There's the mistaken general impression that by the late '60s Elvis Presley was creatively tapped. Out of touch with both the emerging Flower Power scene and the last, clinging vestiges of '50s cocktail culture, Presley wandered far and wide before finding truly firm footing again in the early '70s. But, in his meandering he exhibited a wild sort of diversity. While a touch scattershot, there's a great many satisfying gems during this somewhat neglected stretch. Almost In Love, originally released in 1970, gathers ten singles, many of them from his films, and offers a strong cross-section of his many changing moods.
The album opens with his interpretation of Brazilian guitarist-composer Luiz Bonfa's smoky Almost In Love" that shows our man had picked up a few things from the '60s Bossa Nova set. We're quickly jettisoned into the hard rock present by the frankly gnarly electric guitar intro on the succulently titled Long Legged Girl (With The Short Dress On)," delivered in a way that suggest she won't be wearing that garment for long. Then, it's Edge of Reality," Elvis' merger of Bobby Darin and the newfangled psychedelic stuff the kids were diggin'. And so goes the herk and jerk of Almost In Love, where the eardrum whiplash keeps rewarding one right up till the end of this lost killer. Hiding further in are the Tony Joe White-like Clean Up Your Own Backyard," the gussied up Merle Haggard country of My Little Friend" and U.S. Male," and top flight groovers Rubberneckin'" and A Little Less Conversation," familiar as the theme song (in a clunky remixed form) to viewers of ultra-crap TV show Las Vegas.
For a guy who's sometimes rightly accused of frivolity, profiteering and abusing his natural gifts, Elvis seems remarkably engaged and surprisingly musical throughout Almost In Love. His performances are uniformly passionate and interesting, and there's a subtle critique of overt religiosity and stiff-upper-lip-ed-ness. It's easy to forget what an uproar Presley's hips caused in the 1950s, but it's worth noting how he pushed - albeit it gently - against prevailing standards even in his latter years. And more than all this, Elvis could really sing and he does just that for ten swell cuts on this week's selection.
Here's a lovely thumb in the eye of hypocrites and lecturers everywhere.
Wild guitars, swingin' teens and the best sideburns ever. What's not to like?
This film clip for Rubberneckin'" features a young Mary Tyler Moore, reportedly the only leading lady Presley didn't bed down. This one is a fine example of how Elvis' late '60s movies tapped into powerful culture clash going on in America, but in a way Apple Pie Mainstreet could tolerate.
Look at the kind of dreams you get after eating one of those loaf sized fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches!
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