Album Review #25: Elvis is Back! by Elvis Presley (1960)

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Guess who’s back? Spoiler alert: it’s Elvis.

It’s been four years since our last Elvis album on the list: namely, his 1956 self-titled debut, Elvis Presley. While I most definitely respect that album’s place in the music history books, I found it to be a flawed record. It had many memorable songs, but it just seemed rough-around-the-edges, and not in a good way. This album, however, is a far superior record, with even more creative songs, wider selection of instruments, and a much more fleshed-out and completed feel to it. This record really proves Elvis’ ability to improve on past mistakes and evolve his sound, and is by all measures better than his debut.

As the title suggests, this was Elvis’ first album after returning from his time serving in the army. With much more creative control than he had had in a while, the King would produce a set of twelve songs on a whole new level of quality and depth than he had even reached beforehand. On this record he brings an immediately noticable country influence, evident in both the guitars and the baritone backup singers used on many tracks. Funny then, that the album’s best song would feature none of those: “Fever,” featuring nothing but bass, snapping, and Elvis’ effortlessly cool vocals, manages to be the album’s most memorable song despite being the most stripped-back track on the entire record. “Make Me Know It” and “Dirty, Dirty Feeling” are also highlights, bringing to the forefront Elvis’ classic fast tempo rock and roll to fantastic results.

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Elvis in uniform. Image source: aol.com

As always, he can play a mean slow song too. If you’re looking for a more sensitive, tender Elvis, you’ll find it on ballads like “Soldier Boy” and “I Will Be Home Again,” featuring great piano accompaniment, not to mention the country-influenced, Crickets-esque backup vocals. Yeah, they can sound pretty goofy at times, but it honestly just adds to the charm of it all. Elvis consistently proves that he can make slow ballads just as good as fast rock songs (sometimes even better), and these are just some of the best of them on this record alone. He’s versatile, and his albums are all the better for it.

So, if you weren’t swayed by his debut, give his comeback a chance. Even the title seems excited about it, so you know it can’t be that bad. With a perfect 50/50 mix of fast and slow songs, with much more diverse arrangements than his first record, Elvis is Back! is an improvement in every sense of the word. It’s the album Elvis Presley could have been, and really is just a good album regardless of his previous endeavours.

Favorite Tracks: “Fever,” “Make Me Know It,” “Soldier Boy,” “Dirty, Dirty Feeling,” “I Will Be Home Again”

Next Up: Miriam Makeba by Miriam Makeba

Album Review #1: Elvis Presley by Elvis Presley (1956)

Elvis Self titled 1956

We start off this monster of an album list with a true classic: the world’s first taste of the King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley. I’ll have to admit, I was very surprised by this album. As my first taste of classic 50’s rock n’ roll, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it or if I would simply find myself uninterested. But this album really surpassed my expectations; the fast songs were incredibly catchy, the slow songs were incredibly well-performed, and altogether it was just a very solid album.

No album is without its flaws, however. I noticed several inconsistencies with volume and audio quality; on some tracks Elvis sounded almost like he decided to start singing away from the mic mid-song for no particular reason, and a couple tracks were of a noticeably lower audio quality than the rest. This didn’t really have much of an impact on the listening experience, though. The tracks were just too strong for something like that to have an impact on the album’s quality.

The opening track, “Blue Suede Shoes”, is a great kick-off, with an energetic performance and great guitar and drums to back it up. The album’s many slow ballads are heart-felt and and well-sung, and are split up with fast rocking tracks in between to keep up the pace. The best of these is definitely “Tutti Frutti”, an incredibly peppy and upbeat Little Richard cover that really bounds with energy (however, the original is still superior, in my opinion). “Blue Moon” is another highlight, but in a different way. It’s very minimalistic, stripped down and slow-moving, but great nonetheless.

Overall, I enjoyed this album very much, and would recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in classic rock n’ roll.

Next Up: In the Wee Small Hours by Frank Sinatra (1955)