Elvis Presley: Fun in Acapulco

Elvis’ movie music travels South of the Border

There are a number of commonly held misconceptions about Elvis Presley’s film career: Elvis couldn’t act, his movies were all throwaways, and the soundtracks were populated entirely with substandard material. But key films in the King’s catalog show that he could indeed act, if called upon, there are several high-quality dramatic and musical films in Elvis’ oeuvre, alongside many good lightweight romantic musical comedies, and his soundtracks are laced with hits and terrific albums sides. To measure the highpoints of Elvis’ soundtrack catalog by virtue of the low points (of which there are admittedly many) is to miss out on a valuable dimension of Presley’s musical career.

1963’s Fun in Acapulco was Elvis’ thirteenth film, and though set in Acapulco, Elvis’ scenes were all filmed in Hollywood. The soundtrack was likewise recorded in Hollywood with a combination of West Coast studio players (including guitarists Tiny Timbrell and Barney Kessell, and legendary Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine), Elvis regulars (Scotty Moore, D.J. Fontana, and the Jordainaires), a horn section (Anthony Terran and Rudolph Loera) and the backing vocals of the Amigos (who’d previously appeared on the soundtrack of Girls! Girls! Girls!). As one might expect, the emphasis here is on Latin sounds and though the songs aren’t particularly deep, Elvis seems to have a lot of fun in this setting. The album spun off a hit with Leiber and Stoller’s “Bossa Nova Baby,” a song previously recorded by Tippie & The Clovers for the Tiger label with no chart success.

Soundtrack stalwarts Ben Weisman, Sid Wayne, Roy Bennett, Sid Tepper and Don Robertson contribute songs that give Elvis something with which to riff. They’re not always memorable, but neither are they the lackadaisically written sore thumbs of Elvis’ worst soundtracks. You won’t be brought up short by a baby shrimp saying farewell to his parents, for example, and the fuzz guitar and sensual vocal of “Slowly But Surely” is a great way to close the album. Sony’s reissue features a four-panel booklet, no bonus tracks, and no liner notes discussing the music or its making. The 30-minute running time suggests that the earlier import two-fer or Follow That Dream’s collector’s edition might be more compelling to Elvis diehards. Still, the budget price and remastered sound make this reissue attractive. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

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