(Soundbite of music)
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:
There's a new expanded reissue of an old 1960 Elvis Presley album called "Elvis Is Back!" But, of course, Elvis hasn't really gone anywhere. His music and memorabilia continue to sell, and even Graceland has maintained its status as a pop culture shrine and tourist destination.
Our music critic Milo Miles reviews the new CD reissue and also describes his recent inaugural trip to Graceland.
(Soundbite of song, "Stuck on You")
Mr. ELVIS PRESLEY (Musician): (Singing) You can shake an apple off an apple tree. Shake-a, shake sugar, but you'll never shake me. Uh-uh-uh. No-sir-ee, uh, uh. I'm going to stick like glue, stick because I'm stuck on you. I'm going to run my fingers thru your long black hair. Squeeze you tighter than a grizzly bear. Uh-uh-uh. Yes-sir-ee, uh, uh. I'm going to stick like glue. Stick, because I'm stuck on you.
MILO MILES: Since Sony took control of what had been RCA several years ago, the back catalog of Elvis Presley has been served well. His discography had long been lost in a thicket of quickie best-ofs and repackaging that all but made original LPs irrelevant. The conventional wisdom was that after Elvis went into the Army something vital leaked out of him and he was never as kingly again.
But I am here to tell you that, especially with some singles from the same 1960 period added on, "Elvis Is Back!" is as fine an album as Presley ever made -and maybe the most representative of his range of styles. And some modes are his alone. His treatment of "Such a Night" is unique: Is he sending up the song? Sending up himself? Both? Neither? It's mysterious and amusing at once.
(Soundbite of song, "Such a Night")
Mr. PRESLEY: (Singing) It was a night, oo-oo what a night. It was it really was such a night. The moon was bright oh how so bright. It was it really was such a night, The night was alight with stars above. Oo-oo, when she kissed me I had to fall in love.
Oh, it was a kiss, oo-oo what a kiss. It was it really was such a kiss. Oh how she could kiss oh what a kiss. It was it really was such a kiss. Just the thought of her lips sets me afire. I reminisce and I'm filled with desire.
But I gave my heart to her in sweet surrender. How well I remember, I'll always remember. Oh, what a night, oo-oo what a night.
MILES: "Elvis Is Back!" was reportedly a favorite of the artist himself, and he served as much as his own producer as he would on any session. But the record fell short in sales when initially released, and Elvis did seem to second-guess himself forever after.
Following a movie soundtrack and a gospel side-trip, Elvis recorded "Something for Everyone" in 1961, and it's included in this Sony Legacy reissue package. A more cautious and ingratiating set of tunes like "Sentimental Me" and "Gently" are redeemed by a trio of add-on singles that stomp harder than anything on "Elvis Is Back!", topped off by the celebrated number "Little Sister."
(Soundbite of song, "Little Sister")
Mr. PRESLEY: (Singing) Little sister, don't you. Little sister, don't you. Little sister, don't you kiss me once or twice then say it's very nice and then you run. Little sister, don't you do what your big sister done.
Well, I dated your big sister and I took her to a show. I went for some candy. Along came Jim Dandy and they snuck right out of the door. Little sister, don't you.
MILES: On a recent trip to Memphis, I sipped a bit more of the Elvis elixir by visits to Sun Studio and Graceland, both as advertised, mandatory for serious rock fans. Sun Studio impresses probably because it seems as humble as Elvis's origins: stuck in the middle of nowhere, no more glorious than any neighborhood store. But, also like any place subject to so many waves of human fascination and adoration, it's a place full of spiritual energy. As is Graceland, though in its way, it remains enigmatic.
Graceland began as an Elvis theme park, but as time goes on, it seems more of a peculiar but precious museum. No one will ever be the first rock 'n' roll superstar again, and no one will ever create such a combination of fortress of solitude and clubhouse for his gang. The TV room is the most fun-filled fantasy zone of yellow and cream furnishing and triple screens. It's apt that fuel efficiency plays no part in the concept and presentation of the Elvis automobile collection. It seems sad to me his customized private jet, the Lisa Marie, was used so little because he got it only two years before his death. Some special exhibits at Graceland were inspired, like Elvis and the Media; some less so, like Elvis the King of Fashion.
But the gravestones in the Meditation Garden will grab everybody for all time. The tributes tossed at the foot of Elvis's slab included flowers and teddy bears, but also a giant-sized Butterfingers bar, getting all bent and wrinkled in the Southern rainstorm that day. At first, I thought somebody should take it away. Then I decided it was perfect. He's a big hunk of timeless candy made from sex, schmaltz, and sass; indeed, Elvis has something for everyone.
BIANCULLI: Milo Miles reviewed the new Elvis Presley reissue "Elvis Is Back!"
(Soundbite of song, "Girl Next Door Went A'walking")
Mr. PRESLEY: (Singing) The girl next door went a'walking. She found the boy she likes. She wanted to get married. Settle down for life.
The girl next door went a'walking. She knew it wasn't right. She came home at half past 10, late every night.
The girl next door went a'walking. She found the boy she likes...
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For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.