Review | Elvis At Stax 3-CD box plus 1 Hour Radio program
Source: Elvis Australia
December 5, 2015
Elvis Reviews, Elvis CD Reviews, Elvis Articles, By David Tinson
STAX studios - famous for THE SOUL LEGENDS - Otis Redding, Wilson Picket, Sam & Dave, Booker T. & The MG's et al - and now Elvis Presley's 1973 STAX recordings - Raised On Rock/For Ol' Times Sake (1973), Good Times (1974), and Promised Land (1975) -- become a FANTASTIC unified release - Elvis At Stax: Deluxe Edition 3-CD box [Presented / packaged identically to the format used for the excellent [and now effectively sold out, a few sets remain, Prince From Another Planet] - that nestles down-home Memphis R&B and all-points in between - Elvis' last major 1970s recording sessions at the STAX studios produced greatness and sometime mediocrity in a vastness of styles: copious R&B wah-wah inflected workouts mingle with gospel, country, and aching ballads, but the sessions never strayed too far from the Presley blueprint - breakneck rockabilly amped up to eleven and beyond on a blistering cover of Chuck Berry's classic - 'Promised Land' (Master - CD-3) - but if not satisfying enough, gorge on two more thrilling takes (4 and 5) – stamped - utmost air-guitar - guaranteed! (CD-1 R&B/Country-The Outtakes) ...
Among the mined artist gold are some of the sweetest, beautifully affecting ballads EVER committed to tape - 'My Boy' and its vocal power - 'It's Midnight' - and the delicate, jaw-dropping 'Take Good Care of Her' (Takes 1,2,3-CD-2) – is ballad 101 and an astonishing devout, work-in-progress that sounds fabulous here, almost like Elvis is whispering in your ear; in particular the verging on, A' Cappella lead up - 'I suppose I ought to say, congratulations! For you won the only girl, I ever loved! The lyrics convey so much about Elvis and Priscilla's then marital status ... Elvis lives and breathes every word - every syllable - and here in new remixed sound it sounds simple breathtaking! [First image at right, taken in the company of Jack Lord]
The sessions were set-up due to the proximity to Graceland so he could spend more time with his daughter, but were beset with numerous problems. Elvis' personal microphone was stolen, further compounded by technical difficulties at the studios, that said, Elvis would prevail, at least for now. Second image at right, on the way to Memphis airport, 1974.]
There's 27 outtakes in total but the appeal of this collection IS the many contrasting flavours -- the aforementioned 'Promised Land' is a tour-de-force spread over the 3-CD collection. Standouts: The rockin' original album title cuts. 'Mr. Songman' however is sugary sweet and easily forgotten but wonderful piano redeems. But, if not sufficient to satisfy - ELVIS AT STAX has so much MORE, and is a huge feast of a banquet to be gorged on that ultimately has something for everyone ...
There's reflective nuggets - 'Everybody's gone away, said their moving to L. A, there's not a soul I know around, everybody's leaving town. Some caught a freight, some caught a plane. Find the sunshine, leave the rain. They said this town will waste your time. Guess they're right - it's wasting mine. Some Gotta win, some gotta lose, good time Charlie's got the blues ... ' Take 8, of 'Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues' -- a slice of prime melancholy country-blues that runs 30 seconds longer than the master with tasteful additional organ fills. Elvis identified with the sentiment believing in the song strongly enough to include it in his, August 16, 1974 Summer Season opening show in Las Vegas. Was Elvis -- Good Time Charlie?
Elvis At Stax is continually shot through with heartbreaking ballads; themes of an adult nature and for good reason.
Picture the scene: It's 1973 and Elvis and Priscilla divorce - although amicable, Elvis is a lost soul. Delving into many of the songs on this collection reveal a profound sense of lost love, a snapshot of Elvis if you will; of an artist at his most personal – suffering from an aching heart, devoid of his one true love and a longing for what once was, so VERY precious -- 'Ain't two ways about it baby. Your love was meant for me. Know that I can't do without it. It fits me to a tee' ('I Got A Thing About You Baby') - it's an audio storyboard about his life circa 1970s, with break-up and divorce writ large ... listen to the intimate, 'It's Different Now', almost an open love-letter to Priscilla - and its F-Bomb ... it's a candid, OMG moment! A revealing window to his aching, hurting soul ... Further played out by the rumour that Waylon Jennings poignant WE HAD IT ALL was attempted by Elvis ... . and recently confirmed by Elvis' Stax musician Norbert Putnam (sadly the tape has never been found).
Furthermore it was a masterstroke to include the fascinating outtakes on the first two discs. The compelling studio chat and the spontaneous sound of Elvis' band warming up - fly-on-the wall style! Case in point: Elvis sings before take 4 of the smokin' travelogue 'Promised Land' - 'In my heart, you love another, leave me little darlin' I don't mind' ('Columbus Stockade Blues') - Elvis warms up his voice on numerous occasions and these enjoyable one liner snippets number 7 extra mini-songs by themselves.
Listen the most unusual opening to a retail release CD - no edit to a 'rough' opening couple of seconds [And again at the end of the track] - and this release is all the more better for it, establishing the atmosphere inherent in any disc of studio sessions, and audio - I Got A Feeling In My Body [Take 1] then Promised Land [Take4] the first 1 1/2 discs are better than the masters on the last 1 1/2 discs, which is saying something!!
More standouts: Tony Joe White (the swamp fox) tender, 'For Old Time Sake' and the aforementioned R&B bass riffed 'I've Got A Thing About You Baby', add a sense of heartfelt longing and declaration of love to the soulful theme ... The swaggering bar band romp - 'Find Out What's Happening' cooks with its Booker T. Jones organ style fills, and Elvis and his band were having a blast! The gospel rich, 'I Got Feeling In My Body' with its previously unheard bass riff heard on the intro lead up - also the gorgeous tight harmonies and funky wah-wah workout on Waylon Jennings classic 'You Asked Me Too' are a delight. (wonderful to listen to James Burton get deliciously greedy with the wah-wah pedal) - Pumping bass and drums introduce the semi-autobiographic R&B bruiser - 'Raised On Rock' - 'A Honky-tonk, to Hound Dog, to Johnny B. Goode. Chain Gang, Love is Strange, Knock On Wood'. -- Additionally, there's more funk on the wah-wah soaked, Leiber and Stoller penned 'If You Don't Come Back'. Besides more spice thrown into the pot with the infectious gospel raver 'Talk About The Good Times' (take 3). NOTE: stunning sound quality means this can be played -- LOUD!!
Letter to Elvis Presley from RCA, June 29, 1973.
Furthermore the original masters (CD-3) sound fabulous here and better than we've heard before. Case in point: the funky, 'If You Talk In Your Sleep's' horns leap from the speakers ...
It has to said, Rob Santos and Steve Rosenthal deserve rich credit for the new mixing, specifically on the outtakes on disc one, and disc two which are the new version mixes.
Previously unheard nuances are present throughout disc one and two and it's all been given an illustrious sonic sheen. It's all wrapped in a delicious box set with rare photos (including: Elvis driving his white Blackhawk Stutz; Elvis and Linda Thompson driving golf buggy at Graceland, 1974; and various colourful 45 rpm single sleeves and album covers for 'Raised On Rock', 'Promised Land', 'I've Got A Thing About You Baby' etc. It's an interesting booklet and with comprehensive liner notes by Robert Gordon). All things considered, ELVIS AT STAX is chockfull of gems - a veritable treasure-trove of his, utmost personal recordings -- and totally essential.
By David Tinson.
Editors Note : No doubt in part due to my surprise in the presentation being the same as Prince From Another Planet I was overwhelmed on opening the first box to arrive in from Sony Music yesterday. To say I was 'floored' is an understatement! Considering a few people had criticized the apparent 'poor quality of the artwork', not helped by a little poor marketing by Sony here, their promo of the sliding slip case did NOTHING to show us the presentation was in fact the same, well BETTER than 'Prince From Another Planet' but the promo clip did look somewhat corny -- rest assured IT IS NOT -- it is spectacular in appearance, a well detailed book[let] and three panel solid folding 'case' holding the CDs 'join' together like 'Prince From Another Planet' to slide neatly into the slip case, which, with memories of the original US release of the 'Aloha From Hawaii' double LP then shows an image of Elvis through a partial cut in the front cover, very well done.
But nice as this is, it is superficial, importantly the content more than lives up to it's side of the equation.
Buy this set, doesn't matter if you by the excellent FTD releases or not, this is a MUST HAVE for any serious Elvis presley fan [And I don't mean fanatic]. Any one that loves good music, and good entertainment had with Elvis' studio banter. Boring this is NOT. Stunning was my first thought, and it is appropriate. David Troedson.
The Stax singles still resonate today:
- 'Raised On Rock' b/w 'For Ol' Time Sake' (Hot 100 #41, country #42)
- 'I've Got A Thing About You Baby' b/w 'Take Good Care Of Her' (Hot 100 #39, country #4)
- 'Promised Land' b/w 'It's Midnight' (Hot 100 #14, country #9)
- 'If You Talk In Your Sleep' b/w 'Help Me' (Hot 100 #17, country #6)
- 'My Boy' b/w 'Thinking About You' (Hot 100 #20, country #14)
- 'Mr. Songman' (B-side of 'T-R-O-U-B-L-E', Hot 100 #35, country #11)
- 'I Got A Feelin' In My Body' (recorded at Stax, catalog RCA PB-11679), was reissued as a posthumous single by RCA Records in 1979.
Elvis Presley spent 12 days at Stax in 1973 (July 21-25 and December 10-16), and the roller coaster ride of those sessions is meticulously detailed in Gordon's liner notes.
ELVIS AT STAX neatly compartmentalizes the results:
- Disc 1: The R&B and Country Sessions : The Outtakes: 17 tracks
- Disc 2: Part 1 : The Pop Sessions : The Outtakes: 10 tracks
- Disc 2: Part 2 : The July 1973 Masters: four single sides and six album tracks, and
- Disc 3: The December 1973 Masters: seven single sides and 11 album tracks.
Elvis At Stax: Deluxe Edition
(RCA/Legacy 88883 72418 2)
Disc 1: The R&B and Country Sessions : The Outtakes: Selections : 1. I Got A Feelin' In My Body - take 1 (I) • 2. Find Out What's Happening - takes 8-7 (B) • 3. Promised Land - take 4 (I) • 4. For Ol' Times Sake - take 4 (I) • 5. I've Got A Thing About You, Babe - take 14 (I) • 6. It's Midnight - take 7 (F) • 7. If You Talk In Your Sleep - take 5 (J) • 8. Loving Arms - take 2 (I) • 9. You Asked Me To - take 3A (F) • 10. Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues - take 8 (I) • 11. Talk About The Good Times - take 3 (I) • 12. There's A Honky Tonk Angel - take 1 (I) • 13. She Wears My Ring - take 8 (I) • 14. Three Corn Patches - take 14 (I) • 15. I Got A Feelin' In My Body - take 4 (J) • 16. If You Don't Come Back - take 3 (I) • 17. Promised Land - take 5 (H).
Disc 2: Part 1 : The Pop Sessions : The Outtakes: Selections : 1. Mr. Songman - take 2 (F) • 2. Your Love's Been A Long time Coming - take 4 (I) • 3. Spanish Eyes - take 2 (I) • 4. Take Good Care Of Her - takes 1,2,3 (D) • 5. It's Diff'rent Now (unfinished recording) (G) • 6. Thinking About You - take 4 (I) • 7. My Boy - take 1 (D) • 8. Girl Of Mine - take 9 (I) • 9. Love Song Of The Year - take 1 (F) • 10. If That Isn't Love - take 1 (I) • Part 2 : The July 1973 Masters: • 11. Raised On Rock (Hot 100 #41, country #42) (A) • 12. For Ol' Time Sake (charts same as track 11) (A) • 13. I've Got A Thing About You Baby (Hot 100 #39, country #4) (C) • 14. Take Good Care Of Her (charts same as track 13) (C) • 15. If You Don't Come Back (A) • 16. Three Corn Patches (A) • 17. Girl Of Mine (A) • 18. Just A Little Bit (A) • 19. Find Out What's Happening (A) • 20. Sweet Angeline (A) .
Disc 3: The December 1973 Masters: Selections : 1. Promised Land (Hot 100 #14, country #9) (E) • 2. It's Midnight (charts same as track 1) (E) • 3. If You Talk In Your Sleep (Hot 100 #17, country #6) (E) • 4. Help Me (charts same as track 3) (E) • 5. My Boy (Hot 100 #20, country #14) (C) • 6. Thinking About You (charts same as track 5) (E) • 7. Mr. Songman (Hot 100 #35, country #11) (E) • 8. I Got A Feelin' In My Body (C) • 9. Loving Arms (C) • 10. Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues (C) • 11. You Asked Me To (E) • 12. There's A Honky Tonk Angel (Who Will Take Me Back In) (E) • 13. Talk About The Good Times (C) • 14. She Wears My Ring (C) • 15. Your Love's Been A Long Time Coming (E) • 16. Love Song Of The Year (E) • 17. Spanish Eyes (C) • 18. If That Isn't Love (C).
The historical significance of Presley's work at Stax is appreciated by such music scholars as Peter Guralnick, the award-winning author of Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley (1994) and Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley (1999); and producer Ernst Mikael Jorgensen, respected director of RCA's Presley catalog for over two decades, and author of the critical research guide, Elvis Presley: A Life In Music.
Ernst Jorgensen has long been concerned with doing justice to the Stax sessions, which were never acknowledged by the artist's record label RCA as a unified whole. Instead, as with most of Presley's studio work in his second decade as a recording artist, the tracks were scattered onto LPs and intermingled with material recorded in Nashville and Hollywood. The bulk of the Stax cuts showed up on Raised On Rock/For Ol' Times Sake (1973), Good Times (1974), and Promised Land (1975). For ELVIS AT STAX, many of the outtakes originated on the CD-era reissues of those three albums on Jorgensen's and co-director Roger Semon's own label, Follow That Dream (FTD) Records. ELVIS AT STAX was produced by Jorgensen, Semon, and Rob Santos.
Taking up the cause for ELVIS AT STAX is another scholar and aficionado of the artist, award-winning resident Memphis journalist Robert Gordon, who has written an in-depth, day-by-day (i.e. night-by-night) liner notes essay for the box set. Previously, Gordon and his wife Tara McAdams (author of The Elvis Handbook, 2004) co-wrote the liner notes essay for RCA/Legacy's 'From Elvis In Memphis' : Legacy Edition (2009). In addition to major biographies of Muddy Waters and Jerry Lee Lewis, Gordon is the author of two important Elvis Presley studies, 'The King on the Road: Elvis Live on Tour 1954 to 1977' (St. Martin's, 1996) and 'The Elvis Treasures' (Random House, 2002). Gordon has also written two books on the Memphis music scene, the acclaimed It Came from Memphis (Faber & Faber, 1995, foreword penned by Peter Guralnick) and the upcoming Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion (Bloomsbury USA, set for publication in November 2013).
Etched in music history, 1973 was a crucial watershed year for Presley, in the wake of his return to extended concert touring in 1972, after 12 years away from the stage and 31 movies in Hollywood. His New York City concert debut was emblematic of an exciting new chapter in his career. It was chronicled last year on the RCA/Legacy deluxe 2-CD+DVD box set, Prince From Another Planet: Elvis As Recorded Live At Madison Square Garden / 40th Anniversary Edition, which captured an afternoon and an evening concert staged on June 10, 1972. His manager, Colonel Tom Parker, sought a world-class mega-event to underscore the touring, which led to the one-hour global satellite broadcast from the Honolulu International Center Arena on January 14, 1973, viewed by over one billion people around the world. That, too, was recently chronicled on the RCA/Legacy double-disc set issued this past March, Aloha From Hawaii : Legacy Edition.
The highs of 1972-'73 led Presley and Colonel Parker to accept RCA's $5.4 million offer for an outright transfer of Presley's complete back catalog. He wanted a new start, new control, and a new publishing company. But the RCA deal also called for his return to the studio and a promise for him to deliver 24 new masters, i.e. two new singles (four songs), a new pop LP (ten songs), and a new gospel LP (ten songs).
Four years earlier, in 1969, Presley had made his Memphis recording return (after a 13-year absence) at Chips Moman's American Studios. These triumphantly successful sessions had yielded a year-long string of ‘comeback' hit singles: 'In the Ghetto' (#3), 'Suspicious Minds' (#1), 'Don't Cry Daddy' (#6), and 'Kentucky Rain' (#16), the last such string of major consecutive hits in his life. But by 1973, American had closed up shop, and most of its musicians had relocated to Nashville. However, Stax Studios, the launching pad of such greats as Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Booker T. and The MGs, and Isaac Hayes was still thriving at its original 926 E. McLemore Avenue space. In fact, Isaac Hayes relinquished his studio time to accommodate Presley. Ironically, less than two years later in 1975, the Stax offices would also be closed.
Album source index:
A : from Raised On Rock/For Ol' Times Sake LP (RCA APL1-0388, released October 1973)
B : from Raised on Rock CD (FTD 86971 28432, released July 2007)
C : from Good Times LP (RCA CPL1-0475, released March 1974)
D : from Good Times CD (FTD 50602 09750 0 3, released December 2012)
E : from Promised Land LP (RCA APL1-0873, released January 1975)
F : from Promised Land CD (FTD 50602 09750 1 9, released December 2011)
G : from Walk a Mile in My Shoes : The Essential '70s Masters 5-CD box set (RCA 7863-66670-2, released October 1995)
H : from Platinum : A Life In Music 4-CD box set (RCA 67469, released July 1997)
I : from Rhythm and Country CD (RCA 07863-67672-2, released August 1998)
J : from Today, Tomorrow and Forever 4-CD box set (RCA 07863-65115-2, released June 2002)
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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.
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.