Our long time member Deano1 continues his series of original album reviews with G.I. Blues.
G.I. Blues Soundtrack LP (released October 1, 1960) ****
Upon its release in 1960, this album spent 10 weeks at number one on the Billboard album chart and spent the most weeks (111) on the album chart of any Elvis album. Posthumously, the album seems to be less popular with Elvis fans than it was before his death. Perhaps this is due to it outselling a superior album released earlier that year (“Elvis Is Back!). That along with the success of the “Blue Hawaii” LP a year later cemented the decision by Colonel Parker, Elvis and RCA to release a lot more soundtrack albums over the next seven years than they did studio albums. This of course led to several inferior releases and a decline in the artist’s interest and sales. Whatever the reason for the lack of appreciation this album receives, it is still a very enjoyable album.
“Tonight Is So Right for Love” opens ups the album and is far different from anything he had recorded prior to it. That doesn’t make it bad, in fact it is quite good with Elvis in excellent voice complimented nicely by the Jordanaires. A brisk moving ballad that “oozes”, but definitely doesn’t rock. ***
Elvis had always admired Dean Martin and with the next track we hear some of Dino’s influence on Elvis. “What’s She Really Like” is completely wasted in the movie as Elvis sings a couple of lines in the shower without accompaniment. On vinyl it is a well-crafted song delivered in style by Elvis. Elvis is playful and in great voice on this four star track. ****
“Frankfort Special” gives Elvis a chance to rock a little; however it is very tame when compared to his true rock and roll records. This song is a situational song that is superiorly written and performed when compared to many of the situational songs from future movies. Elvis is energetic and the Jordanaires match his enthusiasm. ***
The next song seems to be either hated or loved by today’s Elvis fans. Upon release, it seemed to be very popular, but I truly feel one of the reasons it is hated by so many today is because of it being a precedent for future soundtrack offerings. The song is used in a very cute scene in the movie as Elvis takes over a puppet show and on vinyl it is a nice listen. Elvis gets to sing in German in part of the song and again his voice is crystal clear throughout. It couldn’t have been too bad as Joe Dowell copied Elvis’ version note for note and had a number one single with the song the following year. ***1/2
The title song completes side one and it is a nicely written piece of rock and roll that again Elvis delivers with panache. Is it “Hard Headed Woman” type of rock and roll? No. But it is early 1960’s rock and roll and the equal or better of anything topping the charts that year. ****
A great ballad “Pocketful of Rainbows” leads off side two and this in my opinion is the best track on the album. Elvis is as smooth as silk and lilts his voice effortlessly throughout the track. Five stars for this track and in a word, perfection. *****
“Shoppin’ Around” is a nice rocker that again fits right in with the popular music of 1960. It isn’t the equal of Elvis’ classic rock hits such as “Little Sister”, “Jailhouse Rock” or “A Big Hunk O’ Love”; however it is a nice rollicking tune and worthy of four stars. ****
As Elvis’ image softened, it suddenly became apparent that young woman loved seeing him with babies and children. For the first time we see this side of Elvis in “G.I. Blues”. “Big Boots” is a lullaby that Elvis’ character sings to a baby he is babysitting for a friend. It is an okay listen on vinyl with again Elvis’ voice making it worthwhile. It is also short at one minute and 36 seconds so it is over before you know it. Still, much like “Steadfast, Loyal and True” from “King Creole”, it is awkwardly placed on the album and negatively impacts the flow of the album. **
“Didja’ Ever” is the closing number in the film and it is definitely a precursor to future film finales. This one is fun, energetic and perfectly delivered by Elvis and the Jordanaires. It isn’t a great song (think “I’m Not the Marrying Kind” from “Follow That Dream”), but when Elvis is having this much fun, who cares. ***1/2
One of the cutest parts of the movies is when Elvis is singing a ballad in a bar and a fellow soldier goes to the jukebox and picks “Blue Suede Shoes” by Elvis Presley to drown out Elvis’ character. Here we have a new recording of his 1956 hit and while it does lack a little of the punch Elvis gave it four years earlier, it is still good version of the song. ***
Side two closes as it opens with a nice tender ballad. “Doin’ the Best I Can” is not quite the equal of “Pocketful of Rainbows”, but it is nicely rendered by our man with very hushed accompaniment by the Jordanaires. Perhaps a tad long, it is still worthy of four stars. ****
It is far from Elvis’ best work, but it is equally if not even further away from being his worst. “G.I. Blues” was not a rock and roll album, it was a pop album. A pop album that showed a different side of Elvis. While there are rumors that Elvis hated the material for this album that seems odd since his next studio album “Something For Everybody” had a very similar feel. While I wish they had left “Big Boots” off the album, the other 10 songs make up a damn, fine pop album.