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Ten Underrated Post-Comeback Elvis Presley Songs

Dig into deep cuts from Elvis' post-'68 Comeback period (1969-77).

Dig into deep cuts from Elvis' post-'68 Comeback period (1969-77).

Elvis and the '68 Comeback

During the 1960s, Elvis fell into a musical rut while making corny movies like Clambake (1967) and Girl Happy (1965). However, he mounted a comeback in 1968 with a televised NBC music special that allowed him to reconnect with his musical roots. Before this special (aka "The '68 Comeback"), Elvis realized that he had fallen out of favor and popular music tastes had passed him by. His movies all seemed the same and his music wasn't relevant.

This motivated him to break out of his comfort zone and stretch himself with a live music show. The special was a smash success with both audiences and music critics. Additionally, the momentum from the event fueled a renaissance in his career, the "Post-Comeback" period, that yielded some of the best music of his life. This period lasted up to Elvis' death in 1977, when excessive prescription drug use finally took its toll.

Everyone is most likely familiar with the more famous songs from this time, like "Suspicious Minds", "In the Ghetto", and "Kentucky Rain". Unfortunately, many lesser-known gems have been forgotten as the years have passed. With this list I tried to highlight some of these underrated, forgotten songs. They are some of Elvis' best tracks and if you haven't heard them I highly recommend a listen.

10. "Always on My Mind" (1972)

Willie Nelson had a number five hit with this song in 1982, but not many people know that Elvis did a killer version ten years earlier. It was recorded in Los Angeles in March 1972, a few weeks after Priscilla told Elvis she was leaving. He was in a dark, depressed mood during the session and the emotion from their separation can clearly be heard in his voice. The song was co-written by Mark James, writer of "Suspicious Minds," and it was released as the B-side to "Separate Ways."

9. "Separate Ways" (1972)

A sad, beautiful song about two lovers drifting apart and the end of their relationship. It was recorded during the same session as "Always on My Mind" and was written by Red West, who went to high school with Elvis and who was part of his Memphis Mafia entourage.

Because of his mood at the time, Elvis really connected with this song. Priscilla had just informed him she had enough of his behavior and was leaving. Bass player Emory Gordon noted that Elvis was intense during the session. Producer Felton Jarvis said it appeared Presley was trying to get something out of his system during the 21 grueling takes it took to get the master.

The track starts with a beautiful acoustic guitar, touches of piano, and then gentle singing. It ends with Elvis' wordless vocal (I wish he had done this more often) and piano fading away together. It was released as a single on March 27, 1972, with "Always on My Mind" as the B-side. The two songs sold over half a million units and "Separate Ways" reached #20 on the pop charts.

8. "Pieces of My Life" (1975)

This somber song was recorded on March 13, 1975, at RCA's Hollywood studios and released on the Today album. It was also one of the last songs Elvis ever recorded. It came out as a single and had a 10-week stay on the Billboard Country chart, peaking at #33. Elvis was reflecting on his life at the time and it often spilled over into his music. This song is no exception.

Elvis had some of the best backing musicians. There are some nice guitar parts on this track and the backup singers are great, as usual. Elvis' voice was still strong at this point in his life, even though the prescription drugs were really dragging him down.

7. "You Gave Me a Mountain" (1973)

Written by Marty Robbins, this song was featured on the 1973 Aloha from Hawaii album. Because this is a live version, it really shows off the strength and power of Elvis' voice, especially when he booms out the chorus. The song concerns a man that has had a life filled with insurmountable obstacles, including his wife and little baby leaving. Elvis really took to the track for obvious reasons and the song became a staple and fan favorite of his Vegas shows.

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6. "The Power of My Love" (1969)

This powerful, sultry, soulful song is from one of the greatest albums of all time, From Elvis in Memphis. It was recorded in January and February 1969 at American Studios in Memphis under the guidance of legendary producer, Chips Moman, and released that June. It starts with a great harmonica lick and just keep getting better. Elvis really punches the vocals and the horns and guitars break through the mix to add to the song's power.

5. "This is the Story" (1969)

Released on the 1969 double album, From Memphis to Vegas / From Vegas to Memphis, "This is the Story" has haunting guitar lines and a killer bass. It really builds to a crescendo at the chorus with Elvis and the female background singers. Written by Chris Arnold, David Martin, and Geoff Morrow, "Story" was an outtake from the January 1969 Chips Moman sessions.

4. "True Love Travels on a Gravel Road" (1969)

Another killer song from the great From Elvis in Memphis album. I really like the way Elvis belts out the chorus. He also takes it down real quiet during certain parts, so there is a nice contrast to his singing. An added bonus is Elvis wrapping up the song with humming. If you get a chance, check out the version by Percy Sledge. Very soulful.

"True Love" was written by Dallas Frazier and A.L. Owens. Frazier was a notable country music songwriter who also penned "Wearin' That Loved On Look," and years later wrote "Elvira" for the Oak Ridge Boys.

3. "Gentle on My Mind" (1969)

This country song of a drifter reminiscing about his life was made famous by Glen Campbell in 1967, but I prefer the Elvis version. It has a nice churning, driving vibe providing by the guitar picking (Reggie Young) and intricate bassline (Tommy Cogbill or Mike Leech) that run throughout the song. Once again, Elvis delivers a powerful vocal performance and there's a nice guitar fadeout at the end. The King also hums a few times, which is a nice touch. The song was written by John Hartford, a notable folk and bluegrass performer. It was also recorded at American Studios on January 14, 1969.

2. "It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin'" (1969)

From Elvis in Memphis is so good that four songs from the album make this list. Recorded at American Studios on February 20, 1969, "A-Hurtin'" is an upbeat song with a punchy chorus and a great vocal by Elvis. It was written by Johnny Tillotson, who had nine Top 10 hits in the early 1960s as a country and pop singer. In fact, Tillotson's version of "It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin'" reached #3 on the pop charts in 1962. The Elvis version of the song was never released as a single.

1. "Inherit the Wind"

Written by Eddie Rabbitt ("Kentucky Rain"), the song is about a drifter explaining his lifestyle to the friends, family, and loved ones he left behind. The way Elvis puts everything into his vocal makes it apparent that he really connected with the subject matter. It also features great female backup vocals and nice guitar picking after the chorus. This is an Elvis classic that should be way better known. It was originally released on that 1969 live-and-leftovers double album, From Memphis to Vegas / From Vegas to Memphis. All leftovers should be this good.

Comments

theframjak (author) from East Coast on April 14, 2012:

Hey KF Raizor, thanks for reading. I've never heard "It's a Matter of Time" and need to give it a listen. I agree, it was hard to keep it to only 10 songs. Elvis did so many great ones after his '68 comeback special.

KF Raizor on April 13, 2012:

Anybody who endorses Elvis' version of "Always on My Mind" over Willie Nelson's hatchet job gets an automatic thumbs up from me! I always thought "It's a Matter of Time" was a very underrated song from Elvis as well (it was the B-side of "Burnin' Love," and country stations tended to play it while the rock stations played the A side). You could've easily done 25 and you still would have needed more room!!

Great songs. You can't go wrong with an Elvis hub!

theframjak (author) from East Coast on April 13, 2012:

Thanks for reading annmare louise white. I am also big Elvis fan.

annmare louise white on April 13, 2012:

i what be elvis presley fans and get married to elvis presley on one alse becorse

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