When Elvis Presley swaggered through his storied 1968 comeback television special, he handily proved wrong F. Scott Fitzgerald's quote that there are no second acts in American life. Then again, Presley's creative resurrection was an unlikely occurrence given how he spent most of the 1960s starring in hack films. The From Elvis in Memphis recording sessions were an outgrowth of the television special, which had been originally envisioned as a sappy Christmas special.
Presley's return home to Memphis found him recording at producer Chips Moman's storied American Sound Studio. Here, his recent mannered and bland approach was supplanted by Moman's rootsy Memphis Boys session musicians. Having put a soulful stamp on prior hits by Wilson Pickett and Dusty Springfield, Moman's crew infused sorely needed grit into Presley's return to his roots. From the opening number "Wearin' That Loved on Look" and its mix of twangy guitar and fat organ lines, Elvis' phrasing has an edge that rings through Hank Snow's chugging "I'm Movin' On" and the harmonica and brass-soaked declaration "Power of My Love," where you can practically feel Presley's sneer through the speakers. Moman skillfully tapped into the King's skills as a balladeer, be it on Jerry Butler's "Only the Strong Survive," with its perfect balance of female harmonies and strings, or the gospel inflections sprinkled amid the twang of "After Loving You."
From Elvis In Memphis is that rare post-1960 example of Presley's musical depth and relevance, helping quash images of an overweight and sweaty icon clad in a jumpsuit and cape flashing karate moves. (RCA/Legacy)
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