Great cover shot but, surely, they could have come up with a more imaginative title (from the songs aboard, there're several possibilities in addition to the unofficial Fool title given by fans (Where Do I Go From Here? might have been good although, like "It's Still Here," it brings to mind a question related to the artistic merit of this release). I think this album was somewhat weak in the same sense as Love Letters and Elvis Now, especially compared with releases that preceded it. The actual contents, though, include mostly good -- and some very good -- stuff.
"Fool" is my least favorite of the March, 1972 songs but is still a tasty track.
"Where Do I Go From Here?" is a song I've liked a lot since I first got this LP and it was kind of cool to hear Paul Williams' original when I watched Thunderbolt and Lightfoot recently. I like the lyrics a lot -- and, like "Early Morning Rain" they're very relevant to my own life, so far -- and I love the way Elvis sings it. I wouldn't put it at the level of the immaculate "Burning Love," "Separate Ways," and "Always On My Mind" from the same session but, like "It's A Matter Of Time" it's a competent and appealing song very evocative of a certain frame of mind that many of us may identify with or relate to particular times and places. I think this is one of those underappreciated little gems, albeit not a performance to set the world on fire.
"Love Me, Love The Life I Lead" is my least favorite '70s song from Elvis. by which I mean that I really don't like it. I can take the rest of Elvis' lesser '70s cuts (stuff like "Mr Songman, for example, or "Three Corn Patches") but this one I really don't like...it's the "Confidence" of the '70s, to me. Even what is probably my next-least-favorite song from that era -- "Girl Of Mine" -- is redeemed somewhat in that it's a lot more palatable to me in its undubbed form. I should add here that it's vastly easier for me to pick the songs I don't like from the '70s (ditto the '60s and '50s) than it is to even start to name favorites...I may recognize the subpar nature of a song but that doesn't mean I don't like it, if only because it has some appealing facet to it or possesses a catchy hook. "Love Me, Love The Life I Lead" falls down, in my book, on both criteria.
"It's Still Here." "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen," and "I Will Be True" are three songs I just love. I've long thought Elvis' voice in May, 1971 was a bit uneven, but the somewhat worldweary cracks and intonations in these ballads actually augment the songs' feeling. Even had I not known that Elvis recorded these on piano, at the end of the sessions, I'd love them. None are world-shattering masterpieces or even obscure works of genius like "I'll Hold You In My Heart" but all three are not just well sung and appealing ballads but create a very palpable 'after hours' atmosphere that is laden with sincerity. You get the sense that Elvis sang these because he loved them and wanted to sing them, which was not always the case -- the truth of this is further indicated by home and rehearsal recordings that indicate they were songs he messed around with over a span of many years. The moment where "I Will Be True" gets really quiet is absolutely sublime and the same kind of feeling is present in the great Ivory Joe's "It's Still Here." "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" is a little less blues-tinged and is more straightforward, but it's a very evocative and convincing ode to the love of the singer's life (and to Ireland!).
"It's Impossible" is beautifully sung but not really a song that appeals to me. It's a little too Vegas-y, I guess. It is masterful piece of singing and lush orchestration (nice harp, too), but for me it's perhaps just a tad too far removed from the Delta. Besides, whenever I have a sing of this song I end up singing "It's highly improbable...it's statistically unlikely...it's insignificant at p=0.05" and so on, perhaps one of the dangers of a background in science and an unwillingness to categorically state that anything is impossible.
"For Lovin' Me" is a song I just love to pieces -- again, not a masterpiece but just a very well done track that's catchy as anything. And, yeah, the perspective of the song is that of a real cad, though I do have to credit him with being painfully honest about his cavalier nature. With this Gordon Lightfoot song and the excellent "Early Morning Rain" -- "Amazing Grace" and "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," for that matter -- the March sessions in 1971 were really off to a great start. Oh, how I wish that he could have continued those sessions, because they were shaping up much better -- vocally and otherwise -- than the sessions that followed in May and he could have knocked out an excellent folk-based album (he seemed to be on a real folk and Dylan kick at the time).
"Padre" is overwrought and histrionic and I really get the feeling that Elvis was exaggerating for effect the vocal torture that the song presented him. The first time I heard it, I was all, like, totally "what the hell?," but, somehow, it did grow on me to some extent. It's not short on drama, that's for sure. It's not a song I need to listen to, but it's not a total loss. Odd song, though, really.
"Don't Think Twice, It's All Right " would be my pick from the album, probably. I do like the unedited version (or, rather, longer edits) of the song more, and I can happily listen to the same lyrics over and over (I like the idea of Elvis jamming on a single song for a half hour or so, anyway). I think I liked the one on Our Memories better than the one on Behind Closed Doors (along with the Audifön 2-LP release of the June 29, 1968 shows and Standing Room Only, Volume 3, this was my first bootleg purchase...I wish the prices now were like they were then!) or what came later on the 1973 soundboard release named after this Dylan song. But even the short version is cool, and Elvis' take on this song is not only the best I've yet heard (including the Bobster's versions) but is a fun song to sing whether accompanying yourself on guitar or rocking out in the shower.
In summary, Elvis (1973) seems to me a fairly weak album that -- seemingly paradoxically -- contains some good songs.