Elvis Presley was discharged from the army on March 5, 1960, and all was right with the musical world again. He immediately returned to the studio for a series of sessions and quickly released his comeback album in April of 1960.
Elvis Is Back may have been the most important album of his career. There had been several releases while he was in the service, but he had been out of the public eye for most of that period. His young fans were now a couple of years older. Things change quickly within the music world and fame can be fleeting. Did Elvis still have it? The answer was a resounding yes. Elvis brought a new maturity to this album both vocally and in regards to his changing musical vision.
Elvis Is Back is comprised of songs from many disciplines, but what they have in common are that Elvis took most of them in a pop direction. His musical future was ultimately this fusion of polished pop and his rock roots.
This is a tremendously satisfying album made more interesting by the varied song selection. What are amazing are the songs that were left off the record. The series of sessions that produced this album also produced three number one singles. “Stuck On You,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” and “It’s Now Or Never” could have made this album one of the great releases of all time, but instead they served the purpose as single releases to keep Elvis in the limelight for almost a year through continual radio airplay and millions of 45 rpm records sold.
While Elvis Is Back is predominantly pop-oriented, there are a few non-pop songs that are welcome additions. The old standards “Reconsider Baby” and “It Feels So Right” are both given a gritty blues performance by Elvis. “Such A Night” is a cover of the old rhythm & blues classic originally released by the Drifters, among others. This song, about a one night stand, is given a smooth vocal interpretation by Elvis that was far different from the well-known Clyde McPhatter effort.
Many of the pop songs demonstrate the direction in which Elvis was moving. “Make Me Know It” was written by Otis Blackwell and is presented as an up-tempo classic pop song. “Fever” is sung in a Peggy Lee style. Elvis does a good job here, but Lee’s version remains definitive. “Dirty Dirty Feeling” by Leiber and Stoller is another nice up-tempo outing for Elvis. Elvis even manages to give a competent performance of “Soldier Boy.”
History has shown that Elvis was very pleased with this album. It appears to be a relaxed effort consisting of many songs he enjoyed singing. While it did not sell as well as his film soundtracks of the time period, it did serve to reestablish him as a commercial force. Elvis Is Back remains a good listen half a century later.
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