what were the best elvis albums of the ’70s?

WHAT WERE ELVIS’ BEST ALBUMS OF THE ’70s? That’s ac­tu­ally a fairly easy ques­tion to an­swer: the ones recorded in 1970. There is no ques­tioning that the quality of Pres­ley’s record­ings di­min­ished dra­mat­i­cally after 1971. This was due to his de­te­ri­o­rating phys­ical and mental health along with artistic turn to­wards melo­drama and bom­bast. These prob­lems were ex­ac­er­bated by his mas­sive in­take of pre­scrip­tion drugs.

The biggest problem with the al­bums is­sued was based on the idea that every­thing Presley recorded de­served to be re­leased. Even Elvis knew that he put a lot of mediocre ma­te­rial on tape but bowed to the Colonel’s de­ci­sions on mar­keting them along­side the better record­ings. This did a great dis­ser­vice to his fans—we were lit­er­ally ripped off having to pay for crap cut due to pub­lishing deals—and to his image. 1

 

The best Elvis al­bums of the ’70s were all recorded in 1970, al­though ex­cel­lent al­bums could have been se­quenced from his 1971 and 1973 sessions.

 

The ques­tion as to what were the best of these al­bums ap­peared on Quora and I an­swered with the list below. There is no ques­tioning that the bulk of the better ’70s al­bums were recorded in 1970-1971 when the en­ergy of the 1968-1969 come­back was still a part of Pres­ley’s make-up.

The grades below are for al­bums re­leased while he was alive in the ’70s. I did not in­clude Camden ti­tles or other com­pi­la­tions. Every one of these al­bums fea­tures sev­eral ex­cep­tional per­for­mances (ex­cept one), but they often fea­ture sev­eral lack­luster — if not turgidly for­get­table — performances.

What the grades mean:

✮ ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮  Great
✮ ✮ ✮ ✮       Ex­cep­tional
✮ ✮ ✮            Solid but un­ex­citing
✮ ✮                Sub-standard

✮                    No re­deeming so­cial value

 

Elvis ThatsTheWayItIs 1970 LP 600

Elvis – That’s The Way It Is con­sists of eight studio tracks recorded in June 1970 in Nashville plus four tracks recorded live in Las Vegas in Au­gust 1970. It was sold as the live sound­track to the doc­u­men­tary film of the same title. Un­for­tu­nately, not a single track on the album ap­peared in the film in the ver­sion on the album! (While I ranked Elvis Country as the best Elvis album of the ’70s, this is my favorite.)

Chronologically as released

This first sec­tion lists the eigh­teen main cat­alog al­bums re­leased be­tween 1970 and 1977 in the order in which they were re­leased. This is helpful in seeing what those of us who were buying these records in the ’70s ex­pe­ri­enced as fans and con­sumers. (I did not in­clude com­pi­la­tions of ma­te­rial re­leased prior to 1970.) 2

1970

Live on Stage  –  Feb­ruary 1970                                                      ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮
Elvis  – That’s The Way It Is                                                            ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮

1971

Elvis Country                                                                                  ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮
Love Let­ters From Elvis                                                                            ✮ ✮
The Won­derful World Of Christmas                                                  ✮ ✮ ✮

1972

Elvis Now                                                                                                      ✮ ✮
He Touched Me                                                                                   ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮
Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden                               ✮ ✮ ✮

1973

Aloha From Hawaii Via Satel­lite                                                        ✮ ✮ ✮
Elvis (“Fool”)                                                                                           ✮ ✮ ✮
Raised on Rock                                                                                            ✮ ✮

1974

Good Times                                                                                              ✮ ✮ ✮
Recorded Live On Stage In Mem­phis
                                                ✮ ✮ ✮
Having Fun With Elvis On Stage                                                               

1975

Promised Land                                                                                        ✮ ✮ ✮
Elvis Today                                                                                              ✮ ✮ ✮

1976

From Elvis Presley Boule­vard                                                              ✮ ✮

1977

Moody Blue                                                                                         ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Elvis LoveLettersFromElvis 1 600

Re­leased in 1971 as the fol­lowup to the highly praised and best selling Elvis County of 1970, Love Let­ters From Elvis caused every fan I knew to shudder in dis­be­lief. Love Let­ters was so in­fe­rior to the al­bums of the pre­vious two years it made us think that Presley and Parker had learned nothing from the failure of the later sound­track years (1965-1968). Alas, they hadn’t.

Chronologically as recorded

This second sec­tion lists the cat­alog al­bums re­leased in the order in which they were recorded. This is helpful in seeing where Elvis was at ar­tis­ti­cally from year to year. ELVIS NOW and ELVIS are com­pi­la­tions that in­clude tracks recorded in sev­eral years; they are listed under the year where the bulk of the ma­te­rial was recorded.

1970

Live on Stage  –  Feb­ruary 1970                                                      ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮
Elvis  – That’s The Way It Is                                                            ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮
Elvis Country                                                                                  ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮
Love Let­ters From Elvis                                                                            ✮ ✮

1971

The Won­derful World of Christmas                                                   ✮ ✮ ✮
He Touched Me                                                                                   ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮
Elvis Now                                                                                                      ✮ ✮
Elvis (“Fool”)                                                                                           ✮ ✮ ✮

1972

Elvis as Recorded at Madison Square Garden                                    ✮ ✮
Having Fun With Elvis On Stage                                                               

1973

Aloha From Hawaii                                                                               ✮ ✮ ✮
Raised on Rock                                                                                            ✮ ✮
Good Times                                                                                              ✮ ✮ ✮
Promised Land                                                                                        ✮ ✮ ✮

1974

Recorded Live on Stage in Mem­phis                                                  ✮ ✮ ✮

1975

Elvis Today                                                                                              ✮ ✮ ✮

1976

From Elvis Presley Boule­vard                                                             ✮ ✮
Moody Blue                                                                                         ✮ ✮ ✮

I have been a fan of Elvis Presley for al­most sixty years. I bought my first Elvis record in 1963. I may not have bought my last one yet. 3

The best Elvis al­bums of the ’70s were all recorded in 1970, no­tably On Stage Feb­ruary 1970, That’s The Way It Is, and Elvis Country. Click To Tweet

Elvis ThatsTheWayItIs rehearsal 3 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: This photo of Elvis is from the re­hearsals he and his full band did at the In­ter­na­tional Hotel in Las Vegas in Au­gust 1970. Parts of these re­hearsals were used in the doc­u­men­tary film Elvis – That’s The Way It Is, re­leased in No­vember 1970.

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   Ap­par­ently, Presley felt ob­lig­ated to record songs that his bud­dies pitched him as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of a music publisher.

2   I would have in­cluded the fifth volume of Elvis’ Golden Records had anyone had the sense to re­lease it in the ’70s.

3   Al­though with new LPs costing around $25, any al­bums that I do pur­chase may be used …

 

0 0 vote
Rate this article:
Subscribe
Notify of
Rate this article:
Please rate this article with your comment.
14 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Elvis Country is the one. In my humble opinion, it should rank as one of his best al­bums ever. Up there with Elvis Is Back. I may also be one of the few who thought that the Boule­vard album was bril­liant if not ex­actly rock n roll. “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” to this day is in my Elvis Top 10.

I think that “Hurt” was prob­ably the last re­ally great Elvis per­for­mance in the studio. I think it meant a lot to him per­son­ally. He would have had so much more to offer if he could have pulled him­self out of the pit he seemed to be in the end. So sad.

“She Thinks I Still Care” is easily the most brilliant—emotionally and vocally—from Elvis in his last studio stuff. I ac­tu­ally think the whole B-side of the Moody Blue album beats “Hurt” without a doubt in my mind. It took a while for me to hear how bril­liant “It’s Easy For You” is, also.

But opin­ions in Elvis fandom are more cu­riosity to us fans than de­bat­able fodder. All in all, we all usu­ally agree that no­body tops Elvis when he sank his teeth, as well as his heart, into the lyrics.

PS: Thanks, Neal, for the men­tion in the Dame Kiri quote. /if this is you.

PPS: The RIAA has re­vised or grand­fa­thered The Bea­tles (aka “The White Album”) as a double album putting its “unit” total to 24,000,000. So why haven’t they done the same for Aloha? Will this be E’s second Di­a­mond Award?

That’s the Way It Is is my per­sonal fa­vorite from 1970. “How the Web was Woven” is my ab­solute fa­vorite Elvis vocal of the ’70s. On Stage ranks a close 2nd with his best ver­sions of “Polk Salad’ and “See See Rider.”

Just for the record, I love Love Let­ters from Elvis.

Btw, Johnny Cymbal, the song­writer who penned “Mary In The Morning,” has a YouTube video of him singing the song. As he in­tro­duced it he says, “I had the good for­tune of Elvis recording this song and I think Elvis is the greatest singer that ever lived” or some­thing close to this. I’m on my phone so I can’t link it. It’s easy to find. He’s in a live club that should pop up in a search.

1. One of the things I ap­pre­ciate about the FTD ver­sions of Elvis’ 70’s al­bums (as well as his 1969 Mem­phis al­bums) is that the mas­ters are avail­able without the over­dubs. I think the mas­ters are so much better without the strings and voices that were added later that many of his 70’s al­bums would be more highly re­garded if they had been re­leased in this form. 

2. The al­bums from the 70’s most af­fected by the over­dubs ap­pear to be Love Let­ters, Elvis (“Fool” LP), Good Times, Promised Land, Today, and From EP Blvd as well as spo­radic songs on other al­bums (T“here Goes My Every­thing,” “Mary In the Morning,” “Sylvia,” “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” “Girl of Mine,” and sev­eral others). The sound (and generic cover art) of the afore­men­tioned LP’s af­fects their overall quality but I be­lieve these are stronger al­bums than they gen­er­ally get credit for.

3. While it’s hard to sep­a­rate the nos­talgia value of these al­bums for me as I ac­quired these and heard them first as a kid in the 70’s, I still find that an album like Raised On Rock is much better than it gets credit for. There are a few clunkers on Raised On Rock (title song, “Girl of Mine,” “Three Corn Patches”) but there are some strong R&B per­for­mances (“Find Out What’s Hap­pening,” “If You Don’t Come Back,” “Just a Little Bit”), ter­rific bal­lads (“Are You Sin­cere,” “I Miss You,” “Sweet An­ge­line”) and one of Elvis’ best bal­lads of the decade (“For Ol’ Times Sake”).

4. Good Times is an­other ex­cel­lent LP (IMO) but the re­leased ver­sion is marred by the over­dubs and having one of the worst opening songs on an Elvis album (“Take Good Care of Her”). “Loving Arms,” “If That Isn’t Love,” “Good Time Char­lie’s Got the Blues” are all ex­cel­lent while the two up­tempo num­bers (“I Got a Feeling In My Body,” “Talk About the Good Times”) are won­derful, spir­ited per­for­mances. “Spanish Eyes” and “My Boy” are OK but are better without the over­dubs, in my opinion, which leaves one clunker (“Take Good Care of Her”). Take away the over­dubs and the opening song, change the front and back cover and this would be a 4-star album…to me, anyway.

5. My point is that some of Elvis’ least re­garded 70’s studio al­bums are ac­tu­ally ex­cel­lent records but are not as highly re­garded be­cause of awful over­dub­bing and the cover art. If someone looks at the songs on the al­bums rather than thinking of the album as a whole, there is an in­cred­ible amount of strong ma­te­rial there; Elvis was def­i­nitely a song and sin­gles artist. I don’t be­lieve Elvis and/or his man­age­ment ever thought of al­bums as more than a col­lec­tion of sin­gles, as they were when he started in the 50’s, Elvis Country being an anomaly.

14
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x