I’ll be trying to get to you any day now (on elvis and soul)

THE QUORA FORUM’S ques­tion and an­swer set-up has been keeping me busy of late. De­spite what people think about Elvis and the In­ternet, there seems to be an abiding in­terest in the man both per­son­ally and ar­tis­ti­cally. While some of the ques­tions are silly—some are just plumb dumb!—most are well-considered and de­serve a sim­ilar an­swer.

Such as the ques­tion “What Elvis Presley track has the most soul?” This is an opinion ques­tion, one where any one of many an­swers is the cor­rect an­swer. Mine fol­lows, in­dented be­tween the two photos below:

 

This causal photo was taken in June 1968 on the set of the tele­vi­sion spe­cial in NBC’s studio in Bur­bank. The set in the back­ground was from the orig­inal con­cept for the spe­cial, which was a story that did not in­volve the live se­quences with the singer in a leather suit.

Some rawly impassioned music

I can read the ques­tion “What Elvis Presley track has the most soul?” in two ways, each elic­iting a dif­ferent an­swer:

1. If the word soul is being used more or less syn­ony­mously with pas­sion, then the live record­ings from NBC’s studio in Bur­bank in June 1968 for Elvis’s first tele­vi­sion spe­cial pro­duced some of his most im­pas­sioned music, such as Trying To Get To You, Love Me, and One Night.

2. If the word soul is being used here as re­fer­ring to a once pop­ular (and much missed) style of music, then I’d prob­ably go with some­thing from the January-February 1969 ses­sions at Amer­ican Sound Studio in Mem­phis.

Pro­ducer Chips Moman recorded Presley in a manner that the singer did not like but was nonethe­less spurred him on to try harder. The singer also had a touch of the flu that af­fected his throat, giving his singing a raw quality that gave many of the tracks a soulful touch, even sev­eral mediocre pop tunes.

Two pre­vious an­swers to this ques­tion men­tioned a pair of tracks from these ses­sions, In The Ghetto and I’ll Hold You In My Heart, both of which are ex­cel­lent se­lec­tions as an­swers. I would also offer Only The Strong Sur­vive or Any Day Now.

3. That said, as a de­fault an­swer, you can’t go wrong with If I Can Dream from the ′68 NBC-TV ses­sions above.

 

This photo got some mileage in 1969-1970: first, it was used on the pic­ture sleeve of the Sus­pi­cious Minds / You’ll Think Of Me single, both in the States and abroad. Then it found its way onto the cover of a sou­venir photo booklet.

One night of crawfish

These were easy an­swers, and I’m quite com­fort­able giving them. But there many other can­di­dates, so I thought I’d offer a few more than don’t usu­ally turn up in these con­ver­sa­tions. One from each decade:

1954

From the Sun era, there’s Elvis’s very, very idio­syn­cratic reading of Blue Moon, which sounds like the singer was plan­ning on of­fering it to a ghost movie set in the old west.

1962

The studio ses­sions in Nashville in May 1962 formed the basis of the good but un­ex­cep­tional POT LUCK album. Overall, the ses­sions were so lack­luster that they were starting to sound like sound­track ses­sions. But a few things good things came from them, in­cluding (Such An) Easy Ques­tion.

Elvis sings Easy Ques­tion in that re­laxed, sen­sual manner that hinted at pas­sion (rather than dis­playing it) that was the hall­mark of his style in the first few years of the ’60s. Had this been re­leased as a single in 1962, it could have been a #1 record.

1971

While there are iso­lated in­stances of Elvis losing him­self in recording during the ’70s, they are not common. One in­stance is the three tracks he cut spon­ta­neously in 1971, ac­com­pa­nying him­self at the piano.

While most fans talk about the other two sides (they have the bluesy char­acter that at­tracts the at­ten­tion of rock fans), Pres­ley’s reading of the tra­di­tional I’ll Take You Home Again, Kath­leen is ex­tra­or­di­narily soulful and moving.

Alas, these qual­i­ties went missing in much of his studio work through the re­maining years of his life . . .

There seems to be a lot in­terest in Elvis on the In­ternet, both per­son­ally and ar­tis­ti­cally. Click To Tweet

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is from the 1969 movie, Change Of Habit. Elvis plays a gen­eral prac­ti­tioner doctor who sets up his of­fice in a ghetto, where he cares for the neigh­bor­hood, often without charging them any­thing. Since a young doctor in a major met­ro­pol­itan area in 1969 might just get away with long side­burns, ca­sual dress, and a guitar, Presley wasn’t as mis­cast in the role as one might sup­pose.

 

 

 

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I would add Loving Arms and Hurt to those men­tioned.

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