While it may be difficult to believe now, Elvis Presley’s career in the late 1960s prior to his triumphant ’68 Comeback Special was on the skids. Presley had been starring in increasingly bland “Elvis Movies” with increasingly bland soundtrack albums. The hits were drying up and the music world was passing him by. Even the Comeback Special wasn’t a sure thing at first — the Colonel originally wanted it to be a Christmas special, which the show’s producers Bones Howe and Steve Binder fought against and won. They saw the show as an opportunity for Presley to regain his throne as King and he agreed. The rest, as they say, is history as Presley electrified the world as he had done in the 1950s.
The next step was to cash in on this momentum. With Presley’s renewed interest in his recording career, he decided to return to Memphis to record for the first time since he had left Sun Records. He chose Chips Moman’s American Studios and from January to February 1969 recorded some of the most vital music of his career. These sessions are collected on the two-disc From Elvis in Memphis: Legacy Edition.
Like he had done so often in the early days, Presley blended rock, rhythm and blues, and country into a mix uniquely his. Gone were songs such as “Do the Clam,” replaced instead by ace singles including “Suspicious Minds” (Presley’s last U.S. number-one single), “Kentucky Rain,” and “In the Ghetto.” He was relevant and vital again.
Album cuts such as “Any Day Now” and “Long Black Limousine” showed an urgency missing from so much of Presley’s mid-1960s work while “Only the Strong Survive” and “I’m Movin’ On” sounded of the times. One wonders how many more albums like this he could have released had he decided to retake his career sooner.
The sessions were so productive, they yielded material for two complete albums (plus some songs that made it onto future releases). After a successful return to live performances in Las Vegas, Presley released From Memphis to Vegas/From Vegas to Memphis, a two-record set that was half live, half studio. The studio cuts are collected here and the material is arguably as strong as From Elvis in Memphis, with standout cuts including the bluesy “Stranger in My Hometown,” “You’ll Think of Me” and the yearning “Without Love (There is Nothing).
As good as this material is, it has never received the proper treatment on CD. That is all changed on this Legacy Edition. In addition, ten mono singles are included as bonus tracks. While there was room on the discs for the stereo versions of some of these singles, they have been released numerous times on other CDs and the mono tracks are something of a rarity in this digital age. With great packaging, great sound and great songs, From Elvis in Memphis: Legacy Edition is a powerful reminder of why Elvis Presley was the King.