By the late 1960s, most of the rock and roll stars of the 1950s had either passed away or faded into a relatively obscure background. Even the biggest star of them all, Elvis Presley, struggled to find his place after nearly a decade of mediocre movies and mostly mediocre music that strayed further and further from the relevant sounds of the time. With all of that said, Elvis Presley was still “The King of Rock and Roll”, and finally he broke free of that terrible movie deal to deliver a Christmas television appearance in 1968, followed by the album “From Elvis in Memphis”, released in 1969. This album is the 322nd rated album on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Following the same approach as the recently discussed album by Dusty Springfield, Elvis recorded this album with a collection of famous Memphis studio musicians known as “The Memphis Boys”. What resulted was an outstanding intersection of soul, country, and rock and roll, with the greatest of them all back on the microphone. Over the years, Elvis proved he could sing almost any style of music and make it sound great. On this album, the most visible single was “In the Ghetto”, an outstanding showcase for his depth as a vocalist. The other most impactful song from these sessions was released as a single but not originally included on this album, “Suspicious Minds”. With its building tempo and intensity, there was nobody like Elvis who could deliver such a dramatic performance.
Beyond those well remembered songs, this album has many other standout tracks. “I’m Movin’ On” takes you back to the early Presley days, and the intense “Power of My Love” serves as another reminder that there was only one Elvis. “Gentle on My Mind” is a beautiful ballad that captures Elvis as a storyteller, and the bluesy “After Loving You” hits you right in the heart.
Perhaps the most eerie foreshadow is the song “Long Black Limousine”, a somber ode to a funeral procession, that instantly takes me back to that awful day in August of 1977 when my first musical hero shockingly passed. I was only ten years old at the time, but I will never forget the day Elvis died, as my mom, her friend and I sat around late into the night in shock, listening to every Elvis album we had.
To this day, like many others, I’m mesmerized by his talent, presence, unique celebrity status, his mysterious presence in Graceland, and his charisma. Above all of that, Elvis was an amazing singer and performer, and although his career had many ups and downs, I’m so grateful he had this additional shining moment to remind all those who came after him, why he was, and will always be, “The King of Rock and Roll”.