Elvis Presley – ’68 Comeback Special: #584 of best 1,000 albums ever!

Elvis Presley - '68 Comeback Special

So why is Elvis Presley’s ’68 Comeback Special on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

It just so happens that I recently watched the new biopic directed by Baz Luhrmann recently, called (as it turns out) Elvis. My initial impression was that I didn’t like the movie very much.

As great an actor as Tom Hanks is – and he really is great in almost everything – I did not enjoy his performance as Col. Tom Parker, Elvis’ longtime manager-meets-manipulator. Hanks’ strange Dutch accent, even if it was accurate to the real Dutchman, was bothersome and that was part of it, but another was that Parker/Hanks was given an inordinate amount of screentime in a movie (even a very long one) that’s ostensibly supposed to be about The King.

Then there’s Luhrmann’s directing style, which is very stylized and occasionally surreal. Add to that a lean on quick montages – and this is a criticism I have with other modern movies, by the way – that makes it seem at times you’re watching a super long trailer of the very movie that you’re actually in the middle of watching.

All of that being said, I found myself thinking about the movie – and Elvis Presley – quite a bit after watching it, which is to the film’s credit. A lot of that is due to Austin Butler’s electric performance as the titular character. The musical scenes, too, are incredibly exciting and memorable. And the movie did do an effective job of leaving me quite sad about Presley’s long, hazy slide into pills and other drugs and depression.

During the research phase of this here best 1,000 albums ever project, I found myself coming back again and again to Elvis’ ’68 Comeback Special. It comes at such a fascinating time in Presley’s life: an icon since the mid-‘50s, here he is in the late 1960s with rock bands like The Doors and The Byrds and The Rolling Stones dominating the music charts.

So in addition due to Parker’s manipulations and other ill timed career movies, Presley was simply not the hip new thing anymore. But he’s still at the height of his powers during the recording of this album, which was filmed as a Christmas special simply entitled ELVIS. And I believe it’s Presley’s greatest album of all, finding him loose and clearly having fun while brilliantly spinning through a huge number of his greatest hits and some other fun tracks besides.

Much of the ’68 Comeback Special is centered around a series of medleys that allow Elvis (and his great backing band) to quickly and adeptly change gears to keep things at a consistent level of excitement.

And man, in one nearly fifteen-minute epic medley alone, Elvis jubilantly jams out the following:

  • “Lawdy, Miss Clawdy”
  • “Baby, What You Want Me to Do”
  • “Heartbreak Hotel”
  • “Hound Dog”
  • “All Shook Up”
  • “Can’t Help Falling in Love”
  • “Jailhouse Rock”
  • “Love Me Tender”

This is not a “safe” performance; this is Elvis as King of Rock ‘n Roll, and the musical arrangements are lights out great, with late 1960s-era big-sounding horns helping to meet Elvis’ energy and elevate the performance overall.

And of course Elvis slows things down for a couple of ballads that show off his vocals in peak form. “If I Can Dream” is my favorite of these.

And we can dream of an era when Elvis Presley still reigned.

Some stats & info about Elvis Presley – ’68 Comeback Special

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Pop Music, Rockabilly, Rock ‘n Roll
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating4.5 out of 5 stars
  • When was the ’68 Comeback Special released? 1968
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #584 out of 1,000

Elvis Presley’s ’68 Comeback Special on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from Elvis Presley’s ’68 Comeback Special that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

There must be lights burning brighter somewhere, got to be birds flying higher in a sky more blue.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.