THE QUESTION ON QUORA was “Which was better, 60s Elvis or 70s Elvis?” I was surprised to see that the first two answers were “70’s” as I can’t imagine any serious student of Presley’s recorded output would prefer his declining years over his mature middle years. Oh well, that’s why Wholly Grommett gave us free will and individual taste.
My initial answer was, “I wouldn’t trade Elvis Is Back and From Elvis In Memphis for Elvis’s entire ’70s catalog.” Then I thought of a better idea: List the 10 Best Elvis Albums of the ’60s and ’70s and let the readers figure out what I meant and argue with my choices and what they imply.
So here are the best Presley albums 1960-1977 with the year each was recorded in parentheses:
1. Elvis Is Back (1960)
2. Elvis – NBC-TV Special (1968)
3. From Elvis In Memphis (1969)
4. Golden Records Volume 3 (1960–1962)
5. Elvis Country (1970)
6. That’s The Way It Is (1970)
7. His Hand In Mine (1960)
8. How Great Thou Art (1966)
9. He Touched Me (1971)
10. Elvis Live On Stage At The International Hotel (1969)
I think of 1, 2, and 3 as a tie so I listed them chronologically. That said, From Elvis In Memphis is my fave of the three.
I also think of 7, 8, and 9 as a tie so I listed them chronologically, too. That said, His Hand In Mine is my fave of the three.
This is the 180-gram vinyl LP reissue of From Elvis In Memphis. It was released in 2003 for the still-growing market for records and probably retailed for $29.99.
One of the first fan letters I received as a professional writer was in response to my 1985 book Elvis Presley Price Guide. An older fan took me to task for suggesting that From Elvis In Memphis was a better album than G.I. Blues! While that 1960 soundtrack album has some fine moments, I’d never heard anyone actually defend it before, as it is usually considered the first Presley album to willfully step down from the lofty heights Elvis had scaled during the ’50s.
I can see an argument for Blue Hawaii (1961), which was the pinnacle of Presley’s soundtrack albums of the ’60s and a special album that has held up very well indeed in the ensuing decades.
I can see an argument for On Stage – February 1970 (1969–1970), which would have made a marvelous two-record album combined with Elvis Live In Stage At The International Hotel.
Elvis’s final album was Moody Blue, a hodgepodge of tracks recorded in the home studio set up in Graceland and some live recordings. At the time of its release, it was accepted as a good but unexceptional Presley album. Now there are fans who consider it a great album. Death will do that.
Good times in the promised land
I can’t see an argument for any of Elvis’s later studio albums from the ’70s, including what were probably the strongest titles from his declining years: Good Times and Promised Land (both recorded in 1973) and Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis (1974).
While the ’50s sides will always be his greatest sides (for a variety of reasons, one of which the kid was infused with magic), I think the mature Elvis Presley peaked as a recording and performing between June 1968 and June 1970, both in the studio and on stage.
Then the drugs started exerting their inexorable and inevitably fatal effects.
FEATURED IMAGE: In June 1968, Elvis spent a considerable amount of time at NBC-TV’s studio soundstage in Burbank, California. There he tape-recorded hours worth of material for his first television special. In preparation, he worked out and dieted, giving him a taut and lean frame. He built up a deep but not George Hamilton-ish tan and grew his sideburns (sculpted courtesy of Larry Geller).
Broadcast on December 3, 1968, the special was simply titled Elvis, although it is also known as “Singer Presents Elvis” and the “NBC-TV Special.” In the sixty minutes allotted him, Presley resurrected a flagging career and established himself as the King of Rock & Roll.