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Monday, January 6, 2020

Elvis Presley: Loving You


1) Mean Woman Blues; 2) (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear; 3) Loving You; 4) Got A Lot Oʼ Livinʼ To Do!; 5) Lonesome Cowboy; 6) Hot Dog; 7) Party; 8) Blueberry Hill; 9) True Love; 10) Donʼt Leave Me Now; 11) Have I Told You Lately That I Love You; 12) I Need You So; 13*) Tell Me Why; 14*) Is It So Strange*; 15) One Night Of Sin*; 16) When It Rains, It Really Pours*.

General verdict: A little too much silly joyous doggy woof and a bit too little angry doggy bark, but at least the basic ingredients of the classic Elvis sound are still intact.

Elvisʼ soundtracks typically tend to be segregated into a separate section in his discographies, either because there were so many of them or because, due to the — putting it mildly — dubious artistic nature of most of his movie, they would inevitably bear this stigma and had to suffer being categorized as «inessential» listening. In reality, of course, there was never any systematic, intrinsic discrepancy in quality between the manʼs proper LPs and his soundtracks; nor does it make sense to complain about any lack of coherence on these soundtracks — like any other Elvis LP, they just give you the usual mix of softer / harder rockers and ballads which will be tenderly appreciated by any supporter of the «more Elvis is better Elvis» ideology. The respective quality of the music and the movies, so it seems, rarely correlated with each other anyway — on one hand, I wouldnʼt say that the soundtrack to King Creole, inarguably Elvisʼ best movie, was necessarily superior to everything else he recorded in the late Fifties; on the other, the quality of the music is occasionally the only thing that redeems some of his weakest Sixtiesʼ films.

In any case, it makes little sense to discuss any specific connections between the plot of Elvisʼ first movie and the music on this LP (only half of which comes from the movie anyway). What does make sense is to notice that the ratio of hard rock vs. everything else keeps decreasing: the only properly angry rocker in sight is the very first song, ʽMean Woman Bluesʼ, for which we should specifically thank the wonderful R&B writer Claude Demetrius, who earlier used to make a living penning hilarious ditties for the likes of Louis Jordan, and later would get Elvis another first-rate ferocious hit in ʽHard Headed Womanʼ (judging by the lyrics, Demetrius must have had a really tough time with his women even for the average standards of a popular songwriter). In terms of melody or atmosphere, it adds little to Elvisʼ recorded legacy of 1956, but it does give you another excellent example of how focused and, well, mean his little combo could be (though, if you ask me, the definitive version of the song is to be found on Jerry Lee Lewisʼ Live At The Star Club album, where his patented loud-to-quiet-back-to-loud trick blows the roof off the house — Elvis never toys with your senses in such an openly provocative manner).

The only other song here that tries to capture a similar type of energy is ʽGot A Lot Oʼ Livinʼ To Doʼ, but its particular energy is not an energy of anger — true to the songʼs title, it is the energy of some boundless joie de vivre, with Scottyʼs guitar licks in sexy playful mode and Elvisʼ vocals in sped-up sentimental pop mode; it is simply a bombastic and revved-up rhythm section that distinguishes the song from the likes of ʽTeddy Bearʼ. This is not a reprieve, though — the wild style arrangement gives this happy youthful anthem a whiff of rebelliousness all the same, and a properly happy Elvis can be just as infectious and hypnotizing as a properly sexually provocative or a chillingly morose Elvis. It is certainly more memorable than Jessie Mae Robinsonʼs ʽ(Letʼs Have A) Partyʼ, a generic blues-rock number taken at a disappointingly slow tempo — Wanda Jackson would do a much better job by speeding it up and singing the melody in her knife-sharp rasp as if to insinuate what sort of party this would really be; but for Elvis, this particular delivery is more of a throwaway than something to remember.

Still, once again, there are no true total duds on the album. If something is almost unbearably cutesy and cuddly, it is at least impossibly catchy (ʽTeddy Bearʼ); if a balladʼs tenderness is undermined by a lack of hooks, it can still be redeemed by an occasional odd key change on the piano and a weird vocal flow where you get confused as to when one verse ends and the other one begins (title track); if a track bears the suspicious title of ʽLonesome Cowboyʼ, it is at least given an oddly minimalistic, almost somber musical sheen that is reminiscent of the early days at Sun, but also improved by an eerie arrangement of the backing harmonies. Even the cover of Fats Dominoʼs ʽBlueberry Hillʼ injects a subtle bit of vocal melancholy that was only implied, not directly delivered, in Fatsʼ original — making this case another potential playground for the never ending «whatʼs better, the black original or the whitebread cover» debate.

Towards the end, the record does begin to drift off into fairly conventional territory, with second-rate doo-wop numbers and even a recent Cole Porter cover (ʽTrue Loveʼ) whose inclusion must have been fairly detestable for hardcore Elvis fans back in those days. But as long as the band sticks to its minimalistic arrangements, with just the core instrumental quartet and barbershop backing harmonies for extra atmosphere, the results are always tolerable. Unfortunately, already at this stage we occasionally face silly acts of self-censorship — the bonus tracks include Elvisʼ original cover of Dave Bartholomewʼs ʽOne Night (Of Sin)ʼ, with lyrics that were considered so «gross» by the executives ("one night of sin is what Iʼm now paying for") that the song would have to be lyrically re-written and delayed until 1958. As it stands, its fat, bombastic arrangement could have made a very nice and convincing companion to the lighter, thinner New Orleanian sound of ʽBlueberry Hillʼ — but at least thank God for the existence of bonus tracks. 


  1. Great album. “Hot Dog” and “Party” are fairly forgettable numbers, but when Elvis sings them they come to life. My absolute favorite song is “Lonesome Cowboy.”

    1. I AM JUST A LO-HO-ONESOME COWBOY. Love it. But my favorite here is Got A Lot Oʼ Livinʼ To Do. And Teddy Bear is worth it if only for The Jordanaires backing vocals. They were such an important element to many Elvis songs such as Don't Be Cruel.

      I dig these Elvis reviews but if it were up to me I'd make them as long as the Beatles or the Dylan ones, especially if also discussing the singles from the same period. Maybe I'm just too big of a fan boy. But even a track like Anyway You Want Me floors me, and it's so rarely discussed. One of the all-time great vocals. Nobody could really sing like Elvis.

  2. I know this isn’t related to your review (which is great by the way!), but I wanted to just say your new pages on Radiohead and Billie Holiday are fabulous! Really appreciate you taking the time to convert your reviews into these pages, not only are they easier to read, but also your artist/band overviews are wonderful. Thank you!

    1. Where are these new pages on Billie Holiday and Radiohead? I'm not seeing them either here or on the old website.


      It is posted under the tab called “GuestBook is HERE!”