Rascals, “Carry Me Back”/Elvis, “Suspicious Minds” (10/18/69)

The Rascals have hit again, rocking around with good old Stephen Foster, which is about as far back as one can get, unless you count Jimi Hendix’ revival of Francis Scott Key’s greatest hit. A flashy piano intro, and then beautiful screams: “Carry me baaaaack, carry me baaaaack…” Back to where? They came from New Jersey. Back to dat good ol’ suthun homeland, of course. “Lord Almighty I sure learned a lot/Enough to send me back to where I come from/To that old Kentucky home where I belong.” And it’s a great record, their best rocker since “Good Loving,” a year ago. Two pianos once it gets underway, a snappy rhythm guitar reminiscent of Clapton at his sharpest, jazzy horns at the bridges, the vocals so absurdly sincere. Produced by Felix Cavaliere and Arif Mardin, “Carry Me Back” has a blazingly full sound that’s irresistible in its impact. If this is a hint of what’s in store on their next album, it’ll be a record that will be a pleasure to buy.

Elvis’ single, on the other hand, is disappointing, because all the pieces seem to be there but it simply doesn’t gel. It’s not exciting. “Suspicious Minds,” apparently the show-stopper at the King’s gig in Las Vegas, is on record inferior to most everything on his current LP, From Elvis in Memphis. This is critical, because if Elvis’ comeback is to be really successful (which is to say, if he’s to recapture the younger audience that was once his alone) he can’t afford to miss a trick, and most especially he can’t afford to lapse into the crooning ballads of his last ten years. “Suspicious Minds” is not exactly a “miss”—it’s getting more airplay than anything since Sgt. Pepper and will undoubtedly be number one by the time this is printed, unless the Rascals get there first—but it doesn’t force you to turn up the sound on the radio every time it comes on, and that’s what a truly solid single has to do.

Elvis is not allowed to project. He’s buried in some odd mix of strings, horns, and a female chorus (which is, by the way, magnificent). Bass, guitar and drums are up front, but Elvis is supposed to be singing lead, not the rhythm section. The vocal, usually double-tracked, is given more echo and more distortion than on any Elvis record I can recall, and this only adds to the generally muddy sound which in the end destroys the disc. You end up listening to the great girl stepping out from the chorus to shout “Suspicious Minds!” two or three times, and that’s the high point.

The song itself, written by Mark James, is excellent, and perfect material for Elvis. It suggests that Elvis should record “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” on his next album. Whatever he records, this time he should be given space in which to move, rather than being hemmed in by a producer with an overly extravagant sense of “orchestration.” This is Elvis Presley, not some hired hand trying to break into show biz. In the meantime, buy “Carry Me Back.”

Rolling Stone, October 18, 1969

5 thoughts on “Rascals, “Carry Me Back”/Elvis, “Suspicious Minds” (10/18/69)

  1. Elvis seems to have taken Greil’s advice, since he recorded “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” a year later!

    The King certainly benefited from being “hemmed in by a producer” like Chips Moman. The lack of a strong producer is keenly felt in his post-1971 recordings, though I’m still fond of that era.

  2. “…their best rocker since ‘Good Loving,’ a year ago.”

    A year ago? That was three years before!

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