Crying In The Chapel | Elvis Presley's Forgotten Gospel Masterpiece


By: Colin Fleming
Source: Daily Beast
September 4, 2021

Were there a gathering of past rock and roll years, the resident mack daddy and the accompanying belle of the ball would be the calendar pages bearing the imprints 1966 and 1967 at the top. Everybody who was a rock titan - Dylan, the Beatles, the Stones, the Who, the Kinks, the Byrds, the Beach Boys, Hendrix, Cream - unleashed major works whose impact would echo down the years. We're talking 104 weeks of new sounds, envelope-pushing, artists one couldn't have anticipated, concept albums, feedback platters, psychedelia and burgeoning metal blending as one, music to blast the detritus out of your brain, tune you in, turn you on. Heady stuff.

But what if someone was to say that an artist from the 1950s - which seemed like forever ago - cut an album at the level of anything anyone did during that period, without delving in any finesse songwriting on his own, any brave new electric experiments, with a clutch of performances that looked more towards the heraldry of Jerusalem than the moons of Jupiter? Because that's exactly what Elvis Presley did with his gospel album How Great Thou Art, that other top-shelf disc from rock's glory run that is every bit the work of art as Are You Experienced? or Sgt. Pepper.

Crying In The Chapel | Elvis Presley's Forgotten Gospel Masterpiece.

Elvis in 1967 was a singer you probably wouldn't have expected much from. The Sun sides of the mid-1950s were so old as to feel like Urtexts, and the classic run of hard-rocking RCA singles had been impeded then dashed to the past forevermore by a series of movie album soundtracks that people still like to make fun of. The Beatles had met the King and came away disillusioned. Whose King was this? Surely not the monarch for rock and roll upstarts.

We all know that Elvis had his big comeback in 1968 when he performed in the round in Burbank and made what might be the finest live rock recording by anyone. Even if you're a quibbler, it's top ten list material, but Elvis' return to ass-kicking officially began Feb. 27, 1967, when his gospel album, How Great Thou Art, hit record store shelves.

Elvis had an early gospel release in 1960's His Hand In Mine, but you could just as easily call that record a blues set, spirituals by way of rockabilly with an R&B beat. Some people self-identify as things we'd never primarily think of them as. For Elvis, that was a hard-charging gospel singer. He once stated that there wasn't a gospel song he didn't know, and when it came time to perform a set of them, there wasn't a gospel number Elvis couldn't transform into something wondrously secular, universal, free of cant and creed, music as equally suited for the valley as the nave, and the air of all outdoors as the ether heading heavenward. Plus, gospel Elvis could rock your socks off.

If you'd like to hear how well Elvis could sing - and we're talking one of the top dozen or so voices of the twentieth century, in terms of power, technique, breath control, command, range - listen to the title track that starts this record. You need not give more of a fig about a long-haired dude on a cross than the flavor of Pop-Tart you had for breakfast, but so far as ballad singing goes, this is a veritable torch song of self, of assertion, of things lost becoming things reclaimed. If it puts you on your knees, it does so because Elvis' voice is that moving. A reactionary like John Lennon would have hated it, but a deep musical thinker like Paul McCartney would have heard something here that he could work into his own singing style a couple of years later with - Let It Be.'

'Crying in the Chapel' bookends the album in similar ballad mode, but it is between those two songs that we hear Elvis cut loose, and with swing. 'If the Lord Wasn't Walking By My Side' is so ebullient that Elvis and the Big Man might as well be heading out to a post-Prom kegger. The rhythm is all sashaying beats, Elvis singing just a touch behind them, pushing the momentum forward until his voice topples over the rise at the end of each verse. The bridge brings the call-and-response funk so vigorously that you'd think the song had been tasked with inventing a new genre in twenty seconds.

'Farther Along' - for which Elvis gets an arranger's credit - is a vocal tour-de-force. Few singers could sound both sotto voce and all-encompassing like Elvis does for the first several measures, his breathy, volumized words playing against sparse piano notes. When the background choir kicks in, Elvis manages to make you feel like he has the larger vocal presence. This is a blues, a number you could imagine Son House tackling, but with a dreamy quality and a clarion voice beckoning out of the night-scape. You can't sing much better than this.

The outtakes from the session show us an Elvis finally untapped creatively, getting back in that old ring. He tries various approaches just because he can, workshopping his new-found freedom, fostering a haven of studio creativity not so very far removed from what the Beatles of this era were up to at Abbey Road.

It's almost impossible not to stand up and move to this song, which swings as hard as anything Basie did, but swings slower. After all, with Elvis, a lot of the swing is in the hips. The song is actually mid-tempo, but it manages to feel slower, this ball of compact energy that doesn't discharge, only builds. Someone - probably Elvis - snaps his fingers all the way through, as if metaphorically underscoring that here, for these three and a half minutes, all has clicked right with the world. Synched up, synched deep. Swing high indeed, son.

Buy Now

The FTD release of Elvis' Grammy Award-winning album How Great Thou Art is a 2-disc set in the Classic Album series. Originally released in 1967, the original album featured a collection of thirteen sacred songs including the hit single 'Crying In The Chapel'. In addition to the masters, it features many great outtakes. The 7" inch digi-pack format features a 12-page booklet with great photographs and rare memorabilia.

How Great Thou Art

Disc 1

01 How Great Thou Art (Stuart K. Hine)
02 In The Garden (Charles A. Miles)
03 Somebody Bigger Than You And I (John Lange/Hy Heath/Sonny Burke)
04 Farther Along (Arranged by Elvis Presley)
05 Stand By Me (Arranged by Elvis Presley)
06 Without Him (Mylon LeFevre)
07 So High (Arranged by Elvis Presley)
08 Where Could I Go But To The Lord (James B. Coats)
09 By And By (Arranged by Elvis Presley)
10 If The Lord Wasn't Walking By My Side (Henry Slaughter)
11 Run On (Arranged by Elvis Presley)
12 Where No One Stands Alone (Mosie Lister)
13 Crying In The Chapel (Artie Glenn)

Bonus Songs

14 You'll Never Walk Alone (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein)
15 We Call On Him (Fred Karger/Ben Weisman/Sid Wayne)
16 If Everyday Was Like Christmas (Red West)

First Takes

17 How Great Thou Art - takes 1 & 2
18 Somebody Bigger Than You And I - takes 1,3,11
19 Stand By Me - takes 1 & 2
20 Without Him - take 1
21 So High - take 1
22 By And By - take 4
23 If The Lord Wasn't Walking By My Side - take 1
24 Run On - takes 1 & 2
25 Where No One Stands Alone - takes 1 & 4 spliced
26 You'll Never Walk Alone - take 1
27 We Call On Him - takes 1 & 2

Disc 2

May 1966 Sessions

01 Run On - takes 3-6
02 Stand By Me - takes 5-7
03 Stand By Me - takes 9 & 10
04 Where No One Stands Alone - takes 2, 3 & wp 1
05 Where No One Stands Alone - wp takes 2, 3 & 5
06 So High - takes 2 & 3
07 Farther Along - takes 1& 2
08 By And By - takes1, 2, 3, 4 (fs), 5 & 7
09 By And By - takes 8 & 9
10 In The Garden - takes 1-3
11 Somebody Bigger Than You And I - take 12
12 Somebody Bigger Than You And I - takes14 (fs), 15 & wp 5
13 Without Him - takes 4 & 8
14 Without Him - takes 11, 13 & 14
15 If The Lord Wasn't Walking By My Side - takes 2-4
16 If The Lord Wasn't Walking By My Side - take 6

June 1966 Sessions

17 If Every Day Was Like Christmas - takes 1 & 2 (undubbed master)

September 1967 Sessions

18 We Call On Him - takes 4 & 5
19 We Call On Him - take 7
20 We Call On Him - take 8
21 You'll Never Walk Alone - take 2
22 You'll Never Walk Alone - takes 3, 4, 6 & 8

Wp = work parts
Fs = false start

Disc 1 tracks 1-12 and 17-24 & disc 2 tracks 1-16 recorded May 25-27, 1966 at RCA's Studio B, Nashville.

Guitar: Scotty Moore, Chip Young; Bass: Bob Moore; Bass & Harmonica & Guitar: Charlie McCoy; Drums: D. J. Fontana; Drums & Tympani: Buddy Harman; Piano: Floyd Cramer; Piano & Organ: Henry Slaughter, David Briggs; Steel Guitar: Pete Drake; Sax: Rufus Long, Boots Randolph; Vocals: Millie Kirkham, June Page, Dolores Edgin, The Imperials, The Jordanaires

Disc 1 track 13 recorded October 30, 1960 at RCA's Studio B, Nashville.

Guitar: Hank Garland, Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley; Bass: Bob Moore; Drums: Buddy Harman, D. J. Fontana; Piano: Floyd Cramer; Vocals: Millie Kirkham, The Jordanaires

Disc 1 track 14 & disc 2 track 17 recorded June 10, 1966 at RCA's Studio B, Nashville.
Elvis' vocals recorded June 12, 1966 at RCA's Studio B, Nashville.

Guitar: Harold Bradley, Scotty Moore, Chip Young; Bass: Bob Moore; Drums: D:J. Fontana; Drums & Tympani: Buddy Harman; Piano: David Briggs; Organ: Henry Slaughter; Steel Guitar: Pete Drake; Vocals: Millie Kirkham, June Page, Dolores Edgin, The Jordanaires, The Imperials

Disc 1 tracks 14-15 & disc 2 tracks 18-22 recorded September 11, 1967 at RCA's Studio B, Nashville.

Guitar: Harold Bradley, Scotty Moore, Chip Young; Bass: Bob Moore; Drums: D.J. Fontana, Buddy Harman; Piano: Floyd Cramer, Elvis Presley on 'You'll Never Walk Alone'; Organ & Harmonica & Guitar: Charlie McCoy; Steel Guitar: Pete Drake; Vocals: Millie Kirkham, The Jordanaires

Compilation produced and Art directed by Ernst Mikael Jørgensen & Roger Semon
Mastered by Sebastian Jeansson
Original A&R: Felton Jarvis, Steve Sholes (disc 1 track 13)
Original engineers: Jim Malloy, Bill Porter (disc 1 track 13), Al Pachucki (September 1967)

Elvis Interviews

Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Interview with Larry Muhoberac
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Interview with John Wilkinson
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Interview with Michael Jarrett, songwriter, I'm Leavin'
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Interview with James Burton
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Interview with James Burton Sydney Australia 2006
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley James Burton : First Call For The Royalty Of Rockabilly
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Interview with Ronnie Tutt
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Interview with Ronnie Tutt #2
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Interview with Jerry Scheff
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Interview with Glen D. Hardin
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Interview with Sherrill Nielsen
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Interview with Terry Blackwood & Jim Murray
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Interview with Tony Brown
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Duke Bardwell
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Interview with Scotty Moore
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Bill Black
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Interview with D.J. Fontana
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Interview with Charlie Hodge
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Interview with Ernst Jorgensen
Articles about Elvis Presley Elvis Presley & the TCB Band

© Copyright 2023 by www.elvis.com.au & www.elvispresley.com.au

This page. https://www.elvis.com.au/presley/crying-in-the-chapel-elvis-presleys-forgotten-gospel-masterpiece.shtml

No part of any article on this site may be re-printed for public display without permission.


-
Elvis Presley Video Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD

Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever. + Plus Bonus DVD Audio.

This is an excellent release no fan should be without it.

The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people. Highly recommended.

Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD Video with Sound.