There are many “kings” in the entertainment world. Comedian Henny Youngman was known as “The King of the One Liners;” B.B. King was “The King of the Blues;” and of course Michael Jackson was “The King of Pop.” Run-DMC claimed to be the “Kings of Rock,” which was odd since they did hip hop. Alice Cooper sang about the “King of the Silver Screen,” and Sting was perhaps the “King of Pain.” But there’s only one definitive The King. Not the “King of This” or the “King of That,” just The King. Elvis.
I wrote a week or two ago about Frank Sinatra and how hard it is if you’re younger than a certain age to understand just what a big deal Frank Sinatra was. That may go double for Elvis Presley. While it would be ridiculous to say Elvis invented rock ‘n’ roll, it wouldn’t be to say that he was a huge part in popularizing it and brining it to the mainstream. And we’re still rocking 60+ years later. But some of us don’t remember handsome, silky voiced Elvis. We remember the other Elvis, the one who became a caricature of himself, which is too bad because the man was an undeniable talent.
I actually first bought Elvis In Person at the International Hotel on CD probably 10-15 years ago, primarily due to its inclusion of “In the Ghetto.” The 10 live songs were recorded in 1969 and released later that same year, with Side A given over to a lot of his older material like “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Hound Dog,” and Side B including some of more contemporary numbers like “In the Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds.” Much like Sinatra, one of the surprising things in looking at this set list is that there isn’t a single song on which Presley has a writing credit – he was exclusively performing songs written by others.
I have to give credit where credit is due – Elvis sounds great on this record. He’s backed by a full band and an array of back-up singers, and his voice sounds pretty damn smooth (my copy is the 1970 Japanese release). I’m not an Elvis aficionado, so I can’t say where Elvis In Person at the International Hotel ranks in terms of his catalog as a whole. After all, he seems to have about half a million different albums out there, with so much re-packaged nonsense that it’s hard to even tell what constitutes an actual Elvis “album.” But that speaks to the body of work the man left behind, and that’s no accident. What I do know, though, is that it’s an excellent live album that covers a range of his work, so it’s certainly a good starting point if you’re interested in exploring the work of The King.