How Great Thou Art

Elvis Presley

RCA, 1967

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


The 1960s found Elvis Presley cranking out two or three movies and accompanying soundtrack albums each year. By 1967, it had been almost five years since Elvis had issued a true studio album.

How Great Thou Art was a breath of fresh air for Elvis and his fans. Elvis returned to what may have been his strongest musical love and recorded an album of gospel and spiritual songs, which won the Grammy for the Best Sacred Performance of 1967. Interestingly, while Elvis received many Grammy nominations, the only three he won were all for sacred or gospel music.

I received this album as a present when it was released in 1967. Even in my Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, and Bob Dylan teenage musical haze, I realized that this was an excellent release, although Elvis never put out a bad gospel album. The songs meant something to him, and so he was always consistently invested in the recording process. It was also produced by Felton Jarvis, who from that time onward produced exclusively for Elvis.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

How Great Thou Art reached only number 18 on the album charts. However, it would continue to sell and ultimately became one of his five biggest-selling releases.

The traditional hymn and album title song “How Great Thou Art” is a perfect vehicle for Elvis’ voice. A choir introduction leads to just his vocals accompanied by a piano for the majority of the song. If anyone wants to hear the ‘60s Elvis at his vocal best, this song is the perfect place to start.

“In The Garden” continues the focus upon Elvis’ vocals, as there is just a subtle backing, which includes piano, bass and strings. “Stand By Me” is a true classic and he comes across as sincere in this smooth performance. “Somebody Bigger Than You and I” is a full-blown production featuring an organ out front, a full choir, plus some strings with Elvis soaring above the mix. The song continues to build throughout as he brings it to an emotional conclusion.

Side two of the original LP release is more up-tempo than side one, containing three faster numbers. “So High,” “Where Could I Go But To The Lord” and “If The Lord Wasn’t Walking By My Side” are all given a bouncy treatment and provide a good counterpoint to the combined seriousness and inspiration of the first side.

The album concludes with the 1965 hit single “Crying In The Chapel.” While it may not be a true gospel song, it certainly fits the album. It was recorded in 1960 but not included on the His Hand In Mine. Released as a standalone single five years, later it soared to number three on the charts. Elvis strips this old standard down to its basics and give it a unique interpretation.

How Great Thou Art is one of the superior releases in the Elvis Presley catalogue. The production is crisp and the vocals, even on my old vinyl LP, are crystal clear. The Jordanaires and Imperials provide stellar backing vocals. This disc remains a must for any fan of gospel, and especially of Elvis Presley.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


Great review David, there is nothing like hearing The King sing gospel. And "Crying In The Chapel" is one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded.

© 2010 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of RCA, and is used for informational purposes only.