March 2006

Wanda Jackson - I Remember Elvis
CLP 1568 2
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality **1/2
Overall Enjoyment **1/2

Eighteen-year-old Wanda Jackson had been singing country music for three years when she signed with Capitol Records in 1956. She had spent a few months touring with Elvis Presley, who encouraged her to give in to her wild side and sing rock'n'roll. She took his advice, and with inspiration from some of the rock'n'roll and R&B records Presley had played for her, Jackson began mixing some rockabilly with the country songs Capitol wanted to hear. By the time her second album, Rockin’ With Wanda, was released in 1960, Wanda Jackson had racked up a series of rock'n'roll hits.

In 2003, Jackson returned to rock'n'roll with Heart Trouble, and, aided by a group of younger musicians (including Dave Alvin, Elvis Costello, and Rosie Flores), she proved should could still tear it up. I Remember Elvis, her newest disc, is a tribute to her mentor, and Jackson, at 68, still sounds youthful and enthusiastic. She does a strong bluesy turn on "Give Me the Right," and she whoops and raves through "Blue Moon of Kentucky." There’s plenty of kick left in Wanda Jackson.

Too bad the band doesn’t kick with her. Led by guitarist/producer Danny B. Harvey, they are all capable musicians, but they play with reverence rather than abandon. Jackson often sounds like she’s fighting to keep things spirited. I can’t help wondering how much more drive this disc would have had with livelier backup. Add a somewhat smudgy recording and you have a missed opportunity.