From Elvis In Memphis

From Elvis In Memphis

Following his smash-hit 1968 NBC TV special, Elvis Presley chose to capitalize on his creative revitalization by heading back to where it had all started: Memphis, Tennessee. This time, though, instead of working with Sam Phillips and Sun Records, Presley followed the lead of producer Chips Moman at his hitmaking American Sound Studio. The album they made together, 1969’s From Elvis in Memphis, presented a slight twist on Presley’s initial formula: Instead of combining country songs with 1950s R&B, Presley combined them with the enormously popular Southern soul sound. It’s an album that replaces rockabilly fervor with a more laconic, almost mature-sounding groove, as Presley winds his way through country classics old and new. From Elvis in Memphis proves that Presley, now in his early thirties, could succeed in an entirely different pop music zeitgeist than the one he helped shape. Here he isn’t innovating, but rather cutting through modern-day arrangements and rhythms with ease—making his sound less nostalgic, and undoubtedly introducing him to a new generation of fans. There are moments on From Elvis in Memphis where his usual pop polish is breached, too: The Eddy Arnold song “I’ll Hold You in My Heart (Till I Can Hold You in My Arms)” has an accidentally modern introduction, as Presley restarts the tune several times in quick succession, in a way that almost sounds digitally manipulated. And while the album’s biggest hit was “In the Ghetto”—a ballad by Mac Davis that landed in the Top 10—that tune was overshadowed by another track from the American Sound sessions. A pinnacle of late-1960s pop production, “Suspicious Minds” didn’t make the cut for From Elvis in Memphis. But the song became Elvis’ last No. 1 hit in America when it was eventually released as a single—and, to this day, it remains one of his biggest songs ever, as closely associated with the singer’s sound as classics like “Hound Dog” or “All Shook Up.” (“Suspicious Minds” would later be added as a bonus track on From Elvis in Memphis.)

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