An often forgotten, but most excellent album that surely must be more recognized is the 1976 "From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis Tennessee."
Elvis second last studio album never got due recognition because it was far from being a rock album, nor did it deliver material that lead in a new direction for Elvis.
"Boulevard" went gold in the States hitting # 41 on Billboard's pop chart and #29 in the UK. But better still it topped the Billboard country chart that featured the likes of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings at their peak. The album itself is superb. Country flavored, with a tinge of bombast that Elvis could deliver, without resorting to schmaltz.
Opening with the astonishing "Hurt"; this all time favorite of the man himself and most fans, is a lesson in how sing from the gut, as Elvis would say. The arrangement is basic, but it's the vocal that excels. "Hurt" sold 1/2 million copies in the US, yet no matter how tremendous Elvis sang, the B-side, "For the Heart" should have been the A-side. Hurt was slightly out of touch for the pop market; For the Heart was anything but!
"For the Heart" is a powerful number, one of his best, from the solid bass and guitar work to the excellent piano pounding; this funky/country romp could have mirrored the success of "Burning Love", and would have injected some life into a neutral stage in Elvis career.
"Never Again" is perhaps the weakest track on the album. Elvis does not sing his best here; yet his phrasing and timing are as always, spot-on.
In "Blue Eyes Crying in The Rain" we find the Presley of old, taking a classic song and turning it into his own version; un like the original, and starkly different from Willie Nelson's definitive version.
The recording here is strange; quite echo-ish, yet not over powering. Rumor has it that Elvis played bass on this track. The song is exceptional, a slow and sad ballad, or it's supposed to be, as Elvis crafted a honky-tonk and up-beat version that is great, but second best nest to Willie's.
"Danny Boy" is frankly one of Elvis best and most brilliant performances. From the gentle, but perfect arrangement focusing on the piano and soft backing vocals to Elvis mesmerizing delivery of every line, this is something very very special.
Elvis is word and phrase perfect, his breath control never bettered, every word sends a shiver till a beautiful falsetto ending leaves the listener amazed and reaching for the repeat button on the hi-fi.
"The Last Farewell" begins with an orchestral opening that would not be lost on an Errol Flynn high seas adventure film. And, as the song begins "there's a ship rigged and ready in the harbor...." the scene is set. This is more a folk song than anything....the lyrics are good, Elvis sings excellently and extra attention must be given to the superb work the TCB band does on this track. This is not a song that will cater fore all tastes, especially a pop/rock audience, but is flawless and couldn't be bettered by anyone, Sinatra included!
"Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall" is also excellent. The lyrics are fabulous in parts, especially "She caught me lying, and she caught a train, and I caught a fever walking home in the rain...."
"Solitaire" has become a classic track, through writer Neil Sedaka's stunning original and Andy Williams masterful version. Elvis could have had a big hit if he had recorded this before Williams. This is a song that perhaps spoke volumes about how he felt at the time....maybe, maybe not; but no-matter, as this is excellent.
"Love Coming Down" is another ballad; but not as good, or indeed up to the standard as the rest of the album. Elvis sings well; the band is good, and the song is fine; but nothing more or less.
Closing with a song made famous by the Drifters and catapulted to higher fame by Tom Jones; "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" could have been perceived as a bold step by Presley. To cut a long story short, Elvis version blows Tom Jones's out of the water.....Jones's schmaltzy, purring over the top version pales next to Elvis' lesson in ballad singing. Elvis sounds superb, emotional in the verses and towering during the chorus. This is another standout on the album, an indeed any stage of Elvis career.
So there you have my review of a brilliant album that is sung....that's it. Elvis let his voice do the talking, so to speak. This maybe was never intended to be a huge commercial success, Elvis loved the songs, he wanted to sing them and he did with aplomb.
This is an album that could not be better done. "From Elvis in Memphis" and "Elvis Country" get more credit; but this is literally from the heart of the King......he could sing and deliver gut-wrenching vocals like no other, but slip in the storming "For The Heart", perhaps just incase anyone questioned his ability to rock.