"Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century."

(Leonard Bernstein)


"If you're an Elvis fan, no explanation is necessary; If you're not an Elvis fan, no explanation is possible."

(George Klein)


"For a dead man, Elvis Presley is awfully noisy."

(Professor Gilbert B. Rodman)


"History has him as this good old country boy, Elvis is about as country as Bono!"

(Jerry Schilling)


"Absolute id crashed into absolute superego...as the uptightset man in America shook hands with just about the loosest."

(Mark Feeney on the 'Elvis meets Nixon' meeting)


"Elvis is everywhere"

(Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper)


"...especially in the South, they talk about Elvis and Jesus in the same breath"

(Michael Ventura, LA Weekly)



CD Review:

"Elvis Country"

- Reviewed by Piers Beagley -

"Elvis' Greatest Country Hits"

'Elvis Country' is part of Sony BMG's new "genre" series.

Featuring 20 of The King's classic country recordings and mastered by Vic Anesini at Sony Studios in New York, all the "genre" releases feature DSD audio technology.

Surely every true Elvis fans initial reaction has to be, “Do we really need another Elvis Country compile?” After all there have already been so many over the years. If I need a dose of Elvis country the 2 obvious CDs to reach for are the magnificent original, ‘Elvis Country, I’m 10,000 Years Old’ or another classic, the 2002 re-release of ‘Great Country Songs’.

However for all my possible grumbles BMG have produced an appealing new release since ‘Elvis – Country’ features only 8 tracks in total from those particular compiles.

Obviously aimed at the general public, who might have recently bought ‘Elvis 30 #1s’, ‘Love – Elvis’ or ‘Elvis By The Presleys’, the track selection is skilful in having only 1 song repeated from those 3 CDs. So while the tunes are all familiar territory for most of us, for the casual mainstream fan the majority will be a new discovery of another musical side of Elvis.

Unfortunately the cover design is fairly ordinary and with the appearance of a mid-price rather than a full-price release. Not only that but the photo is of Elvis backstage in 1955, whereas the earliest song featured is from 1969, and the majority from the mid-seventies. Surely an image of Elvis from the late sixties (possibly a sensational ‘Comeback’ shot playing his guitar) would have been more appropriate and just as appealing.

The sleeve notes are all too brief even if they do cleverly explain the theme of the CD. Writer Michael Hill says,
“What defines these tunes as country is perhaps not the literal sound so much as the sensibility. These are late-night laments, honky-tonk tearjerkers, songs about breaking up, letting go, looking back, moving on. They channel the melancholy of great country song-writing into tracks that are inimitably Elvis - and that must be counted among his most poignant. Elvis remains a larger-than-life figure with his big voice and his big productions, yet his choice of material brings him compellingly down to earth. Listen to these songs with the benefit of hindsight and you can sense the hurt and disappointment that may have lurked behind the famous facade: the after-effects of marital troubles, the alone-in-a-crowd isolation, the mid-life realization everybody has that time indeed is slipping away”.

Starting with the beautiful ‘For The Good Times’ these are songs of remorse & loss are all from a similar period and so have a nice consistent feel. Elvis was always at his best when the lyrics reflected his own moods and these all capture the sadness & loneliness & regret he felt through his final years.

With them all imbued with the honesty of Elvis’ soul, the poignancy of ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ and ‘Honky Tonk Angel’ sound all that more real in this context as opposed to their original albums (‘Aloha’ & ‘Promised Land’). It is also great to see some more obscure favourites like ‘Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues’, ‘Are You Sincere’ and ‘If I’m A Fool (for Loving You)’ on a mainstream compile. (Did The Colonel really throw the later away on one of his original budget Camden releases?!).

So while the selection does match a particular despondent mood, if any of these country classics draw more fans into exploring the deeper Elvis world, that can only be a good thing.

Perhaps there were missed opportunities in not using the un-dubbed ‘Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain’ (boy, the Master is a terrible echoey over-dubbed mess!) and I would also have added the heart-breakingly exquisite ‘For ‘Ol Times Sake’ (Take 3).

The sleeve should also have promoted Elvis’ original country album stating, “If you liked this selection then you should check out Elvis’ original 1970 concept album ‘Elvis Country – I’m a 10,000 Years Old’ featuring another 13 beautiful tracks not featured on this CD.”

Few people would be buying this because of the new improved “DSD optimum Sound” advertised on the front cover, but a lot of these songs have not been recently upgraded.
However the reality is that majority have been taken from the ‘70’s box-set’ tapes and although they are a little clearer & richer than previously, they are not from the ‘original studio Masters’ which made ‘Ultimate Gospel’ & ‘Elvis 30#1s’ sound so damn good.

So while I have always enjoyed the very interesting BMG 2000 ‘Promised Land’ CD release, which featured uncluttered Dennis Ferrante audio remixes, the 1973 tracks here are all the original mixes. For instance ‘There’s A Honky Tonk Angel’ has a nice open feel on the ‘Promised Land’ CD whereas here there is that original echo added across Elvis’ vocal & orchestra. ‘Kentucky Rain’ is also very different from the ‘2nd To None’ version as it also has that obvious echo on Elvis’ voice which featured on the original release.
It is however a bonus to hear ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ with the speed corrected compared to the 1998 CD release - and the mix has a smoother feel.

So although the echo on ‘Blues Eyes Crying’ is a little off-putting, the CD does have a nice coherent texture and the final 1969 track ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’ (from ‘In Person’) is such an astounding show-stopper that it makes you want to start all over again.

Verdict – While this can be no revelation, if you are in the right mood then this is the best in the new BMG series. If you are feeling a little despondent and need to share some special times with Elvis, (like Oscar winning actress Rachel Weisz!), then pour out a “water glass full of whiskey” and soak in these country vibes. After all, “The midnight train is whining low & I'm so lonesome I could cry”.

For The Good Times
Take Good Care Of Her
She Wears My Ring
Always On My Mind
Green, Green Grass of Home
Tomorrow Never Comes
A Hundred Years From Now
Kentucky Rain
Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues
It Ain't No Big Thing
Are You Sincere
Release Me
Funny How Time Slips Away
I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
There's A Honky Tonk Angel
If I'm A Fool (For Loving You)
Pieces Of My Life
Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain
I Can't Stop Loving You

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"Elvis Presley is the supreme socio-cultural icon in the history of pop culture"

(Dr. Gary Enders)