Elvis Presley

For the Asking

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The individual songs on this CD may seem far more familiar than the title, which is understandable -- everything here did get released in 1963 and 1964, but not the way it was originally intended. All were recorded in Nashville during mid-1962 for an album that would have been the follow-up to the Pot Luck LP. But Elvis' manager, Colonel Tom Parker, apparently decided around this time that free-standing albums such as the latter weren't as profitable as Presley's movies and their related soundtracks (or, more likely, that the non-soundtrack albums failed to justify the effort involved, when their release complicated the marketing and scheduling of movies and soundtracks that were all nicely unified); and that it made more sense to concentrate on soundtracks when it came to releasing Elvis' music. Indeed, it was over two years before Elvis Presley fans saw another non-soundtrack album of new material (Elvis for Everyone!), and four years beyond that before the next one showed up, by which time he was getting into his Memphis comeback. The material here ended up parceled out to single B-sides and used to fill up his movie soundtrack albums. More's the pity as we listen to the song lineup -- there's not a loser in the bunch, from the pounding rocker "Long Lonely Highway" that opens the record, with its killer chorus, to the crunchy fuzz-guitar driven "Slowly but Surely" that would have closed the album. Among the most familiar songs here, "Witchcraft" managed to chart from the B-side position of its actual release, and "Devil in Disguise" was a number three U.S. hit and number one in England (with "Please Don't Drag That String Around" on the B-side) -- so the album had its commercial edge intact from the start. But in between those obvious moments of appeal is the jaunty "Western Union," a suitable follow-up to early 1962's "Return to Sender," and the achingly lyrical, piano-driven ballad "Love Me Tonight." The original dozen songs intended for the LP have been augmented with the soaring ballad "It Hurts Me," the driving rocker "Memphis Tennessee," and the elegant pop ballad "Ask Me." The sound is excellent throughout, and one only wishes that there were some substantive session information (beyond who's playing), and a list of the records on which all of these sides actually surfaced.

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