- Reviewed by Piers Beagley -
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,
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.
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.
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”.
"Elvis Presley is the supreme socio-cultural icon in the history of pop culture"
(Dr. Gary Enders)