Elvis Presley turned 40 in 1975. His health was beginning to deteriorate and his dependence upon prescription drugs was on the rise. His weight gain was also becoming noticeable. All of this added up to short and lethargic concerts plus a decided lack of interest in the recording process. In fact, 1975 would be the last time Elvis would enter an outside studio. He would record all his future songs in his home studio at Graceland. Elvis’ voice would escape the ravages of time, however, and continue to be one of the best in music. It was the one constant in the life of Elvis Presley.
During the last years of his life, Elvis’ albums would consistently place him near the top of the country charts. Promised Land, released on January 8, 1975, would continue this country trend as it would reach number one.
Promised Land was primarily an album of country ballads plus a great rocker. The Chuck Berry title tune, “Promised Land,” is the rocker. While Elvis’ vocal is pure pop the song rips along and remains true to Berry’s original structure and intent. The only other song that breaks the country mold is “If You Talk In Your Sleep.” Elvis actually gets a little funky and the brass background gives the performance a nice rhythm & blues feel.
This album went to the top of the Country Charts for a reason. “Mr. Songman” and “Love Song Of The Year” are tear jerker sad songs. Elvis voice rises above the material here. "It’s Midnight” is a well crafted ballad that Elvis brings to life. “Help Me” is a fine song in the Elvis gospel tradition. “You Asked Me” is a Waylon Jennings song to which Elvis provides a smooth vocal.Promised Land did suffer from a sameness on many of its songs but proved to be very popular when released. It remains an album that is good for a listen now and then but not one that will draw the listener back with any regularity.
I find Elvis’ second 1975 studio release, Today, to be a satisfying album. Elvis draws from a number of musical styles for material. “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” is an all out rocker with attitude. “Shake A Hand” is a 1950’s gospel song that Elvis modernizes with a heartfelt vocal. “Woman Without Love” is a sad country ballad that features an excellent steel guitar. Elvis takes Billy Swan’s giant hit, “I Can Help,” and transforms it into a pop classic.
There are two other songs of note contained on Today. “And I Love You So” was made for Elvis. Perry Como’s hit version has nothing on Elvis. The rich, smooth, understated vocal is musical bliss. “Green Green Grass Of Home” was a hit single for Elvis in England. Elvis seems to be invested and his deep vocal fits this song well.
Today remains a pleasant listen as it contains a number of musical gems and is never boring. It is a nice album to put on the turn table or in the disc player and just sit back and let Elvis’s voice take you away.