CD Review: Don Robertson's Songs for Elvis...and then I wrote

Bear Family Records, BCD 16654AR, 2003, Listening time: 62 minutes

By: Nigel Patterson, 3 October 2003

The first thing to say about this album is...Don Robertson can sing! OK, he's no Elvis or Dean Martin in his vocal delivery, but it's refreshing to hear original Elvis ballads sung in a slightly different style.

The second thing to say is...that if you like Elvis' early to mid 1960s ballads, then you'll like this album.


With Elvis related songs like I Met Her Today, Love Me Tonight, What Now, What Next, Where To; Starting Today, and the hauntingly beautiful, There's Always Me (note for note virtually identical to Elvis' great version), how couldn't you?

The third thing to say is...would you believe Donald Irwin Robertson was born in Peking, China! Well he was.

Don Robertson's songs have accounted for a staggering 500,000,000 sales worldwide and his song writing relationship with Hal Blaine has been particularly fruitful (there are 15 Robertson/Blaine compositions on the album). Their biggest hit was a non-Elvis recording, Ringo, the smash hit #1 in 1964 for Bonanza's 'Pa Cartwright', Lorne Greene.

What struck me about many of the songs was their similarity, and I mean that in a very positive way. I've dubbed them "The Elvis Group", as they have similar piano introductions, pacing and lyric sentiment. Elvis could have sung any one of them and made it his own. Apart from the well known They Remind Me Too Much Of You and Anything That's Part Of You, the group includes You Don't Need Me Anymore; Darling, Let's Go Home; Your Happiness Means Everything To Me; My Side Of The Story and I''ve Come To Say Goodbye.

In fact Elvis could have successfully recorded virtually every one of the 26 tracks on this album. It symbolises how Don Robertson's writing skills mirrored Elvis' musical style at the time, and begs the question for an album: "Elvis Sings Don Robertson!"

Aside from the songs recorded by Elvis, Don delivers other great music with the mournful 'Road To Heartbreak', the beautiful 'I Hurt' (this would have made an amazing Elvis recording!) and a break from the ballad genre with the boppy, toe-tappin', neo Sambo (with plenty of bongo drums), 'Love Finds A Way'.

The song mix also includes the instantly recognisable, Hi Lee Hi Lo, adapted from an old German folk song, and Hummingbird, which has a great 60s feel to it.

The CD is presented in an attractive tri-foldout, digipack format with a very informative and picture filled 36 page booklet. It includes plenty of interesting information about Elvis, including the night Don and Elvis "jammed" together at Elvis' home in Bel Air! The history to each of the songs is also documented and often makes for fascinating reading.

Verdict: 'Don Robertson's Songs For Elvis...and then I wrote' is an attractively packaged collection of musically strong 1960s ballads. His name may not be as instantly recognisable as that of Leiber and Stoller, but Don Robertson's songwriting legacy is, nevertheless, a very important part of 1960s music. This album is a fitting compendium of that legacy.

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