Elvis Presley released his first full gospel album on November 10, 1960. He had previously released the four song EP, Peace In The Valley, whose tracks also appeared on the Elvis Christmas Album. His Hand In Mine, however, was a full studio effort featuring classic gospel and spiritual songs of the day.
When looking at the Elvis catalogue of recordings thirty plus years after his death, the gospel recordings remain essential. Through the good and the bad of his life, he always produced solid spiritual albums. His lifestyle may not have always represented the fact that he was deeply religious, but there can be little doubt that he always put a superior effort into his that material.
His Hand In Mine would only reach number 13 on the national charts and sell under a million copies. Many artists would be happy with those figures, but for Elvis they represented his least successful album release to date. It did serve the purpose of continuing to move him toward the American mainstream and expanding his fan base. There was nothing more American than serving your country and showing that you were a religious person. Middle class America, particularly formally skeptical parents, relaxed and became admirers.
Elvis took few chances with the release on His Hand In Mine. The song choices are conservative and safe. He presents the songs in a pop style and stays away from rock ‘n’ roll. He is smart enough, however, to reach back into several traditions for his material and moves from old time spirituals to country oriented songs to traditional gospel.
Some of his better interpretations include “I’m Gonna Walk Dem Golden Stairs,” “In My Father’s House,” “Mansion On The Hilltop,” “Joshua Fit The Battle,” and “Swing Down, Sweet Chariot.” Elvis’ deep voice brings vibrancy and life to these songs and others of this type.
His Hand In Mine was a wonderful release by Elvis. Today many of his gospel albums have been combined into box sets. Most of the material is readily available and are worth seeking out. The spiritual Elvis is never disappointing. Today, His Hand In Mine remains an excellent introduction to the gospel world of Elvis Presley.