There aren’t a whole lot of surprises on this Elvis album, to be honest. If you’ve heard one Elvis song and you liked it, you’d probably like this entire album. I mean, it’s just my opinion, but a lot of Elvis’ music is pretty interchangeable. Doesn’t have much to say; doesn’t say much to me.
It’s alright as far as rock albums from that era go, but it’s not really something I’d put on by choice. That is, unless I learned something compelling about Elvis and/or his music that made me want to listen more closely.
Anyway, here’s what…
Elvis Is Back! is the eighth studio album by Elvis Presley. It was released on RCA Victor Records in mono and stereo in April 1960. Recorded over two sessions in March and April, the album marked Presley’s return to recording after his discharge from the U.S. Army.
In 1957, as Presley’s fame was soaring, he received a draft notice from the Memphis Draft Board, but was given a deferment so he could finish his latest film production, King Creole. During Presley’s two-year military service in Germany, RCA Victor and Paramount Picturesprogressively released material he had completed prior to enlistment. During his last months in the Army, Presley experimented with new sounds and worked on further improving his performance. He also prepared material for his first session in Nashville, which was scheduled to take place upon his return. Presley returned to the United States on March 2, 1960. The singer reunited with his original band The Blue Moon Boys, excepting bassist Bill Black. The first session was held on March 20–21 and the second session was held on April 3–4, completing the album.
Elvis Is Back! was released on April 8, 1960. The album topped the UK Albums Chart and reached number two in Billboard’s Top Selling LP’s. Initially, the release received mixed reviews. Throughout the years the album’s critical reception became progressively more positive, while it was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in 1999.
Background and Army years
Following his third and last appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Presley received a notice from the Memphis draft board on January 8, 1957. The board announced his 1A classification and his possible draft before the end of the year.  During the first half of 1957, Presley had three number one hits with “Too Much“, “All Shook Up“, and “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear“. His second film, Loving You, opened on July 30 to box office success. His Christmas album was released on October 15 and his third film, Jailhouse Rock, opened on October 17.
On December 20, Presley received his draft notice. He was granted a deferment so he could to finish the forthcoming film King Creole, which had already received an investment of $350,000 from Paramount Pictures and producer Hal Wallis. At the beginning of 1958, Presley’s single “Don’t” topped the charts.
Presley was inducted into the Army on March 24, 1958. Soon after starting basic training at Fort Hood, Texas, he received a visit from Eddie Fadal, a businessman he had met on tour in January 1956. According to Fadal, Presley “firmly believed” his career was finished.After completing training, he joined the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany, on October 1.
Media reports echoed Presley’s concerns about his career, but RCA producer Steve Sholes and Freddy Bienstock of Hill and Range had carefully prepared for his two-year absence. Prepared with unreleased material, they kept up a stream of regular, successful releases.Between his induction and discharge, Presley had ten top 40 hits, including “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck“, the best-selling “Hard Headed Woman“, and “One Night“ in 1958, and “(Now and Then There’s) A Fool Such as I” and the number one hit “A Big Hunk o’ Love” in 1959. RCA also released four albums compiling old material during this period, most successfully Elvis’ Golden Records(1958) (which rose to third position on the LP chart) and 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong.
Return to music
During his final months in the Army, Presley started to experiment with new material and thinking ahead to his anticipated return to recording. For his first scheduled recording session, Presley considered The Four Fellow‘s “Soldier Boy”, the Golden Gate Quartet‘s “I Will Be Home Again“, The Drifters‘ “Such a Night” and Jesse Stone‘s “Like a Baby“. His friend Charlie Hodge taught Presley techniques to improve his breathing and expand his range. For inspiration, Presley used Roy Hamilton‘s “I Believe” and his version of “Unchained Melody“, the traditional Irish song “Danny Boy“, and Tony Martin‘s “There’s No Tomorrow” (an English adaptation of “’O sole mio“). Presley also studied the phrasing and notes of records by The Inkspots and the Mills Brothers. By the end of his time in Germany, Presley had added a full octave to his vocal range.
Presley returned to the United States on March 2, 1960, and was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant on March 5. While Presley was in Germany, manager Colonel Tom Parker negotiated new terms with RCA Victor for Presley to fulfill his contractual obligations with film soundtracks. Parker also obtained an increase in Presley’s salary and a profit share from producer Wallis, and negotiated an appearance on The Frank Sinatra Show. Meanwhile, to assure publishing royalties, Bienstock commissioned new lyrics for “O Sole Mio” since the tune was already in the public domain.
On March 20, Parker sent a chartered Greyhound bus to transport Presley and his entourage from Memphis, Tennessee to Nashville. The session personnel consisted of guitarist Scotty Moore, drummer D.J. Fontana, pianist Floyd Cramer, guitarist Hank Garland, bassist Bobby Moore, percussionist Buddy Harman and the backing group The Jordanaires. Presley’s original bassist Bill Black declined to join the sessions as he was enjoying success with the Bill Black Combo. To prevent possible disruption by fans, the musicians were initially told they were going to play on a Jim Reeves session. RCA Executives Sholes and Bill Bullock were joined in the control booth by Parker, his assistant Tom Diskin, A&R head Chet Atkins, engineer Bill Porter and Hill and Range’s Bienstock.
RCA’s Studio B had recently been equipped with a new three-track recorder. To further improve the recording of Presley’s voice, Porter had Telefunken U-47 microphones placed in the studio. The U-47 was the first condenser microphone that could switch between omnidirectional and cardioid patterns. The microphone could be used for vocals, instruments and full area coverage. The first song recorded was Otis Blackwell‘s “Make Me Know It”, which was mastered in nineteen takes. “Soldier Boy” was later recorded in fifteen takes, followed by the non-album cuts “Stuck on You” and “Fame and Fortune”. The last song recorded during the March session was a non-album cut, “A Mess of Blues“. A new session was arranged for April. Presley then left for Miami, Florida, where he taped The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: Welcome Home Elvis.
The original musicians returned to the studio on the evening of April 3; they were joined by saxophonist Boots Randolph. Presley started the session with “Fever“, accompanied only by the bass and drums. He followed with the reworded version of “O Sole Mio”, now titled “It’s Now or Never“. After Presley failed several times to achieve the full voice ending of the song, Porter offered to splice it for him. Presley refused and tried the song until he archived the desired ending. “Girl Next Door Went A-Walking“, was recorded in ten takes, followed by “Thrill of Your Love”. The non-album cut “Are You Lonesome Tonight” was followed by “I Will Be Home Again”—a duet with Hodge. For the last song of the session, Lowell Fulson‘s “Reconsider Baby“, Presley played the lead using his Gibson Super 400 guitar.
Elvis is Back! represented a new sound for Presley; it moved him further toward pop music, a direction he continued to take over much of the decade. The album features a mixture of genres, including rock, rhythm and blues and pop ballads. Critics generally agreed that Presley had acquired a “deeper, harder voice quality”, and said his interpretations were “increasingly sophisticated”. The album includes a variety of material; Presley and the session musicians, known as the “The Nashville A-Team“, had the benefit of recording equipment that was state-of-the-art for its time.[a] Elvis is Back! was the first Presley album to be released in stereo. The album’s front cover shows Presley standing in front of a blue stage curtain, dressed in an Army trench coat and smiling as he glances to his left. The back cover features an image of Presley grinning; he is dressed in an Army regulation fatigue jacket and cap. The inside of the gatefold cover features fifteen photographs of Presley taken at various times during his Army service.
The album contains twelve tracks; it opens with “Make Me Know It”. The second track is a cover of “Fever”, which Presley based on Peggy Lee‘s version, although his recording incorporates finger-snapping and the sounds of the two percussionists are divided between the two channels of the stereo mix. On “The Girl of My Best Friend”, Presley is supported with doo-wop backing vocals by The Jordanaires. The fourth track is “I Will Be Home Again”, a slow ballad performed as a duet with Charlie Hodge. The fifth track is “Dirty, Dirty Feeling”, a song characterized by its “raunchy rock sound” and satirical humor; it was written by by Leiber and Stoller, and had been previously discarded from the soundtrack of King Creole.  The final track on side one is “Thrill of Your Love”, on which Presley is accompanied by Cramer on the piano.
The second side opens with “Soldier Boy”, which featuring a change of key in the chorus. This is followed by “Such a Night”, which has saxophone accompaniment by Randolph. The next track is the blues number “It Feels So Right”, which features lead guitar and heavy use of percussion. The following track is “Girl Next Door Went A-Walking”, which was brought in by Moore. The album closes with the rhythm and blues songs “Like a Baby” and “Reconsider Baby”. Presley played the lead guitar on both tracks, the latter of which features long saxophone and piano solos.
Release and reception
The first single from Elvis Is Back!, “Stuck on You”, was released two days after its recording with “Fame and Fortune” on the B-side, attracting 1.4 million advanced orders. The pre-printed single sleeve said, “Elvis’ 1st New Recording For His 50,000,000 Fans All Over The World”. It was the first Presley single to be released in stereo. Elvis Is Back! was released on April 8, 1960, in stereo and monoaural versions. The album reached number two on Billboard’s Top Selling LP’s and topped the UK Albums Chart.
|The New York Times||Negative.|
|Hi-Fi Stereo Review||Mixed.|
Billboard magazine said, “Elvis is back and singing better than ever in the rock and roll style he made famous”. The New York Times called the record “drab and lackluster”.Referencing Presley’s change of style, High Fidelity magazine said: “Presley obviously finds it hard to record his old gusto … Perhaps [the recordings] are the first attempts to master new styles”. Hi-Fi Stereo Review magazine also remarked on the change in Presley’s style, calling the album “musically schizoid” despite deeming the overall recording “good”. The review said Presley’s ballads were “the worst he’s ever made” but lauded “his former vitality” in the “commercial rockabilly romps”.
Allmusic awarded the album four-and-a-half stars out of five. Critic Bruce Eder said the record “shows a mature Elvis Presley [who] displayed the rich, deep vocalizing that would challenge critics’ expectations of Elvis Presley playing rhythm guitar throughout”. The review concluded “[Elvis is Back!] comes off better than on any of his other albums since arriving at RCA”. Rolling Stone also gave the album four-and-a-half stars out of five, and praised its “wildly varied material, revelatory singing, impeccable stereo sound”.
Popmatters gave the album a score of seven out of ten. The review said the album helped Presley grow from “teen idol” to “adult entertainer”. Critic Steve Horowitz stated, “Presley’s voice was still strong and clear. He could belt out the blues one minute … and then sound sophisticated the next … without changing character.” The Seattle Post-Intelligencer also gave a favorable review, saying: “Elvis is Back! finds [Presley] demonstrating both versatility and an affinity for handling a range of song styles”. UK newspaper Daily Expressawarded it four stars out of five, saying, “this collection … is [Presley’s] finest”. 
Elvis is Back! was certified Gold on July 15, 1999, by the Recording Industry Association of America. Critic Robert Dimery included the album in his book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. RCA reissued the album on Compact Disc in 1990, and in 1999 re-released it with bonus tracks. In 2005 Elvis is Back! was reissued on the Follow That Dream label in a 2-disc CD collection. This edition contains previously unreleased outtakes of the studio album and combines all previously released versions of the masters and outtakes.Legacy Recordings released a remastered version of the album together with Something for Everybody in 2011.
- Elvis Presley – vocals, acoustic guitar
- Scotty Moore – electric guitar
- Hank Garland – electric guitar, electric bass
- Floyd Cramer – piano
- Bob Moore – double bass
- D. J. Fontana – drums
- Buddy Harman – drums
- The Jordanaires – backing vocals
- Boots Randolph – saxophone
- Charlie Hodge – backing vocals (on “I Will Be Home Again“)
|1.||“Make Me Know It”||Otis Blackwell||March 20, 1960||1:58|
|2.||“Fever“||John Davenport and Eddie Cooley||April 3, 1960||3:31|
|3.||“The Girl of My Best Friend“||Beverly Ross and Sam Bobrick||April 4, 1960||2:21|
|4.||“I Will Be Home Again“||Bennie Benjamin, Raymond Leveen, Lou Singer||April 4, 1960||2:33|
|5.||“Dirty, Dirty Feeling”||Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller||April 4, 1960||1:35|
|6.||“Thrill of Your Love“||Stan Kesler||April 4, 1960||2:59|
|1.||“Soldier Boy”||David Jones and Theodore Williams Jr.||March 20, 1960||3:04|
|2.||“Such a Night“||Lincoln Chase||April 4, 1960||2:58|
|3.||“It Feels So Right”||Fred Wise and Ben Weisman||March 21, 1960||2:09|
|4.||“Girl Next Door Went A-Walking“||Bill Rice and Thomas Wayne||April 4, 1960||2:12|
|5.||“Like a Baby“||Jesse Stone||April 3, 1960||2:38|
|6.||“Reconsider Baby“||Lowell Fulson||April 4, 1960||3:39|
1999 reissue bonus tracks
|Track 3-14 are from the original album|
|1.||“Stuck on You” (originally issued as 47-7740, March 23, 1960, #1)||Aaron Schroeder and S. Leslie McFarland||March 21, 1960||2:18|
|2.||“Fame and Fortune” (originally issued as 47-7740b, March 23, 1960, #17)||Fred Wise and Ben Weisman||March 21, 1960||2:29|
|15.||“Are You Lonesome Tonight?” (originally issued as 47-7810, November 1, 1960, #1)||Lou Handman and Roy Turk||April 4, 1960||3:05|
|16.||“I Gotta Know” (originally issued as 47-7810b, November 1, 1960, #20)||Paul Evans and Matt Williams||April 4, 1960||2:15|
|17.||“A Mess of Blues” (originally issued as 47-7777b, July 5, 1960, #32)||Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman||March 21, 1960||2:39|
|18.||“It’s Now or Never” (originally issued as 47-7777, July 5, 1960, #1)||Eduardo di Capua, Aaron Schroeder, Wally Gold||April 3, 1960||3:14|
2005 Follow That Dream reissue
|Disc 1||Disc 2|
*previously unreleased take
2011 Legacy edition reissue
|UK Albums Chart||1|
|Billboard Top Selling LP’s||2|
South Pacific by Original Soundtrack
|UK Albums Chart number-one album
30 July 1960 – 6 August 1960
South Pacific by Original Soundtrack
- “Elvis had never been heard like this before, except perhaps by himself in his own head. There was new depth to his voice; his interpretations were increasingly sophisticated; the group was probably the best studio band inthe business; the song selection was imaginative and varied, the technical quality excellent. Most surprising ofall, the new album pointed in no one’s musical direction”.