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Elvis Presley’s “Promised Land” Reviewed

By the 1970s everything was set in stone, Presley went to Nashville, recorded 30 songs or so, and dribbled em out on singles and albums for a coupla years and then he went in and did it again. It might chart pop and would chart country.

Promised Land was album # 59 (including everything, I mean), it was the second pick from the December 1973 litter, and it was pretty good. At the time I had no interest, though in retrospect I probably should have had at least some interest. Glam was on its last legs and punk hadn’t happened, and Presley might have been singing MOR for menopausal housewives, he was also singing for the rest of us. Elvis always had a handle on Chuck Berry and he does very well indeed on the wordy and obtuse “Promised Land,” a terrific rockabilly rave up, Nashville Cat pianist David Briggs rips it up on the coda, and James Burton on his Fender Telecaster is unbeatable. On the very next song, “There’s a Honky Tonk Angel (Who’ll Take Me Back In),” Troy Seals co-wrote it, Elvis proves his complete chops at a country ballad. The final song on the album, “You Asked Me To”  sounds like every other classic country song (it was written by royalty Waylon Jennings and Billy Joe Shaver) but in a very good way. Earlier on side two Red West, who died in July, co-wrote the bluesy “If You Talk In Your Sleep”.

The rest of the album is fine if unimportant, it is not that the magic was gone (he recorded the tracks in 1973 and in good shape), but that they were caching a very certain form of American Presley fan. It is for the women, and there were millions, who considered him female Viagra, that deep and emotional voice, that tender are you lonesome tonight Presleyism that spoke to red blooded women everywhere always.

The band is fine, the recordings are fine, Presley doesn’t seem obsessive, not even on “Promised Land”,” but there was an easy going skillfulness to it. The title track went Top 20 as did “If You Talk in Your Sleep”. Maybe he overuses the back-up singers too much, maybe the material could have been stronger, but even so, it’s a good album.

Grade: B

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