Moody Blue was released June 19, 1977. Less than two months later Elvis Presley was dead of a massive heart attack probably caused by a combination of prescription drugs and excessive weight gain. Moody Blue would become a huge hit album reaching number three on the pop charts and remaining number one on the country charts for ten weeks. It would go on to sell three million copies in the United States.
Felton Jarvis pieced Moody Blue together from left over studio tracks plus three live performances from a Michigan concert. The album was initially released on traditional black vinyl but it was quickly changed to blue vinyl. Today it is the original black vinyl release that is very collectible.
The title track, “Moody Blue,” was recorded in early 1977. While it reached number one on the country singles charts it was a more pop presentation. The song was written by Mark James who also wrote such Elvis songs as “Suspicious Minds” and “Raised On Rock.” I can only imagine how much residual money Mark James has accumulated from Elvis’ album sales.
“Way Down” is the strongest track on the album. It was released as a single after Elvis’s death and became a top twenty hit in the United States in addition to a number one country hit. It was also a number one hit in the United Kingdom. This up-tempo pop/rocker featured a fine smooth vocal by Elvis and maintains energy throughout.
“Unchained Melody” has probably been recorded a thousand times. Elvis gives it a pure pop performance although it would oddly be a country hit. Elvis gives an inspired performance and is able to show his extensive vocal range on this very difficult song. Elvis performs an enjoyable version of the old Johnny Ace tune, “Pledging My Love.” He speeds it up a little and moves it from rhythm and blues to pure pop.
The two Olivia Newton-John hit songs, “If You Love Me” and “Let Me Be There,” are average at best. “Little Darlin” may have been one of the worst songs that Elvis ever recorded and is the ultimate throwaway. “It’s Easy For You” is another song that feels uninspired.
Two pure country songs find Elvis giving strong vocal performances. “She Thinks I Still Care” finds Elvis invested as he vocally polishes George Jones’ rough original. “He’ll Have To Go,” originally sung by Jim Reeves, is probably the last song ever recorded by Elvis Presley in the studio. Elvis’ vocal tone is similar to Reeves and he performs a nice deep vocal that brings this song to life.
All in all, Moody Blue is an album with some very good tracks but is kept from being an excellent album by a few less than stellar performances. It remains an essential Elvis Presley release due to the fact that it was the last album released during his lifetime.