Gillian Gaar, the US writer and author of several books on Elvis, has taken me to task for making sweeping generalisations about Elvis’ post-Army career, of which I am guilty. So after ‘Mystery Train’ I listened to some later Elvis on the way home last night and will now put the record straight.
The immediate post-army LP Elvis Is Back (1960) captures some of the excitement of his best fifties work, and the gospel albums His Hand In Mine (1960) and How Great Though Art (1967) convey genuine sincerity. The famous come-back ‘Singer’ TV special in 1968 signalled a massive upturn in Elvis’ fortunes, and rightly so, while his shows during the early years in Vegas were electrifying, and not just because seeing Elvis on stage again was a thrill in itself.
Elsewhere, there are isolated high points before the 1969 Memphis sessions, most notably his recording of ‘Tomorrow Is A Long Time’, the Bob Dylan song, which appears on the otherwise worthless Spinout LP (1966) and which in a subsequent interview Dylan chose as his favourite interpretation of his own material. There is at least an album’s worth of classy tracks from the dozen or so studio albums Elvis released in the early seventies – try ‘How The Web Was Woven’, ‘Mary In The Morning’, ‘Promised Land’, ‘I Just Can’t Help Believing’, ‘Always On My Mind’ (surely addressed to Priscilla), ‘Hurt’ and ‘Burning Love’ for starters. Finally, if you’re prepared to wade through them all, the many concert albums released during Elvis’ final decade offer glimpses of how the King could still kick up a storm when he was in the right mood.
Still prefer ‘Mystery Train’ though.