20 reasons to love Elvis after 1972

Elvis rocks the world, 1973

Elvis rocks the world, 1973

If you believe many accounts, exploring the work of Elvis Presley after 1972 is a fruitless journey through five depressing years best left forgotten. While a downward spiral of personal problems certainly affected his music, I cannot agree with the overall sentiment.

Inspired by a recent Elvis Today Blog post, I want to share 20 reasons to love Elvis after 1972.

#1 Promised Land album (recorded 1973)
Any discussion around the greatest albums of Elvis’ career should include Promised Land. Featuring that perfect Elvis blend of rock ‘n’ roll, country, and gospel, this is one of his strongest efforts. Standouts include “Promised Land” – destroying any doubts that Elvis could still rock, “Thinking About You,” “It’s Midnight,” “You Asked Me To,” and the funky “If You Talk In Your Sleep.”

#2 Aloha From Hawaii event (1973)
The magnitude of performing the first worldwide satellite broadcast by an entertainer at times seemed to overwhelm even Elvis, particularly in the first half of the main show. All too easily dismissed by some fans, the overall Aloha From Hawaii event still remains worthy of praise. Beyond the actual television special, there was also a double album that remains a classic representation of the excitement of his 1970s stage show, with standouts including “An American Trilogy,” “A Big Hunk O’ Love,” “I’ll Remember You,” “Fever,” and “What Now My Love.”

The 1988 release of The Alternate Aloha on CD revealed Elvis was much more at ease during the rehearsal/back-up concert. “Burning Love,” despite the fact that Elvis misses some of the words, and “Suspicious Minds” exceed their counterparts on the real show.

Elvis Presley Enterprise’s definitive 2-DVD set Aloha From Hawaii Deluxe Edition (2004) captures both shows in terrific audio and video quality, as well as other footage shot at that time. Though he did not pass away until over four years later, for the mainstream public, Aloha From Hawaii would prove to be Elvis’ last hurrah.

#3 Moody Blue album (1974, 1976-1977)
Moody Blue is an album recorded at Elvis’ home, Graceland, and at Elvis’ second home, on stage in front of his fans. Of the four live numbers, the strongest is a haunting version of “Unchained Melody,” recorded on April 24, 1977, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Many of the Graceland recordings are also stellar, including “Pledging My Love,” “Way Down,” “Moody Blue,” “She Thinks I Still Care,” and “He’ll Have To Go.” As the final album released before his death, Moody Blue allowed Elvis to finish in style.

#4 “Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming,” Take 10 (1973)
“Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming,” which expresses a father’s love for a newborn, never stood out to me until I heard this alternate take, first released on 2002’s Today, Tomorrow & Forever boxed set.

#5 Bringing It Back/Pieces Of My Life single (1975)
Much like “Always On My Mind” backed with “Separate Ways” from 1972, 1975’s “Bringing It Back” backed with “Pieces Of My Life” evokes a complete story on one record. Though the music may not have been as groundbreaking, Elvis recorded songs of a much more personal nature in the 1970s compared to other times of his career. It’s not flashy jumpsuits that draw people to this time, but the sheer honesty of the music.

#6 My Way/America The Beautiful single (1977/1975)
“My Way” backed with “America The Beautiful” is the first Elvis record I can specifically remember playing. Recorded just weeks before his death for the Elvis In Concert television special at a show in Rapid City, South Dakota, “My Way” worked effectively as a farewell of sorts, while 1975’s “America The Beautiful,” recorded live in Las Vegas, spoke to his love of his country and God. Though rock ‘n’ roll is not to be found on it, this record sums up Elvis Presley about as well as any other contender.

#7 “Pledging My Love,” Take 3 (1976)
One of the pleasant surprises of 1997’s Platinum: A Life In Music was take 3 of “Pledging My Love,” recorded at Graceland. Devoid of subsequent production overdubs, this works as a kind of “stripped-down” version.

#8 “Way Down,” Take 2A (1976)
Also from Platinum: A Life In Music, take 2A of “Way Down” is strong for the same reasons as “Pledging My Love” – a stripped-down sound reminiscent of earlier times. The extra band riff near the end is a delight and should have been included on the master.

#9 From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee album (1976)
Recorded at Graceland, From Elvis Presley Boulevard is the saddest album released by Elvis. It is also his most honest. This one gives us a view into the man living in that home on Elvis Presley Boulevard. Overblown production and all, From Elvis Presley Boulevard is a beautiful and moving album. Highlights include “For The Heart,” “Hurt,” “Never Again,” and “Love Coming Down.”

#10 Good Times album (1973)
Unlike Promised Land, Moody Blue, and From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Good Times is unable to take a spot among the best albums of his career due to a few clunkers that weigh it down. However, “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues,” “Lovin’ Arms,” “I’ve Got A Thing About You, Baby,” and “My Boy” are standouts on this worthy album.

#11 “Where No One Stands Alone,” Live Recording (1977)
Whether we are talking 1953, 1977, or anywhere in between, Elvis Presley was always full of surprises. “Where No One Stands Alone,” released on 2007’s Unchained Melody, is one of his most incredible performances. Accompanying himself on piano, he sings the song on stage for what is apparently the only time. This live version from a February 16, 1977, concert in Montgomery, Alabama, exceeds his 1966 original.

#12 “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues,” Take 7 (1973)
Part of appreciating Elvis involves understanding that he never took himself as seriously as many others do. This broken up take and the resulting jokes after the fact highlight some of his behind-the-scenes humor. First released on Follow That Dream’s 2009 edition of Good Times.

#13 “She Thinks I Still Care,” Take 2B (1976)
“She Thinks I Still Care” is another alternate from the Graceland sessions. Released on 1995’s Walk A Mile In My Shoes, Take 2B takes the song at a brisker pace and works even better than the master.

#14 “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” Home Recording (1973)
Though “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” seemed almost like album-filler on Aloha From Hawaii, Elvis sings a superior version with only himself on acoustic guitar several months later in private. Fortunately, someone rolled a tape recorder. This is a particularly poignant performance when you consider that it takes place only weeks after his divorce from Priscilla is finalized. This one can be found on 2005’s Elvis By The Presleys.

#15 Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis album (1974)
Yes, his third live album in three years had some repetitive material, but “How Great Thou Art,” “Lawdy, Miss Clawdy,” and “My Baby Left Me” help to make this one special, not to mention that it was recorded in Memphis. This version of “How Great Thou Art” earned Elvis his third and final Grammy.

#16 Raised On Rock album (1973)
Raised On Rock receives a lot of criticism, yet contains some strong tracks. Two of the best are “For Ol’ Times Sake” and “Sweet Angeline.”

#17 “I Really Don’t Want To Know,” Live Recording (1977)
Like “My Way,” this one was recorded in Rapid City on June 21, 1977, for the Elvis In Concert special, which aired posthumously. This is a great, though all too short, live version of a song he first recorded in 1970 (Elvis Country).

#18 “Reconsider Baby,” Live Recording (1977)
Elvis could always draw inspiration from the blues, even near the end. Recorded February 21, 1977, this is from the Unchained Melody album. Though Elvis formally recorded the song in 1960 for Elvis Is Back, he was playing around with this one at least as far back as 1956.

#19 “Shake A Hand,” Take 2 (1975)
2002’s 6363 Sunset included this stellar alternate of “Shake A Hand,” recorded at RCA’s Hollywood studio.

#20 “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Live Recording (1977)
On April 29, 1977, in Duluth, Minnesotta, Elvis knocked out a great rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” though, like many 1977 recordings, it can be a painful listen. Featured on Spring Tours 77.

* * *

Elvis never claimed to be anything special. It seems, at times, people tear him down for being a flawed man rather than the perfect god they wrongly imagined him to be.

“I’m not a king, I’m just a man,” he sang in 1971’s “Until It’s Time For You To Go,” as if pleading for understanding. No one listened.

It turns out that our hero was only human, just like us. I think that makes his many accomplishments shine that much brighter.


October 23, 2011, Update:
In the comments, Joe mentioned that he decided to try all of the songs mentioned above as a playlist. I liked his idea, so here’s what I came up with.

  • For The Heart (From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee)
  • You Asked Me To (Promised Land)
  • Bringing It Back (Today)
  • Love Coming Down (From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee)
  • Lovin’ Arms (Good Times)
  • Pledging My Love (Moody Blue)
  • I’ve Got A Thing About You, Baby (Good Times)
  • For Ol’ Times Sake (Raised On Rock)
  • She Thinks I Still Care [Alternate] (Walk A Mile In My Shoes)
  • Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues (Good Times)
  • Burning Love [Live] (The Alternate Aloha)
  • What Now My Love [Live] (Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite)
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water [Live] (Spring Tours 77)
  • A Big Hunk O’ Love [Live] (Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite)
  • Unchained Melody [Live] (Moody Blue)
  • An American Trilogy [Live] (Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite)
  • Promised Land (Promised Land)
  • Never Again (From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee)
  • It’s Midnight (Promised Land)
  • Way Down [Alternate] (A Life In Music)
  • He’ll Have To Go (Moody Blue)
  • If You Talk In Your Sleep (Promised Land)
  • Moody Blue (Moody Blue)
  • Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming [Alternate] (Today, Tomorrow & Forever)
  • My Boy (Good Times)
  • I’ll Remember You [Live] (Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite)
  • Fever [Live] (Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite)
  • Lawdy, Miss Clawdy [Live] (Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis)
  • Suspicious Minds [Live] (The Alternate Aloha)
  • America The Beautiful [Live] (Elvis Aron Presley)
  • How Great Thou Art [Live] (Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis)
  • Way Down (Moody Blue)
  • Pieces Of My Life (Today)
  • Hurt (From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee)
  • Sweet Angeline (Raised On Rock)
  • Thinking About You (Promised Land)
  • Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues [Outtake] (Good Times [2009 FTD Edition])
  • I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry [Informal] (Elvis By The Presleys)
  • Pledging My Love [Alternate] (A Life In Music)
  • She Thinks I Still Care (Moody Blue)
  • Shake A Hand [Alternate] (6363 Sunset)
  • Reconsider Baby [Live] (Unchained Melody)
  • My Baby Left Me [Live] (Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis)
  • I Really Don’t Want To Know [Live] (Elvis In Concert)
  • Where No One Stands Alone [Live] (Unchained Melody)
  • My Way [Live] (Elvis Aron Presley)

20 thoughts on “20 reasons to love Elvis after 1972

  1. I realise this wasn’t a playlist, but i just selected every song you mentioned in this post into a playlist called ’70’s Elvis Greats’. It’s a very eclectic mix of 70’s songs with a mix of studio and live, i especially love the outtake versions, in my opinion, i LOVE the FTD collection for all the outtakes they provide, especially on the movie soundtracks, to hear elvis in the studio around that time just messing around is great, it was such a mysterious time as he was making so many movies and was hardly making any studio albums, just soundtrack after soundtrack.

    I look forward to listening to this as a playlist.

    This was a great post, i loved his voice in the 70’s. So powerful and opened himself up to country music alot more which sounded great done by him, particularly ‘Got My Mojo Working’

    Thanks again Troy! :)

    Joe

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    • Thanks for the nice comments, Joe. You’re right, I didn’t really intend this as a playlist. However, based on your idea, I decided to try it out as well. I’ve updated the post to include what I came up with.

      I agree with you on FTD. It has changed the experience of being an Elvis fan. We are fortunate to have it.

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  2. What an OUTSTANDING article Troy!! Definitely some FANTASTIC choices included in your top-20, although I have to wonder why the TODAY album wasn’t included in your list? Personally, I feel the TODAY album was a true highlight of Elvis in the 70’s with just about every genre of music incorporated into the album. A little country, a little rock n’ roll, some covers and some original compositions…in my opinion the most complete album in terms of showcasing Elvis’ ability to cover any genre of music!!

    Just my opinion of course, but nevertheless, an outstanding list and another FANTASTIC article! Keep ’em coming my friend!!

    TCB!
    Mike

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    • Mike, thanks for reading and taking the time to respond. I debated whether to include Today. Had this been a “25 Reasons…” list, it probably would have made the cut. Instead, I decided to let the Bringing It Back/Pieces Of My Life single and the “Shake A Hand” alternate represent that session.

      I like the overall sound of Today – it definitely sounds like an album. Besides the single I mentioned, the only other notable songs on it for me are “And I Love You So” and “Green, Green Grass Of Home,” and even those I would not put at the same level as the other two.

      “Woman Without Love,” “Susan When She Tried,” and “I Can Help” are pretty bad, while I’d put everything else somewhere in between.

      As I said, I do enjoy the overall, consistent sound of Today, though. It’s not a hodgepodge like too many of his other albums.

      Besides, if I mentioned every good album, there’d be nothing left for people to talk about in the comments… :P Thanks again, Mike!

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  3. Great post, Troy. Lots of work went into that one.

    First of all, what rocks like the song “Promised Land”? Secondly, “Aloha from Hawaii” I taped off TV on the tenth anniversary of his death. When I was a kid I would sit on my knees in front of the TV and watch. May sound weird but the tears would roll down my face sometimes…I dunno, you take into account his whole story, the deal with Priscilla at the time, the decline to come…and when he sang “What Now, My Love”, man, the shivers. I still get actually choked up when he drops that belt. It’s just remarkable. And the last note of “My Way”……….the list goes on. “Aloha” is one of the essential moments. Also, “She Thinks I Still Care” and “He’ll Have to Go” from “Moody Blue” are such great examples of his ‘thing’: country songs with that soulful delivery. “From EP BLVD” is such a passionate album. I don’t usually ‘shuffle’ it with other tracks. It should be listened to on it’s own.

    I heard Bono of U2 once say he loved the ’70’s Elvis. There’s the BIGness of his stage persona, jumpsuits, capes, etc. But he also said you can’t know the whole story without the last years; they are such an integral part of the story. The stellar performances despite the physical and emotional decline. They are such a part of what makes him him.

    Great articles like this really get us thinking and analyzing – this blog should really be used to teach high school kids! Keep up the good work.

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    • Thanks, Wellsy. Aloha really was special, though some Elvis fans tend to take it for granted after all these years, I think.

      Teaching high school kids with The Mystery Train Blog? All I have to say is, I’m really sorry, kids! I’ll try to include some cooler stuff, soon!

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  4. This is really an outstanding post, Troy. Thanks. And you certainly picked a lot of great tracks to be enjoyed.

    I guess, many people just can’t enjoy the music of Elvis later years as much simply because it derives from the time prior to his untimely death. They concentrate on health issues and personal problems while listening or simply avoid to listen at all. It’s a psychological issue more than having anything to do with the music itself. But the music stays anyway, it finally finds its listeners.

    Mike, I love the TODAY album for the very same reasons you do. So, we are already two ;-).

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    • Thanks, Patricia, and welcome aboard The Mystery Train. You’re right, some people cannot get past what they know or think they know about his life when listening to his music. It’s a shame, because they miss out. I don’t say this to excuse Elvis or his behavior, by the way.

      Regarding Today, I included three songs from those sessions. See my response to Mike, above, for more of my thoughts on Today.

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  5. What a great post, Troy, I’m glad my article inspired you to get onto that track! Although a lot has changed since Elvis music was put into perspective thanks to Ernst Jorgensen and the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s box sets, now and then articles like the one I mentioned in my post keeps popping up, and they make for tiresome reading. Like you say, there are plenty of reasons to love Elvis after 1972, and the ones you list are right on!

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    • Thanks, Thomas. Over the years, I’ve read many articles like the one you encountered. I’ve also encountered people with the same kind of mentality. But yes, Ernst is helping to change things – to some extent, anyway. Though, I do think some of the releases of post-Aloha material seem grudgingly, if that makes any sense. Less care seems to be given to them. That’s okay, though, I’ll take them any way I can get them.

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  6. I agree very much that Elvis after 1972 was still important. Listen to other rock music after the 70s box set and it sounds emotionally shallow. One of the points I make in the book Treat Me Nice is that Elvis made music in each of the three decades (50s, 60s and 70s) that was beyond him in the other decades. This odd contradiction of decline but producing achievements beyond him when he was stronger and younger is what makes him and his music in the 70s so important. Some while back The Guardian newspaper ran a blog that was titled ‘Why Fat Elvis is best?’ Okay the title was a fellow Englishman being smart but what he responded to was the emotion and openness of the 70s recordings. The fifties had energy and elan, the sixties had a beautiful voice and the 70s naked honesty. The fifties was best but all decades are essential.

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  7. I think Elvis did a lot of good songs that are easy to relate to in the last years

    Elvis had nothing left to prove and his choice of material reflected his state of mind

    and it perhaps, some of the most meaningful work emotionally as an artist

    which I think, means that it not being artistically significant is okay to slide on

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  8. I’d have to completely agree with you, Troy, about Elvis post 1972. MY personal opinion is that if Elvis had died in 1975, after his New Year’s Eve show, for example, people would think of him a lot differently than they do now. It has taken many years for the negative image of Elvis in the 70’s to be reassessed, and I think it’s for the better.

    Aside from Elvis’ chart statistics, which were still impressive in the 70’s, I agree that Elvis’ breadth of song stylings was exceptional. Actually, the later 70’s are my favorite Elvis period, and From Elvis Presley Boulevard is my favorite album for precisely the reasons you outlined – it’s very personal.

    I’d only have to disagree with you on one item on your list – the 1977 version of Bridge Over Troubled Water you chose – out of all of the 1977 versions I’ve heard Elvis do, the one from Duluth is actually probably the worst in my opinion. Personally, my favorite 1977 Bridge performance is from 6/26 – Elvis really belts it out. The Duluth performance is more off the cuff, but Elvis clearly isn’t fully comfortable doing it. Also worth a mention is Binghampton from 5/27 – another excellent version.

    Aside from my Bridge disagreement, I loved the post, and it’s heartening to see someone praising Elvis int he later 70’s….thanks!

    Bryan

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    • Thanks, Bryan. Incidentally, I was only covering official releases on this, so that particular “Bridge” was the only choice for 1977. Perhaps the others you mentioned will eventually see the light on FTD.

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