When Elvis Presley was inducted into the Army in March 1958 and deployed to the 1st Medium Tank Battalion, 32nd Armor, 3rd Armored Division in West Germany, his absence created a rock vacuum. With the King in uniform, other worthy recording artists were poised to command a larger share of the limelight. Rockers-in-waiting included the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Ritchie Valens and Eddie Cochran.
But when Holly and Valens died in February 1959 and Cochran [pictured] died the following year, the tragedies put country-rock's development on hold—until Presley's return from the service in March 1960.
Now Presley's post-Army recordings—Elvis Is Back! (1960) and Something for Everybody (1961)—have just been remastered and reissued in one CD set. What makes these recordings special is the eclectic nature of their contents and the vulnerability and maturity of Presley's superb baritone.
Some readers of this blog may debate Presley's true value and his impact on jazz. But at the end of the day his voice remains richer, deeper and warmer than most vocalists of the period. These recordings truly speak for themselves, and they make for fine listening. Hear them for yourself.
On Elvis is Back!, Presley recorded in a wide range of styles. There's the jazzy and heated rendition of Fever, which certainly rivals Peggy Lee's. His Soldier Boy is a penetrating doo-wop execution. The twangy It Feels So Right is pure country. A Mess of Blues harkens back to his golden 1956-57 formula. And Are You Lonesome Tonight channels the Ink Spots.
Something for Everybody continues Presley's drive to win back as wide an audience as possible following his military service. There's a good dose of hushed ballads (It's a Sin, There's Always Me and Gently) as well as country-flavored rockers such as Judy, I'm Coming Home and I Want You With Me.
The set also includes five remastered hit singles from the period—including two highly overlooked pre-Beatles rockers: Little Sister and Good Luck Charm.
Both albums in this set were recorded at RCA's famed Studio B in Nashville and included guitarist Hank Garland [pictured], pianist Floyd Cramer and saxophonist Boots Randolph—musicians who in 1960 also discovered and encouraged vibist Gary Burton.
By the end of 1961, Presley had re-established himself as rock's pre-eminent crooner and balladeer. And he did so by recording in almost every single style imaginable.
JazzWax tracks: Elvis Is Back! and Something for Everybody is available remastered in a two-CD set (Sony/Legacy) at iTunes or here.
JazzWax clip: Here's It Feels So Right from Elvis is Back!...