Elvis WhereNoOneStandsAlone LisaMarie 1500

is elvis’ “where no one stands alone” a groundbreaking new album?

HAVING FUN WITH QUORA and the many questions—intelligent and otherwise—kept me from ad­dressing the latest re­lease with Elvis Pres­ley’s name and voice on it. It is an­other com­pi­la­tion fea­turing tracks doc­tored by pro­ducers and en­gi­neers to give decades-old vo­cals a ‘new sound.’ This one is a gospel set and it made an im­me­diate splash on the charts and in the media, es­pe­cially here in the States.

But first some back­ground during his ca­reer, Elvis Presley re­leased one EP gospel album (four tracks) and three gospel LP al­bums (thirty-seven tracks).

These are listed below with the year of re­lease pre­ceding each title:

1957  Peace In The Valley
1961  
His Hand In Mine
1967  
How Great Thou Art
1972  
He Touched Me

Each of these al­bums was a dis­tinct project with ses­sions planned in ad­vance for their recording. Presley also recorded in­di­vidual tracks at other non-gospel ses­sions that were re­li­gious: We Call On Him (1967), Who Am I? (1969), and If That Isn’t Love (1973) are ob­vious ex­am­ples.

 

Elvis WhereNoOneStandsAlone LP 500

The photo se­lected for use on the album was taken in 1968 as part of the pro­mo­tion for the NBC-TV spe­cial Elvis. Many older artists, ac­tors, writers, etc., who wanted to be part of the hap­pening Six­ties adopted “cool” at­tire like this, in­cluding re­placing the reg­u­la­tion (stran­gling) necktie with a com­fort­able scarf. Per­son­ally, I thought Nehru jackets were groovy.

Walking through storms

Elvis also recorded sev­eral non-religious songs that can be given a re­li­gious or in­spi­ra­tional ‘feel’ by how it is per­formed and in the con­text in which it is pre­sented. For ex­ample, You’ll Never Walk Alone is from a Broadway mu­sical that had no re­li­gious meaning when the writers com­posed it. 1

But Pres­ley’s reading of the lyrics (“When you walk through a storm hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark”) and the arrange­ment and pro­duc­tion give the song the feel that Elvis is in­deed singing about never walking alone be­cause God is by your side.

If we take a lib­eral view on these non-specifically re­li­gious tracks and grant them some form of re­li­gious or in­spi­ra­tional over­tone, then Elvis recorded about four dozen ‘gospel’ tracks, enough to fill four stan­dard LP al­bums. 2

 

Elvis NBC TV 1968 bonus photo 600

This photo was handed out at Singer Sewing Cen­ters around the country be­gin­ning in Oc­tober as a pro­mo­tion for the De­cember 3, 1968, broad­cast of the NBC-TV spe­cial Elvis. The show was spon­sored by Singer. The ac­tual photo has a white border (which I cropped off) and a cat­alog of Presley Product on the back.

Reverential and celebratory

Since his death forty-one years, these few tracks have been as­sem­bled into a va­riety of al­bums with new ti­tles and new pack­aging. Wikipedia’s Elvis Presley Al­bums Discog­raphy lists four­teen gospel al­bums, and that list is not com­plete.

But that didn’t stop RCA and the Presley People from com­piling an­other new gospel album. This latest one is ti­tled WHERE NO ONE STANDS ALONE and is spe­cial for two rea­sons:

1.  Un­like the pre­vious gospel com­pi­la­tions, all of the tracks on this album have been en­hanced. (I prefer the term doc­tored that I used above.)

2.  Un­like pre­vious gospel com­pi­la­tions, this one made an im­me­diate splash on the market and in the media, as it de­buted at #1 on three of Bill­board’s album sur­veys: 3

Chris­tian Album Chart
Phys­ical Album Chart
Vinyl Album Chart

Now, I am so out of touch with to­day’s record in­dustry that I have never heard of the latter two sur­veys. I as­sume that the Phys­ical Album Chart tal­lies ac­tual sales of all tan­gible prod­ucts (CDs, LPs, and tapes), just as I as­sume that the Vinyl Album Chart sur­veys sales of vinyl LP records. 4

The total of these two phys­ical sur­veys is prob­ably not sig­nif­i­cant, at least not com­pared to pre-digital days, when a new album sold hun­dreds of thou­sands of copies straight off.

 

Elvis WhereNoOneStandsAlone LP blue 600

The album has been re­leased as an LP on blue vinyl and as a com­pact disc, and cas­sette tape. A spe­cial pink vinyl edi­tion of the record can be pur­chased through Grace­land and in­cludes a lith­o­graph au­to­graphed by Lisa Marie.

Groundbreaking new album

Re­leased as part of the RCA/Legacy im­print, the com­pany is hyping WHERE NO ONE STANDS ALONE as a “ground­breaking new album cel­e­brating the singer’s ever­lasting love of gospel music.” The pub­licity de­part­ment states that ten Elvis al­bums reached #1 on Bill­board, while seven reached #1 on the country chart. This is the first Elvis album to hit #1 on the Bill­board Chris­tian album chart.

“Pro­duced by Joel Wein­shanker, Lisa Marie Presley and Andy Childs, WHERE NO ONE STANDS ALONE in­tro­duces newly-recorded in­stru­men­ta­tion and backing vocal con­tri­bu­tions from music leg­ends who’d per­formed on-stage and/or in-the-studio with Elvis. It also in­cludes a reimag­ined duet with Elvis and his daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, on the album’s title track and spir­i­tual touch­stone.

It pro­vides new mu­sical per­spec­tives on four­teen of the singer’s fa­vorite pieces of gospel music, from the rev­er­en­tial to the cel­e­bra­tory, with song se­lec­tions in­cluding Pres­ley’s beloved en­during gospel clas­sics, praise-filled gospel-rockers, and tra­di­tional hymns and spir­i­tuals.”

Back­ground vo­cal­ists on the album in­clude (and are listed al­pha­bet­i­cally):

Bill Baize (Stamps)
Terry Black­wood (Im­pe­rials)
Ed Hill (Stamps)
Cissy Houston (Sweet In­spi­ra­tions)
Dar­lene Love (Blos­soms)
Ar­mond Morales (Im­pe­rials)
Jim Murray (Im­pe­rials)
Larry Strick­land (Stamps)
Donnie Sumner (Stamps)

 

Elvis NBC TV 1968 Blossoms 1000

As part of the 1968 NBC-TV spe­cial, Elvis did a medley of gospel songs: Where Could I Go But The Lord” / Up Above My Head / Saved. It opened with Elvis backed by the Blossom: Jean King, Fanita James, and Dar­lene Love. This photo is in the booklet in­cluded with the WHERE NO ONE STANDS ALONE album. 5

A few extravagant claims

The pub­licity and brouhaha in­clude some rather out­landish claims (and most of the state­ments in this ar­ticle can be found on the Grace­land web­site), in­cluding this:

Elvis Pres­ley’s re­li­gious recordings—singles, EPs, al­bums, compilations—have sold ap­prox­i­mately 300 mil­lion copies in the US alone with (There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me) and Crying In The Chapel each selling more than 20 mil­lion copies.”

Let’s look at those claims:

Religious recordings

Have Elvis Pres­ley’s re­li­gious record­ings sold 300,000,000 copies in the US? The total number of sales of gospel records in the US—singles, EPs, al­bums, compilations—as cer­ti­fied by the RIAA with Gold and Plat­inum Record Awards shows a total of 12,500,000 unit sold.

I would love to meet the person that found the pa­per­work that shows the other 287,500,000 sales.

Peace In The Valley

Has Peace In The Valley sold 20,000,000 copies? First, (There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me) is the title of a song that Elvis recorded in 1957. RCA has not re­leased any record any­where with that title that I am aware of.

In 1957, RCA Victor did issue an EP album ti­tled PEACE IN THE VALLEY which has been cer­ti­fied for sales of 500,000 copies.

In 1999, they re­leased a 3-disc CD set ti­tled PEACE IN THE VALLEY – THE COMPLETE GOSPEL RECORDINGS, which has not been cer­ti­fied for a Gold Record Award at this time.

If we com­bine the EP and the CD, we prob­ably get a little more than a mil­lion units sold. I would love to meet the person that found the pa­per­work that shows the other 19,000,000 sales.

Crying In The Chapel

Crying In The Chapel has sold 20,000,000 copies? Recorded in 1960 and in­ex­plic­ably shelved for sev­eral years, Crying In The Chapel was re­leased as a single in 1965 and was a world­wide smash. Do­mestic sales were said to be as high as 1,800,000, but as it has only been cer­ti­fied by the RIAA for a Plat­inum Record Award, we have to of­fi­cially as­sume it did not pass the two mil­lion mark.

I would love to meet the person that found the pa­per­work that shows the other 19,000,000 sales.

We will never know the exact number of Elvis Presley records that have sold in the US. Let alone in the world. Those of us trying to make some­thing re­sem­bling an ac­cu­rate tally don’t come up with any­thing re­sem­bling the 300,000,000 and 20,00,000 fig­ures above.

Maybe the person typing out the copy for the pub­licity for Grace­land mis­read the notes given him and added an extra zero to each figure. I know this sounds like I am being silly, but take away that zero and while 30,000,000 re­mains a stretch, 2,000,000 might ac­tu­ally re­semble the re­ality of the two in­di­vidual ti­tles. 6

 

Elvis WhereNoOneStandsAlone LP pink 600

The album has been re­leased as an LP on blue vinyl, com­pact disc, and cas­sette tape. A spe­cial pink vinyl edi­tion of the record can be pur­chased through Grace­land and in­cludes a lith­o­graph au­to­graphed by Lisa Marie.

The big duet

The title song is a “duet” be­tween Lisa Marie Presley and a recording of her fa­ther’s voice. The only thing left from the orig­inal glo­rious 1966 recording is Pres­ley’s voice; every­thing else is newly recorded. Lisa Marie han­dles her vo­cals okay, but the whole thing doesn’t gel, like most of these projects.

As I am not that fa­miliar with Ms Pres­ley’s work, I am posting someone else’s take on the track:

“Even more dis­tracting is his ‘duet’ with his daughter, Lisa Marie on the title track. Do you re­member when Na­talie Cole dueted with an old track of her dad’s Nat King Cole (Un­for­get­table, 1991)? That was not a great idea then, nor is it a good idea now.

Lisa Marie Presley is a true talent and has re­leased sev­eral great al­bums. She has a great voice, but dueting with her fa­ther on this par­tic­ular track does not do much for Elvis or her.

Elvis’s orig­inal ver­sion of this song is stripped down and ex­tremely heart­felt. It is a stun­ning vocal per­for­mance. Here, it gets weighed down by the extra pro­duc­tion and Lisa Marie’s vo­cals.” (Spill Mag­a­zine)

 

Elvis NBC TV 1968 ad Life 1129 600

This is a full-page ad that Singer and RCA ran in the No­vember 29, 1968, issue of Life mag­a­zine. In the months be­fore the airing of the spe­cial, I col­lected every­thing I could find on it. I made mul­tiple trips to the local Singer Sewing Center to make nothing new came out and I found a mag­a­zine that was an East Coast com­petitor to TV Guide that gave Elvis the cover (which TV Guide did not). But even bought a copy of the in­cred­ibly unhip Life mag­a­zine to pull this ad.

A groundbreaking summation

I am an Elvis fan—always have been, al­ways will be. Mostly, I am in favor of projects such as this, as they often reach new lis­teners, some of whom will dis­cover what I dis­cov­ered in Elvis sixty years ago and be­come Elvis fans.

This does not mean I nec­es­sarily enjoy these projects, as I con­sider most of the record­ings that Elvis did that had nothing to do with movie sound­tracks to have been nigh on per­fect.

There was no new ground broken on this album: RCA and com­pany have been did­dling around and messing with Elvis’ mas­ters since the (best for­gotten) 1981 album GUITAR MAN. The “elec­tronic duet” thing is decades old, too—in fact, it’s pre-digital.

Un­less the pub­li­cists are re­fer­ring to WHERE NO ONE STANDS ALONE reaching the top of the Chris­tian sales survey, I’m not sure why they used the word ground­breaking in their pro­mo­tion.

Fi­nally, Lisa Marie might con­sider doing her own gospel album and record her own ver­sions of songs that her Fa­ther did on his al­bums. That is an album I would want to hear …

The Elvis album breaks no new ground, but I’d like to see Lisa Marie do her own gospel album. Click To Tweet

Elvis WhereNoOneStandsAlone LisaMarie 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is Lisa Marie Presley recording her part for Where No One Stands Alone. She sounds fine, it’s a good vocal, it just doesn’t work as a “duet” with a fifty-year-old tape of her fa­ther’s voice.

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   In fact, You’ll Never Walk Alone is sung throughout the world by soccer/football teams during games!

2   The 1970 Camden YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE com­pi­la­tion col­lected the four tracks from the 1957 EP and sev­eral others to al­most make up the missing fourth LP album.

3   WHERE NO ONE STANDS ALONE de­buted in the Top 10 in the UK, which is im­pres­sive as the British fans are not as swayed by Pres­ley’s re­li­gious in­cli­na­tions as their Amer­ican brethren. It is the fifty-third Presley LP to reach the UK Top 10.

4   In 2017, vinyl album sales hit an­other Nielsen Music-era record high, as the format sold more than 14,000,000 units. That is a 9% in­crease over the pre­vious year’s vinyl sales. It is also the twelfth straight year of growth for vinyl album sales. (Bill­board)

5   Al­though never signed by Phil Spector to his Philles im­print, the Blos­soms were one of the com­pa­ny’s biggest stars. If the Crys­tals were not avail­able for a ses­sion that Spector wanted doing im­me­di­ately, he sub­sti­tuted the Blos­soms in­stead. Con­se­quently, the Blos­soms ac­tu­ally recorded such hits as He’s A Rebel and He’s Sure The Boy I Love.

6   Back in the early ’70s, a few artists were making ex­tra­or­di­nary claims for their record sales. Oddly (at least then), in­stead of saying “records sold” they were saying “units sold.” A writer for one of the main mag­a­zines (I re­member it being Rolling Stone but it’s been a long time, baby) fig­ured that they were counting each track on a record as a “unit.” This meant a single was two units and an LP ten or twelve units. Per­haps that’s the type of counting the Presley People are doing for the gospel record­ings.

 

 

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I have pur­chased the cd and vinyl album for my col­lec­tion and am glad it has been a minor suc­cess but in all hon­esty and dont like one single track better than the orig­i­nals but as you say it may in­tro­duce Elvis to a new au­di­ence.

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