|This month sees the release of a Legacy Edition of Elvis Presley’s classic album “Elvis Is Back.”
The two-CD set includes the original “Elvis Is Back” album from 1960, as well as the “Something For Everybody” album from the following year and the classic 1960/61 single releases. The highly regarded Vic Anesini remasters are used throughout.
Although Elvis’ work in the 1950s will always rightly receive the greatest acclaim, he remained a dynamic and versatile singer in the early 1960s and “Elvis Is Back – Legacy Edition” provides ample evidence of that. The sessions covered on this release produced four number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and three in the UK, as well as number one albums both sides of the Atlantic. “Elvis is Back” was well named. He was back and with a vengeance.
Elvis reassembled the hitmaking band from his pre-army days for the “Elvis Is Back” and “Something For Everybody” sessions, including Scotty Moore and Hank Garland on guitar, Bob Moore on bass, DJ Fontana and Buddy Harman on drums, Floyd Cramer on piano, and the Jordanaires on backing vocals. Elvis also added sax man Homer “Boots” Randolph to the line-up and utilised him brilliantly on several tracks.
Here’s the Classic Pop Icons track-by-track review of “Elvis Is Back – Legacy Edition.”
CD 1 – “Elvis is Back” + singles
- “Make Me Know It”
- “Girl Of My Best Friend”
- “I Will Be Home Again”
- “Dirty Dirty Feeling”
- “Thrill Of Your Love”
- “Soldier Boy”
- “Such A Night”
- “It Feels So Right”
- “Girl Next Door Went A Walking”
- “Like A Baby”
- “Reconsider Baby.”
- “Stuck On You”
- “Fame And Fortune”
- “It’s Now Or Never”
- “Mess Of Blues”
- “Are You Lonesome Tonight”
- “I Gotta Know”
“Elvis is Back” was released in April 1960 and reached number two on the US album chart and number one in the UK.
The album opens in lively fashion with the Otis Blackwell composition “Make Me Know It.” Elvis doesn’t disappoint vocally and the Jordanaires provide strong vocal support. Elvis had previously recorded the Blackwell songs “Don’t Be Cruel” and “All Shook Up”, both of which are more memorable than “Make Me Know It.”
“Fever” is a classic performance of another Otis Blackwell song, originally recorded by Little Willie John in 1956 and perhaps most memorably by Peggy Lee in 1958. It is the Lee version that Elvis seems most inspired by. Elvis’ flawless vocal is full of character and holds together the song, which has an uncluttered production featuring bass, finger clicks and the occasional atmospheric drum fill.
“Girl Of My Best Friend” is one of the most appealing pop songs of Elvis’ career. The Jordanaires again provide excellent accompaniment and the well judged, simple rhythm guitar work helps hold the whole thing together. It’s also one of the few Elvis songs to actually feature a “uh huh huh” – although conventional wisdom would suggest he did it in every other song!
“I Will Be Home Again” is a country ballad featuring exceptional vocal harmonies by Elvis and his army buddy Charlie Hodge. The song had been recorded by the Golden Gate Quartet in 1945 and, although nothing to do with rock ‘n’ roll, it’s the kind of song Elvis loved to sing in private with friends.
“Dirty Dirty Feeling” is from the legendary songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who had penned some of Elvis’ greatest hits of the 1950s, including “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock.” Elvis and the band do well with this and the recording can’t be faulted, but the song isn’t one of Leiber and Stoller’s most memorable. This recording was featured several years later on the soundtrack of the movie “Tickle Me.”
|“Thrill of Your Love” is an excellent pop ballad, with Elvis and pianist Floyd Cramer both in fine form. It was penned by Stan Kesler, who had previously written “I Forgot to Remember to Forget”, “I’m Left You’re Right, She’s Gone” and “Playing for Keeps” for Elvis.
“Soldier Boy” was a predictable inclusion on “Elvis is Back”, given that Elvis had left the army just weeks before the album was recorded. This is doo-wop Elvis style and it’s an excellent recording of a song that Elvis had been practising at home while in Germany. This is not to be confused with the song of the same title released by The Shirelles in 1962.
“Such a Night” features an exciting vocal from Elvis and he is clearly enjoying himself on this. The melody provides opportunities for Elvis to cut loose vocally and he rises to the challenge, particularly on the high energy chorus. Elvis’ audible “Whooo” after the song’s lively finale tells us that he was impressed with the recording. “Such a Night” had previously been recorded by both the Drifters and Johnnie Ray, and it’s Clyde McPhatter’s vocals on the former that Elvis seems most inspired by. Elvis had a top 20 hit with “Such a Night” when it was released on single in 1964.
Elvis belts out the lyrics of “It Feels So Right” in raucous fashion and there is expert backing from his gifted team of musicians, not least Buddy Harman on drums. This memorable song has the distinction of not really sounding like any other in the Elvis catalogue.
“Girl Next Door Went A Walking” is the weakest track on the album. It’s a fine performance from all concerned, but the song is undistinguished.
The high quality returns with “Like a Baby”, penned by the great Jesse Stone whose “Money Honey” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll” Elvis had recorded in 1956. Elvis’ performance on “Like a Baby” highlights his maturing vocal prowess and his natural feel for blues material.
If “Like a Baby” was the blues starter, the album’s closing song “Reconsider Baby” was the main course. This is a fantastic blues jam by Elvis and the Nashville A-team and arguably the finest track on the album. Boots Randolph’s sax lead remains as exciting today as when first recorded. On the evidence of this, it’s clear that Elvis should have recorded more blues material.
Elvis was in the studio recording a single within a couple of weeks of leaving the army. The result was “Stuck on You” backed with “Fame and Fortune” and, not surprisingly given the anticipation of Elvis’ return, it hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Neither song captured the excitement of the best of his pre-army material, but Elvis’ performances are top class on both. “Stuck on You” is a very well recorded mid-paced rocker, with solid piano backing and prominent vocal support from the Jordanaires. Elvis is at his best on the chorus. “Fame and Fortune” is a more conventional ballad performance than his fans would have been used to hearing at the time and he is in fine form, working well against the close harmonies of the Jordanaires. Both songs were performed on the Frank Sinatra “Welcome Home Elvis” television special, which was recorded on March 26, 1960 and aired on May 12, 1960.
|“It’s Now or Never” backed with “Mess of Blues” was Elvis’ second post-army single. “It’s Now or Never” is an English language version of the Italian standard “O Sole Mio” and this is one of the best vocal performances of Elvis’ entire career. It was also his biggest international hit, with broad cross-generational appeal. Although most well known as a rock ‘n’ roll performer at the time, Elvis was very at home with this material and surprised many critics with the quality of his voice. It was a song that Elvis seemingly never tired of, performing it in concert until the very end of his career.|
“Mess Of Blues” was penned by the brilliant songwriting team Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. This R&B flavoured pop song is a complete contrast to the A-side, with Elvis in less formal mood and delivering another classic pop vocal, culminating in a memorable falsetto ending. Floyd Cramer’s piano work is also excellent.
With “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”, Elvis revived a song first recorded in the 1920s. Elvis’ version is influenced by the 1950 Blue Barron recording which had introduced the famous recitation to the song. Elvis’ version was released on single in November 1960, backed with “I Gotta Know”, and deservedly reached number one in the US and UK. It’s another remarkable vocal from Elvis, full of sensitivity and perfectly suited to the lyric. His handling of the tricky recitation is masterful. The B-side, “I Gotta Know”, is less interesting, but a good pop song which receives a committed performance from all, including prominent bass harmony from the Jordanaires’ Ray Walker.
Disc one closes with Elvis once again in pseudo-operatic mood. This time Elvis turned to Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman to create an English language version of the Neapolitan ballad “Torna a Surriento.” If anything, Elvis’ vocal is even more accomplished on “Surrender” than on “It’s Now or Never”, culminating in an excellent, operatic B flat closing note.
CD 2 – “Something for Everybody” + singles
- “There’s Always Me”
- “Give Me The Right”
- “It’s A Sin”
- “Sentimental Me”
- “Starting Today”
- “I’m Comin’ Home”
- “In Your Arms”
- “Put The Blame On Me”
- “I Want You With Me”
- “I Slipped I Stumbled I Fell.”
- “I Feel So Bad”
- “Marie’s The Name His Latest Flame”
- “Little Sister”
- “Good Luck Charm”
- “Anything That’s Part Of You.”
“Something For Everybody” was released in June 1961 and reached number one in the US and number two in the UK.
The album was thoughtfully paced, with the rockers on one side and the ballads on the other. This ensures neither mood is broken, but it’s a matter of taste whether or not this suits you. The up tempo numbers are all sung well and are very listenable, but only “I Want You With Me” is as explosive as his pre-army material. The reason for this softening of the edges is evident in the title “Something For Everybody.” Elvis’ management was intent on marketing Elvis as an all round entertainer who could appeal to all generations, not just the fickle tastes of the youth market. This marketing approach continued with subsequent album titles, eg “Pot Luck” and “Elvis For Everyone.”
The Don Robertson-penned “There’s Always Me” is the finest ballad on the album and a good choice as the opening song. Elvis is in exceptional vocal form, from the gentle opening of “When the evening shadows fall” to the strong and insistent closing line – “look around and you will see, there’s always me.” When Elvis believed in a song, he was a master at making the listener believe too. This was clearly such a case. Elvis sang several other Don Robertson songs in this period. “Starting Today” was another Don Robertson ballad, but although it is well recorded and performed by all concerned, it’s ordinary compared to “Theres’s Always Me.”
Elvis is on fine form for the bluesy ballad “Give Me The Right”, but the most memorable part of the song is Millie Kirkham’s high pitched vocal intro. Once again Elvis and the Jordanaires combine well, particularly on the chorus where the song comes to life.
“It’s a Sin” showcases Elvis’ sweet falsetto and is a great example of how good his diction and tonal quality were on record in this period. The same can be said of “Gently”, which is also notable for the intricate acoustic guitar work from Hank Garland.
“Sentimental Me” was already 12-years-old when Elvis recorded it and it’s possibly a song he had been singing in private since the early days. The Ames Brothers’ version of the song from 1949 was coupled with “Rag Mop” on single, which is a song that Elvis had reportedly tried out at Sun Records in 1954, so it’s not a stretch to think that he had sung both in private. The tempo is a little plodding on this and the arrangement not very adventurous, but as with everything on this album, Elvis sings it well.
The original B-side of “Something For Everybody” was the up tempo side, commencing with the Charlie Rich-penned “I’m Comin’ Home.” This is a very catchy number, with excellent piano and guitar work from Floyd Cramer and Hank Garland, respectively, and a commanding vocal from Elvis.
|With Aaron Schroeder and Wally Gold’s hugely successful collaboration on “It’s Now or Never”, it’s no surprise that they contributed a track to “Something For Everybody.” “In Your Arms” is a breezy pop song, with Elvis and the Jordanaires proving once again that they had a natural chemistry as performers. It doesn’t reach the heights of “It’s Now or Never” though.
Outtakes have shown that Elvis worked hard on “Put the Blame on Me” and the result is an excellent pop song, with a memorable minor key verse/major key chorus arrangement. This was never going to be more than an album track, but it’s a very good album track.
There was a real trend for naming pop songs after girl’s names in this period. “Judy” might not be as memorable or original as “Peggy Sue”, “Hello, Mary Lou”, “Barbara Ann” or “Nadine”, but it’s enjoyable and I’m glad it’s part of the bulging Elvis catalogue. The mid-paced rock ‘n’ roll song had been released on single by its author Teddy Redell in 1959, but was not a hit and Elvis’ is the stronger cut due principally to his more assured vocal.
“I Want You With Me” is the best rock ‘n’ roll performance on “Something For Everybody.” Elvis is in fine voice and the bass vocal work of Ray Walker is also worthy of praise. Floyd Cramer lays down some energetic, bluesy piano lines and Hank Garland’s guitar lead jumps out of the speakers.
A lower key version of “I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell” appeared in Elvis’ 1961 movie “Wild in the Country.” The version here is much better, with a solid performance from all, but ultimately it does sound more like a movie song than a top shelf rocker.
Eric Clapton has said that “I Feel So Bad” is his favourite Elvis song and it is certainly one of Elvis’ standout R&B performances of the 1960s. The 1961 single was backed with the title song to Elvis’ 1961 movie “Wild in the Country” and reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100. It is a blistering vocal from Elvis and features outstanding piano work from the great Floyd Cramer and a great sax lead from the legendary Boots Randolph.
Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman wrote both sides of Elvis’ double A-side single “Marie’s the Name of His Latest Flame” and “Little Sister”, which hit number one in the UK and was another top five hit in the US. It is one of the very finest singles of Elvis’ long career.
|“Marie’s the Name of His Latest Flame” has a Bo Diddley-inspired rhythm which it took the band some time to get right. Early outtakes of the song (heard elsewhere) do reveal how important it was to nail the arrangement, as it goes from a good pop song to an outstanding pop song as the session progresses. Buddy Harman’s great drumming deserves a mention, as does Elvis’ perfectly judged vocal.|
“Little Sister” is the more bluesy of the two, featuring memorable lead and rhythm guitar parts from Hank Garland and Scotty Moore, and another excellent vocal from Elvis. It was a song that Elvis would return to throughout his career, but he never sang it better than here.
“Good Luck Charm”, backed with “Anything That’s Part of You” was released in early 1962 and was Elvis’ last number one single in the US until “Suspicious Minds” in 1969. “Good Luck Charm” is a good pop song, but hasn’t aged as well as some of the tracks on this album. The B-side is something else, with Elvis once again rising to the occasion and delivering a magnificent, sensitive vocal on a Don Robertson composition.
There has been some criticism of the decision to include “Something For Everybody” on this Legacy Edition rather than outtakes from the “Elvis Is Back” sessions. There is some merit to that argument, but the Follow That Dream (FTD) edition of “Elvis Is Back” from several years ago already took that approach, so perhaps the producers of this latest release questioned the commercial sense of doing so again.
Putting aside the debate about the choice of tracks, “Elvis Is Back Legacy Edition” reveals that Elvis was a vibrant and committed artist in 1960/61, who was equally convincing in multiple genres. If your Elvis collection is currently limited to a greatest hits package, this release would be a great place to start exploring further.
You can purchase “Elvis Is Back Legacy Edition” from the following online retailers:
Elvis Is Back Legacy Edition (2 CDs)
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Tags: Elvis is Back - Legacy Edition, Elvis Presley, Something For Everybody
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