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4.6 out of 5 stars28
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 14 March 2012
Being of a certain age I recall this album having been released and re-released a few times and can still recall the first time I heard it on vinyl then CD back in the early 90's. At the time I did'nt care much for the segue of Born about 10,000 years ago between tracks but now I appreciate it as something that Elvis wanted and I guess the spirit of the jam fits with the artwork/cover and with his own selection of country classic tunes that he truly believed in and understood well. So it is own "concept" album I guess but some may still prefer the tracks without the segue. However many of the musicians present had played on the tracks by the original artists (e.g Willie Nelson / Funny How Time Slips Away during his RCA tenure)and many good country artists were on the same label. It is Elvis's command and strength of his vocal in 1970 that really impresses and along with the soundtrack to Thats The Way It is, recorded around the same time he never sounded so confident and with such warm and rich tones to his voice. He was also obviously enjoying himself and this comes across on Washed My Hands in Muddy Water and Little Cabin On The Hill (you can actually hear Elvis chuckle at one point)Shakin Goin On is wild and individual and the fun continues on Faded Love. Outakes from the sessions on other CD's and the filmed rehearsals for Thats the Way It is show a slim and happy Elvis at the top of his game really enjoying his new found liberty off the back of his comeback that had started with the How Great Thou Art sessions/the 68 Comeback and subsequent return to live shows. But probably more than anything the tracks here all fall and fit together well and sound "right" together in a way that some of his later albums struggled with. The big ballads like Make The World Go Away and Tomorrow Never Comes are simply stunning and the former makes you forget any other version you might have heard. That is probably true of most of the tracks here and they are all given an extra dynamic by an interested and committed Elvis vocal. If you like "The Wonder of You" / "I Just Can't Help Believin" era of vocals Elvis had at the time you will love this cd

I don't agree with some of the other reviews though ref the accompanying Love Letters album. Leftovers they may be but I'll Never Know and Aint No Big Thing are strong and would and could have fitted onto the Country Album. Heart of Rome is strong euro pop that could have been a single hit at the time (as could This is Our Dance)being in the vein of tracks that were hits for Tony Christie / Englebert and Tom Jones in the early 70's. Love Letters for me has always been a more romantic mix of tracks but to me is still a good collection and also features a mad jam of Got My Mojo Working / Hands Off which rocks along nicely and even the horn overdubs work in my opinion sounding similar to CC Rider a live favourite throughout the 70's. Life and Only Believe are good vocal performaces but fit less well being quasi gospel and maybe could have been kept back. Nevertheless he did perform Only Believe on stage in Vegas during 71 so he obviously liked it as a song.
Overall I'd rank this album / coupling as essential listening and for me they do rank up there in the top 10 of Elvis albums that should be heard and they offer a different dimension to his career that really is overlooked. Elvis in good, strong vocal peak singing good quality songs and lyrics. Whats not to like?!!!...and at this price with accompanying bumf / booklet its good value for anyone not familiar. Don't hesitate.......
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on 9 January 2012
Widely hailed as Elvis Presley's finest album of the 1970s, ELVIS COUNTRY ticks all the boxes. From the way The King tackles the lilting melody of the Anne Murray hit 'Snowbird' to the way that he sings his heart out across 'Funny How Time Slips Away', 'There Goes My Everything' and the closing 'Make The World Go Away', it's clear that Elvis Presley's 1970 sessions in Nashville were by and large fulfilling and immensely productive for the singer, who was then riding high on his comeback wave. The closest Presley came to making a "concept" album (never his original intention with the record), ELVIS COUNTRY doesn't restrict itself entirely to a country music repertoire though, as the bruising interpretations of 'I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water' and Jerry Lee Lewis' 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On' will attest; they are surely two of the hardest, driving rockers The King ever recorded. Along with the album being wrapped in a sleeve of infinitely greater imagination than most of Presley's other albums put together, ELVIS COUNTRY represented a peak in the relationship between Presley and his longtime producer Felton Jarvis.

Really, ELVIS COUNTRY is easily a five-star album; unfortunately, it has been let down in this Legacy Edition version by being coupled with the barrel-scraping LOVE LETTERS FROM ELVIS. Released in May 1971 apparently without Presley's approval (according to the book THE ROUGH GUIDE TO ELVIS), LOVE LETTERS FROM ELVIS was a mopping-up exercise from the Nashville sessions, spearheaded by the oddball single 'Life', a shoe-horning of evolutionary theory into a three-minute pop song. In contrast with ELVIS COUNTRY, the album is merely pleasant as opposed to unforgettable listening. The inclusion of Presley's somewhat heavy-handed re-recording of his classy 1966 single 'Love Letters' lacks much of the charm present in the artist's original rendition, and it offers more than a hint of the knocked-off nature of much of this album's content, where the dramatic 'Heart Of Rome' and the furious medley of 'Got My Mojo Workin'/'Keep Your Hands Off Of It' provide the LOVE LETTERS album with its only really above average interludes.

The addition of both sides of the 'Rags To Riches'/'Where Did They Go, Lord?' single and the non-album 'The Sound Of Your Cry' 45 as bonus tracks is nice to see, although this Legacy Edition of ELVIS COUNTRY would have perhaps been better served by including the studio tracks which made up the soundtrack album THAT'S THE WAY IT IS (also recorded during the summer '70 Nashville stint) and stunning single cuts of the period such as 'I've Lost You' and the underrated 'I'm Leavin''.

Overall, ELVIS COUNTRY more than deserves Sony's Legacy Edition treatment. It's a shame that, unlike its companion releases in this series, this package doesn't quite represent Elvis Presley at the dawn of the 1970s as well as the already released compilations appraise their respective eras of the great man's career.
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The original "Elvis Country" LP was the last great Presley studio album though amongst his later releases it's far less well known than either the "1968 Comeback Special" or "From Elvis in Memphis" let alone the Vegas performance albums which seem to have a popularity all of their own. It's been packaged in a number of different ways over the years. This is the latest of those and like other legacy editions it features the main album, a follow-up plus extra tracks. The follow-up in this case was "Love Letters".

The material all comes from fruitful sessions held in RCA Studios B, Nashville in June and September, 1970 with Felton Jarvis presiding and with James Burton present along with several of the regular session guys. I say "fruitful" because these sessions produced the studio tracks which supplemented the live tracks in the documentary album "That's the Way it is", the entire original "Elvis Country" and the entire original "Love Letters" album, in that order. There does have to be a hint here from the ordering that the "Love Letters" tracks weren't considered the most vital.

The first 12 tracks on Disc 1 of this set are as they appeared in the original "Elvis Country" with the 13th track "I was born about 10,000 years ago" also being present in the segue between tracks (which I'm aware is a cause of irritation to some). Reportedly four days into the June recording session the usual fairly bland batch of songs that they were working on ran out due to the speed with which they were nailing them. Elvis stepped in with a number of songs, the majority of which were country. It's largely those songs which we get on "Elvis Country".

The start isn't auspicious. "Snowbird" is pop country of the type you might have heard years ago from someone like George Hamilton IV. But it's deceptive since this track is followed by an excellent reading of Ernest Tubb's "Tomorrow Never Comes" complete with martial beat and the big dramatic build-up - yes it's very akin to the sort of big ballad that he was delivering in the Vegas shows - corny perhaps but El is fully involved and it works. Next it's a short and charming burst of "Little Cabin on the Hill" allowing the Nashville guys to show us their chops, and then it's "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On". Was this a good choice? Can anyone cut the killer? Initially the omens aren't that good - rather a busy backing but gradually it comes together and then about two thirds in El delivers a whoop that seems to start in his boots and then climb and climb and climb and climb and then some! - after that it's mayhem! Take that Jerry Lee! I'd say this was a draw and by now we're really into the album just in case there was any doubt.

"Funny how time slips away" could also be a dig at Jerry - it was on the killer's "Country Songs for City Folks" album - and Elvis makes the song totally his own - this could be the best version ever of this one and there've been a few (and could even be a touch of the killer on keyboard at the end). The late `60's and early to mid `70's were the peak of Jerry Lee's reinvention as a country artist and you can bet your bottom dollar that Presley would have been well aware of this. The next couple of numbers "I really don't want to know" and "There goes my everything" plus the later "Make the world go away", were just the sort of thing that Jerry was recording. Bog standard country weepies given the full string treatment and great delivery from Elvis - the good ole boys in Nashville Studio B were brought up on this stuff - probably learned it in kindergarten.

And I haven't gotten into the real highlights yet. Somewhere in the middle after a total reinterpretation of "The Fool", a song that is totally synonymous with Sanford Clark (and James Burton), and a performance in which Presley makes the song totally his own, we get a radical version of "Faded Love" which seems to owe little to the Patsy Cline interpretation that many us relate to and which reaches back to Bob Wills and then adds brass and real down and dirty blues guitar from Burton with Elvis driving the whole thing along in a style that owes as much to the Ray Price Texas shuffle as western swing or heartbroken but resigned Patsy. It's one of those tracks you press the back arrow button on as soon as it finishes. But doing that you're in danger of missing another goodie in "I washed my hands in Muddy Water", a song that I relate to Charlie Rich from his Smash period but originally a mid `60's hit for Stonewall Jackson. Hey this is more rock'n'roll and El's really enjoying himself with that Jerry Lee soundalike pounding the joanna again. Is this a dig at another ex-Sun star in Charlie Rich, a man who, after quietly inventing country soul was beginning to find fame with an intriguing cross between that same soul and countrypolitan styling?

After an earlier release of "Elvis Country" containing outtakes a big puzzle emerged, why did "Where did they go, Lord" not get included? This is a track which features a Presley performance that transcends its genre to almost the same extent that "I'll hold you in my Heart (till I can hold you in my arms)" did on "From Elvis in Memphis". It's not quite that good but like the earlier song the backing is constrained though with the Sweet Inspirations coming in at just the right time just as El begins to pile on the emotion. It's a track that seems to end too early - could easily have done with a couple more minutes of smouldering from El.

It's back to earth rather with the second disc which is the "Love Letters" album in its entirety plus three outtakes. However any fall in quality (if, indeed there is such since it`s all subjective) does not start till after the title track which is a superb interpretation of the Ketty Lester classic which Elvis had covered in, I think, 1966. Elsewhere we get a storming "Got my Mojo working" which is right along the lines of the more up-tempo Vegas workouts. Generally though while Elvis delivers perfectly well on the "Love Letters" tracks plus outtakes, one doesn't feel his heart is quite in it to the same extent as on the first disc. Most of the tracks are ballads and not always terribly memorable ones at that. One of the better examples is "Rags to Riches", an outtake and the album closer in which the song allows Elvis in indulge in some of his favoured vocal theatrics.

I should mention "It ain't no big thing (but it's growing)" which like "Faded Love" has echoes of the Texas shuffle. Elvis is understated and there's a guy on mouth harp who sounds like the man who did just that same job for Waylon. Indeed it does have echoes of a Waylon performance. The harp guy is present on quite a few of the tracks on both discs but more noticeably on Disc 1. He's part of a team who give excellent backing throughout.

I'm giving this set five stars largely for the tracks present on Disc 1 of the pairing plus the overall value. However I'm not convinced that it's a substantial improvement on the 2003 single disc packaging which did include a few of the better "Love Letters" tracks though not, unfortunately, the title track. I would also agree with the US fan who commented on the missed opportunity to release the June and September sessions in their entirety which I'm sure would have been much appreciated by the really dedicated Elvis collector.
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on 18 April 2013
What a period Elvis enjoyed from the second half of 1968 through January 1973! This legacy release captures Elvis in the middle of this prolific period and Elvis Country must rank amongst his finest studio albums.

Elvis loved to sing and try a range of styles and it can be said that in the studio rarely outside of the gospel (or Christmas) albums did Elvis set out to make a concept CD. Whether Elvis Country started out that way it certainly became one. Elvis sings the song on this album in a way that came natural to him and the segue of "I was Born Ten Thousand Years" ago blends in perfectly. The opening "Snowbird" sets an inviting tone. Tracks such as "I Really Don't Want to Know" and "There Goes My Everything" are Elvis fan favourites from this period. The album also contains the studio cut of "Funny How Time Slips Away".

Disc 2 is the "Love Letters From Elvis" album, whilst much less of a concept it is equally as enjoyable. Now here is a surprise for me, as I have got lots of box sets and compilation albums, I managed to find two songs on here that I have not heard before "If I Were You" and "This Is Our Dance". It's some years since I have been able to say that.

The packaging from Sony on these legacy releases is really setting a bench mark. There was a period in early to mid 1980's were re-releases or compilations were very much a budget presentation from RCA. This began to turn round in 1987 with the release of the "All Time Greates Hits" and really picked up with the 1992 box set "Complete 50's Masters". Now the same care is being put into re-releases and that's very much as it should be.
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on 24 February 2012
i believed i had everything elvis had recorded then along came this fab double cd and also includes an elvis booklet with pictures and and story about the king it is a must for all elvis fans and it has a lot of songs on i did not have fully reccomend it
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on 6 March 2012
Bought this at a very favourable price after Amazon had advised it was to be released. The tracks are excellent and the whole package is very pleasing. A must for Elvis fans and those who are not should give it a try at this price!
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on 21 January 2013
Yes, I like this CD, it is very good, and I would recommend it to any Elvis fans. Good music to listen to and also to dance too, in fact your can line-dance to a lot of this music. Very good.
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on 4 May 2012
i am really a big fan of the kings 70s albums. i already have got these on vinyl.. great value.
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on 29 January 2016
One of El's best albums, beautifully repackaged - apart from the ragbag Love Letters LP which he himself disliked - but when will Elvis's CDs get the Hi Fi treatment? I have the Japanese vinyl and CD and both are far more dynamic than this Lo Fi muddle. Don't have much hopes for Hi Fi, 24 bit digital, on the forthcoming 60 cd box set.
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on 2 February 2012
I have always enjoyed listening to Elvis Presley ( I am 71 years of age ) and he will always be very special to me. ! I refuse to sell all his 33.1/3 vynall records. !
This CD is wonderful......its a combination of lots of different songs ...some quite unusual for Elvis.!
I am really glad I purchased it...its a gem !
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