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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 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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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 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 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 7 December 2013
A rather a nice set of the 2 albums. Elvis Country with bonus tracks and Love Letters ( a recording of his orginal record of this title} again this album has bonus with bonus tracks.It is completed with a good booklet.
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Big glasses, big hair, big cape, big ego, big productions - 1970 and 1971 are years that divide Presley fans. Some see it as a renewal period that followed on from the '68 comeback special - while others see these dates as the beginning of the end - a slide into the horrible decline of the Vegas years. This new 'Legacy' issue of two albums from that time frame is of course both good and bad. But here are the issue details first...

Released Monday 2 January 2012 in the UK (3 Jan 2012 in the USA) - "Elvis Country" is on RCA/Legacy 88691 90439 2 and contains 2 whole albums with 6 bonus sides. Its 29 STEREO tracks break down as follows:

Disc 1 (46:17 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 12 are the US LP "I'm 10,000 Years Old - Elvis Country" - released 2 January 1971 on RCA Victor LSP-4460
Track 13 is "I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago" which first appeared on the "Elvis Now" LP in February 1972 (see paragraphs below)
Track 14 is "A Hundred Years From Now (Studio Jam)" is an outtake which first appeared on the 5LP/5CD Box Set "Walk A Mile In My Shoes: The Essential 70's Masters" in October 1995
Track 15 is "Where Did They Go, Lord" which first appeared on the LP "He Walks Beside Me" in February 1976

Disc 2 (41:49 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 11 are the US LP "Love Letters From Elvis" - released June 1971 on RCA Victor LSP-4530
Track 12 is "The Sound Of Your Cry" - a US 7" single released 21 September 1971
Track 13 is "Sylvia" which first appeared on the "Elvis Now" LP in February 1972
Track 14 is "Rags To Riches" - a US 7" single released 23 February 1971

Both albums came out of sessions recorded at RCA's Studio B in Nashville during June and September 1970. But the really big news in 2012 is a new VIC ANESINI remaster with truly BEAUTIFUL sound quality. Anesini is not new to Elvis reissues; he mastered the 2CD 'Legacy Editions' of "Elvis Presley", "Elvis Is Back", "From Elvis In Memphis", "On Stage" as well as the 4CD set "The Complete '68 Comeback Special" - with unanimous praise heaped on all five.

The packaging is now standard for these Legacy sets. A 3-way card digipak features the famous Elvis aged 2 photo artwork on the front with the "Love Letters From Elvis" LP artwork on the inside flap. The CDs are yellow to reflect the original LP colours while the 24-page booklet has new colour photos, pictures of the US 7" singles for "Life", I'm Leavin'" and "Where Did They Go, Lord" and liner notes by STUART COLMAN. There are full discography details of the sessions and vinyl releases on the last few pages. It's well laid out and lovely to look at.

First up is the layout of the main album "Elvis Country" - as each track ends (and even as some begin) 'segments' of a song called "I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago" segue in and out - whether you like it or not. This happens on 'every' tune and while it probably seemed cool at the time, it's irritating and gimmicky now (the full version of the song is Track 13, one of the bonus cuts). Colman's liner notes rather craftily don't mention the 'segments' at all - or that they ruin good songs both at the beginning and end of play. In fact you can't cue up any song on this album because of it. To make things even more irritating - all of the songs bar "I Really Don't Want To Know" and "There Goes My Everything" (10 out of 12 in other words) are available on the 1995 "Walk A Mile In My Shoes: The Essential 70's Masters" box set in their 'unadorned' state (available now as a mini book set reissue for under eleven quid). So if there was room to include all 12 here, why are they no shows? It's a damn shame that RCA didn't use this 'Legacy' issue to go the full hog and finally offer fans 'both' versions of the LP - as was - and 'stripped' so to speak. Now that would have been something truly special - but alas - not to be...

To the music - despite its 'Country' title, the main album is in fact top heavy with ballads. Freed of Colonel Parker's cruddy and ill-advised choices, Elvis picked tunes that both suited and highlighted his deepened voice - Hank Cochran's string-filled "Make The World Go Away" is a typically good choice and there's a truly lovely version of Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away" filled with Dobro licks and churchy organ - really nice (lyrics above). The Southern Funk vibe of "The Fool" is a highlight too with James Burton on choppy guitar and Charlie McCoy on Organ and Harmonica. It rocks out a bit on Bob Willis' "Faded Love", but I find the pseudo version of Jerry Lee's "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" less convincing.

The second LP "Love Letters From Elvis" continues on the slow songs tip opening with a deep-throated version of Ketty Lester's "Love Letters". "Life" was released as a single on 27 April 1971 in advance of the album with "Only Believe" as its B-side (RCA 47-9985). But while the sound quality is GORGEOUS - material like "Heart Of Rome" and "This Is Our Dance" feel like second-rate lounge music - and provide a very real reason as to why Presley was ridiculed as well as revered at this time. The syrupy nature of the material simply lets the side down - and it very much feels like RCA milking it again - put out anything by the man - who cares...

To sum up - with the best will in the world, you could not describe these LPs as 'classic' Elvis. "Elvis Country" is the best of the two offerings undoubtedly and is an album that deserves rediscovery - yet it's presentation here is lazy and the follow up LP only highlights how cheesy both he and his music had become. On the upside - for those prepared to give this much-maligned period a chance - there are rewards, especially in the ballads. It also boasts a fabulous new remaster, nice packaging and at mid-price isn't going to break your bank balance.

Finally - I wish I could say that I enjoyed this Legacy issue as much as I have all the others I've bought and reviewed, but I can't. I want to remember the King in a better light than this. And I know it's a matter of personal taste, but I just wish RCA had given us all 12 of the "Elvis Country" songs remastered by Anesini and 'unadorned' by intrusive gimmicks - that way we could listen to them for the first time properly and actually 'hear' the great man's 'legacy'.

For me this release is only good then - when it could have been great - even groundbreaking...

PS: Elvis Presley titles in this 'Legacy' Series series so far are:
1. "Elvis Presley" (his "Elvis Presley" debut and follow up album "Elvis" both from 1956 with extra single sides)
2. "Elvis Is Back" (the "Elvis Is Back" LP from 1960 with the "Something For Everybody" follow-up album from 1961 and extra single sides)
3. "Elvis Country" - as above
4. "From Elvis In Memphis" (the "From Elvis In Memphis" 1969 LP with the "Back In Memphis" follow-up album from 1970 with extra single singles and other recordings from the 1969 sessions)
5. "On Stage" - (the 1970 live album with its "Elvis In Person" follow up and 8 extra sides)
6. " The Complete '68 Comeback Special" - 4CD Mini Box Set

PPS: for other Vic Anesini Remasters - see my reviews for "Be What You Want..." the 4CD Box Set by HALL & OATES, the Legacy Edition of "Couldn't Stand The Weather" by STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN and the Legacy Edition of "Tomorrow The Green Grass" by THE JAYHAWKS. He has also done the much-praised Columbia issues of Simon And Garfunkel's back catalogue and the stunning Roy Orbison album "Lonely And Blue"
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on 20 May 2014
Elvis Country gets 5 stars every time. Elvis singing the music from his roots, 1970 Elvis was in his prime and it shows with this collection of country masters. recommended to anyone who thought Elvis only did rock n roll.
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