England's original Angry Young Man may be suffering from Prince syndrome: the tendency to give away one's catchiest material to lesser contemporaries. As Prince has helped Sheena Easton and Sinead O'Connor to mega-stardom at his own expense, Elvis has spent his efforts crafting pop confectioneries for the likes of Bob Dylan and Roger McGuinn.
And so, one naturally wonders if he hasn't worked a little too hard for these employers: the fourteen songs on Mighty Like A Rose leave much to be desired.
The problems stem from the lyrics and their delivery. To he polite, Elvis has one of the more distinctive voices in the industry, a brutish yet effective vehicle for his intelligent and anguished words. Yet now the words are softer, and Elvis seems to believe that he can actually sing.
His voice strains embarrassingly in registers unsuited for him, subtle words and inflections lashed to shards by his taut larynx. One wishes Elvis could have spent this pent-up energy on writing stronger musical hooks, or bellowing in the shower.
Still, the few tracks that do connect make this album more than worthwhile. "The Other Side of Summer" is no "Veronica" — it's better, a far more exciting three minutes. Elvis re-introduces the organ he was so fond of ten years ago, and the result is a driving, '60s-influenced rhythm and blues tutorial.
Similarly admirable is "So Like Candy," a tune he co-wrote with ex-Wings bassist Paul McCartney. Reminiscent of "Watching the Detectives," this track tiptoes along on its steel-string slippers, guitars softly plunking to resonant vocals.
Elvis Costello's chaff is most people's wheat; hi, efforts, although not entirely successful on this outing, deserve great attention. Watching this man try and fail is more than commendable, it's awe-inspiring.