicious Minds writer Mark James working to order and “Three Corn Patches,” Leiber and Stoller in a minor “CC Ryder” rip, Presley hits an effortless groove and rides it with so much ease he makes the songs sound like they are half way there and they aren’t, if he had really cared he’d have taken them all the way. I would guess these are LA rock but they were cut at Stax not Palm Springs.
I was listening to the Presley At Stax compilation back in 2013 and couldn’t have been more impressed, but ROR, the first releases from the first sessions aren’t quite there. In the three day session, he recorded seven of the ten songs here and the problems as such are as much about the songs as the performances. Except for “For Ol’ Times Sake”,” none of them are first tier Presley material . When he would return in September 1973, in what would prove to be his final (he didn’t record in 1974) recording session he spent three weeks and the performance was great and so was the material was better.
“Are You Sincere” went in search of the Jordainiares and couldn’t find them, “Find Out what’s Happening” is 60s style faux blues, “Sweet Angeline” is gorgeously sung, Presley is as Presley does emotionally doe eyed. “If You Don’t come back” is Stax soul without the song to back it up. According to the Elvis History blog (here) “Elvis was not a happy camper when the first Stax session began on July 20. According to Jorgensen, “It was obvious from the start that something was very wrong with Elvis Presley.” Piano player Bobby Wood noticed that Elvis “had gained weight. His eyes were yellow. His complexion was yellow … I couldn’t believe it was the same guy. He looked totally different and acted totally different too.” Elvis arrived at the studio three hours late the first night and later left without recording anything. He was late again the next night, and, according to Jorgensen, his speech was “so slurred that he seemed scarcely awake. The sound of his voice on the session tapes makes it painfully evident that he had little interest in recording at all.” Lacking enthusiasm and with his mood rising and falling, Elvis finally finished 10 uninspired masters during the six nights in July.”
Unfortunately, it is impossible to disagree with that assessment and Raised On Rock stands as one of the least distinguished of his post-68 albums.