Yesterday’s post collected the original version of a few songs sung by Elvis with the specific goal of highlighting lesser-known cuts. We all know and love songs like “Hound Dog” (Big Mama Thornton) and “Mystery Train” (Junior Parker), but sometimes forget that Elvis also covered Patti Page, Jerry Butler and Tony Joe White, to name a few.
I was inspired to post yesterday’s songs and today’s Elvis covers after listening to From Elvis in Memphis in the shop last week. It really is one of the King’s best albums. It came quick on the heels of his successful 1968 television special, widely remembered as his “comeback”. The real back story behind the television special, From Elvis in Memphis and the series of great albums that followed them is the end of his contract with Paramount Pictures – “Comeback” Elvis is really post-Hollywood Elvis.
I guess you couldn’t tell him not to quit his day job because acting was his day job. Actually, the last Elvis movie is one of the most interesting – Change of Habit features Presley as a doctor who runs a free clinic suddenly staffed by nuns instead of nurses. Mary Tyler Moore and Barbara McNair costar. McNair (Miss October 1968) was a singer with a few hits of her own, including a short run at Motown. Parts of Change of Habit are undeniably weird (Elvis’ “rage reduction” treatment of an autistic girl most of all) but the truth is the worst Elvis movies are somewhere in the middle – Our choice for the worst? Harum Scarum.
Meanwhile, Elvis’ 1968-9 recordings in Memphis and Nashville are full of positive energy and promise, qualities that exemplified young Elvis’ work and were tragically absent in his late performances. Its a shame that his last big hits would come out of this period (“In the Ghetto”, “Suspicious Minds” and “Kentucky Rain”) because a few of his late singles were also very good. In fact, “Always on my Mind” and “Burning Love” are a couple of my favorites!
Anyway, in yesterday’s post I said we’d feature Elvis’ cover of those great songs, so here they are:
That was the Eddy Arnold sleeper “I’ll Hold You in my Heart Until I Can Hold You in my Arms” given a soulful rendition by Elvis, followed by a solid performance of the Jerry Butler hit “Only the Strong Survive”.
Here’s Elvis’ fun and short version of “I Got a Thing About You Baby” by Tony Joe White:
And one more track from Elvis’ “comeback” – From the otherwise fumbling album Back in Memphis, here’s a cover of the Percy Mayfield song “Stranger in my Own Hometown”: