Our long time member Deano1 continues his series of original album reviews with Loving You.
Loving You Soundtrack LP (released 7/1/1957) *** (3 stars)
The year was 1957 and Elvis could literally do no wrong with each record release. This was true whether it was a single, an extended play or a LP. The “Loving You” soundtrack album, at least from a commercial aspect, was no different as it went to #1 for 10 weeks on the Billboard LP chart. A closer look at the actual album content suggests a harbinger of things to come for future soundtrack LP’s and even some non-soundtrack albums. Some of those things are good, others not so much.
The album starts off very strong with the mean and raucous “Mean Woman Blues”. A song that charted on the R&B charts (position #11) based off its appearance on the “Loving You, volume 1” extended play. Written by Claude Demetrius, who would later contribute “Hard Headed Woman” for “King Creole”, this song is delivered convincingly by Elvis and matches the intensity of some of his greatest rock and roll records.
“Teddy Bear” follows and it is delivered in a fun, infectious style by Elvis. It is a very short track; however, that doesn’t take away from the fun of it. Not quite on par with some of the other 50’s singles, but still top-notch.
The album continues its strong start with the title song as the third track. While not yet the ballad singer he would become in the early 60’s, he still sings this one very well. Nicely written with a simplistic arrangement and light years better than some of his early attempts at ballad singing such as “I Love You Because”.
The album starts to decline in quality from this point forward and while there are some good tracks, most of the remaining nine songs are not of the same quality as the first three. “Got A Lot o’ Livin’ to Do” is the first time where an Elvis rock and roll song sounds forced. Elvis also sounds a bit rushed in his delivery and at times he is almost impossible to understand. Still it is not bad and it is nowhere near as bad later soundtrack “rock and roll songs” (think “Baby, If You’ll Give Me All Your Love” from “Double Trouble”). That said, it is a definite step down at this point in his career.
Next up is a strange song that I guess would classify as a ballad. “Lonesome Cowboy” was written by Tepper and Bennett and I while enjoy their songs more than many on this site do, this one just fails to deliver much listening pleasure. Elvis starts by waling the opening and then modulates between singing softly and operatic blasts. The Jordanaires, who normally enhance an Elvis track, sound noisy on this one and this track like the previous one comes across as unpolished and lacking feeling. Not a disaster, but not a highlight by any means.
Two quick “rockers” complete side one of the album. “Hot Dog” and “Party” are harbingers of the short fast paced songs that would later fill Elvis’s soundtrack albums (“Slicin’ Sand”, “Catchin On Fast”, etc.). Again I am not saying they are bad, but when compared to Elvis’ other 50’s rockers, these two songs are light years away from those. “Hot Dog” is better than “Party” especially as delivered by Elvis although Elvis again sounds rushed as opposed to truly rocking the song. Neither are overly memorable.
On this, Elvis’ first soundtrack album, we are introduced to what the Elvis world affectionately call bonus songs. Songs either recorded for the movie, but not included or songs recorded at recent recording sessions with no actual relationship to the movie. In later years, they were the best thing on an Elvis soundtrack album (“Guitar Man” and “Big Boss Man” from the LP “Clambake”, “Long Lonely Highway” from the LP “Kissin’ Cousins” and “What Now, What Next, Where To” from LP “Double Trouble”), but on this LP they are truly leftovers from recording sessions ranging from quite good to poor.
Elvis’ take on Fats Domino’s signature song, “Blueberry Hill” leads off the second side and it is unfortunately amateurish and unmemorable. With great songs such as “Is It So Strange”, “Tell Me Why”, “Playing for Keeps” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin” either not yet released or only available as the B-side of singles, one has to wonder why RCA and/or Colonel Parker would use “Blueberry Hill”.
Unfortunately “Blueberry Hill” is not the worst bonus song on the album. “True Love” follows and the inclusion of this one is even more puzzling. It is a well written song by Cole Porter and it was originally performed by Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly a year earlier for the movie “High Society”. Elvis’ version features him harmonizing with the Jordanaires, but failing to deliver any real listening pleasure. If Elvis had recorded this in 1962, he would have nailed it (still wouldn’t be a favorite of mine), but his 1957 ballad voice just wasn’t smooth enough to make this one work.
If you believe the stories even Elvis himself was not satisfied with the finalized version of the third track on side two. “Don’t Leave Me Now” would later be rerecorded for the movie “Jailhouse Rock”, but here we have the February recording. This track is actually much better than the two before it and it is a welcome change of pace. Elvis pleads his case convincingly to not leave him in this well-written song. Not great, but very good.
“Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” is the fourth entry on side two and Elvis and the Jordanaires produce an upbeat and fun version of a song that had been recorded by many artists including Gene Autry (original hit version) and a parody by Crosby and Hope. This one could have been a hit for Elvis had RCA decided to release it as single; however, it is best suited as an album track.
The album concludes with the song “I Need You So”. Similar to “Don’t Leave Me Now”, Elvis sings and pleads this one like only he can do. On the choruses, Elvis waling which seemed forced and over-the-top on “Lonesome Cowboy” sounds perfect. The best track on side two and a good close to the album.
After listening to this album several times over the last few days, I can honestly say I receive more overall enjoyment out of the “Fun In Acapulco” soundtrack album than I do this one. This album is not bad, but it far from a classic and nowhere near one of Elvis’ best overall albums. A solid, but uneven three stars similar in that manner (not content by any means) to the “Elvis Now” album 15 years later. Moments that will take your breath away followed by tracks that leave you scratching your head by their inclusion.