There are a number of commonly held misconceptions about Elvis Presley's film career: Elvis couldn't act, his movies were all throwaways, and the soundtracks were populated entirely with substandard material. But key films in the King's catalog show that he could indeed act, if called upon, there are several high-quality dramatic and musical films in Elvis' oeuvre, alongside many good lightweight romantic musical comedies, and his soundtracks are laced with hits and terrific albums sides. To measure the highpoints of Elvis' soundtrack catalog by virtue of the low points (of which there are admittedly many) is to miss out on a valuable dimension of Presley's musical career.
1962's Girls! Girls! Girls! was Elvis' eleventh film, the first of three with "Girls" in the title, and the only in his filmography to be nominated for an award (a Golden Globe for Best Musical, losing to The Music Man). Like most of Elvis' soundtracks, this one was recorded in Hollywood with a mix of West Coast studio players (including legendary Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine) and Elvis regulars (including Scotty Moore, D.J. Fontana, and the Jordanaires). The catchy title track was written by Leiber and Stoller and was previously a hit for the Coasters. Sped up and rearranged into smoother pop, it still has the Coasters' characteristic bounce and a fine sax solo from Bobby Keys. The album's standout is Otis Blackwell's "Return to Sender," which was also the soundtrack's only hit, peaking at #2 on the Billboard chart and hitting #1 on Cashbox.
The bulk of the album features good-if-not-great rock `n' roll numbers and several forgettable ballads. The band cooks and The Jordanaires add zing to "I Don't Wanna Be Tied," and "Thanks to the Rolling Sea" makes up for mediocre lyrics with the energy of seafaring folk music. The otherwise bland "We'll Be Together" is spiced with Spanish-style guitar and backing vocals from the Amigos, but the faux-Japanese "Earth Boy" can't be saved. Others, like "Because of Love" sound as if they were hurriedly written on the back of an envelope with a rhyming dictionary close at hand. The album closes with an Otis Blackwell tune, "We're Coming in Loaded," that's more atmosphere than substance, but at least it rocks.
By 1962 Elvis movies were quickly becoming an assembly line of uninventive plots and forgettable music. The dispensability of Elvis' movie music is highlighted by the parallel quality of his regular material, which in 1962 included "Good Luck Charm" and "She's Not You." Elvis rose to the occasion when given quality material, and could make magic happen with mediocre songs, but even the King couldn't turn lead into gold. Sony's reissue features a four-panel booklet, no bonus tracks, and no liner notes discussing the music or its making. The 29-minute running time suggests the earlier import two-fer or Follow That Dream's collector's edition might be more compelling to Elvis diehards. Still, the budget price and remastered sound make this reissue quite attractive. 2-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]