Gospel music was indeed the first music Elvis ever heard. His most private feelings came out singing those beautiful songs in which he could so easily express his faith. This album is so complete, so full with gospel in every way, you don’t have to believe yourself to enjoy and get strength out of it. Once again this is the ultimate proof Elvis was an all round singer.
With the CD comes a very nice and complete booklet. The cover art matches the theme very well with this almost "sacred" image of Elvis. The booklet itself invites you to read more about Elvis’ love for gospel music and the way he started to mix his faith with his love to sing. Gospel was and would stay a very strong part of Elvis’ music during his complete career. He only won Grammy Awards for his gospel recordings.
The first song “I Believe” starts so strong that there can’t be any mistake about the sincerity of Elvis. The warmth in the lower notes and the strength in the higher ones make me thankful for being an Elvis fan. “(There’ll Be Peace) In The Valley (For Me)” was Elvis first recorded gospel song. Maybe because his mother liked this one so much, who knows, but I’m glad he did it, because by doing this the official gospel start of his career was a fact. The harmony between Elvis and the Jordanaires is extraordinary. The serious “Take My Hand Precious Lord” is sung with dedication and with the early rock songs in mind, we hear a complete different Elvis from the one we knew on “Heartbreak Hotel”, recorded only one year before. “It Is No Secret (What God Can Do)”, also recorded in 1957, goes on in the same style, sung with dedication and great faith.
Right on time “Milky White Way” begins. Personally I love this increase of tempo and his voice is already a bit fuller and even warmer. Those three years until 1960 make a big difference. We continue with the title song of his first gospel album: “His Hand In Mine”, which was the ultimate proof his fans fully accepted his love for gospel music. The Jordanaires are already starting with “I Believe In The Man In The Sky”, which song I really love. Elvis is singing with his heart. Calmer of tempo but not less beautiful begins “He Knows Just What I Need”. The lyrics are maybe a bit too serious for some, but the song is touching, no discussion about that.
“Mansion Over The Hill Top” and “In My Father’s House” are next, all in the same tempo and sphere. It’s nice to hear the songs in a chronological way. Please listen to the bass singer in the middle of the song. He really touches my heart on this one.
Ah … finally, in my opinion, the tempo is moving up again with “Joshua Fit The Battle”. Even I would go to a church when the choir would sing these kinds of songs. “Swing Down Sweet Chariot” is a perfect follow-up, and although this is a true gospel song I want to dance on it. The rhythm is so catching; you can’t sit still on this one. “I’m Gonna Walk Dem Golden Stairs” is a good song to cool down, nice tempo and easy to listen too. The serious song “If We Never Meet Again” brings us back to a slower tempo. Normally I would not have liked that but a closer look to the lyrics changes my mind. Elvis sings it with so much love inside, you’ll like it for sure. “Known Only To Him”, a very serious song, but the tenderness of Elvis is crystal clear, like his voice. “Working On The Building”, an up tempo one again, stole my heart. Please listen carefully to the Jordanaires; they are really doing a fine job on this one.
“Crying In The Chapel” doesn’t need any introduction. This must have been Elvis of showing his believe to the world. The piano player Floyd Cramer is my personal favourite on this one. With “Run On”, a very nice up-tempo song by a little older Elvis, we are moving to 1966. His voice is fuller and you can hear the 6 years difference. Especially with “How Great Thou Art”: this is the Elvis we know from the early Vegas years. This is a very good and dedicated studio version. “Stand By Me” and “Where No One Stands Alone” are both not really favourites of mine, but I must admit it’s only the lack of tempo what is bothering me. Listening to them through my headset I get the chills from Elvis’ voice.
Ah …I can dance again: “So High” comes out of my speakers. Beautiful up-tempo gospel song, sung exactly right; I love it! “Father Along” is next, of course a fine song, but out of place on this CD here. I would have liked the tempo to stay up. “By And By” makes that right again. Full orchestra and choir make me move my feet again. Ernst must have thought it would be nice to change the tempo this much because “In The Garden” is next. Personally I would have liked the “slower’’ songs not at the end of the first disk. “Somebody Bigger Then You And I” is not up-tempo either, but for some reason (I suppose the lyrics) this one is a real favourite of mine.
“Without Him” gives us a very clear and dedicated Elvis. It’s sung in a very sincere way. “If The Lord Wasn’t Walking By My Side” is so right, so beautiful. This is the way gospels should be sung! Really touching and you can imagine everyone standing and clapping on this one. The last 1966 song and last on this first CD is “Where Could I Go But To The Lord”. Personally I love the NBC version of this song, but this is a close second.
Disc 2 starts in 1967 and will move onwards to 1974. “We Call On Him” is sung in almost a devoted way. The Jordanaires and Millie Kirkham doing their finest on this one. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is of course a great song with lots of power in it. We’re moving to 1970 with “Only Believe”. The Imperials are doing the backing vocals now. And then it’s time for the title song “Amazing Grace”: sung in a very dedicated way, which makes it almost a sacred song. The beautiful harmony with Elvis and the choir will give you the chills. “Miracle Of The Rosary” gives us a whole different kind of gospel. Of course the year is 1971 and I love Elvis‘ voice on this one. “Lead Me, Guide Me” is next with the Imperials and Elvis singing in their warmest way. But then again, the lyrics help on this one too, it’s a very beautiful song indeed. Although I am a true Floyd Cramer fan, the piano player David Briggs is doing really fine. The Imperials are starting with “He Touched Me”, most will sure get a tear in their eyes. How beautiful these voices mix together. Maybe it’s because I heard this one live once, I don’t know, but this is really singing with the soul.
“I’ve Got Confidence” brings up the tempo a bit. And after a few lines my fingers are drumming on the table. Even the very sexy sound from Elvis’ throat can be heard on this one. I love it! “An Evening Prayer” is too serious for me, although the piano player is doing his very best. With “Seeing Is Believing” the atmosphere of the black churches is back. The tempo, the singers, all is just right. “A Thing Called Love”, one of my true favourites, is starting next. I love The Imperials on this one and how beautiful Elvis’ voice fits with them here. This is true enjoyment for your ears. “Put Your Hand In The Hand”: a very nice song and the rhythm is just fine. The band is playing powerful here. “Reach Out To Jesus” will give you the chills for sure, the harmony on this song is perfect. Elvis is singing with his soul again, hard to describe how sincere his voice is on this one. Also The Imperials sure deserve an award here in my opinion. “He Is My Everything” is next; absolutely a fine song but not my favourite. There is something about it I simply don’t like. Maybe because it is a waltz, that doesn’t seem right for a gospel.
Ah, “There Is No God But God”! How easy to listen to is this one, perfect background singing by the choir. “I, John” is of course my favourite on this CD. This is how it should be in every church. The rhythm is catching, real up-tempo, a lovely choir and the best lead singer on earth. Hmmmmm … “Bosom Of Abra