Forget this country business. This is an LP of songs, well-made songs; and I suspect Elvis wishes he'd made 'em. Had he been so inclined he could probably have passed off some of the more obscure selections on Almost Blue as his own work. Who but a Gram Parsons fan would have known that "You may be sweet and nice / But that won't keep you warm at night" came from his "I'm Your Toy" rather than from one of the star's custom tales of double-edged melancholy?
Face it. It's only a spit from "How Much I Lied" to a Trust song like "Different Finger." The concerns are similarly domestic and the tunes culled from the same fertile area of the fretboard. And what is a working musician if not some kind of travelling salesman? Heart-sick, home-sick and never less than almost blue.
The production (trad. Nashville by Billy Sherrill) is more at home with lilting ballads and mid-paced road songs than rockabilly excursions like "Why Don't You Love Me" (a heavy-handed opener) or "Honey Hush."
Give Sherrill a torch song however and he's world class. Until you've heard "Good Year For The Roses" for the tenth time it's hard to believe that such an unremarkable intro could become so distinctive. It screams out of the radio.
Perfectly placed in the forefront of all these swelling strings and "Sing Something Simple" choirs is the Costello voice; tender, confidential, sentimental in the true sense. He returns after the instrumental interlude of "Sweet Dreams" with a "Why ..." which any grown-up singer would be proud to call his own. If your local discerie still demonstrates records then that's where you should ask them to drop the stylus. You'll be sold.
OK Elvis, would a Cole Porter album be entirely out of the question?