I never quite know what to make of Stay Away, Joe. The first time I tried to watch the movie as a teenager in the early 1990s, I couldn't get past the non-stop party scene near the beginning. The whole thing just seemed so unbearable. Yet, over the years, I have come to love most of the five songs Elvis recorded for this film. While Elvis performed many country songs in his career, he rarely delved into 'outdoor' country songs that celebrate nature like Stay Away (Greensleeves) and Goin' Home do. Elvis infuses a passion into these numbers that makes them stronger than the lyrics might otherwise suggest. All I Needed Was The Rain is much the same, but this time with Elvis making the most of an otherwise lesser blues number. The rollicking Stay Away, Joe is a song that had to grow on me. Somewhere, I've seen it accurately described as a 'campfire song'. Taken in that spirit, Stay Away, Joe is just as much fun as it needs to be.
The outlier is the awful Dominic, which Elvis recorded against his better judgment after securing a promise from producer Felton Jarvis that it would never be released on record. Though it appeared in the movie, RCA did not release the song until the 'Double Features' series in 1994 - long after the deaths of both Elvis and Jarvis. I'm torn about whether Dominic should have ever been released. On one hand, Elvis lost the right to decide what should and should not be released once he passed away. Surely, had he lived, he would have been against quite a few of the releases that have kept us Elvis fans going over the years. Of course, had he lived, many of those releases would not have been necessary. On the other hand, Dominic is such a wretched song, even among the already low standards of Elvis movies, that maybe his music label's current Elvis team should have respected his wishes in this one instance. Releasing it served no purpose other than to please completists.
Stay Away, Joe FTD Movie Soundtrack Classic Album.
FTD's Classic Albums series edition of the Stay Away, Joe soundtrack supplements the movie tunes with two far more commercial recordings made during the same period, Too Much Monkey Business and U.S. Male. My first exposure to Too Much Monkey Business was watching the 1981 documentary This Is Elvis on TV in the early 1990s. Though Too Much Monkey Business is not heard in any of Elvis' real movies, I'll always associate it with them due to its perfect use in the montage sequence of his Hollywood years. Elvis' take on the Chuck Berry hit certainly fits within the spirit of many of his better movie songs, anyway.
Penned and first recorded by Jerry Reed, U.S. Male acts as a natural follow-up to Elvis' 1967 recordings of Reed's Guitar Man and Jimmy Reed's Big Boss Man - the evolution of which are chronicled in the essential FTD release Elvis Sings Guitar Man. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Elvis plays up Southern 'country boy' stereotypes in U.S. Male, including his wonderful ad-libbed clarification at the song's conclusion: '. . . the American U.S. male'. As with Guitar Man, Jerry Reed provides guitar support on Elvis' cover of his song, making it far more authentic than it otherwise would have been.
Unlike 'Elvis Sings Guitar Man', which felt like a true album, albeit imaginary, the master recordings portion of the FTD 'Stay Away, Joe' feels disjointed. Seven songs do not an album make, and the listener is never treated to the illusion that this is an album that 'might have been'. While it would have padded the 'album' out to a more plausible length, adding in the 'Live A Little, Love A Little' soundtrack session would have only made for an even more disjointed experience, given the entirely different themes of those recordings. FTD has done the right thing by sticking to the October 1967 and January 1968 sessions that make up this release.
I should clarify that the label does not even try to pass this off as an imaginary album anyway, forgoing the usual 'Side One' and 'Side Two' divisions in the track listing. Given this, I believe the ideal sequencing of these particular sessions would simply have been to present all of the songs and takes in the order recorded, rather than front-loading the masters. There is a definite 'party' atmosphere to these sessions, particularly in the studio chatter, which is lost by FTD holding firm to its routine, scattershot approach. Though normally intended to create a better listening experience, it fails in this case.
Take 13 of Stay Away, Joe is a spirited version, with lots of hootin' and hollerin'. As with the master, the acoustic guitar and Charlie McCoy's harmonica drive the song. An 'alternate mastering' of All I Needed Was The Rain features some studio chatter and a false start. The song also fades later and includes Elvis joking at the end. Other than that, any other differences compared to the standard master are beyond my technical abilities to detect.
Take 3 of Too Much Monkey Business is a long false start, but notable due to the prominence of slightly different sounding guitar work reminiscent of what would later be heard on the master of Burning Love in 1972. As fans probably expect from a song with this many words, Elvis confuses some of the lyrics along the way, including an '... Army chow, Army clothes, Army jeep, Army car!' line that made me laugh.
The various false starts of Goin' Home reveal that there was audio trickery involved in the studio chatter that appeared on the 'Collectors Gold' release. The snippets heard on that 1991 boxed set are actually edited together from a few different moments. I've heard it that way for so long that it's hard to get used to these snippets within their proper contexts.
Be sure to listen out for Elvis singing the line 'You belong to my heart..' before the Take 11 false start of Stay Away. Elvis sang a tiny bit more of this while jamming with Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis at SUN Studios in December 1956, as first heard on The Million Dollar Quartet.
The most interesting parts of the accompanying booklet are reproductions of advertisements and other vintage memorabilia. The modern text is perfunctory and exhibits the same awkwardness all too often associated with FTD. Even if a professional proofreader were outside of the budget, it would still be a good idea to have someone else read these items before printing and selling them.
Stay Away, Joe FTD Movie Soundtrack Classic Album : Booklet back cover image.
FTD's 'Stay Away, Joe' is a decent release buffeted in no small part by Jerry Reed's guitar work on the 1968 tracks. While most of the tracks have appeared before on various releases, this CD offers the opportunity to obtain them all in one package with uniform, pristine sound quality. While not essential, 'Stay Away, Joe' is certainly recommended to fans of these songs who might not have already collected key alternate takes.
About a year ago, I finally revisited Stay Away, Joe as a film. The majestic, opening title visuals, accompanied by Stay Away, are unlike anything else I've ever seen in an Elvis movie. That dreaded party scene follows shortly thereafter, but the rest of the movie proves watchable and, at times, entertaining. Elvis looks terrific and, as evidenced by this soundtrack release, most of the songs are more than worthwhile. Too bad Goin' Home fails to make the cut (as with Stay Away, it was actually recorded after filming completed), while Dominic is there to remind us that Old MacDonald wasn't such a bad song after all.
Above review by Troy Yeary.
Outtakes make this release FUN
By David Troedson.
It is the outtakes that make this release, they are fun, more so than normal with Elvis in high spirits, clearly at a high point in his personal life and he brings this to the studio. Arguable he never looked better either, as the photo in the booklet, as used for the front cover of the 1980 'Guitar Man' release reminds us. As Troy points out some have been used before, such is the quality of these outtakes, but even if you have heard some of this, here you hear Elvis in the correct context instead of the previously re-arranged edits. Somewhat like Troy I have always found this movie of non-interest - but unlike Troy I have never been able to enjoy it, in fact I have never watched it in full !! The only movie I san say this about. The soundtrack has always to me included some 'pretty' songs, but light weight. But the out-takes for me are where I find great enjoyment, they have to be the most fun of and and also provide much 'new' songs in the form of high spirited fun performances.
Stay Away, Joe Classic Album Presentation [FTD 118]
Stay Away, Joe
01. Stay Away
02. Stay Away, Joe
04. All I Needed Was The Rain
05. Goin' Home
06. Too Much Monkey Business
07. U. S. Male
08. Stay Away (jam, take 2)
09. Too Much Monkey Business (takes 1,3,6,9)
10. U.S. Male (takes (5,6,7)
11. Stay Away, Joe (takes 10,12,13)
12. Stay Away, Joe (takes 15,16,17)
13. Dominic (takes 1,3,2)
14. All I Needed Was The Rain (unprocessed master)
15. Too Much Monkey Business (takes 12,10)
16. Goin' Home (takes 12,18,21)
17. Goin' Home (takes 22,24,26,28,29)
18. Stay Away (takes 5,6)
19. Stay Away (takes 11,12,14)
20. U.S. Male (takes 9,10)
21. U.S. Male (take 11)