An Elvis Presley Christmas Countdown

Elvis Presley performs “Blue Christmas” during taping of 1968’s ELVIS special (NBC)

Well, folks, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted. In case you don’t remember me, I’m the once and future conductor of this little blog we like to call The Mystery Train.

Christmas is my favorite time of year, which is one of the reasons I wanted to write. In fact, believe it or not, I had actually planned to write anywhere from 6 to 25 posts this month. I’m definitely a dreamer. In one form or another, I’ve been trying to start this one post since Thanksgiving. Yes, Christmas is my favorite time of the year, but also one of the busiest.

“Next week this time it will be all over,” my uncle tells me. As much as I love the Christmas season, I do almost dread the actual day coming because he is right, it means it is just about over. My mom loved Christmas as much as I do, and I remember it making her sad when everything went back to “normal.”

One thing I’ve done the last few years that helps, though, is leaving up some of my Christmas lights throughout the inside of my home. Turning those colored lights on can bring back some of the magic, even if it is March!

At the rate I’m going, it may well be March before you see this post. So, I’d better get on with it.

I enjoy doing lists and rankings, so I was really surprised to find that I apparently haven’t done one with a Christmas theme before. Therefore, I present a countdown of Christmas songs by Elvis Presley. This is, of course, one fan’s opinion.


#20 White Christmas (1957)
Elvis’ Christmas Album
Writer: Irving Berlin
Comments: Elvis’ 1957 version of “White Christmas” borrows heavily from the Drifters’ 1954 recording of the song but unfortunately falls short of that high watermark. This is Elvis’ worst Christmas song, so stick with the Drifters, Burl Ives (1965), or Bing Crosby (1940s) for this one.

#19 The Wonderful World Of Christmas (1971)
Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas
Writers: Charles Tobias & Albert Frisch
Comments: How did the weakest song on Elvis’ 1971 Christmas album become the title track?

#18 O Little Town Of Bethlehem (1957)
Elvis’ Christmas Album
Writers: Phillips Brooks & Lewis Redner
Comments: There is a childlike yet sincere quality to Elvis’ voice as he tells the story of the birth of Jesus on “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” that makes this recording stand out, despite how it plods along at times. Nat King Cole recorded the best version (1960).

#17 The First Noel (1971)
Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas
Writer: (Traditional)
Comments: Fourteen years later, here again we have Elvis telling the story of the birth of Christ – this time in “The First Noel.” While, like its predecessor, it does plod along at times, it is still a solid recording of this classic. Mahalia Jackson (1968) and Frank Sinatra (1957) recorded the best versions of “The First Noel.”

For reasons unknown beyond a CD tie-in, this Elvis version inspired a 1999 children’s book. I remember running into it at a bookstore in a shopping mall back then and being quite surprised. Not enough to buy it, though!

#16 It Won’t Seem Like Christmas [Undubbed Master] (1971)
Back In Nashville
Other notable versions: 1971 Master (Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas ), 1971 Rehearsal (preceding Take 6, Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas [2011 FTD Edition])
Writer: J.A. Balthrop

Credit: Vevo’s Elvis Presley channel (YouTube)

Comments: One of the things I love about Christmas music is that it actually represents so many different genres that otherwise wouldn’t share the same rotations, playlists, or compilations. Under the “Christmas” banner, you can get everything from Gospel to Rock ‘n’ Roll to the Blues to Country to Electronic to Classical to Jazz to Rap to Children’s Music to Pop to “Oldies” and probably 53 others I am leaving out.

While it doesn’t hit quite that many sub-genres, Elvis music is similar in that Elvis did not restrict himself to one type of music. One of the reasons I love being an Elvis fan is hearing his takes and combinations on so many different styles – the Blues, Gospel, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Pop, Country. As for Elvis Christmas Music, “It Won’t Seem Like Christmas” is the first entry of many on this list that reflects a melancholy view of the holiday. I love sad songs, and Elvis had a way of infusing sadness and regret right into the sound of his voice that really resonates with me.

While I haven’t played the rest of the set, I dipped into the Christmas songs on the recently released and unimaginatively titled Back In Nashville for the sake of completeness on this list. I’m glad I did, because a few of the versions there, as mixed by Matt Ross-Spang, trumped my previous favorites of particular songs. Stripped of its orchestral and background vocal overdubs, “It Won’t Seem Like Christmas” becomes even more poignant.

I now see why these posts take me so long. I originally intended the “Comments” to be one sentence or less per song, but I hope you forgive and enjoy the tangents.

#15 On A Snowy Christmas Night [Undubbed Master] (1971)
Back In Nashville
Other notable versions: 1971 Master (Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas )
Writer: Stanley Gelber

Credit: Vevo’s Elvis Presley channel (YouTube)

Comments: Though I wish Elvis had recorded another couple of takes to really nail the song, I still love what we have in “On A Snowy Christmas Night,” a song that reminds us what the season is all about. The undubbed master fittingly gives more prominence to a church-style organ.

#14 If Every Day Was Like Christmas (1966)
If Every Day Was Like Christmas/How Would You Like To Be [RCA Single]
Writers: Red West & Glen Spreen

Credit: Vevo’s Elvis Presley channel (YouTube)

Comments: The powers-that-be chose to slot 1966’s “If Every Day Was Like Christmas” one-off on a 1970 budget reconfiguration of 1957’s Elvis’ Christmas Album, but for me it fits far better with his powerful 1970s style. The lyrics even reference “a wonderful world,” making it a natural for 1971’s Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas. (Note that this album cover is shown in the official video above, so perhaps the song indeed appeared on a subsequent reissue of Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas as well.) A number of popular artists later hit similar themes in their Christmas songs (e.g., Bon Jovi’s “I Wish Everyday Could Be Like Christmas,” 98 Degrees’ “If Every Day Could Be Christmas”), but Elvis did it best.

#13 Silver Bells [Undubbed Master] (1971)
Back In Nashville
Other notable versions: 1971 Master (Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas )
Writers: Jay Livingston & Ray Evans

Credit: Vevo’s Elvis Presley channel (YouTube)

Comments: “Siver Bells” paints a Norman Rockwell-esque portrait of a bustling city during Christmas. The Back In Nashville version far exceeds the original Elvis release due to the absence of the overpowering male background singers that plagued so many of his masters from 1956 onwards. I respect that Elvis originally wanted to be a member of a gospel quartet, so it was part of the sound he sought. However, many (not all) of his recordings sound so much better to these ears without the Jordanaires, the Imperials, the Stamps, Voice, whoever.

#12 Santa Bring My Baby Back (1957)
Elvis’ Christmas Album
Writers: Aaron Schroeder & Claude DeMetrius

Credit: Vevo’s Elvis Presley channel (YouTube)

Comments: The fun “Santa Bring My Baby Back” was a favorite of my mom, so I think of her dancing along whenever I hear it.

#11 If I Get Home On Christmas Day (1971)
Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas
Other notable version: 1971 Undubbed Master (Back In Nashville)
Writers: Tony Macaulay & John MacLeod

Credit: Vevo’s Elvis Presley channel (YouTube)

Comments: Elvis recorded three different songs about seeking home on Christmas. “If I Get Home On Christmas Day” sounds the most optimistic in terms of his chances of actually getting there: “Though I’m half a world away, if we’re patient and we pray, I know I’ll get my chance with you this time.” A beautiful song that leaves us wondering, year-in and year-out, did he make it home this time?

#10 Blue Christmas [Unedited Live Master] (1968)
Tiger Man
Other notable versions: 1968 Live (June 27, 6 PM, Memories), 1957 Master (Elvis’ Christmas Album)
Writers: Billy Hayes & Jay Johnson
Comments: Elvis was on fire during taping of the 1968 ELVIS television special for NBC and delivered in a live setting improved versions of a number of his classics, including 1957’s “Blue Christmas.” RCA truncated the live master first released on ELVIS-TV Special, so 1998’s Tiger Man CD is my go-to version since it is unedited. What I love about this version from the June 27, 8 PM “Sit Down Show” is that Elvis sounds like he doesn’t want to let the song go, repeating its simple lyrics again and again as he strums away on electric guitar.

#9 O Come All Ye Faithful [Take 1 & Take 2 Splice] (1971)
Memories Of Christmas
Other notable versions: 1971 Master (Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas), 1971 Undubbed Master (Back In Nashville)
Writer: (Traditional)
Comments: Elvis only recorded two takes of “O Come All Ye Faithful.” He laid down a great performance on Take 1, but tried an extended version for Take 2 that added 75 seconds to the song. Unfortunately, portions of Take 2 were not as strong as his Take 1 performance. Take 1 became the master. 1982’s Memories Of Christmas album brilliantly spliced Takes 1 & 2 to make the definitive version of this Christmas classic. Get used to that word, “definitive,” because I will be using it often from here on out. While I love the recently released undubbed versions, “O Come All Ye Faithful” actually benefits from majestic orchestral and background vocal overdubs that serve to herald the arrival of our Lord.

#8 Winter Wonderland (1971)
Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas
Other notable version: 1971 Take 10 (Master, Alternate Mix, Back In Nashville)
Writers: Dick Smith & Felix Bernard

Credit: Vevo’s Elvis Presley channel (YouTube)

Comments: Sometimes I don’t understand my fellow Elvis fans. One such instance is that I would guess that roughly 90% of those fans who post online trash Elvis’ performance of “Winter Wonderland.” I must admit, I don’t get it. At all. Elvis puts a rock-n-roll spin on “Winter Wonderland,” complete with a “signature Elvis ending,” and creates, yes, the definitive version. I’m a proud member of the 10% who love Elvis’ take on this song, which is why it ranks so high on this list.

#7 Merry Christmas Baby [Single Edit] (1971)
Merry Christmas Baby/O Come All Ye Faithful [RCA Single]
Other notable versions: 1971 Undubbed/Unedited Master (Back In Nashville), 1971 Master (Album Edit, Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas)
Writer: Lou Baxter & Johnny Moore
Comments: While the album edit (5:45) of “Merry Christmas Baby” as well as the unedited performance (8:08) are surely of interest to us Elvis fans, the single edit (3:15) of this jam feels just about right. As much as I love Elvis’ rendition of “Merry Christmas Baby,” it was not the best choice for the A-Side of a single, though. Ironically, RCA was sitting on another recording that could have proven much better.

#6 Here Comes Santa Claus (1957)
Elvis’ Christmas Album
Writers: Gene Autry & Oakley Halderman
Comments: With all due respect to Gene Autry, Elvis’ recording of “Here Comes Santa Claus” is, that’s right, the definitive version. I love how the world’s foremost rock ‘n’ roll star practically swings the lyrics, “Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,” near the end of the song.

Credit: Vevo’s Elvis Presley channel (YouTube)

#5 Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees [Undubbed Master] (1971)
Back In Nashville
Other notable versions: 1971 Master (Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas), 1971 Take 4 (Back In Nashville), 1971 Take 2 (Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas [2011 FTD Edition]), 1971 Take 8 (If Every Day Was Like Christmas)
Writers: Red West & Glen Spreen

Credit: Vevo’s Elvis Presley channel (YouTube)

Comments: Full of a sad nostalgia for Christmases past, the quiet “Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees” shines as an example of Elvis at his best. Perhaps that is because the song “gets” Elvis, for it was written by his friend and bodyguard Red West, who also penned 1966’s “If Every Day Was Like Christmas” earlier in this list. West, who passed away in 2017, wrote a number of solid songs for Elvis, including 1972’s “Separate Ways” – which mirrored the singer’s collapsing marriage and concern about the impact to his daughter, Lisa Marie. West seems like he was a tough guy, and I guess you’d have to be to protect a man like Elvis, but many of his lyrics reveal a sensitive side and obviously appealed to Elvis.

#4 I’ll Be Home For Christmas (1957)
Elvis’ Christmas Album
Writers: Walter Kent, Kim Gannon, & Buck Ram

Credit: Vevo’s Elvis Presley channel (YouTube)

Comments: Elvis was only 22-years-old when he recorded “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” in 1957. By comparison, Bing Crosby recorded the song at the age of 40 (1943) and Frank Sinatra recorded it at the age of 42 (1957). While the versions of Crosby and Sinatra are classics in their own rights, the Elvis version sounds more heartfelt – and world-weary – making it the definitive version.

#3 Silent Night (1957)
Elvis’ Christmas Album
Writer: John Freeman Young, Joseph Mohr, & Franz Gruber

Credit: Vevo’s Elvis Presley channel (YouTube)

Comments: “Silent Night” is Elvis’ best faith-based Christmas song, but did he record the ultimate version? He’s certainly in the conversation, but with strong competition yet again from Bing Crosby (1930s & 1940s). However, I have to give a slight edge over both men to Nat King Cole’s version (1960). Whether you prefer Elvis, Cole, Crosby, or one of hundreds of other renditions, “Silent Night” perfectly illustrates the birth of Jesus Christ, transporting you there.

#2 I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day [Re-recording] (1971)
Memories Of Christmas
Other notable versions: Nearly all of them, including 1971 Take 4 (Back In Nashville), 1971 Master (Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas), 1971 Re-recording Take 9 (Today, Tomorrow & Forever), 1971 Re-recording Take 2 (I Sing All Kinds)
Writer: Michael Jarrett

Credit: Elvis Presley – Topic channel (YouTube)

Comments: Elvis made two separate series of attempts at “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day.” The first was multiple takes of a country-flavored rendition in May 1971 that resulted in what eventually became the album master. Elvis used a bluesier approach when he tried the song again in June of that year, again going through multiple takes. That the incredible June re-recording was passed over in favor of the May version still boggles my mind. The re-recording of “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day” languished in RCA’s vaults for over a decade until the excellent Memories Of Christmas album finally brought it to light. By then, Elvis had been dead five years.

In my alternate universe, the bluesier “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day” would have been Elvis’ A-Side Christmas single of 1971, backed with “Merry Christmas Baby.” What a one-two punch that would have been. They could have even left the original version on the album, making the single even more unique.

The writer of “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day,” Michael Jarrett, also wrote “I’m Leavin’,” which Elvis released as an A-Side earlier in the same year. Despite Elvis’ belief in the song, it failed to ignite record-buyers. Perhaps that factored into Jarrett’s Christmas song being passed over for single consideration. As much as I love “I’m Leavin’,” though, “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day” is a far better song. In fact, it is almost the greatest Elvis Christmas song ever, but that honor instead goes to….

#1 Santa Claus Is Back In Town (1957)
Elvis’ Christmas Album
Other notable version: 1968 Live (Tiger Man)
Writers: Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller

Credit: Vevo’s Elvis Presley channel (YouTube)

Comments: “Santa Claus Is Back In Town” is the quintessential Elvis Christmas song. It is perhaps second only to “Reconsider Baby” as his best blues recording, and even that is almost too close to call. According to Jerry Leiber, he and Mike Stoller wrote “Santa Claus Is Back In Town” in five minutes in the bathroom of the recording studio when Elvis needed another tune for his 1957 Christmas album.


I also have to give an honorable mention to “Santa Lucia,” which Elvis recorded in 1963 for the movie Viva Las Vegas – later released on the Elvis For Everyone! album. Elvis’ version, which uses Italian lyrics, is not technically a Christmas song, but the Swedish version of “Santa Lucia” traditionally kicks off the Christmas season in Sweden. Indeed, I recall waking up early one Christmas morning and seeing some kind of news broadcast or documentary that included footage from Sweden, including “Santa Lucia.”


While I have always loved Christmas, it has taken on even more meaning for me since I was saved in 2018. The observance of the birthday of Jesus Christ should be the solid foundation of a season which otherwise can all too often collapse under the weight of never-ending “Black Friday Sales” and other enticements to shop til you drop in search of the perfect gift.

It turns out that the perfect gift doesn’t need a Black Friday Sale, for it has no cost to you – yet it is priceless. Eternal salvation is yours through accepting Jesus, the Son of God, into your heart. You don’t have to be perfect nor become perfect to accept the perfect gift and follow Jesus. I sure wasn’t perfect then, I’m not perfect now, nor will I ever be perfect. However, my entire life changed, and I gained a new perspective illuminated by His light.

Elvis accepted that perfect gift, too. He even passed his blessings on to us with songs about it, including some of the ones we have discussed today. Despite his God-given talents, Elvis wasn’t perfect, either. It seems his every shortcoming has been documented multiple times over. Yet, God still loved him and welcomed him to Heaven.

He has places for all of us there, too. Don’t leave yours empty.

The dreamer side of me thinks I might sneak another post in before Christmas, but the realistic side of me knows that is highly unlikely. With that in mind, I want to take a moment to thank you for reading The Mystery Train Elvis Blog. I pray you and your family have a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

TY

“Give thanks for all you’ve been blessed with and hold your loved ones tight, for you know the Lord’s been good to you on a snowy Christmas night.”
–From “On A Snowy Christmas Night” by Stanley Gelber; Elvis Presley song, 1971


“No one has ever gone to Heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from Heaven. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.”
John 3:13-17 NLT

Your Voice as Soft as the Warm Summer Breeze

Elvis Presley: January 8, 1935—August 16, 1977


“And I shall be aboard that ship tomorrow, though my heart is full of tears at this farewell.”
–From “The Last Farewell” by Roger Whittaker and Ron A. Webster; Elvis Presley song, 1976


“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
Revelation 21:4 NLT

THAT’S THE WAY IT IS: Six in the Summer of ’70 (Playlist Recipes #9)

Elvis Presley performs “Polk Salad Annie” at the August 12, 1970, Midnight Show, in Las Vegas, Nevada, captured for the ELVIS: THAT’S THE WAY IT IS documentary film (MGM)

About seven years ago, I wrote a review of That’s The Way It Is: Deluxe Edition. The 2014 Elvis Presley boxed set included 8 CDs and 2 DVDs, and my review rambled on about them for nearly 10,000 words.

Despite the length of that review, there are some loose ends that I would finally like to begin tying up regarding my all-time favorite Elvis event. I don’t know how many posts this will actually take, and they won’t necessarily run sequential to one another, either. Such is the way of things when you ride The Mystery Train.

By the time of the That’s The Way It Is project, Elvis had already performed two month-long engagements at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. From July 31 to August 28, 1969, he performed 57 concerts, 11 of which RCA recorded in full near the end of the series and compiled into the Elvis In Person half of the From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis double album.

Elvis performed another 57-show engagement from January 26 through February 23, 1970. RCA recorded portions of nine shows from the middle of this engagement, which resulted in the core of the album On Stage.

MGM’s camera crews were rolling for the Elvis: That’s The Way It Is documentary as he began his 3rd engagement on August 10, 1970. Marketed as the “Elvis Summer Festival,” this one ran through September 8 and included 59 shows. RCA recorded the first 6 concerts in full–concluding with the August 13 Dinner Show. Only four of the live songs found their way onto the That’s The Way It Is album, which acted as a tie-in to the film but otherwise featured studio songs Elvis had recorded in June.

These first three engagements at the International Hotel include some of the greatest live performances of Elvis’ career, but the vast majority of the recordings languished away in RCA’s vaults until long after his death. While performances of individual songs were often superior in the two previous engagements, to the extent there was overlap, the overall shows in the third engagement, as captured for That’s The Way It Is, are better than any that preceded or followed them.

All right, if I’m not careful, I’ll be on the way to another unreadable 10,000 word post. I love this topic, but let’s get on with it.

To assist with today’s post, I created the following infochart covering the six concerts RCA recorded for That’s The Way It Is. The numbers in the concert columns represent the sequence he performed those songs in that particular show.

Elvis Presley Summer 1970 Setlists Infochart | Compiled by Tygrrius

Focusing on the 6 shows that RCA recorded in the course of 4 days, Elvis performed only 6 of the songs at every single concert:

  • That’s All Right
  • Love Me Tender
  • You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
  • Polk Salad Annie
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water
  • Can’t Help Falling In Love

All of these are strong highlights, with only a couple of exceptions in individual shows.

The following songs appeared in 5 of the 6 concerts:

  • Hound Dog
  • I Just Can’t Help Believin’
  • Heartbreak Hotel
  • Suspicious Minds

Of these, the highlights are tremendous versions of “Suspicious Minds” and “I Just Can’t Help Believin'”. While the “Suspicious Minds” live performances are not quite as good as his August 1969 renditions, the August 1970 versions are still stellar and far better than the ones captured in February 1970. Though again inferior to 1969, “Hound Dog” and “Heartbreak Hotel” remain entertaining at this point and are not yet the throwaways they would unfortunately soon become – particularly “Hound Dog.”

Not including snippets, the following songs appeared in only 1 of the 6 concerts:

  • The Next Step Is Love
  • Don’t Cry Daddy/In The Ghetto
  • Stranger In The Crowd
  • Make The World Go Away
  • Twenty Days And Twenty Nights
  • The Wonder Of You
  • Don’t Be Cruel
  • Little Sister/Get Back
  • I Was The One
  • Are You Lonesome Tonight

All of the one-off songs have something to offer. One of the great “misses” of the time period, in my opinion, is “Stranger In The Crowd” not being chosen and promoted as a single for That’s The Way It Is, in lieu of “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me.” The “Stranger In The Crowd” studio track is amazing, and his subsequent rehearsals with his core rhythm group for the live show prove it could have been dynamite. Unfortunately, the sole live version is marred by featuring too much of the Imperials vocal group and the orchestra’s horns. If only the Elvis team had worked out a simpler arrangement that was closer to those early rehearsals.

As it was his most recent hit at the time of these concerts, it is interesting that Elvis performed “The Wonder Of You” only once during the six shows.

Featuring Elvis on electric guitar, “Little Sister/Get Back,” “I Was The One,” “Love Me” (August 12 version only), and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” are all top-notch. Even the non-guitar version of “Love Me” (August 11) is a stand-out and far better than any post-1970 version.

With revised arrangements, “Words” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You” are two songs Elvis improves in Summer 1970 over his Summer 1969 performances.

Other highlights of the overall six-concert span include “Mystery Train/Tiger Man” (of course) and “Just Pretend.”

These are darn-near perfect shows. The only major Elvis categories they are lacking are gospel and the blues. It is unfortunate that Elvis did not perform “Oh Happy Day” at any of these concerts, despite having rehearsed it at the last minute, as he surely would have recorded a superlative version at this time in his career. However, the gospel sound is certainly present on a few of the secular recordings, including showstoppers “I Just Can’t Help Believin'” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” As for the blues, some of that influence can certainly be heard in the aforementioned electric guitar segment from the August 12 Midnight Show.

Here is my “August 1970 Ultimate Show” playlist recipe for this concert engagement. As noted, Elvis’ setlist varied widely each night, so no single show actually contained all of these songs. In fact, such a concert would have been longer than any show Elvis actually gave in his entire life, to my knowledge.

  1. Opening Riff/That’s All Right (August 10, 1970, Opening Show [OS])
  2. Mystery Train/Tiger Man (August 12, 1970, Midnight Show [MS])
  3. I Got A Woman (August 13, 1970, Dinner Show [DS]
  4. Hound Dog (August 11, 1970, MS)
  5. Love Me Tender (August 11, 1970, MS)
  6. The Next Step Is Love (August 10, 1970, OS)
  7. Just Pretend (August 11, 1970, MS)
  8. Don’t Cry Daddy/In The Ghetto (August 13, 1970, DS)
  9. Men With Broken Hearts/Walk A Mile In My Shoes (August 11, 1970, MS)
  10. I’ve Lost You (August 11, 1970, DS)
  11. There Goes My Everything (August 11, 1970, MS)
  12. I Just Can’t Help Believin’ (August 12, 1970, DS)
  13. Stranger In The Crowd (August 13, 1970, DS)
  14. Words (August 12, 1970, MS)
  15. Something (August 11, 1970, MS)
  16. Make The World Go Away (August 13, 1970, DS)
  17. Patch It Up (August 10, 1970, OS)
  18. Sweet Caroline (August 12, 1970, MS)
  19. I Can’t Stop Loving You (August 11, 1970, DS)
  20. Twenty Days And Twenty Nights (August 12, 1970, DS)
  21. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (August 12, 1970, MS)
  22. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me (August 10, 1970, OS)
  23. Polk Salad Annie (August 12, 1970, MS)
  24. The Wonder Of You (August 13, 1970, DS)
  25. Heartbreak Hotel (August 12, 1970, MS)
  26. One Night (August 12, 1970, MS)
  27. Don’t Be Cruel (August 11, 1970, MS)
  28. Blue Suede Shoes (August 12, 1970, MS)
  29. All Shook Up (August 12, 1970, MS)
  30. US Male (August 11, 1970, MS)
  31. Little Sister/Get Back (August 12, 1970, MS)
  32. I Was The One (August 12, 1970, MS)
  33. Love Me (August 12, 1970, MS)
  34. Are You Lonesome Tonight (August 12, 1970, MS)
  35. Bridge Over Troubled Water (August 11, 1970, DS)
  36. Suspicious Minds (August 12, 1970, MS)
  37. Can’t Help Falling In Love (August 12, 1970, MS)

Though I did not structure it this way on purpose, all 6 shows are represented in this “best of” playlist. If you want an even fuller compilation, you could even include “Introductions By Elvis” from the August 12 Midnight Show after “Polk Salad Annie” and before “The Wonder Of You.”

As you can probably predict from the above playlist, my favorite show of the Summer 1970 engagement is the August 12 Midnight Show (disc 6 of 2014’s That’s The Way It Is: Deluxe Edition and disc 2 of 2000’s That’s The Way It Is: Special Edition). In fact, this is my favorite Elvis concert ever. It features an impeccable setlist, Elvis in top form, and the fun electric guitar segment.

Though he still had many stellar recordings and accomplishments ahead of him, Elvis was never quite as awesome again as he was in Summer 1970. I am grateful we have so much material from that time period to enjoy. I wouldn’t be as strong an Elvis fan without the magic of That’s The Way It Is.

Blessings,
TY


“We put our hope in the LORD. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.”
Psalm 33:20-22

Elvis Reconfigured: 1969-1976 (The Edge Of Reality #10/Playlist Recipes #8)

Time sure has slipped away since my last post. In the course of many wonderful blessings currently going on in my life, I have been listening to plenty of Elvis Presley music even if I haven’t been writing.

I enjoy making music playlists, and I created a series of them recently that I call Elvis Reconfigured. The concept for these was, what if The Powers That Be had taken more care when compiling and sequencing albums of Elvis’ non-soundtrack studio work from 1969 to 1976?

I was happy with most of the results, so I thought I’d share the track-listings with you. Incidentally, I attempted something similar for the rest of his master recordings, but it just didn’t work out. So, there won’t be a Part 2 to this post. However, feel free to suggest your own alternates in the comments below!

Blessings,
TY


We’re traveling into an amazing land whose borders are only that of imagination. Look! There’s the station up ahead. Our next stop . . . the edge of reality.

The Edge Of Reality

Through the lens of time, submitted for your consideration are the following albums from the later years of The Memphis Flash.

Back In Memphis (Recorded 1969)
Side A

  1. Stranger In My Own Home Town
  2. Power Of My Love
  3. My Little Friend
  4. I’ll Be There
  5. Any Day Now
  6. Suspicious Minds

Side B

  1. Wearin’ That Loved-On Look
  2. Do You Know Who I Am
  3. After Loving You
  4. Rubberneckin’
  5. In The Ghetto
  6. Hey Jude

Elvis Country: Walking In The Rain (1969)
Side A

  1. Gentle On My Mind
  2. Only The Strong Survive
  3. Kentucky Rain
  4. It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin’
  5. Don’t Cry Daddy
  6. I’m Movin’ On

Side B

  1. Long Black Limousine
  2. You’ll Think Of Me
  3. Inherit The Wind
  4. If I’m A Fool
  5. Mama Liked The Roses
  6. The Fair Is Moving On

Elvis Now: Stranger In The Crowd (1970)
Side A

  1. Stranger In The Crowd
  2. I’ve Lost You
  3. How The Web Was Woven
  4. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me
  5. Sylvia
  6. The Sound Of Your Cry

Side B

  1. Patch It Up
  2. Twenty Days And Twenty Nights
  3. Just Pretend
  4. The Next Step Is Love
  5. Mary In The Morning
  6. Bridge Over Troubled Water (Heart & Soul mix)

Tomorrow Never Comes: Elvis Country – Volume 2 (1970)
Side A

  1. The Fool
  2. Little Cabin Home On The Hill
  3. Tomorrow Never Comes
  4. Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On
  5. Funny How Time Slips Away
  6. I Really Don’t Want To Know

Side B

  1. It’s Your Baby, You Rock It
  2. Faded Love
  3. Snowbird
  4. There Goes My Everything
  5. I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water
  6. Make The World Go Away

Still Here (1971)
Side A

  1. Early Morning Rain
  2. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
  3. It’s Only Love
  4. Help Me Make It Through The Night
  5. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
  6. Until It’s Time For You To Go

Side B

  1. I’m Leavin’
  2. For Lovin’ Me
  3. It’s Still Here
  4. I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen
  5. I Will Be True
  6. We Can Make The Morning

Home On Christmas Day (1971)
Side A

  1. O Come All Ye Faithful
  2. The First Noel
  3. On A Snowy Christmas Night
  4. If I Get Home On Christmas Day
  5. The Wonderful World Of Christmas
  6. Winter Wonderland

Side B

  1. Silver Bells
  2. It Won’t Seem Like Christmas
  3. Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees
  4. I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day (Remake)
  5. Merry Christmas Baby

Amazing Grace (1970-1971)
Side A

  1. I’ve Got Confidence
  2. Seeing Is Believing
  3. He Touched Me
  4. Put Your Hand In The Hand
  5. Lead Me, Guide Me
  6. Bosom Of Abraham

Side B

  1. Only Believe
  2. I, John
  3. Life
  4. Amazing Grace (Take 2)
  5. I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago
  6. An Evening Prayer

Burning Love (1970-1972)
Side A

  1. Burning Love
  2. Separate Ways
  3. Love Me, Love The Life I Lead
  4. Where Do I Go From Here
  5. Got My Mojo Working/Keep Your Hands Off Of It
  6. Rags To Riches

Side B

  1. It’s A Matter Of Time
  2. Heart Of Rome
  3. Where Did They Go, Lord
  4. I’ll Never Know
  5. Fool
  6. Always On My Mind

Promised Land (1973)
Side A

  1. Promised Land
  2. Lovin’ Arms
  3. I’ve Got A Thing About You, Baby
  4. You Asked Me To
  5. If You Talk In Your Sleep
  6. For Ol’ Times Sake

Side B

  1. Thinking About You
  2. It’s Midnight
  3. Help Me
  4. My Boy
  5. Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues
  6. Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming

Bringing It Back (1973, 1975)
Side A

  1. T-R-O-U-B-L-E
  2. Love Song Of The Year
  3. There’s A Honky Tonk Angel
  4. Fairytale
  5. Are You Sincere
  6. Bringing It Back

Side B

  1. And I Love You So
  2. Sweet Angeline
  3. Pieces Of My Life
  4. Mr. Songman
  5. Green, Green Grass Of Home
  6. Shake A Hand

Moody Blue: From Elvis At Graceland (1976)
Side A

  1. For The Heart
  2. Solitaire
  3. Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain
  4. She Thinks I Still Care (Take 2B)
  5. Danny Boy
  6. Way Down

Side B

  1. Hurt
  2. Never Again
  3. It’s Easy For You
  4. Moody Blue
  5. He’ll Have To Go
  6. Pledging My Love

The music never ends on . . . the edge of reality.

[With apologies to Serling.]


“Blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8 NLT

(Now and Then There’s) An April Fool Such as I

This fool is rushing in to bring you a ranking of Elvis’ greatest fool songs! (Or should that be his most foolish songs?)

#1 A Fool Such As I (1958)
50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong: Elvis’ Gold Records Volume 2
Other notable versions: 1970 rehearsal (That’s The Way It Is [2000 Special Edition]); 1961 live (Elvis Aron Presley).

#2 The Fool (1970)
Elvis Country
Other notable version: 1959 informal (A Golden Celebration).

#3 Fool (1972)
Elvis (Fool)

The cover of Elvis' "Fool" single (released March 1973)

The cover of Elvis’ “Fool” single, released March 1973 (RCA)

#4 Fools Rush In (Informal-1966)
In A Private Moment
Other notable version: 1971 master (Elvis Now).

#5 Fools Fall In Love (1966)
I Got Lucky

#6 If I’m A Fool (1969)
Let’s Be Friends

#7 Fool, Fool, Fool (Demo-1955)
The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll

BONUS: Love Me (“Treat Me Like A Fool”) (1956)
Elvis
Other notable versions: 1956 Live (Young Man With The Big Beat), 1968 Live (Memories), 1956 Live (A Golden Celebration), 1970 Live (That’s The Way It Is [2000 Special Edition]), 1968 Rehearsal (Burbank 68), 1970 Live (Live In Las Vegas)

“Love Me” is a late add, suggested by Thomas in the comments. While I’m showing it as a bonus “fool” song, it would actually come in at #1 on this list, pushing all of the others down by one position.

[Originally Published April 1, 2010; revised April 1, 2013, April 1, 2021, & April 2, 2021]


“Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.”
Proverb 17:28

Elvis: The Ultimate Live Top Ten Hits (Part 4)

This is the finale of a four post series covering Elvis Presley’s best officially-released live recording of each of his US top ten hits.

[Read Part 3]

Released as a 2-LP set in 1987, The Top Ten Hits contained all 38 of Elvis’ top 10 hits on Billboard‘s key US charts. Other than a few outliers that failed to make the top 10 and are not on the set (“Blue Suede Shoes,” “Blue Christmas,” “Viva Las Vegas,” “My Way,” and “A Little Less Conversation”), it includes all of his most famous songs for the general public. Indeed, outside of boxed sets, The Top Ten Hits remains one of the most comprehensive Elvis releases to date when it comes to mainstream songs.

Today’s post will feature hits included on Side D of The Top Ten Hits, most of which were studio recordings on the original album.

01. Return To Sender (hit version recorded 1962)
Ultimate Live Version: August 1, 1976, Hampton Roads, VA, New Haven ’76
Per request, Elvis performs “Return To Sender” off the top of his head at a concert in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Included as a bonus track on New Haven ’76, this is the only officially released live version of the song. Considering it was recorded in 1976, the nadir of Elvis concert years, it actually isn’t horrible.

02. Devil In Disguise (hit version recorded 1963)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
It is unfortunate that Elvis never performed live in the mid-1960s. This song would surely have resulted in a classic rendition at that time.

03. Bossa Nova Baby (hit version recorded 1963)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
A medley of “Return To Sender” and “Bossa Nova Baby” might have been fun in his 1969 live shows to acknowledge a couple of hit songs from his 1960s movies.

04. Crying In The Chapel (hit version recorded 1960)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
Voice-wise, 1968 probably would have been the best time for Elvis to have performed “Crying In The Chapel” live. I don’t see where it would really fit in any of his four shows captured for the ELVIS special, though. August 1970 probably would have been a good vocal opportunity for it, too. I would love to hear the Blossoms or the Sweet Inspirations backing Elvis on this instead of the Jordanaires.

Elvis Presley performs “The Wonder Of You” at the August 13, 1970, Dinner Show, in Las Vegas, Nevada, captured for the ELVIS: THAT’S THE WAY IT IS documentary film (MGM)

05. In The Ghetto (hit version recorded 1969)
Ultimate Live Version: August 26, 1969, Dinner Show, Las Vegas, NV, From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis [Elvis In Person]
Elvis’ live versions of “In The Ghetto” never quite lived up to the studio versions. While he usually performed it strongly, he never seems as “into” the song. A stripped-down version, with just Elvis and an acoustic guitar would have been ideal.

06. Suspicious Minds (hit version recorded 1969)
Ultimate Live Version: August 25, 1969, Midnight Show, Hot August Night
An apparent mistake is actually what gives this live version of “Suspicious Minds” an edge over other stellar versions recorded in the same concert series. After James Burton’s opening guitar solo, Elvis fails to begin singing, so Burton continues the solo. Overall, this live version is even better than the studio master.

07. Don’t Cry Daddy (hit version recorded 1969)
Ultimate Live Version: February 18, 1970, Dinner Show, Las Vegas, NV, Greatest Hits, Volume One
While I love “Don’t Cry Daddy,” it does not work as well in a live concert setting, and I can understand why Elvis dropped it by 1971. That said, this live version is top-notch.

08. The Wonder Of You (hit version recorded live, February 18, 1970, Midnight Show, Las Vegas, NV, On Stage)
Ultimate Live Version (after hit recorded):
August 13, 1970, Dinner Show, Las Vegas, NV, The Way It Was
I have found that time behaves inconsistently in certain situations and for certain people. Elvis’ entire career, for instance, was compressed into about 21 years, yet he left a wealth of material behind that continues to forge his musical legacy. Elvis released his February 1970 live version of “The Wonder Of You” as a single in April 1970, and it peaked at number nine on June 27, 1970. Less than two months later, during one of the concerts captured for the MGM documentary movie Elvis: That’s The Way It Is, he introduces this August 1970 live recording by stating, “I had a record out last year that–-this year . . . this year, wasn’t it?–-that did pretty good for me. I’d like to sing it for you.” In this case, two to four months in “Elvis time” was like a year in normal time.

09. Burning Love (hit version recorded 1972)
Ultimate Live Version: April 18, 1972, San Antonio, TX, Close Up
Featured in the documentary movie Elvis On Tour (MGM, 1972), this rockin’ version of “Burning Love” exceeds any other live renditions released thus far. The March 1972 studio master remains the best, however.

Well, that about wraps things up for our look at Elvis’ best officially released live recordings of his hit songs. Over 43 years after his death, Elvis Presley concert recordings continue to surface. With that in mind, we may have to check in on these live hits again in a few years.

Thanks for reading.

Your Conductor,
TY


“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”
John 14:1

On The Elvis Beat: From Elvis In Memphis/A Life In 57 Albums/John Walker Ross

Welcome to the first edition of On The Elvis Beat, a new, continuing series on The Mystery Train Blog. On The Elvis Beat will feature a short roundup of interesting tidbits from around the online Elvis world.


Friends,

As of late, one of my favorite posts to write was “Blogs! Blogs! Blogs!” where I pointed you to various other Elvis sites. In that spirit, On The Elvis Beat begins.

Thomas Melin over at The Elvis Today Blog continues to post must-read content. After reviewing the new 33 1/3: From Elvis In Memphis book (“From Elvis In Memphis Revisited“), he interviewed the author, Eric Wolfson (“From Elvis In Memphis: The Eric Wolfson Interview [Part 1]“). I enjoyed Thomas’ review so much that I immediately ordered the book. It is now in a very large pile, waiting for me to have time enough at last to read them all.

Howard Jackson is 19 albums deep into a 57 album look at Elvis’ life and times that began back in November with his debut album, Elvis Presley (“Elvis Presley — A Life In 57 Record Albums 1: Elvis Presley“). What I enjoy about Howard’s series is that he intermingles in-depth looks at the albums with personal reflections. The Elvis portion of his site can be found in the Music, Stuff and Elvis section.

Finally, Neal Umphred on his Elvis — A Touch of Gold site provided a worthy tribute to his friend and collaborator John Walker Ross, AKA “Nondisposable Johnny” of The Round Place in the Middle, who passed away last month (“John Walker Ross — Rest in peace, my friend“). While I unfortunately never got to know Nondisposable Johnny personally, I enjoyed reading his blog over the years. He also commented here on The Mystery Train about a dozen times. Back in 2012, I asked readers what Elvis event they would record with an audio time machine. Here is Nondisposable Johnny’s response:

“I want the recorder to be trained on Elvis at the moment when they came and got him out of the theater the night ‘That’s Alright Mama’ was first played on the radio. Love to see his expression at the very first moment when he might have had some inkling that there was a public out there that might actually respond to what was in his head.”

He’ll be missed. I’m praying for his family and friends to have strength and peace.

Blessings,
TY


“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.”
Psalm 73:26