drjohncarpenter wrote:None of these 35 tracks add a thing to the great legacy of Elvis Presley's recorded work.
I basically agree, in that almost
none of the tracks would be considered a great performance or even a significant one.
The "dirty dozen" worst are in red.
The Sound of Your Cry
Love Me, Love the Life I Lead
Love Song of the Year
Woman Without Love
The Last Farewell
I'll Never Fall in Love Again
A fair grouping, and I'm mostly in agreement, though I have a unexplainable guilty liking for "Life" and would probably swap it out for "Three Corn Patches." "The Sound of Your Cry" sounds better in unvarnished outtake form (as does "It's Easy for You," though Elvis is still uninspired)--another strike against Jarvis. "Fool" and "The Last Farewell" showcase two of Elvis's most irritatingly mannered performances. "My Boy" is pompous, "Woman Without Love" is lifeless, and "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" is enervated and thus inappropriate for the flamboyance of the song's message.
However, there are non-red songs that I would quibble over. "There Goes My Everything," "Where Did They Go, Lord?", "Miracle of the Rosary," "He Is My Everything," "We Can Make the Morning" and "Take Good Care of Her" may not be top-notch songs in themselves, but they are impassioned performances with non-offensive arrangements. They're not guilty of lacking vitality or commitment, which is the worst offense in my book. Neither Jorgensen or Gurlanick (or anyone else?) care for Elvis's version of "Put Your Hand in the Hand", but it's catchy and at least isn't as anemic as "There Is No God But God."
I would rank "Pieces of My Life" and "Talk About the Good Times" in the first tier of the 70s records. The former is everything "My Boy" isn't---bathos redeemed by a genuine expression of regret---and the latter is zippy romp with a fleetfooted vocal.
"Padre" perhaps demonstrates the limits of how far we can blame Jarvis. This was evidentally one of Elvis's favorite songs, and his failure to nail it should be laid at his feet, since I can easily imagine what he might have done with the song. Similarly, "Help Me Make It Through the Night" is another number Elvis badly wanted to do and whose failure is Elvis's alone. Perhaps Jarvis could have prodded Elvis into a more spirited take, but Jorgensen's book suggests that Jarvis did indeed do such things, only to have Elvis blow up on him. There's only so far you can go with an artist whose performing ability has begun flickering.
Quibbles aside, it's clear that Elvis did his best work with producers who actively challenged him, like Sam Phillips, Steve Binder, and Chips Moman. These were all men Elvis felt the need to impress. Felton on the other hand was essentially Elvis's employee, and even if he'd tried to assert himself more he would have likely failed. After the initial thrill of the 1970 marathon wore off Elvis needed another change in the studio routine to shake him up. But the set-up Felton had grown to head couldn't provide it.