Elvis Presley

Back in Memphis

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The product of the same early 1969 Memphis sessions under producer Chips Moman that yielded the classic From Elvis in Memphis LP in 1969, Back in Memphis is usually thought of as a distinctly lesser album, but that's far too simplistic and harsh a judgement. For starters, any album that contains Elvis' rendition of Percy Mayfield's "Stranger in My Home Town" isn't going to be seriously "lesser" than too many albums on the planet -- that's a given. Indeed, any other singer who released an LP comprised of ten songs as good as those found here could have sat back and congratulated himself on a job magnificently done. "This Is the Story," "Inherit the Wind," "A Little Bit of Green," and "And the Grass Won't Pay No Mind" are all superb Presley vocal showcases, presenting him at his most powerful and expressive up to that point, with the last among the most beautiful album tracks that the King ever cut. His rendition of Mort Shuman's "You'll Think of Me" is a soaring, passionate record, Elvis' voice lofted over a soul chorus and a brass- and dobro-dominated accompaniment, all carrying one of the prettiest melodies that he ever sang. And the finale, "Without Love," is another Presley homage to Clyde McPhatter, one of the first soul singers to inspire him, whose work Elvis first embraced officially on the finale of his very first long-player (ending Elvis Presley with his rendition of McPhatter's hit "Money Honey" back in 1956). Oh, there's nothing here of the extraordinary quality of "In the Ghetto," "Any Day Now," or "Long Black Limousine" -- though "And the Grass Won't Pay No Mind" and "Stranger in My Hometown" come very close -- but how often does (or can) one get three records like that coming out of one place and one set of sessions? [Back in Memphis has appeared as a limited-edition audiophile reissue from Japan. Like From Elvis in Memphis, everything on it and a lot more was compiled on the double-CD Suspicious Minds, but LP fans, Elvis completists, and any other interested parties would have to look long and hard to find better albums from 1970 (or any other year) by anyone else.]

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