Monday, August 22, 2022

Review All the King’s Records Vol. 2

The beauty of our hobby is that Elvis is everywhere and - 45 years after his death - still connects fans around the world. All with their own appreciation and perspective on the King’s work and legacy. For this review we go to Poland. 

Mariusz Ogiegło published the second volume of ‘Elvis Wszystkie Płyty Króla’ (‘All the King’s Records’) completing the two volume analysis of Elvis Presley’s record releases from 1956 to 1977. Volume 1 covered 1956 to 1965, this volume covers the remaining years 1966 to 1977. 




The cover of this Polish book is simple yet effective, although a few Elvis record covers would reflect the content even more. The book comes as an A5-sized 500-page paperback book on quality paper, and is completely black and white. 


The lay-out and typography are easy on the eye, and again, a few more illustrations (each chapter has just one illustration of the album it covers, would give the reader a moment to pause reading as the pages are full text. 


Ogiegło’s writing style is entertaining and the use of quotes makes the text lively. This keeps you engrossed throughout. The references clearly show the author did his homework preparing the essays. Sources used are the standard reference books by Ernst Jorgensen, Peter Guralnick, Collin Escott, Richard Peters and others, but also interesting to see Ogiegło including Leszek Strzeszewski from his home country. Other sources used to tell the story are session documentation and interviews with musicians, producers, Memphis Mafia members and Elvis’ ex-wife and ex-girlfriends. 


Besides the analysis of the album, each chapter contains the tracks, an overview of the musicians involved and the official releases of the album. 




As Elvis was / is not as popular in Poland as in other countries, Mariusz Ogiegło’s goal was to present Elvis Presley’s musical achievements in the most accessible and interesting way possible. The result: almost 1,000 pages packed in two volumes of ‘All the King’s Records’.


This second volume continues where the first book ended, 1966. It covers all of Elvis’ LP’s as they were released during his lifetime. Each chapter opens by setting the scene for the recording of the material on the album at hand, going behind -the-scenes of all the albums and the songs on it. Each album gets its own chapter, which reads as a short essay. This second volume contains 30 chapters, the two volumes combined feature 57 chapters combined.


Each chapter opens with a description of the historical context and the state of Elvis’ career at the time. Also added are the business deals the Colonel had made with RCA, the deals regarding which songs to record and how Elvis tried to find and record material he really liked, which becomes more evident in the last albums he recorded.


Starting with the  making-of the Grammy-winning album 'How Great Thou Art', to the set of the 1968 NBC TV Special and also to the auditoriums of the biggest concert halls in the United States in Las Vegas, New York, Hawaii and Memphis, where Elvis triumphed after he returned to live preforming in 1969. The story ends behind the walls of Graceland, in the room now known as the Jungle Room, where Presley made his last ever studio recordings. 


The author tracked down the performances which inspired Elvis and the origins of some of the songs performed to the earliest roots sometimes over 120 years back in time. As a fan it is always interesting to read when and where Elvis picked up a song, who inspired him and how he used all that inspiration to record his own interpretation of the songs involved. When he liked a song, like religious material, a few takes were enough to record a satisfying master, but when his heart wasn’t in it … he really had to work to get a take good enough to release. Mariusz Ogiegło captured the making-of-the-albums in an entertaining and well researched way. That’s exactly what makes books like these such a great read. 


1966 is an interesting moment in Elvis career - stuck in Hollywood and mediocre soundtracks as his main releases - and in music history with the British invasion, Jimmy Hendrix and other new artists changing the musical scene some ten years after Elvis got everyone “all shook up” with his new style. And now it happened to him. 

Not really wanting to be a Rock and Roll performer anymore, he more and more wanted to follow his musical heart. Going behind the making-of the albums from 1966 t0 1977 you really see the change and you see Elvis making more decisions on his own. He recorded his second gospel album, went his own way with Steve Binder in 1968 for the TV special, recorded in more country-like material in Nashville, went on tour making and made some great live albums before he got bored and uninterested in music and recording.


On the opening album 'How Great Thou Art' the author notes: “The prospect of recording a new album of sacred music breathed new creative energy into Presley, which he seemed to have lost in recent years. The opportunity to work on material far more ambitious than frivolous beach songs sung to stripped-down girls, children, dogs or shrimp unleashed a long-overdue enthusiasm that had already been partially observed by those working with him on the soundtrack to the comedy ‘Spinout’ in February 1966”. 


Elvis recorded ‘How Great Thou Art’ with much enthusiasm, but didn’t sell as well as hoped when originally released. Over the years it proved to be a steady seller and classic for many fans and gospel performers. Even the critics liked it and it won Elvis a Grammy. So he did do something right following his heart in 1966. Placed in a line-up of albums, you tend to look differently at titles you know so well. 


But at the end of his career, the enthusiasm and energy Elvis showed on ‘How Great Thou Art’ was gone and our man had lost interest in recording new material. Things got worse and worse and his recording career ended in his own “Jungle Room”. Larry Strickland from The Stamps remembered "There were also a lot of potted plants everywhere. It was not an ideal place for recording". Commends like this make great reading. 


But even an uninspired and uninterested Elvis managed to get a few songs on tape which even pleased the music critics. But he also recorded some great songs, like ‘Way Down and of course ‘Hurt’, which became a concert classic, and even an hit on the British Isles. The ballad by Jimmy Crane and Al Jacobs gave him the opportunity to sing his way out.... To throw out the emotions that were haggling with him and, in addition, to present to the audience the powerful scale of his voice. "I'm hurt. I think you lied to me. I'm hurt and I feel it deep inside."


Ten of the songs recorded “at home” filled the album ‘From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee’ which was released in mid-May 1976. And although Elvis wasn’t able to really put his heart into it, the cover featured a few words handwritten by Elvis: "I sincerely hope you enjoy my new album released by RCA. With best wishes, Elvis Presley." Reading these words again 50 years later, with today's knowledge, they have a different meaning. Reading the book, you know why. 


And let’s not forget ‘Moody Blue’ which became the title of his last album. That great song was released as a single with ‘She Thinks I Still Care’ on the reverse side on November 29 1976. Both were warmly received, by Elvis fans and critics alike. On February 19, 1977 the single became Elvis' last number one country music hit during his lifetime. 


But a few songs on tape was not enough for Felton Jarvis, who was facing a much more serious problem - how to acquire the missing material for his next album. So following the idea of sending the RCA mobile studio to Elvis’ mansion, he send the RCA remote sound truck on tour, after the singer in the hope to record a few new live performances to  supplement the new LP. 


Among the recorded songs were an emotional rendition of ‘Unchained Melody’ an upbeat ‘If You Love Me, Let Me Know’ (a hit by Olivia Newton John) and ‘Little Darlin'’, a hit from the late 1950s by the group The Diamonds. Combined these home-recordings and live performances, made the album we know so well.


As Ogiegło sticks to the facts, “food for thoughts” so to say, you can draw your own conclusions while reading the book and listening to the songs. 




The book makes excellent reading while revisiting some of the original Elvis albums once more. Ogiegło takes you by the hand for the sessions that gave us these original albums. With some of the complete sessions now available from the Follow That Dream collectors label, the essays in this book provide a well-researched and entertaining background to the  music. 


A few more illustrations would certainly have enriched the book in terms of content and perhaps made it look a bit more attractive, but since the author has self-published the book, I understand the reluctance in terms of illustrations, and when you consider this book as a reference, you don't miss them.

The book is available from the author at >>> My Books