Monday, March 16, 2009

Long Live the King

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: Heart of Rome
ARTIST: Elvis Presley
SONGWRITERS: Stephens / Blakely / Howard
ALBUM: Love Letters From Elvis
YEAR/LABEL: 1971; RCA Victor

Music should be something that makes you gotta move, inside or outside.
(Elvis Presley)

Forty years ago it would have been hard to imagine a "rare" Elvis Presley song. Now it's hard to find more than a handful of well-known Elvis tunes. With the increasing disappearance of "oldies" stations new generations might have to dig deep to find Elvis' music.

Fortunately, he is worth the search. Elvis had a great ear for choosing songs. Granted, not all of his renditions came out great; however, there's a very good reason that people who weren't born when he died in 1977 are fans: the man was good.

One of the best examples of a great song given the royal Elvis treatment is "Heart of Rome." The song's subject is simple: woman is going on a trip, leaving her beau in Rome. With Elvis' performance on this number, however, this could have been the Rome phone directory and it would still sound great. Elvis put everything into this song. His powerful vocal punch on the chorus of "I'll make a wish in every fountain, say a prayer that you'll be mine" is spine-tingling. (There is a bootleg of outtakes in existence that features this song, where Elvis sang a rather off-color lyric alteration, but even the joke comes out with the same vocal intensity!)

The worst thing that could happen to music is for Elvis to be relegated to "the past" and considered "un-cool" for younger people. Elvis didn't invent rock and roll, but he did present it to the masses in a way no other act had done. Elvis' music is for all generations, and the place to start listening is right here, in the "Heart of Rome."


"(Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame" (available on 30 No. 1's) -- big hit? Absolutely. His best hit? Open for debate, but it is one of the best songs of the 1960s, period.
"It's a Matter of Time" (from Burning Love) -- if you have the 45 of "Burning Love," turn it over and discover a gem.
"Solitaire" (from From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee) -- a Neil Sedaka composition that Elvis performed masterfully.
"Always on My Mind" (from Separate Ways) -- if the only version you've ever heard of this song is Willie Nelson's, give yourself a treat and hear a broken-hearted man sing this (recorded after his divorce from Priscilla).

I Want a Home in Dixie
I Lost Today
Down to the River to Pray
Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyeballs
A Death in the Family
Dark as a Dungeon
Bottomless Well

Harriet Tubman's Gonna Carry Me Home
Entella Hotel
Desperados Under the Eaves
Crossing Muddy Waters
Cliffs of Dooneen
Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
Baby Mine

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