This time we'll have another look on a CD that was not upgraded recently, but was only released in the "Elvis in the 90's" series. The album was originally released in October 1973, and on first sight it already is a rarity. While the CD was simply called "Raised On Rock", the original LP had a double title, "Raised On Rock / For Ol' Times Sake".
The album opens with one of the title tracks (on the LP side 2 opened with the other one), "Raised On Rock". This Mark James composition is not half as strong as the others by this author that Elvis recorded. While "Always On My Mind" and "Moody Blue" are among the best songs Elvis recorded in the 70's and "Suspicious Minds" is the best ever, according to many fans, "Raised On Rock" is just mediocre. This is worsened by the way Elvis sang it, as if he was not interested at all. Where is the man that did "Burning Love" with so much power one year earlier, even though it is known that he didn't dig the song at all? At least you can't hear it on that one. "Are You Sincere" does at least sound sincerely, but still isn't very great. "Find Out What's Happening" is one of those songs on the album that comes close to the real thing, but just misses something. That's a pity because the soulful sound asks for an inspired performance. "I Miss You" is one of the songs that Elvis overdubbed in Palm Springs in September 1973 ("Are You Sincere", "Sweet Angeline" being the others), and that's about all that can be said about this song, except maybe that it is certainly not the worst on the album. "Girl Of Mine" is a catchy tune, originally recorded by Engelbert Humperdinck for Gordon Mill's MAM Music Publishing, which also was the base for Tom Jones and Gilbert O'Sullivan once.
One of the highlights on the album, if not the only one, is Tony Joe White's composition "For Ol' Times Sake". Staying very close to the original Elvis managed to record at least one decent song during his first Stax session. "If You Don't Come Back" is another example of good writers (Leiber/Stoller) not delivering what you are used to, or is it just Elvis' performance? Somehow we got the feeling again that the performance is the main reason, since Elvis was able to perform lesser songs more decently. This can be said for "Just a Little Bit" too. A song that could have been a fine rocker got a very uninspired rendition. Another ballad "Sweet Angeline" pulls the CD out of the dust a bit, but this feeling is completely destroyed by the last track of the album. Another Leiber and Stoller song closes it, probably one of Elvis' least inspired performances ever. You can almost hear him yawn and unfortunately the band doesn't sound much better in the master. At least the outtake on "Rhythm and Country (Essential Elvis 5)" gives some instrumental firework, compared to this version.
Concluding we can only say that we understand why BMG did not upgrade this album, since it almost is "mission impossible" with such relatively poor material, but it is Elvis.