Life at 33 1/3: The Miracle


Elvis Presley: From Elvis In Memphis (RCA)
Released: June 1969.

Side 1:
1. “Wearin’ That Loved On Look”
2. “Only the Strong Survive”
3. “I’ll Hold You in My Heart (Till I Can Hold You in My Arms)”
4. “Long Black Limousine”
5. “It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin”
6. “I’m Movin’ On”

Side 2:
1. “Power of My Love”
2.”Gentle on My Mind”
3. “After Loving You”
4. “True Love Travels on a Gravel Road”
5. “Any Day Now”
6. “In the Ghetto”

(Produced by: Chips Moman & Felton Jarvis)
Elvis Presley – vocals, guitar, piano.
Glen Spreen – string and horn arrangements.
Ed Kollis – harmonica.
John Hughey – pedal steel guitar on “In the Ghetto”.
Reggie Young, Dan Penn – electric guitar.
Bobby Wood – piano.
Bobby Emmons – organ.
Tommy Cogbill, Mike Leech – bass.
Gene Chrisman – drums.

This album, Elvis’ comeback in the ‘Champions League’, was a miracle, nothing less.  It was preceded by a television special in 1968, some sort of a come-back in itself.  Elvis looked extraordinary in the unplugged live-bits, a rock’n’roll Lazarus of Memphis dressed in black leather, hair dyed jet black, pure sexuality with a cheeky smile to go.  There was a charismatic arrogance at play here that more than made up for the show’s rather corny storyline.

And yet one was not prepared for the outstanding album that followed six months later.  After nearly eight humiliating years in the Hollywood B-movie wilderness, he woke up, revolted and took matters in his own hands.  The 60’s had more or less passed him by.  He had been a living joke.  But no more.  The hunger was back.  And so he turned his back on the Hollywood soundtrack-machine and set off to Memphis.  Back home where it all had started 16 years earlier.

“From Elvis In Memphis” was Elvis’ “Bringing It All Back Home”.  Things mattered again.  He cut himself loose from all the idiotic advisors, got a real producer who hand-picked the stellar musicians and tore into songs that he could have written himself, if he had been able to write.  It was chemistry.  This was the music and the words that spoke directly to Elvis’ soul.  The voice was back, mighty as mountains, soft as heartbreaks, turning the lyrics into flesh, blood and human spirit.  The songs were strong, the playing magnificent.

“From Elvis In Memphis” is up there with “Elvis Is Back” and all his classic recordings from the ’50s.  The album was as contemporary valid (and timeless!) as anything The Beatles, The Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan did at the time.  As rock swerved in all directions, “From Elvis In Memphis” became an anchor.  This is what it’s all about: Take the listener to the heavens and back through the magic of a three minute song.  If he believed in it, nobody could turn a song into a living being like Elvis.

Everyone knows “In The Ghetto”.  But the album delivers some equally good if not better performances.  Try “Wearin’ That Loved On Look”, the album opener that storms through the loudspeakers, juicy, funky, sexy, triumphantly pounding its chest.  Goose pimples galore.  Try “True Love Travels On A Gravel Road” an amazing journey through the bumpy realities of a relationship.  Try the blindingly painful and beautiful “Long Black Limousine”.  And try “Power Of My Love” with its haunting female voices.  It’s dark, it’s scary, it’s witchcraft.

Actually there are no weak tracks.  Unfortunately he never managed to match this album again.  He tried a few times, but the inspiration was gone.  He turned lazy as his private life collapsed.  Then he set out on the dark downhill journey of pills, cheeseburgers, self-pity, resignation and … death.