Pot Luck With Elvis
Release Date: June 12th, 1962
Words by: Whaley Big Jesus
June 10th, 2012
The 1960's was an interesting decade for Elvis. By 1962 he was a bonafide superstar, having sold more than 75 million records worldwide. His film career was also beginning to take off on the back of such popularity, and this presented an avenue for manager, Colonel Tom Parker, to steer Elvis into a new revenue stream and away from the bad boy image that had formed the foundation of his musical career. It undoubtedly made a great deal of financial sense to mainstream Elvis (even more-so) by turning him into movie star. After all, his movies were categorically profitable, and most were accompanied by his own soundtracks, which in-turn enabled Elvis to sell even more records on the back of his cinematic success. However, the quality of Elvis's musical output definitely suffered due to a shift in priorities at the time, and Pot Luck With Elvisis indicative of this.
Pot Luck was not itself a film soundtrack, but you can definitely hear the formulaic approach that Elvis took toward his film work rubbing off on the sound here. It is safe and restrained; a pastiche of the Nashville country sound and the unthreatening pop, which had come to define the billboard charts at the time. Perhaps the title of its predecessor, Something For Everybody – a similar sounding record – conveys best what Elvis is attempting to achieve with a record like Pot Luck. He's no longer out to rock the boat. Instead, he sounds as if he simply wants to keep everyone happy, and most importantly, keep the dollars ticking over. Hence this album comes across sounding relatively uninspired.
There are moments of buoyancy in tracks like, 'Suspicion' and 'Night Rider', wherein he realises some of his former, more visceral appeal. 'Night Rider' in particular kicks along with an upbeat pulse as Presley turns a hooky vocal phrase and makes the most of his natural tremolo in rounding out each sustained note. Special mention must also go to the plucked guitar line that follows each chorus throughout the track.
For the most part 'Suspicion' fits in perfectly with the middling, half baked sound of the rest of the record, however, the chorus sets it apart. The tempo drops and for a twenty second interlude, Elvis's commanding vocal leaps through the speakers and reminds us just how capturing his voice can be when in full flight.
The rest of this album is a case of unthreatening/easy listening wins the race. Elvis seems to barely push himself on tunes like 'just for old time's sake' and '(such an) easy question'. He instead simply drifts through the motions.
It's at times difficult to listen to the King go through his post war-time phase, as on Pot Luck. You want him to sweat, shake and croon with his own brand of passion and feel, however, he mostly seems to sing-a-long in third gear with one eye fixed on the studio clock. Pot Luck is definitely not his best or most inspired sounding work by a long stretch, but the intrinsic quality and presence of the man does just enough to save this album from complete tedium.