After our review we received a few reactions of people who didn't (completly) agree with us. All reactions can be found in the SongBase, but Peter Verbuggen wrote an extensive personal review we'd like to share.
Definitely one of the most talked-about recording sessions in the career of Elvis Presley took place in July 1973. Five days of studio labor and one overdub resulted in the album “Raised On Rock/For Ol' Times Sake”, named after the two opening tracks. The album, re-released on CD in the “Elvis in the Nineties-series”, has caused quite some controversy among Elvis fans. Some regard this album as the point of no return: “It was downhill from there on”. Others can find “only one decent song” on it, but not everybody shares that narrow-minded point of view. I for one don't.
You see, here was a man who just had conquered the world. His January 1973 show in Hawaii proved more than anything that Elvis was the greatest entertainer alive. No one could match his talent, his looks, his powerful voice. Over a billion people watched that performance, and the forthcoming soundtrack skyrocketed to platinum in just a matter of weeks. “Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite” would eventually become the States' first and only double album that sold over one million copies in quadraphonic sound. Adored by millions, but at the same time he was the loneliest man in the crowd. With his fallen apart marriage in the back of his mind, the never ending quarrels among the Memphis Mafia, the constant nagging for more money by some of his band members, his cooled-off relationship with “that old man” and his failing health, Elvis was far from happy.
One has to bare all that in mind when listening to “Raised on Rock”. But maybe because of his personal problems, Elvis's beautiful voice never sounded more emotional, more “honest and true” than during his first and second Stax recording. Here's a man sitting on Top of the World, yet walking a long, lonely road.
The album kicks off with a good old fashioned rockin' song, “Raised on Rock”. The opening track is certainly not the highlight of what Mark James ever wrote in his life, but it moves right along. I know, it sounds a bit strange to hear Elvis sing about how he grew up on the music he himself had created, but let's not make the mistake of projecting the words of each song onto Elvis' life. “Are You Sincere” is a contemporary attempt to recreating the sound of his classical hit “Are You Lonesome Tonight”, and includes a similar (soft) spoken part in the middle. “Find Out What's Happening” is probably the least interesting song on the album. It has nice lyrics and an unusual funky sound for an Elvis recording, but the King clearly doesn't dig the song. Felton settled for the 9th take, never making another attempt to have Elvis giving it another try. “I Miss You” and “Girl of Mine” show us once again the real Elvis: never having any trouble to find the right notes, and adding that extra something to the song that makes you just want to listen, instead of sing along.
Undisputable highlight on the album is the very sincere “For Ol' Times Sake”, a love ballad written by TJ White and first released on his 1973 album “Homemade Ice Cream”. Elvis puts down a very close-to-the-original version, not afraid to put his feelings in the song. A true masterpiece that takes away the last shred of doubt. For optimum sound: please turn the volume to 9. The tender ballad “Sweet Angeline” moves along the same line. More so than being the co-founder of Rock 'n' Roll, Elvis was the King of Ballads. Although “Sweet Angeline” floats on acoustic guitar, it deserves a spot right next to the great piano-songs that millions of fans love dearly, such as “It's still Here” and “I'll take you Home Kathleen”. Most fans agree that his piano-songs, as released on the Fool album, are part of the best music Elvis ever made. Well, if they are so good, why should one call “Angeline” a mediocre song as some reviewers do?
To show The King's musical versatility, the album contains a few fun songs like “If You Don't Come Back”, “Three Corn Patches” and “Just a Little Bit”. Don't expect history making recordings here, that was never the intention. Maybe, just maybe, he should have switched one of those songs – preferably “Three Corn Patches” – for “It’s different Now”, a song he partly recorded during the same session, but another ballad would have given the critics only more ammo to shoot at this album.
Concluding, “Raised on Rock” is an instantaneous snapshot of Elvis in July of 1973, less than 7 months after he hosted “the biggest show on Earth” and presents us, above all, a very sincere singer who stood for the difficult task to please an immense audience, to come up to the level of his Aloha-performance and to hide his staggering personal problems. If you’d ask me: he did a fantastic job. Or to quote the man himself: “Here I stand like an open book”.