Review : Such a Night CD : The Stellar Nashville Sessions, 1960 - 1964

By: David Luckin
June 2, 2001

Such a Night : The Stellar Nashville Sessions
Such a Night : The Stellar Nashville Sessions
Such a Night is the sixth volume in RCA's ongoing Essential Elvis series. Like its predecessors, it gives a behind-the-scenes look at a group of Elvis' recording sessions. With the exception of the title track, 'Such a Night' is comprised of alternate takes and gives us an opportunity to explore Elvis' creative process. The subtle difference between the alternate take and the released version, plus the in-studio banter, offer a fascinating view of how Elvis made music. All tracks were recorded at the legendary RCA Nashville Studio B, with the 'Nashville Sound' was all but invented.

Two Elvis CD's were waiting for me when I got home today, 'Such A Night' and 'In A Private Moment', that alone made a good day a great day.

I immediately put Such A Night into the CD player and here are my first impressions. Starting with the package first, we have a great picture of Elvis that creates a very subtle uncommercial cover art design. The CD insert is four pages long with lots of info and pics on the history of the now famous Nashville Sessions. With details on the actual studio and the session musicians that made the recordings between 1960 & 1964 so famous. All the tracks are unreleased except the title song 'Such A Night', and even that track is new to most ears as it includes studio chatter and false starts before we get to the master track we all know so well. For someone who always thought there should be an 'Alternate' release of Elvis Is Back. I was happy to see four tracks from the aforementioned album. As you probably know one of Elvis' idols was Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, he recorded 'Money Honey', 'Fools Fall In Love', 'White Christmas', & 'Such A Night' almost note for note. The the Sixth release in the Essential Elvis series kicks off with the Drifters 'Such A Night', we've heard it before but with the false starts you are a witness to history as this cd literally lets you 'sit in' on the session as they work their way to the final version. This RCA/BMG release takes you as close as you'll ever get to 'being there' when these recordings were being committed to tape.

'Make Me Know' is up next and it comes across pretty much the way we remember it with a slightly more funky back up by the Jordanaires. 'Stuck On You' plays next and is a very nice version with Elvis singing a little looser than the released master, with his phrasing a bit more playful, drawing the notes and words out when he sings 'hide in the kitchen hide in hall' it sounds more relaxed and blusey, a very nice version in spite of the fact 'that I hit a couple of bad note's here' as Elvis say's, to which one of his band mates says 'sounded great' even with the abrupt end I like it better than the original. 'Fever' plays next, one of his coolest and best recordings and should be played as much as the top 10 hits. Here's Elvis playing a cool bachelor pad song with stand up bass, drums, bongos and a voice that never sounded better.

With the exception of 'Relax' from 'It Happened At The Worlds Fair' and 'You're The Boss' with his soul mate Ann Margaret, 'Fever' stands alone in style, and one has to wish that he would have done more of these relaxed hip and somewhat jazzy numbers from the beatnik days of American pop culture.

One of my favorite Elvis songs is next, we hear take 6 of 'The Girl Of My Best Friend' it's just different enough to make a favorite song fun to hear again. Next from Elvis Is Back we get a new take on an old favorite 'Solider Boy' and it sounds just a little softer and more heartfelt than the released master and it is truly beautiful in it's understatement, there is nothing nicer than Elvis singing with out even trying, the words just dripping out like liquid sunshine, and check out how he takes the last note up a few steps unlike the original version. With Elvis just out of the army it seems clear he felt this song in a very personal way. 'Surrender' the Elvis treatment of the standard 'Come Back To Sorrento' plays pretty much like the original. Up next the flip side to 'Crying In The Chapel', 'I Believe In The Man In The Sky' and I must admit I played it just as much as the A side. Nice to have it here but I really don't hear any difference from the original version. 'Give Me The Right' another 'Elvis sings the blues' and what a version... the female voice is much more upfront than the released version and as in most of these tracks this version is as good or better than the released master. When will RCA/BMG give us another 'Reconsider Baby' compiled of versions like this. This track is worth the price of the CD alone. 'I'm Comin' Home' is another track that plays it pretty close to the original version with a little difference in the guitar solo.

Next Elvis in falsetto having a little fun with 'There's Always Me' an old country song that he sings beautifully. 'Little Sister' offers a nice 'in studio' feel with false start and a slightly different version with a little more rhythmic guitar and extra licks. 'Little Sister' is song that will live on forever in any version. 'I Met her Today' is next but I have to wonder why, it's a nice song but not one that has to be there, it would have been nice to have put in 'It Feels So Right' 'Dirty Dirty Feeling' or 'Reconsider Baby' instead. 'Gonna Get Back Home Somehow' much like the original with a slightly different play on the bridge. 'Night Rider' plays like it always plays, again it would have been nice to put something that was really a variation rather than a track with so little difference to the master take. The next track is a perfect example of what i'm referring to, the song is '(Such An) Easy Question' and after listening the result is very satisfying because the take is so different.

Terry Stafford has nothing on this version of 'Suspicion' again just different enough from what we know to make it a treat. 'Please Don't Drag That String Around', another huge hit heard here in a nice version with Elvis coming in at the top under the instruments. His voice is mixed a little under the level of the instruments but this is a fine laid back version that Elvis was clearly having fun with . His phrasing is different and it makes for a nice version. The drums and the Bo Didley sound let's us know that 'Memphis Tennessee' is next, check out the guitar solo different than the released master and very nice. When you get to the end you wish there was no fadeout and that the song would just jam on for another few minutes. Finally we reach the final song in about as perfect a release we could hope for from our friends at RCA/BMG. 'It Hurts Me' another one of my favourite E songs closes the cd on a high note. 'Such A Night' is an excellent companion to the previous releases in the series of Essential Recordings of Elvis Presley. There is nothing quite like feeling you're there as the records were cut and hearing different takes is certainly an added treat for Elvis fans and musicologist alike.

I have only request of RCA/BMG, and that would be that they add more songs to these releases. The CD format holds 74 minutes and this latest release fills only 53 of those minutes. Lets add the bonus tracks now instead of later. A reprise of 'Such A Night' as an alternate version would have been nice at the end as well as just a few more tracks. Nice job RCA and thanks for bringing these tracks to the public.

Such A Night, Make Me Know It (take 3), Stuck On You (take 2), Fever (take 1), The Girl Of My Best Friend (take6), Soldier Boy (take 1), Surrender (take 9), I Believe In The Man In The Sky (take 1), Give Me The Right (take 2), I'm Comin' Home (take 2), There's Always Me (take 9), Little Sister (take 9), I Met Her Today (take 4), Gonna Get Back Home Somehow (take 5), Night Rider (take 5), Easy Question (take 1), Suspicion (take 2), Please Don't Drag That String Around (take 1), Memphis Tennessee (take 5), It Hurts Me (take 1)

David Luckin

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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.

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