|Written by Will “the Thrill” Viharo|
Thirty-four years ago, on August 16, 1977, Elvis Aaron Presley went to the bathroom in his Graceland estate, and hasn’t been seen since. However, he has been heard, a lot, as RCA has continuously rock ‘n’ rolled out both re-released and unreleased tracks from perhaps the most storied and eclectic canon in pop music history. Elvis sang the musical gamut from country to blues to R&B to rock to pop to gospel to ballads to opera (sort of), reveling in his vocal range and giving his generations of fans, which continue to propagate, an eternal supply of songs from Beyond, with something to appeal to almost any tastes.
The latest unearthed batch conveniently commemorating Elvis’s untimely “disappearance” is a mixed bag, but in a good way: a melodic mish-mash of studio and live recordings that showcase Elvis at his greatest, in various phases of his career and life, and the two were always emotionally intertwined.
My favorite Elvis studio album (along with the soulful, revelatory, pivotal From Elvis in Memphis, 1969) is his 1960 post-Army “comeback,” Elvis Is Back, which has been digitally re-mastered, of course, sounding as fresh as if they were recorded this morning. It is in fact my all time favorite EP LP period, next to the soundtrack to 1958’s King Creole, which is also his best flick. This incredibly smooth, sexy ‘n’ sassy album includes such masterful performances as “Reconsider Baby,” “Like a Baby,” “Fever,” “Make Me Know It,” and “Such a Night,” and rounding out the reissue are several hits from the early 1960s, my personal favorite period of his productivity, including my all-time favorite Elvis tune, “His Latest Flame,” as well as other top tier tunes like “A Mess of Blues,” “Little Sister,” “Good Luck Charm,” and “I Feel So Bad,” along with tracks from the 1961 album appropriately titled Something For Everybody, including such gems as “I Want You With Me,” “Put the Blame On Me,” and “I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell” (from his 1960 flick Wild in the Country, another superior E-flick). Most Elvis already own these tracks in various compilations, but not sounding so crisp and clear.
Equally noteworthy is the long-delayed and resonantly re-mastered CD release of his landmark live album On Stage (February 1970), capturing The King at his jump-suited peak, gloriously belting out hits from his own catalogue as well as others with a magical voice of velvet thunder. This release in itself is a milestone, but it’s the formerly unreleased (at least officially) concert material that really warrants special kudos: Elvis Live in Vegas Aug. 26, 1969 Dinner Show; Elvis Live in LA April 15, 2011; Elvis: Live Amarillo '77; and Elvis Stage Rehearsal, collecting various versions of such stage staples as “Proud Mary,” “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” “Polk Salad Annie,” “Sweet Caroline,” etc. The sound quality varies but Elvis’s professionalism does not. His voice grew deeper and grander even as his physique grew thicker and sicker, and you can trace this progression through the albums if listened to in sequential order. It’s a real kick to hear “Steamroller Blues,” a highlight of his legendary 1973 “Aloha From Hawaii” satellite special, in two other venues (LA and Amarillo), and his rambling in between sets is often revelatory. Elvis apparently loved to talk to his audience almost as much as he loved to sing to them. Despite his unprecedented, unparalleled success and status, he comes off like a genuinely sweet-natured, down to earth dude, a lonesome cowboy humbly reveling in the public adoration and joyously thriving in his natural element. He seemed to live for his fans and his music, and even when his flesh finally failed to keep up with his immortal spirit, the mortal man ultimately overwhelmed by his own monumental myth, his legacy endures to entertain and enthrall his legions of fans, old and new, apparently till the end of time. Love Live The King. TCB, baby.
Will "The Thrill" Viharo is a freelance writer, host of the film series “Forbidden Thrills” at Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge, and creator of the long running cult movie cabaret “Thrillville.” He lives in Alameda, CA with his wife Monica “Tiki Goddess” Cortes and their two cats. His pulp novels “A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge,” “Lavender Blonde,” “Chumpy Walnut,” “Down a Dark Alley," and the "Vic Valentine, Private Eye" series are now available at http://www.thrillville.net/fiction/index.html