Elvis Presley (post Army)
He's back! In March of '60 Elvis shed his Army uniform and was a civilian again.
The popular myth was Elvis returned from his Army duty and proceeded to crank out pap. It didn't start that way. Upon Elvis' Army discharge things pretty much picked up where they'd left off in '58. He appeared on a Frank Sinatra special and delivered the ratings making the show one of Sinatra's few successful television forays. Elvis' first two post-Army movies were "G.I. Blues" which naturally exploited Elvis' military service and the scenic "Blue Hawaii." While neither movie was Oscar material, they weren't bad, especially when compared with what followed.
Musically, Elvis had some of his most successful ballads ("Can't Help Falling In Love," "Wooden Heart" and "It's Now or Never"). But he also Rocked. "Little Sister" was top notch. "Stuck On You" and "Return To Sender" are also great performances.
The rot set in soon enough. By the time he made "Kissin' Cousins" he was sunk. The next half-dozen years would contain twenty some bad movies and an equal number of unbearable soundtracks.
It wasn't until the movie/soundtrack revenues showed a steep decline that Elvis' manager, Col. Tom Parker, sought another money source. He settled on TV. He signed Presley to appear in a December special on NBC. Regardless of the original title of the show it became forever known as "The '68 Comeback Special." Parker's original concept was to have Elvis sing a dozen Christmas songs, wish everyone a "Merry Christmas" and say "goodnight." Had Elvis done that he might only have been remembered as a '50s novelty. The special made him the "King of Rock n' Roll." The highlight of the show was his performance in the round for fans. He jammed with long time friends and musicians, singing classic Rock songs (not just his own), telling stories and having a great time. It may have been the first unplugged show. He was also dressed in black leathers, which only added to the sex appeal. It proved Elvis, at the ripe old age of 33, he still had it.
After the special, Elvis was hot again. He released "From Elvis In Memphis" went on tour and starting producing "live" albums. "From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis" was a double album featuring one record of live material and one from his Memphis sessions. "On Stage-February 1970" and the '73 live release "Elvis: That's The Way It Is" are solid albums. Soon though, the live material was raced through with all the precision and grace of the '60s movies. With the exception of "Burning Love" the King was done.
Through the '70s, until his death in '77 from a heart attack, resulting from prolonged drug abuse, Elvis was a popular concert performer and Vegas attraction (draw your own conclusions). Elvis always had it in him to do great things. However, he didn't always have the opportunity.
Shortly after he returned from duty Elvis was still in top form. Most of the '60s movie soundtrack stuff can be easily dismissed. Anything of value is usually somewhere else (on a compilation). Then there is his '68 "comeback." The NBC Elvis Special is notable for "Trouble," "Guitar Man" and the informal jam session on "Lawdy, Miss Clawdy." Also, Elvis' comments on his '50s fame are very revealing. The first post-comeback recording "From Elvis in Memphis" has a Country/Rock influence and is a masterful album. When it comes to live recordings "the earlier the better" rule still applies. Elvis started cranking out live material they same way he'd done movies. However, one stands out as an excellent Rock 'n' Roll record. "On Stage" features Elvis covers of "See See Rider," "Runaway," "Polk Salad Annie" and "Proud Mary." Excellent material and Elvis rises to the occasion. The band, the backing vocals, the arrangements are all lean and tight. Elvis is in top form.