"To Whom It May Concern": Lisa Marie Presley makes a statement with her surprising, strong debut album

(May 17, 2003)

The daughter of the King of Rock and Roll has released her long awaited debut album. Interestingly, reviews have been mixed with rock music critics giving it the thumbs up for its raw and gritty edgy qualities while many Elvis fans bewildered by its ‘different’ sound are giving it the thumbs down.

So what do we make of Lisa's musical ability?

The first thing that must be said is that as a songwriter, Lisa Marie Presley has strong skills. She wrote or co-wrote most of the 11 songs on 'To Whom It May Concern' and her lyrics are evocative, touching and powerful.

But be warned, her recordings also include explicit language, although on several songs its use is particularly effective.

The album opens with 'S.O.B'. The initial infectious beat raises expectations and the attractive relentless beat is maintained throughout a very good and aurally satisfying track.

The Road Between could have been an inspiring ballad but the strong lyrics aren't done justice by the distant feel of Lisa's vocals. Lights Out, the first single from the album is a standout track.

'Better Beware', co-written by first husband Danny Keough and Eric Rosse, is a song about relationships, both physical and emotional. It evokes some very powerful images:

"Plant your seed. Steamless conversation"

The song is one of the strongest tracks on the album and is full of Lisa's personal reflection on one of her closest relationships:

"I'm no longer your erection, or your congregation"

'Nobody Noticed It' has been interpreted as a protective ode to Elvis:

"I wish I had spent just a little more time with you. Tears in my ceiling Well they tried to make you look broken, but not while I'm living"

This is a track that strikes a real chord. Listen to it over and over and it grabs you by the throat!

On 'Sinking In', Lisa expresses her feelings about marriage to Michael Jackson(?):

"Was it that I turned every one against you. Was it that I didn't defend you. Was it I always tried to save you and you never wanted me to" With some nice vocal and instrumentation lifts, it is a revealing, appealing track.

The one song on the album that confounds me is 'Important'. I've listened to it several times and I'm still not sure what to make of it. Lisa's ability to lift her vocals to a higher range, rather than the low, husky tone that is her natural pitch, is evident, and her pre-occupation with death once again comes across in the lyrics. There is also good variation throughout the song in both pacing and beat, making it a very listenable track. But something still confounds me...I just can't put my finger what.

'So Lovely' was written for Lisa's children. A beautiful, haunting ballad, it reveals the strength of her love for Riley and Benjamin, and echoes the fears Lisa felt as she watched Elvis' health deteriorate in the last few years before his death:

"Please don't fear to lose me. You know I have those same fears too"

In 'So Lovely' Lisa also points at the dilemma of parental guidance:

"Sometimes don't listen to your Mamma no. And don't do as I do"

The ninth track 'Indifferent' continues Lisa's narrative ability to evoke potent imagery:

"The guillotine of truth has fallen, somehow I'm the one you blame"

'The penultimate track 'Gone' sees Lisa in particularly dark form on the transience of and manipulation in relationships:

"A spineless ending. Well, who would have guessed dear daddy. Turned out to be a coward. When I turned my back you cut my throat it bled for hours"

The final track (or is it??) on the album, the titular 'To Whom It May Concern' is a powerful statement about the plight of children in a society where there is an overuse of medication. As a socially aware statement its lyrics are a powerful narrative with an explosive ending!

And I recommend you check this track out very carefully or you may miss something! On listening to many of the lyrics throughout the album one is struck by how much Lisa's recording of the tracks is a cathartic experience for her, as she cleanses her body and mind of toxic events and experiences of her past and present.

The album cover features the now very familiar side on shot of a sullen Lisa Presley and while a picture disc would have been welcomed, the metallic silver disc with white dots is nevertheless interesting. Lisa contributed to the liner notes and her comments are heartfelt and will touch many a fan with their raw emotion and honesty.

The album is an enhanced disc and features the 'Lights Out' video and a behind-the-scenes look at the video's making. Other reviewers have commented that on many tracks Lisa's vocals are overshadowed by the louder instrumentation.

This is a generally fair comment and how it could have happened given modern recording techniques is amazing (or was it deliberate?). A minor tweaking to give a better vocal-instrumentation balance was arguably needed and would, in my opinion, have added real value to the production. As for Lisa Presley’s vocal qualities, there is no doubt she can definitely sing with her brooding, husky voice.

As I noted earlier in the review, Lisa has a definite strength as a songwriter. Whether or not her ability to vocally interpret songs is as strong will require two or three subsequent albums on which she can explore and develop her musical talent. To Whom It May Concern is simply too much a very personal statement by Lisa for us to effectively assess her vocal ability and musical charisma. It is at times a darkly brooding album but one that suggests of greater things to come once the artist focuses on less personally dark issues in her music.

Verdict: To Whom It May Concern is an impressive debut album from Lisa Marie Presley, lyrically potent and vocally full of potential. Its intensely personal nature won't be to everyone's liking but it portends of greater things to come. Essentially an album of dark rock ballads, some of which are very strong, it lacks the inclusion of ‘lighter’ tracks that would make it appealing to many Elvis fans.

However its overall feel and edginess appears to be very much in step with the tastes of the (younger) general music buying public and with the right promotion (a factor that sadly appears to be lacking) it could be a major sales success. To Whom It May Concern is an album that will grow on you!

EIN Copyright 2003

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