Friday, January 08, 2010

Five Great Elvis Presley Songs

Elvis Presley would be 75 years old today, if he'd lived — and who knows, maybe he is. Happy birthday, sir, and in honor of the day, here are my own five favorite Elvis songs. Post yours in the comments.

1. "Suspicious Minds." Written by Mark James, it was Elvis' comeback hit, in 1969. I'd like to be able to claim to remember it from all the way back then, but I'm pretty sure my earliest memories of this song date back only to the early 1970s. Still, it's my all-time favorite, and might make a short list of favorite songs, period. The Fine Young Cannibals do a cover that's almost as good, but nothing carries the emotional weight of Elvis' version.

2. "Don't Be Cruel." Elvis with his usual band, plus the Jordanaires. Written by Otis Blackwell, recorded in 1956, and it still sounds fresher and cleaner than 99% of the stuff on the airwaves now. It would be a perfect dance record, except that it's only 2:02 minutes long.

3. "Burning Love." More late-era Elvis — I know, kind of iconoclastic, isn't it? — but this song's just great. Written by Dennis Linde, recorded by Elvis in 1972. I like Wynonna's cover, too.

4. "Jailhouse Rock." This song by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller was actually written for the movie (1957), which I'm embarrassed to admit I haven't seen. It's rock-and-roll as show tune, and succeeds beautifully on both counts. Every piece of it is genius: the bass line, the straight-forward drum beat, the barrelhouse piano, the guitar solo. And we can't forget the Blues Brothers' version, either.

5. "(You're the) Devil in Disguise." This song shows us what Elvis might have sounded like in a world without rock and roll. John Lennon, criticizing it on a BBC music show, said Elvis sounded like Bing Crosby on this. I'd say Pat Boone, but the point is valid; it's a weird easy-listening vibe, until it heats up and becomes something different altogether. I love the percussion track.


Kevin Wignall said...

Agreed on Suspicious Minds. I like "Guitar Man", "Viva Las Vegas", "I Just Can't Help Believing" and "Mystery Train".

Anonymous said...

1. "Suspicious Minds" (and the Dwight Yoakam version, too)

2. "Teddy Bear"

3. "In the Ghetto"

4. "Blue Christmas"

5. Pretty much everything else

-- Ed

AnswerGirl said...

I'm not crazy about the Dwight Yoakam version of "Suspicious Minds," it sounds too cheerful. I do like Pete Yorn's cover, and I think Dwight Yoakam's version of "Viva Las Vegas" might even be better than the original.

And I'd forgotten all about "Mystery Train." Kevin, if you ever get to Memphis, the Sun Studio is a must-see.

norby said...

Personally, I like 'A Little Less Conversation'. But I think it's more because of the way it's used in an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond.

Chip said...

Nothing, NOTHING, beats Fools Rush In: