Music Review: Elvis Country (Legacy Edition)
By General Jabbo [Cinema Sentries]
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In 1970, Elvis Presley was arguably at the peak of his second great period.
He was still riding high from the success of the
'68 Comeback Special, and
his 1969 album,
From Elvis In Memphis, had freed him from the second-
rate movie soundtrack songs he had been forced to record for too long.

On top of that, he had made a triumphant — and long overdue — return to
the concert stage. Presley was back on top and needed to make another
big musical statement to maintain his momentum.

In the summer of 1970, Presley and his band went in the studio for some of
the most fruitful sessions of the legendary singer's career. The songs culled
from these sessions were enough for three albums:
'Elvis: That's The Way It Is'
'Elvis Country (I'm 10,000 Years Old)'
'Love Letters From Elvis'
The latter two collected on the new CD Elvis Country (Legacy Edition).

Like
From Elvis In Memphis, 1971's Elvis Country found the singer
revisiting his roots, putting his touch on twelve tracks covering virtually
every style of country.

The album opens with
"Snowbird," a then-recent hit for Anne Murray, that
featured Presley delivering a gentle vocal against guitarist Harold Bradley's
electric sitar.

"Tomorrow Never Comes" combines the bolero rhythm of Glen
Campbell's version with a similar vocal to B.J. Thomas' version. Presley
gives an impassioned performance, ending with a big, dramatic note.

Presley revisits his Sun roots with a blistering cover of his old label mate, Jerry Lee Lewis'
"Whole Lot-ta Shakin' Goin' On," attacking the song with an
aggressive vocal. Lewis' famous piano has been replaced by James Burton's sizzling guitar in this version.

Presley offers a poignant, understated vocal on Willie Nelson's
"Funny How Time Slips Away" and uses the lower registers of his voice to great affect on
"The Fool." The band goes up-tempo on "It's Your Baby, You Rock It," a song that would not be out of place stylistically on From Elvis in Memphis.

For fans that may not know, the original album featured snippets of the rollicking
"I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago" interspersed between
every track to tie them together. This is the way they are presented here as well. Some fans like this, others find it annoying. The songs have appeared
elsewhere without these snippets, but not in the same sound quality that mastering engineer Vic Anesini has delivered here.
The problem with including Love Letters From Elvis in this collection is
that it is not as strong an album as
Elvis Country, which ranks among his
very best. That's not to say the album doesn't have its merits, however.

The album opens with the title cut, which Presley had previously released in
1966. This is a newly recorded version, however, and in the same key with a
similar arrangement. Presley gives a fine performance on this tender ballad.

"Got My Mojo Working/Keep Your Hands Off Of It" finds Presley and his
band in fine form in this energetic studio jam. It's an intense track and would
not be out of place on
Elvis Country. Likewise, the laid-back country of
"It Ain't No Big Thing (But It's Growing)" would also be at home on that
album.

"Cindy, Cindy," a gritty rocker evoking the spirit of Presley's younger days
is an exciting track that shows the singer could still rock out with the best of
them while Presley's powerful vocal drives the pop-tinged
"Heart Of Rome"
— a track that would have suffered in lesser hands — to great heights.

Still, adult contemporary tracks such as
"Life" and "This Is Our Dance"
drag the album down, preventing it from reaching the heights of its
predecessor.

The CD features a number of bonus tracks of singles from the period,
including the excellent
"Where Did They Go, Lord" and the ballad "Rags
To Riches."
Both songs feature the King in fine voice.

A few singles were missed however and, unlike
From Elvis In Memphis
(Legacy Edition)
none of the mono single mixes were used either.
There would have been room to include these songs in the collection. Still, the pluses outweigh the minuses here.

Elvis Country (Legacy Edition) is a must-own, if only for disc one, but there is some fine music on disc two as well. Presley was still in shape, singing well
and delivering quality material. It wouldn't last, but the King at his peak is tough to beat.