Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Elvis Presley, "Make the World Go Away" (1970)


No part of Elvis Presley's career is a gray area (or every part is), but 1970 comes close. Still basking in the glow of his late-1968 comeback, before he had mostly slipped into rote biz again as he'd done a decade before, 1970 was the year Presley recorded one of his most singular albums, Elvis Country (I'm 10,000 Years Old), a concept work that attempts to embrace and weave together all country: bluegrass, honky tonk, rockabilly, countrypolitan, etc. No doubt "Make the World Go Away," which closes out the original album (since decked out in reissues with multiple additional tracks), is intended as the countrypolitan statement. A Hank Cochran song, it has been a hit twice—by Timi Yuro in 1963 and by Eddy Arnold in 1965, probably the best known version. It was also recorded by Ray Price (the first to do so, in 1963), the Osmonds, Roger Whittaker, Mickey Gilley, Engelbert Humperdinck, Tom Jones, and many others. It would have to be the strings mainly that make it countrypolitan, but it's also the Presley vocal style of the period—compare "Suspicious Minds," "Kentucky Rain," "In the Ghetto." He sounds hoarse, tired, and depressed. I don't say that like it's a bad thing. It's not—it's highly effective. The sadness of all these songs is their chief virtue, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Presley, the consummate professional, were so playing deliberately to the dimming fatigue. "Get it off - get it off my shoulders," he whimpers in "Make the World Go Away," speaking for all of us I guess at one point or another. The sentiment is just right, the mood of the song suited exactly to the performance, as Presley simply lays claim to ownership of one more pop song others are known for.

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