If any album was unfortunately and yet aptly named, it was Presley’s 1973 album “Fool.” The LP was basically a collection of left-overs from 1971 and 1972. Although none of the tracks are “bad,” it is unfortunate that this collection could have been so much better than it was.
The title track, “Fool,” was issued as a single together with “Steamroller Blues.” Hearing it now, it is difficult to see why anyone thought it had hit potential. The number is inoffensive and well performed by both Presley and his musicians but it also bland in the extreme. The arrangement builds up throughout it’s duration but never actually reaches a climax – it just repeats the same tune over and over again until it fades out. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – “Suspicious Minds” does exactly the same thing, for example – but here it does little for the song, either musically or lyrically.
The next song “Where Do I Go From Here” is from the same March 1972 session as “Fool” but is far more interesting. The song is considerably more challenging for the singer and Presley gives a fine performance and is totally in control from the rangy verse to the catchy chorus. The lyrics also seem to mean much more to Elvis at this time as well.
“Love Me, Love The Life I Lead” is one of five songs from the May 1971 sessions that also produced the mediocre second Christmas album and the superb “He Touched Me” LP. The non-seasonal and non-sacred material is very variable in quality ranging in quality from the sublime “I’m Leavin’” to the poor “Fools Rush In.” “Love Me Love The Life I Lead” was lyrically an apt song for Presley to sing. Sadly this master was never deemed to be completed by either Felton Jarvis or Presley himself and so was used on this album simply because there was nothing else available. This is unfortunate as what could have become a Presley classic is simply a mediocre brassy ballad.
Much the same can be said for “Padre” which Presley cited in a 1958 Press Conference as one of his favorite songs. Elvis attacks it as another big ballad. It is sung with power and feeling but perhaps the arrangement is a little overpowering for the material. Bizarrely the song has appeared on numerous gospel compilations over the years, despite being a standard love song!
“It’s Impossible” was recorded in February 1972 in Las Vegas. This is not of Elvis’ greatest live efforts. The song is bland as is the arrangement, but it does fit in nicely with the albums title track.
The remaining five cuts are of a much higher standard than those we have already discussed but they are also a lost opportunity to demonstrate fully a different side of Elvis’ craft. “For Lovin’ Me” was one of the few songs Elvis cut in March 1971 for a possible folk flavoured album. This song, along with “Early Mornin’ Rain” from “Elvis Now,” was written by the great Gordon Lightfoot. It’s a pity the folk album never got completed as this is sung with style and grace in a manner completely lacking in the bombastic “Padre” and “Love Me Love The Life I Lead.”
Next we come to the famed “piano” songs. These were recorded in May 1971 with just Elvis at the piano. These tracks (“I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen,” “It’s Still Here” and “I Will Be True”) could have shown us so much about the private music making of Elvis in 1973 but, instead, they were edited and overdubbed in order to make them more “commercial.” This was a great loss at the time, despite them appearing unedited and undubbed on a number of releases from 1980 onwards.
Finally, we come to the biggest loss of the album – the butchering of the 10 minute jam session of Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” to just under three minutes. The performance is outstanding but the editing of such a work in unforgivable and unfathomable. The decision to edit the performance is even more bizarre due to the fact the album runs at little more that 23 minutes! A completely lost opportunity. In 1979 an eight minute edit was released on “Our Memories of Elvis volume two” but the full work has yet to see the light of day.
Don’t get me wrong, this album is not bad - but production decisions and certain song selections simply render it unimportant within the Elvis legacy. The buying public thought the same and the album failed to make shop tills ring in big numbers. A shame.
Playing time: 23'47/ Sound 7 / 8/ Cover Art 7