There are many who'd say that this is Presley's best album. If not that it must at least be amongst his best though it could be said that albums weren't really the man's forte - he's more remembered for his singles. It was the first album to emerge after his stint in the US Army - hence the title - and, alongside a whole host of other tracks many of which were to be released as singles plus the tracks that went to form the follow up album "Something for Everybody", it was the result of just a few days recording with the Nashville session team including Scotty Moore and drummer DJ Fontana.
What it isn't is a rock'n'roll album. The most out and out rocker on it, "Dirty, Dirty Feeling" is good but lightweight. The track that actually rocks the most in the set is "Such a Night" originally recorded by the Clyde McPhatter version of the Drifters. Elvis takes this song and pretty well wrings its neck with a scorching latin version that doesn't take prisoners. Elsewhere we have the opener, "Make me Know It", which is reminiscent of some of the Sun Carl Mann tracks - pop more than rock but oodles of charm - plus "The Girl Next Door Went A'Walking" which is also poppy with a hint of rock.
No, it's abundantly clear that the powers that be, and whether that was Colonel Parker or the RCA bigwigs we may never know, had decided that the route forward was via mainstream pop. That said there were some delightful exceptions to this approach in the shape of two slow and very deliberate blues, Jesse Stone's "Like a Baby" and Lowell Fulson's classic, "Reconsider Baby" plus a third track, "It Feels So Right" which was also imbued with a hefty blues feel slightly softened by the presence of the Jordanaires. Though Presley had recorded blues before, mainly during his days at Sun, such efforts were predominantly up-tempo with a much lighter touch. These tracks, particularly "Reconsider Baby" have almost a ponderous feel about them, they are so deliberate in their approach. There's also a rawness present - reportedly "Reconsider" was one take only and if that indeed is the case then much credit to the producer for deciding to go with it. The only real comparison point from his pre-army days is the magnificent "One Night". "Reconsider" has the guitar sound from that record and arguably equals it for blues feel. The rather lazy adjective "lowdown" comes to mind but it certainly fits in this instance.
There's a rare cover of a song that was more or less current, Ral Donner's "Girl of my best friend" - I say "rare" because although Presley did cover lots of songs these were hardly ever songs that were actually charting at the time. It's tempting to say that Elvis boots the Ral Donner original into touch and he certainly does produce a splendid version, but I've always rather like the original (and this is bearing in mind that Ral Donner's whole vocal approach was styled on Elvis!). There's also a cover of Little Willie John's "Fever" though the more recent and much better known hit version had been from Peggy Lee. The production stick pretty closely to the Lee arrangement but it's very effective
After that we're left with a good slow country number, "I will be home again" which interestingly also features that "One Night" guitar sound, and a couple of more than decent ballads of which "Thrill of your love" has near gospel moments - something that Elvis excelled at.
Undoubtedly a great album and definitely the most unusual and varied that Presley had produced up to that time. If there was still anyone out there thinking the man was a one trick pony this album proved very convincingly the opposite. The follow-up "Something for Everybody" unfortunately has the feel of the tracks that were left in the can, with hardly anything on it having the impact of the majority of the "Elvis is Back" tracks nor the singles that came from those sessions. There's nothing wooden heartingly bad here; it's all very pleasant and ultra professionally done with the session guys well on form - there's some neat piano from Floyd Cramer on "I want you with me" - but little grabs you. The best track for me and an exception to my last statement, is "I'm coming home" written by Charlie Rich though the sound that Elvis and the boys capture is the one that came from the Carl Mann session with, I'd bet a pound to a penny, Rich on piano. The Presley version is very good - he does speed it up a tad - but look up Carl's cut on Youtube for a fascinating comparison.
I'm going to push the Carl Mann comparison a bit further with some of the singles. I would guess that Elvis and/or some of the RCA guys had been listening to his records since both "Now or Never" and "Surrender" have elements of the Mann approach about them - both are standards given an up tempo latin makeover. Where these singles differ from any of Mann's is in the Presley vocals which put them in another league altogether and would appear to represent long held ambitions for opera singing coupled with the Dean Martin effect - Elvis had been known to have had a closet Martin fascination for years though his efforts here well surpassed anything ever uttered by the Dino tonsils.
Of the other tracks released as singles, "Stuck on You" is an attempt to repeat the "Don't be Cruel / All Shook Up" sound but it sounds tired in comparison. In contrast "Mess of Blues" is good, effectively straddling r'n'r and blues - it's one I didn't appreciate when the single came out but it's gradually crept up on me over the years. "His latest flame" is another grower, based upon an ultra simple but insidious riff it's rock based pop at its best. And "Feel so bad" is a blues based rocker which suits him to a tee.
And that's about it and not bad at all for a few days at the office in Nashville. What few of us realised at the time was, (a) that all this lot was as near as dammit recorded at the same time - and isn't it good now to have it all together - and, (b) that this was as good as it was going to get until the reincarnation at the tail end of the `60's. With the exception of 1962's "Return to Sender" which was hardly a masterpiece, nothing else of any note came out apart from film related material right through the decade until the `68 television special followed by 1969's "From Elvis in Memphis".
Five stars for "Elvis is back" and some of the singles. The follow up album would have only gotten three stars in my book had it been released on its own.
*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE 2011 'LEGACY' REISSUE ***
Conscripted into the American Army in March 1958 and discharged two years later, Sergeant Presley was a mere 18 days back in the USA when RCA practically frog marched him into their Nashville Studios to cut some new material for a highly expectant public. So it's perhaps strange now in hindsight to think that 1960's "Elvis Is Back!" - his most beloved of studio albums - only went to Number 2 on release. But I can assure you that there is nothing second-place about this 50th Anniversary reissue. It's a gem. Here are the details...
Released 8 March 2011 in the USA (28 February in the UK) - RCA/Legacy 88697 85300 2 contains 2 whole albums and 12 x 7" single-sides (5 of which reached Number 1). Its 36 STEREO tracks break down as follows:
Disc 1 (50:43 minutes): 1. Make Me Know It 2. Fever 3. The Girl Of My Best Friend 4. I Will Be Home Again 5. Dirty, Dirty Feeling 6. Soldier Boy [Side 2] 7. Such A Night 8. It Feels So Right 9. Girl Next Door Went A' Walking 10. Like A Baby 11. Reconsider Baby Tracks 1 to 12 are the US LP "Elvis Is Back!" - released 8 April 1960 on RCA Victor LPM-2231 [Mono] and LPS-2231 [Stereo] Tracks 13 and 14 are "Stuck On You" and "Fame And Fortune" - the A&B-sides of RCA Victor 47-7740 - released 23 March 1960 Tracks 15 and 16 are "It's Now Or Never" and "A Mess Of Blues" - the A&B sides of RCA Victor 47-7777 - released 5 July 1960 Tracks 17 and 18 are "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and "I Gotta Know" - the A&B sides of RCA Victor 47-7810 - released 1 November 1960 Track 19 is "Surrender" - the A-side of RCA Victor 47-7850 - released 7 February 1961
Disc 2 (39:23 minutes): 1. There's Always Me 2. Give Me The Right 3. It's A Sin 4. Sentimental Me 5. Starting Today 6. Gently 7. I'm Comin' Home [Side 2] 8. In Your Arms 9. Put The Blame On Me 10. Judy 11. I Want You With Me 12. I Slipped. I Stumbled, I Fell Tracks 1 to 12 are the US LP "Something For Everybody" - released 17 June 1961 on RCA Victor LPM-2370 [Mono] and LSP-2370 [Stereo] Track 13 is "I Feel So Bad" - the A-side of RCA Victor 47-7880 - released 2 May 1961 Tracks 14 and 15 are "(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame" and "Little Sister" - the A&B-sides of RCA Victor 47-7908 - released 8 August 1961 Tracks 16 and 17 are "Good Luck Charm" and "Anything That's Part Of You" - the A&B sides of RCA Victor 47-7992 - released 27 February 1962
The really big news in 2011 is a new VIC ANESINI remaster with truly beautiful sound quality. Anesini is not new to Elvis reissues; he handled the 2CD 'Legacy Editions' of "Elvis Presley" and "From Elvis In Memphis" as well as the 4CD set "The Complete '68 Comeback Special" - with unanimous praise heaped on all three.
Musically - like Sam Cooke's "Night Beat" (1963 on RCA) and Roy Orbison's "Lonely And Blue" (1961 on Monument) - these Elvis Presley 'Living Stereo' recordings have long been the stuff of audiophile wet dreams. The previous reference point is the 2005 "Follow That Dream" 2CD reissue where the sound quality is superb - and yet here - it is somehow elevated even further. The effect is instantaneous - Otis Blackwell's "Make Me Know It" is the album opener and every instrument is wonderfully clear and full of HUGE presence. That's followed by Presley's stripped-down version of the Little Willie John/Peggy Lee classic "Fever" - with razor sharp audio on Bob Moore's Double Bass and Buddy Harmon's Percussive shuffles and snare-drum whacks.
I love "It Feels So Good" with the sexy slink of Scotty Moore's guitar and the schmooze of Floyd Cramer's piano tinkling. It all leads up the big-duo finishers - "Like A Baby" (lyrics above) and "Reconsider Baby". In his musical and vocal element - Elvis lets rip on these stunning bluesy workouts. The effect has always removed the pain of the Vegas years for fans and will instantly stop any Presley sceptic within a ten-mile radius. And by the time you reach the saxophone of Boots Randolph half way through "Reconsider Baby" - the audio onslaught is just incredible. Never mind 'living stereo' - you'll think these guys are in your living room...
The 2nd album is a bit of a forgotten gem too. Tracks 1 to 6 are "The Ballads Side" with 7 to 12 being "The Rhythm Side". Highlights include his chipper version of Charlie Rich's "I'm Coming Home" while "Put The Blame On Me" is great Sixties pop. And it all sounds wonderful. The singles too are embarrassingly strong - the sexy strut of the kissing song "Stuck On You" and the reworking of the Clovers hit "There's No Tomorrow" which would eventually became the huge Salsa hit "It's Now Or Never". Brilliant.
The packaging is lovely to look at. A 3-way card digipak features the gorgeous "Elvis Is Back!" colour artwork on the front with the "Something For Everybody" full-colour sleeve on the inside flap. There are full-colour repros of the US pictures sleeves for "His Latest Flame" and "It's Now Or Never" (a contender for his best ever picture sleeve) featured beneath the see-through CD trays - while the 24-page booklet is crammed full of spot-on discography stuff by lifetime fan and keeper of the flame - ERNST MIKAEL JORGENSEN - a name Presley fans will be comfortable with (even if his wording is a little flowery here and there). There are the 'bonus' G.I. snapshots that came with original gatefold albums, snaps of Elvis with Frank Sinatra about to do the Timex TV Special, more US 7" picture sleeves, trade adverts, holding his Army discharge papers up etc. Jorgensen also rightly praises behind-the-scenes heroes like Producer STEVE SHOALS and RCA's perfectionist Studio-Engineer BOB PORTER and his Telefunken U-47 microphones. It's very nicely done...
Niggles - a look at the total playing time of each disc and RCA is not exactly pushing the digital boat out here. And when you reference the incredible 53 tracks of the 2005 "Follow That Dream" 2CD reissue - some may feel it would have been better to do 2 separate Legacy Editions - one for "Elvis Is Back!" and another for "Something For Everybody" - both featuring copious amounts of 'outtakes' and the elusive LPM MONO mixes of both albums. There are two B-sides missing when there was plenty of room to include them. But like the Legacy Edition of "Elvis Presley" (his explosive 1956 debut album), which is presented in a similar way - you could also argue that what you've actually got here is less fussy and more defined. It's a matter of personal opinion I suppose.
To sum up - "Elvis Is Back! Legacy Edition" is a timely reminder of his genius and a STEREO gem in his otherwise patchy Sixties catalogue. It boasts a fabulous new remaster, affectionate presentation by a man who cares and isn't going to break your bank balance either. I'd say snap it up and then proceed with haste to the MONO "Elvis Presley" to see what all the fuss is about (see separate review).
I'd better go now because I can feel a need to tame "...a team of wild horses..."
The King folks - remember him this way...
PS: 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 already mentioned Roy Orbison album "Lonely And Blue"
Another must for your collection! Great songs and again not related directly to any of his movies. Should you ever be restricted to what to choose and what to discard heavens forbid, this is not one of them you should have any difficulty with. Again don't be put off by the drab unimaginative sleeve, magic dwells within. I always write presuming the readers are ardent fans and as such make no apology should any mocking "fat man on the toilet" folks stumble upon my ramblings. There were similar people in the day who gave little credence to his talent! It was always Cliff Richard or the real thing being the choice - not mine, there was little comparison in these ageing eyes. Even after all these years I truly believe he was an entertainer without an equal - not even close. There have been fantastic singer songwriters with mountains of talent but never one to deliver a song like this man.
To follow the recent Legacy Editions of FROM ELVIS IN MEMPHIS and ON STAGE comes this fulfilling coupling of the triumphant ELVIS IS BACK! from 1960 partnered with 1961's less well-acclaimed SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY, both albums being fleshed out with related singles, including 'It's Now Or Never' and that stonking double-sided hit 'His Latest Flame'/'Little Sister'.
Admittedly, if you've already bought the single CDs of these two albums, you may not really want to invest in this, as apart from a brand new booklet, there is nothing in the way of session outtakes or unreleased masters included. However, what this set does deliver is a compact snapshot of Elvis Presley at the top of his game, which might also encourage you to take a closer appreciation of the SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY album, which I personally have overlooked in the past.
ELVIS IS BACK!, Presley's first album released after his army discharge, is a recognised classic, within which he tackled a bewildering array of material with disarming ease. From the upbeat 'Make Me Know It'; through to the slinky, sultry 'Fever'; and on to the suggestive 'Such A Night'; before closing out with the bluesy 'Reconsider Baby', Presley covered all the bases. Even the single B-sides 'Fame And Fortune', 'A Mess Of Blues' and the jaunty 'I Gotta Know' were far from throwaways, providing beautifully contrasting accompaniments to 'Stuck On You', 'It's Now Or Never' and 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?' respectively. Arguably, perhaps not until the Memphis sessions in early 1969, would Presley ever have quite such a productive and thoroughly rewarding time in the studio.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY on the other hand, although perhaps not quite as strong as its predecessor, is nevertheless a decent piece of work - and all the result of just one night in the studio! True, it was padded out with a tune from his WILD IN THE COUNTRY movie, but overall Presley's commitment on this album is once again palpable, particularly on the slower numbers like 'Give Me The Right' and the winsome 'Gently'. A conceptual direction is evident in the division of the material between 'The Ballad Side' and 'The Rhythm Side' - almost fifteen years before Rod Stewart got the same idea for his ATLANTIC CROSSING album - while the addition here of such classic singles cuts as the aforementioned 'Little Sister' and the bluesy but often neglected 'I Feel So Bad' were proof that Presley hadn't forgotten how to rock and roll.
To sum up, what this Legacy Edition of ELVIS IS BACK! provides is a clean and tidy appraisal of Elvis Presley's music at the dawn of the 1960s. Both albums included here are hallmarks of his versatility as a singer, while highlighting further how awful some of those subsequent soundtrack albums were in comparison.
One thing to note about this album (in it's original form), is that it goes back to a time when record companies treated albums in the main as being seperate entities from singles. So in the main this album doesn't contain many actual "hits" from the day. So for example "Stuck On You" and "It's Now Or Never", are not featured. The album did eventually produce hit singles however "Such A Night" in 1964 and "The Girl Of My Best Friend" in 1976. Listening to this as an album today, especially after lots of "Greatest Hits" releases of the years, it sounds so fresh. Just like Elvis when he came out of the army, mellower perhaps, but still The King - just classic.
The Legacy edition add the hits singles of the period including monster hits "It Now Or Never" and "Are You Lonesome Tonight?".
The Legacy edition also contains the 1961 US No. 1 LP "Something for Everybody". The original LP has some fantastic songs on it, but in keeping with the times the big singles of the period are not include. "There's Always Me" is a favourite from the LP which gained a high profile on the "If I Can Dream" album with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 2015.
The Legacy editions of these classic albums are a great listening for people who want to listen to the music in it's original context.
1960 found Elvis Presley emerging from his stint in the military and keen to re-establish himself on records. He was young, talented and still hungry to improve himself musically.
RCA had brought Presley to Nashville to combine his vocal talents with musicians like Floyd Cramer, Boots Randolph and Hank Garland, with the great Chet Atkins in the control room. It's fascinating to hear the arrangements being built up, different tempos being tried, and so on. These "out-takes" add an authentic touch to the proceedings. Presley's original guitarist Scotty Moore and his drummer D.J.Fontana are credited on the session details, and Presley is obviously supportive of them ("You're jumpin' in on Scotty") but they were gradually being edged out by the RCA men. Atkins comes in with occasional advice ("Floyd, your left hand's a little rough there") and Presley himself is very well-behaved, giving apologies and excusing himself for the various false starts and mistakes in mid-performance.
"Elvis Is Back" saw him trying to ease away from his raw Rock'N'Roll image, making excellent versions of steadier-tempo pop standards like "Fever" and "Such A Night". Yes, the raunchy R & B sound was still there on "Reconsider, Baby", but he was moving firmly into the middle of the road. His single releases from these sessions are included here, and once again the contrast is shown between the dramatic "It's Now Or Never" and the solid twelve-bar formula on "A Mess Of Blues".
Personally, I lost interest in Elvis Presley's records as the 1960's wore on, the Beatles came on the scene, and the movie industry pounded Presley into bland mediocrity. The period of "Elvis Is Back", however, still holds fond musical memories for me.
Full marks to "Follow That Dream" for their efforts in trying to please everybody with this double CD. The detailed coverage is excellent, and for my money is almost on a par with the superb Bear Family. If, like me, you own well-worn vinyl versions of these songs, go out and get this collection - you won't be disappointed.
'Elvis is Back' along with 'Elvis in Memphis' is the holy grail of the Elvis catalogue the two CD special edition on the FTD collectors label is on the stunning 7" sleeve format with all the original artwork from 1960, Elvis never sounded better than on this album which was his first post army recording session and he had a lot to prove after being away from the public for two years this really was a make and break situation and he really came up with the results listen to 'Reconsider Baby' 'Like a Baby' and 'Dirty Dirty Feeling' to understand how determined he was, also included on this wonderful package are the singles recorded at these sessions like 'It's Now or Never' 'Are You Lonesome Tonight' and 'The Girl Of My Best Friend' also included are outakes false starts and breakdowns as well as alternate takes, never before have we had the complete 'Elvis is Back' sessions Fans have been waiting for this for years, go out and support this release so FTD can release the other early sixties albums like 'Something For Everybody' 'His Hand in Mine' and 'Pot Luck' The 'Elvis is Back' sessions returned Elvis to the top of his game and came back greater than ever.
Argueably Presley's finest album, and his first post army album (1960) - so he was probably trying to prove to his contempories, that he had staying power. Elvis always rose to a challenge, making this album is a real classic! In fact I've read an apt description somewhere calling it "Elvis' most artistically realised album!" Generally the album as a whole was a departure from what he had been recording previously. His voice is stronger here than on the 50's recordings. His vocal range had improved, is more polished on phrasing and timing, and the atmosphere here is pure hit making. There is much less rock ' n roll here than on previous albums, but lots of blues, some doo-wop ballads, and toe tapping rythims. I think the highlights of this album are "Fever","Such a Night", and "Reconsider Baby". Elvis is recorded in "Living Stereo", backed by some of the finest Nashville musicians of the time, most notably Homer Boots Randolph, the sax player, and the Jordanaires, his regular vocal backup quartet. BMG have now re-issued the album with additional tracks which were hit singles ("Now or Never")and b-sides ("Mess of Blues") culled from those sessions, with original artwork and liner notes. Absolutely a 5 star album!