Monday, May 28, 2012

Elvis Sings Fairly Bland, Loving You: You Can't Remaster Out The Blah.

The Good: One or two decent tracks that are enjoyable (like "Blueberry Hill"!).
The Bad: Monotonous, Musically unimaginative, Nothing lyrically special, Alternate takes are boring, Vocally uninspired
The Basics: A musically and vocally boring album, Loving You is rightfully absent of any genuine hits and is not worth the listener's time.

Fans of Elvis Presley and his music seem to be a lot more tolerant than those of some of the other legendary performers of the modern age. Say one word that suggests that Dylan or Springsteen is less than a god around here and let the flames begin! Elvis fans seem to recognize that while Presley may have been the King of rock and roll, his films were pretty bad and a lot of his music sounds like itself. I respect fans who are open minded about the realities of their idols.

It is with the hope that that reality endures that I sit down to review Loving You, the third album released by Elvis Presley. Originally released as a soundtrack to the film by the same name, Loving You was a dismal twelve-track record that clocked in under twenty-seven minutes. Remastered and rereleased on compact disc with an additional eight tracks, Loving You becomes one of the most forgettable collections of music by Elvis Presley to exist.

With twenty tracks and a running time of around forty-one minutes, Loving You represents a fallow period in Brand Elvis music. Elvis Presley sings and is one of several guitarists on Loving You. This album does not credit him with any co-writing or co-producing credits. In fact, this album has some of the songs that are more commonly associated with artists other than Elvis Presley, like "Blueberry Hill." In other words, there is very little with this album that may be credited or reflected negatively upon Elvis.

This is most fortunate for Elvis! Loving You is a boring album and its most successful track was actually one put onto the album by RCA because it had been successful as a single, "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear." There might be those who love this track, but "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear" is pretty much as bad as the title suggests; it is about a man who wants to be held and squeezed by his woman just like a teddy bear is. It is astonishing to think that this song hit #1 in the late '50s.

Loving You has a few good lyrics, mostly in the song "I Beg Of You." Lines like, "You got me at your mercy / Now that I'm in love with you / So please don't take advantage / Cause you know my love is true / Darling please please love me too / . . . Hold my hand and promise / That you'll always love me true / Make me know you'll love me. . ." ("I Beg Of You") have a simplicity and straightforward quality to them that I find has a strange appeal to me when listening to oldies. Here, Elvis is direct and wanting. Of course, those of us who have been listening to a lot of Elvis lately have to laugh because he also sings "You know I hate to cry" ("I Beg Of You") and in so very many of his songs, Elvis is crying. In fact, it's surprising he's considered an archetype for the manly man the way he cries in his songs so frequently!

Lyrically, the album opens with one of the most problematic Elvis Presley songs to come down the pike; "Mean Woman Blues." This song is your basic 50's style s&m rock and roll track with lines like, "She kiss so hard, she bruise my lips / Hurts so good, my heart just flips . . . The strangest gal I ever had / Never happy less she's mad / Oh, I got a woman / Mean as she can be" ("Mean Woman Blues"). Sure, he expects that closing the chorus with "Sometimes I think / She's almost mean as me" ("Mean Woman Blues") negates the things he sings about the woman, but it's still a fairly critical - if not outright misogynistic - song.

The problem is when Elvis and his producers roam away from the relationship songs, they venture with Loving You into the outright dumb. With lines like "Let's have a party / Send to the store / And let's buy some more / And let's have a party tonight / Some people like to rock / Some people like to roll / But movin' and a groovin' / Gonna' satisfy my soul" ("Party") it's insulting that the song ends up on the album twice! In other words, when the album isn't preoccupied with relationships, it is focusing on itself, singing about rocking and rolling.

Overall, though, this is a fairly slow album with most of the tracks having the musical accompaniment of the piano instead of a heavy guitar. The drums are not featured as a prominent instrument on this album and it works nicely to create a slower, more ballad-filled album and generally I like that.

But not here. Here it is just boring. I've listened to this album seven times now and the truth is, the first four times I had a narcoleptic reaction to it. The songs begin to blend together some with "Don't Leave Me Now" being put stupidly close to "Blueberry Hill" when they sound virtually identical musically. This is not a rockin' album, it is an album to get mellow by and there are far better albums to do that by.

Similar to the lack of genuine musical diversity are the aurally limp vocals. Elvis Presley sings on Loving You in his very safe lower range vocals and he never challenges himself. He goes faster on "Got A Lot O' Livin' To Do" but even there he does not seem strained and he does it by staying within his vocal range. Presley gives us nothing we have not heard before on other albums.

As an album standing on its own, Loving You is vocally boring in that so many of the tracks present so much of the music in much the same way. "Blueberry Hill," Loving You and "Don't Leave Me Now" (among others) all have Elvis singing the same way and it becomes boring to listen to, even with one listen, much less multiple relistens.

You know what? I love writing reviews and the problem with Loving You is that there's not much to say about it. The album itself seems to know this and it is padded out with short, alternate versions of "Party," Loving You and "Got A Whole Lot O' Livin' To Do," which feel like padding. This is a dull album and the tracks that are worth hearing on this (and some of the ones that aren't) are all on better compilations.

This one is not worth your time and attention.

The best track is "Blueberry Hill," the lowest point among the dregs is "Party" (Alternate version).

For other works by Elvis Presley, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Elvis Presley
Elvis’ Christmas Album
30 #1 Hits


For other music reviews, please be sure to check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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