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

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WHAT WERE ELVIS’ BEST AL­BUMS OF THE ’70s? That’s such an easy ques­tion to an­swer: those recorded in 1970. There is no ques­tioning that the quality of Pres­ley’s record­ings di­min­ished after 1970 due to his de­te­ri­o­rating health along with an artistic turn to­ward melo­drama and bom­bast. These prob­lems were ex­ac­er­bated by his abuse of 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 that 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 . . .

 

16 thoughts on “what were the best elvis albums of the ’70s?”

  1. 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.

    Reply
  2. 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.

    Reply
    • TERRY

      Thanks for the comment.

      When I bought That’s The Way It Is in 1970 and saw that the opening track was “I Just Can’t Help Be­lieving,” I was pre­pared for the worst. Well, “I Just Can’t Help Be­lieving” has been a per­sonal fave for al­most fifty years, just like the album.

      I agree: “How The Web Was Woven” is an ex­tra­or­di­nary vocal! I don’t know why more critics/writers haven’t pointed its bril­liance out or why RCA hasn’t found a way to pro­mote it as the title and lead track of an album.

      I like “Twent Days and Twenty Nights” and “Just Pre­tend” al­most as much!

      As for the Love Let­ters album, keep your eyes peeled as I am working on an ar­ticle about it right now . . .

      NEAL

      Reply
    • TERRY

      First, my apolo­gies for the delay in re­sponding to your comment!

      Second, That’s The Way It Is is also my fave of the ’70s but as for a fave track, I couldn’t choose be­tween “How the Web Was Woven,” “Just Pre­tend,” and “I Just Can’t Help Be­lievin’,” on this album let alone bringing in my other faves from the ’70s.

      We will no doubt eter­nally dis­agree on Love Let­ters from Elvis . . .

      Rock­ahula, baby!

      NEAL

      Reply
  3. 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.

    Reply
    • CRAIG

      First, I added num­bers to each of your para­graphs so it will be easier for me to respond.

      Second, I made some ed­i­to­ri­alish changes to your com­ment to make it easier to read (mostly ital­i­cizing album ti­tles and placing song ti­tles in quo­ta­tion marks).

      Third, overall, I am in agree­ment with what you are saying but I seem to place more weight on the weak­nesses of the Presley product of the ’70s than you do. So, point by point:

      1. A agree that Elvis without over­dubs is al­most al­ways prefer­able to Elvis with “sweet­ening” added. My major issue with the FTD re­leases is they’re too damn ex­pen­sive! All that fine, fine su­perfine Elvis music that is never ever gonna be heard by the masses be­cause we won’t pay FTD’s asking price.

      2. I think there is enough good to great ma­te­rial on those six al­bums to boil them down to three al­bums that I could prob­ably give 4‑star re­views to each.

      3. Three clunkers on an album with only ten tracks means that we can dis­miss 30% of the album as crap. Who wants to buy some­thing that is 30% crap? Every Elvis album re­leased should have been as good as it was pos­sible to make and they weren’t. (Plus, on the Raised On Rock album, the lead singer sounds like he’s on drugs.)

      4. I had orig­i­nally de­fined 3‑stars as “Par for the course,” which in golf terms means a good game. The Google dic­tio­nary de­fines it as “what is normal or ex­pected in any given cir­cum­stances,” which also works. Un­for­tu­nately, it can sound neg­a­tive so I changed 3‑stars to “Solid but unexciting.”

      I gave Good Times three stars be­cause it is a good, solid album but lacking a spark to make it ex­citing. If we took the best of the thirty tracks recorded in 1973 and as­sem­bled the best into two al­bums with twelve tracks each, those two LPs would make 1973 ap­pear to have been an ex­cep­tional year. (And that sounds like the foun­da­tion for an­other ar­ticle!) (After all the Gold Stan­dard ar­ti­cles, of course.)

      5. I heartily agree that less over­dub­bing would have helped most of the ’70s al­bums. (Of course, then Felton Jarvis wouldn’t have had much to do, but that’s an­other story.) You said, “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.” Agreed, but most of the people who bought most of the al­bums post-1967 looked at al­bums as a whole, not as a col­lec­tion of un­re­lated tracks.

      Elvis recorded enough ma­te­rial in the studio that he could have re­leased a string of strong al­bums from 1970 through at least 1974. If he used That’s The Way It Is as a tem­plate and in­cluded four ex­cep­tional live songs on each album, he could have kept it up through 1977.

      But he didn’t.

      Rock­ahula, baby!

      N

      PS: I will do an ar­ticle on the 1973 ses­sions and the three al­bums that were re­leased along the lines of the ar­ticle “An Al­ter­na­tive Love Let­ters From Elvis Album:

      https://www.elvis-atouchofgold.com/love-letters

      Reply
  4. I agree with Mr. Umphred all the way! The 1970 al­bums were the best of the ’70s. Elvis’ voice was still edgy and soulful (from the late ’60s come­back pe­riod), he was phys­i­cally in his best ’70s shape that year, and the songs he recorded in 1970 were better overall.

    Though strong ma­te­rial and vocal per­for­mances could be found now and then on later al­bums, his voice had lost some en­ergy and dy­namic grit by 1973 and later record­ings. There are gems in the later ’70s and his voice could still be pow­erful when needed (like “Hurt” in 1976), but it seems the tone and the en­er­getic soul­ful­ness he had on That’s The Way It Is and Elvis Country had diminished.

    This is the pe­riod I say many Elvis im­per­son­ators em­u­late and sound like, maybe be­cause it’s easier. The full vi­brato “Vegas Elvis” with more of a going-through-the-motions/easy-enough-to-listen-to but lacking that dy­namic edge that sep­a­rated the early ’70s from the mid-’70s.

    Reply
    • MICHAEL

      Thanks for the comment!

      1971 was a pretty good year, too. Had the non-Christmas/non-gospel tracks been han­dled prop­erly, a re­ally good album could have been re­leased as the follow-up to Elvis Country in­stead of the dis­aster that was Love Let­ters From Elvis.

      If you want to read my opin­ions about the 1971 ses­sions, try this ar­ticle: https://www.elvis-atouchofgold.com/love-letters/

      Rock­ahula, baby!

      NEAL

      Reply

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