The last major studio sessions in the career of Elvis Presley have finally been gathered together for the first time in one comprehensive package as 'ELVIS AT STAX: DELUXE EDITION', it bristles with energy and dynamism. Released simultaneously will be a single CD of highlights from the box set simply titled ELVIS AT STAX, and a 180-gram, double-vinyl LP.
The official website notes 'ELVIS AT STAX' bristles with energy and dynamism. The proof is in the six consecutive singles that the Stax sessions produced, all of which skirted the Top 40 from 1973 to 1975.
Elvis spent 12 days at Stax in 1973 (July 21-25 and December 10-16), and the rollercoaster ride of those sessions is meticulously detailed in Gordon’s liner notes.
Released today, August 6 2013, it is great to see yet more good reviews and general media publicity for this new 40th Anniversary STAX Deluxe Set.
Below EIN presents a compilation of the most interesting reviews from the "general press".
Roger Semon & Ernst Jorgensen Talk about Stax:
Roger Semon knows the music business and Elvis Presley’s sound like few others do. And he knows where RCA, Presley’s record label, went wrong in marketing what should have been a historic intersection of Presley with Stax Records.
The problem, Semon told the standing-room-only crowd at the Stax Museum, wasn't the music. It was in the images that were wrapped around the albums and singles over the course of three albums that featured the tunes recorded at Stax by Elvis in July and December of 1973.
At the panel discussion Semon explained, "All of Elvis' records from 1970 to around '73 - every single album - came with Elvis wearing a wonderful white jump suit. I think in a way as great as he was, it actually confused Elvis' output. Whether it was a live recording or whether it was Elvis' phenomenal Stax sessions, there was no discrimination with regard to the packaging. There was always Elvis in the white jump suit."
It didn't help that the music charts based on radio airplay and album sales were also in a different place in terms of what was popular.
Roger Semon was already working for RCA at the time in 1973 pointed out that "'Raised on Rock' came out in an environment of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Genesis, David Bowie, contemporary music had really taken over in a massive way."
Ernst Jorgensen said the music Presley selected was a high point because the earlier publishing deal with Hill & Range music - that had dictated in large part the material he normally recorded - had lapsed.
"By 1973, Elvis gets more courageous because his publishing deal had fallen apart. But in some ways he was let down. I think he had been very much let down by radio in '73 and '74."
Muscle Shoals bass player Norbert Putnam earlier told Wayne Jackson (Memphis Horns), "It didn't look this good when you played here,"
Putnam remembered getting to the Stax sessions early before anyone else except an engineer.
"I tried to imagine the scene that was Otis Redding and the Memphis Horns. I thought, 'I bet the king of rock 'n' roll can light this place up.'"
Presley was also going through a divorce that Jorgensen and Putnam believe was a factor in what is considered a lost song. It was the Troy Seals-Donnie Fritts ballad "We Had It All" that Presley tried to sing numerous times at the Stax sessions. He didn't complete it because producer Felton Jarvis told Putnam its topic was too close to the divorce, according to Putnam.
Jorgensen tried to find any trace of the song as he went through all of the Stax tapes from three sources - one in the studio and the other two from tapes made in the RCA mobile recording unit brought to Stax for the sessions. The closest he got was finding obscure production notes that indicated there were recordings.
Jorgensen thinks the tape might not have been rolling.
"No, I think we did several takes," Putnam replied. "David (Briggs - another Muscle Shoals player in the sessions) said he saw the tapes. It's probably in his basement."
Putnam and Jorgensen resolved to call Briggs in a continuing search for a recording of the ballad.
By the December sessions at Stax, Putnam remembered Presley as "pretty comfortable" but marks the sessions as a last high point before a decline that he believes led to his death four years later. "We watched him slowly come to his demise," Putnam however saw the 1973 sessions as a real positive for Elvis, "Once the music started, he came out of his shell. He was a lion."
|Marty Lacker On STAX: Marty Lacker was present at the Stax sessions in 1973 and makes an interesting point:
... I read the story above quoting Ernst Jorgenson at the Stax listening party and it irks me when people who were not present when those things actually happened run off at the mouth with false information.
Elvis' songwriter deal with the Hill & Range publishing was really not over at the time of the Stax sessions because Freddy Bienstock was at the sessions with Tom Diskin and as usual Freddy brought along his usual shitty songs that he and Hill and Range as well as Parker had the publishing on.
That is of course why Elvis did some crummy songs within the two sessions and why he didn't do any Stax music that could have been supplied (why no Isaac Hayes/ Dave Porter compositions?) - because Parker and Freddy couldn't get a piece of the publishing on it.
The fact is that I got in an argument with Freddy because I brought "Lovin' Arms" "Raised On Rock" and "We Had It All" for Elvis and they didn't have the pubishing on them.
|They didn't care how their actions effected Elvis personally or career-wise as long as they got their money.
Review: "Elvis at Stax" - From The Herald Review
Here's the popular version of Elvis Presley's career:
He breaks through to popularity, then goes into the Army, effectively killing the musical and societal revolution he sparked. He left the Army, started making mediocre movies, and despite a handful of returns to form, he doesn't matter again until his American Sound Studios recordings (including "Suspicious Minds" and "In the Ghetto") and television comeback special. Then he goes to Las Vegas, sinking all credibility with youth, and dies long before his time
The only problem is, every once in a while, evidence comes up that discredits the popular version.
One of those pieces of evidence is a new three-disc set, "Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition." The set collects in one location a number of previous releases, and features 28 songs and 27 outtakes/alternate versions.
Here's the thing. These sessions took place 40 years ago at the legendary soul and R&B studio in Memphis where some of pop music's greatest hits were recorded. Presley went in as a 38-year-old man - ancient by the pop music standard of the day - and recorded material that could have produced the greatest album of his career, and what certainly would have been in the conversation for best album of the year.
Of course, the same could have been said about what happened four years earlier, with the American Sound Studios sessions. And it can reasonably be argued that those stunning recordings are the greatest of Presley's career. I love the Sun sessions collections from the very start of his career, but the Presley album I return to most is "The Memphis Record," a collection of those 1969 sessions.
The dichotomy of Presley's career and life was the split between the R&B-loving revolutionary and the Southern gentleman who sang gospel, between the hip-swiveling rocker and the charming ballad singer. There was no interest by anyone - not his people, not his record company - of building a career for Elvis Presley. So there was never a concern about helping him release and market a fantastic album. RCA would sell its Elvis singles, and they could probably predict within 1,000 how many copies each album would sell, such would be the consistency of Presley's audience.
So Presley was never really an album artist in his lifetime. It was the concert recordings - especially from the 1970s - that exploded on the charts.
But of 28 songs recorded at Stax in 1973, six made the Billboard singles charts. Maybe a couple of them shouldn't have, but the majority were great songs that hold up today. Just, for whatever reason, they didn't resound with the public the way "Suspicious Minds" or "Burnin' Love" did.
But if those six songs had come out as part of one album, and Presley/RCA kept out some of Presley's tendency toward treacle, that Stax album might have battled Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Pronounced," Wings' "Band on the Run," Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," Led Zeppelin's "Houses of the Holy" and Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" for the spot of most legendary album of 1973.
(And the comment about Presley's treacle is an observation, not a complaint. Treacle was always a huge part of Presley's repertoire. Complaining about it would be like complaining about British hard rock and metal bands doing sub-standard 12-bar blues - it happened all the time, and you had to just accept it as part of the package.)
Exhibit one: "Promised Land." This song alone gives a person enough evidence that Presley was the greatest Chuck Berry cover artist ever. If you've heard "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man" or (especially) "Too much Money Business," you've heard Presley doing Berry great. But to hear "Promised Land" is to hear transcendence.
Extension of the point as found in film: The submission of the best 90 seconds from the first "Men In Black" film, in a scene that also includes the film's best line.
Exhibit two: "Raised on Rock." Written by Mark James, who also wrote "Suspicious Minds," Presley/RCA thought highly enough of the song to make it the title cut of a batch of the songs released on album. Interestingly, it was the only song of our three examples released on the album. "Promised Land" was eventually released in 1975, as the title track to its own album. Also on that album ...
Exhibit three: "If You Talk In Your Sleep." This is the revelation of the Stax set. Presley's final released was drenched in horns and strings, and made the Billboard top 20. But another version included on the new set is "take 5" of the song. It's filthy in a brilliant way. The band is slinky as it works around its arrangement, and Presley smolders in a way that's almost embarrassing in its intensity and intimacy. It's fantastic, at once reminding the listener what Presley was, and what he could almost be seemingly at will later in his life. If only he'd wanted to more often.
One final personal note:
No one can ever convince me that Peter Frampton didn't listen to "Thinking About You" dozens of times before writing "Baby, I Love Your Way."
Review by By TIM CAIN - H&R Entertainment Editor - Go HERE to review in full.
Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition Box (RCA/Legacy) - From The Milwaukee Express
The mismanagement of Elvis’ career by Colonel Parker is infamous and the Colonel’s treatment of the King as a cash cow wasn’t the worst of it. Elvis’ manager was a tin-eared philistine who imagined that the general public shared his bad taste. Elvis’ development as an artist was hindered by Parker’s insistence on churning out product cheap and fast.
Elvis at Stax gathers several 1973 sessions in which the King charted his own course. Recorded at Memphis’ legendary Stax Studio, where so many great ’60s soul recordings were cut, the sessions were released in bits and pieces during Elvis’ lifetime on the patchwork albums Parker used to maintain cash flow. A three-disc set, Elvis at Stax collects all previously released Stax numbers plus outtakes; the extensive booklet includes a 1974 photo of Elvis at the Milwaukee Arena. The King was still hampered by some iffy song choices, yet when given something he connected with, he made words and melodies his own.
The best tracks demonstrate that Elvis was listening to the world outside Graceland and Las Vegas. Among the standouts, "If You Talk in Your Sleep" rides a solid groove in a funky soul number with a country accent. It’s a fusion Elvis was especially able to execute. In another exceptional choice, Danny O’Keefe’s "Goodtime Charlie’s got the Blues," the self-recognition of a life slipping downhill registers in the rueful undertones of Elvis’ voice.
By David Luhrssen - Go here for full article
Go HERE to EIN's article on The Dark Side of the Colonel
Review: "Elvis at Stax" - From Pop Matters
My God, how do you begin to talk about Elvis? He’s as familiar to us as Washington or Lincoln, perhaps more so in some circles. And still he remains impenetrable, no matter how much ink has been spilled over him. The more we talk about him, the more we seem to talk around him, ever broadening the distance that separates us from him, further obscuring him with the shroud of legend and history.
Elvis as icon is a fact of life, and better minds than mine have tackled him on that level, contributing profound, though by no means definitive, accounts of their respective visions of Elvis. Meanwhile, by contrast, his music has received little critical attention—indeed, less and less as time goes by.
What’s more, Legacy has only fitfully reissued and repackaged Elvis’s work in such a way as to encourage its reappraisal. Ad hoc compilations are tailored to the tastes of his massive cult and released with alarming frequency, while more carefully curated retrospectives leave circulation almost as soon as they enter the marketplace. As a result, as we grapple with his titanic oeuvre, we have to contend with countless iterations of the King—the rockabilly cat, the rock dynamo, the pop stylist, the country crooner, the gospel belter. Most pervasive, and most divisive, is the Elvis of the 1970s, whom some consider a purveyor of Vegas schmaltz, others an operatic messiah, and others still don’t consider at all.
For that reason, Elvis at Stax constitutes a rather gutsy move on Legacy’s part. There’s simply no ignoring the fact that this is Elvis at his most widely ridiculed. Before the listener even presses play, visions of the bloated, jumpsuit-clad King dance in the head. Now, that image doesn’t really say a thing about the music, but it does say a lot about the man and icon. Fair or not, it’s this characterization of Presley—the careless, strung out, and lazy Vegas staple—that looms over Elvis at Stax.
That’s a shame, because there’s some top notch music here. The alternate versions, outtakes, and master cuts that make up the set’s three discs are a testament not only to Presley’s gifts (he contributes uniformly strong, occasionally arresting, vocals throughout, particularly on the various takes of "I Got a Feelin’ in My Body" and "Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues" that crop up on this package), but to the talents of the players he surrounded himself with. What’s more, the material collected here is some of the best he recorded in what turned out to be Presley’s most prolific period. You may not be familiar with Presley’s takes on "You Asked Me To", "Promised Land", or "There’s a Honky Tonk Angel (Who Will Take Me Back In)", but you probably recognize the songs themselves as classics.
Granted, this isn’t the best place to begin revisiting Presley’s ‘70s output (that distinction goes to the terrific Walk a Mile in My Shoes: The Essential ‘70s Masters). Still, it packs quite a punch, and if you care a thing about Presley and American music in general, you owe it to yourself to check this set out. Take one of the great vocalists of the past century, give him material like this to lay into, and you’re bound to come out with something not just eminently listenable, but occasionally revelatory.
Review by Jerrick Adams Pop Matters
GO HERE for full review at Pop Matters
Review: Elvis Presley, "Elvis at Stax" - From The Second Disc website
The distance from 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard , or Graceland, to Stax Records' headquarters at 926 East McLemore Avenue is just a little over 5 miles. So when RCA Records came calling on the once and future King in mid-1973 to fulfill an obligation to record 24 songs (a 10-song album, four single sides, and a 10-song "religious album"), the studio founded by Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton seemed to be the perfect locale. Recording at home in Memphis had always brought something special to Presley's music, anyway, from his very first sessions for Sun Records at 706 Union Avenue, to his 1969 dates at Chips Moman's American Sound at 827 Thomas Street. The American sessions yielded hits like "In the Ghetto," "Suspicious Minds" and "Kentucky Rain." Presley and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, might have been anxious to rekindle that magic, but Moman had relocated American Sound to Atlanta and then Nashville. And so Stax it was. Elvis' July and December 1973 sessions on McLemore Avenue yielded material for three albums: Raised on Rock/For Ol' Times Sake (1973), Good Times (1974) and Promised Land (1975).
The Stax sessions have been documented on numerous occasions in the past, most notably via a series of expanded reissues from the mail order/online collectors' label Follow That Dream. FTD expanded Raised on Rock in 2007,
following with Promised Land in 2011 and Good Times in 2012. Selections from all three releases can be found on Elvis at Stax in newly remixed form, though not every alternate take from the FTD discs has been reprised here.
Rather than taking a strictly chronological approach to the sessions, the new box is arranged in segments. The first disc presents The R&B and Country Sessions: The Outtakes. Disc 2 commences with The Pop Sessions: The Outtakes before presenting the complete set of July 1973 master takes. Finally, the third disc offers up the eighteen December 1973 masters.
Elvis at Stax marks a significant, large-scale effort to unify these recordings; in Presley's lifetime, these landmark recordings were only issued on albums in tandem with material recorded elsewhere. Not only are these songs important to his career, but they also occurred during a pivotal period for Stax itself. When Elvis entered the Soulsville, USA studios,
Stax was riding high thanks to Isaac Hayes' "Theme from Shaft" and the monumental Wattstax concert. But by the time Promised Land was originally released and 1975 was out, the once-mighty record label's offices would shutter.
The July 1973 sessions don't reveal the turmoil that plagued them. The singer's team was frustrated by the limitations of Stax's 8-track recording console at a period when other studios had already switched to 16-track. In addition, Stax didn't boast much in the way of an isolation area, and the in-studio headsets all shared the same mix, making it difficult for the crack musicians to hear themselves. Still, Elvis soldiered on with his band - James Burton and Ronnie Tutt from the road, plus many of the American Sound players and a full complement of nine background vocalists - through the evening of July 23, scheduled to be the last. Elvis had nailed his vocals, and agreed to return the following night. On July 24, Burton, Tutt, Reggie Young and Tommy Cogbill couldn't make it, so they were replaced by Stax's house band members Donald "Duck" Dunn (bass) and Al Jackson, Jr. (drums) plus Bobby Manuel, a protégé of Steve Cropper's, and Johnny
Christopher on guitars. This would prove the only time during the Stax sessions that the label's personnel played key roles. After eleven takes of Les Reed and Barry Mason's "Girl of Mine," Elvis realized that his personal microphone had been stolen during the day. He departed, not to return.
For all the turmoil, though, the July 21-24 sessions yielded ten completed masters (vocals on "Sweet Angeline" were overdubbed by Elvis in September) and one unfinished song. Elvis hoped to repeat the success of Mark James' "Suspicious Minds" with a recording of James' "Raised on Rock," on which he name-checks "Chain Gang" and "Johnny B. Goode." Of course, he had a hand in creating what we think of as rock, and wasn't raised on it, but no matter. Elvis delivered a persuasive vocal over tough guitar licks on the driving melody, and channeled some of the fire of his earliest days in his performance. Elvis also turned to Tony Joe White ("Polk Salad Annie") for two tracks recorded in July, "For Ol' Times Sake" and "I've Got a Thing About You, Baby." The former found Presley in reflective mode, and his strikingly subtle, pained vocal may be the best he recorded at Stax. It's a crisp, thoughtful recording, with the band completely on Elvis' wavelength
for the simple, acoustic arrangement. "I've Got a Thing About You Baby" is more rollicking, with the background choir adding a touch of gospel over the tinkling piano and twangy guitars.
The traditional country-pop of "Take Good Care of Her" - a hit for Adam Wade in 1961 and Sonny James in 1966 - fit Elvis like a glove. Though brief, the Stax sessions allowed the artist to revisit many of his musical sides. He even revisited the music of two old friends, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Though Leiber and Stoller provided Elvis with many of his most enduring songs - "Jailhouse Rock," "Treat Me Nice," "Trouble" - they had ceased writing for The King after a difference of opinion with the Colonel. At Stax, Elvis recorded their funky slab of R&B, "If You Don't Come Back," and the less exciting "Three Corn Patches." Both "Just a Little Bit" and especially "Find Out What's Happening" show The King eager to rock and roll, with the former boasting one of the slinkiest R&B grooves laid down by the band at Stax.
Despite the presence of "Duck" Dunn, Al Jackson and one-time M.G. Bobby Manuel, "Girl of Mine" doesn't have much of a Memphis soul sound. Instead,
it's a gentle, countrypolitan affair with a chorus melody that recalls "Easy Come, Easy Go" - the Jack Keller/Diane Hildebrand song famously recorded by
Bobby Sherman, not the Ben Weisman/Sid Wayne song introduced by Elvis. The Stax section also played on "Sweet Angeline," another ballad which is even
statelier than "Girl of Mine."
Elvis didn't return to McLemore Avenue until December. When he re-entered the Stax studio, it was with RCA's 16-track mobile unit and a new band anchored, again, by Burton and Tutt. Norbert Putnam and David Briggs of Muscle Shoals were also part of this new line-up. Again, the material chosen was from a variety of sources. Recording between December 10 and 16, Elvis drew on the catalogues of singer-songwriters from the folk (Tom Jans, Danny O'Keefe) and country (Jerry Reed, Larry Gatlin, Waylon Jennings) worlds. Dennis Linde, of "Burning Love" fame, returned to the fold. A Chuck Berry tune took a spot alongside some big European numbers, and Elvis even tapped the songbook of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant of "Bye Bye Love" and "Love Hurts" fame.
Again, Elvis indulged both his rock-and-roll and middle-of-the-road instincts. A distinctly bittersweet air permeated many of the songs chosen, from Tim Baty's "Thinking About You" to Tom Jans' "Loving Arms." "Mr. Songman," penned by Donnie Sumner (nephew of Elvis' backup singer J.D. Sumner of The Stamps), takes on the air of a cry-in-your-beer barroom sing-along: "So here's another dime for you, Mr. Songman / Sing the loneliness of broken dreams away if you can/Yes, it's only me and you, Mr. Songman/Won't you take away the night, sing away my hurt, Mr. Songman?"
Even more of a country weeper was Troy Seals and Danny Rice's "There's a Honky Tonk Angel (Who Will Take Me Back In)," delivered with an un-ironic tenderness. Danny O'Keefe's vivid slice-of-life "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues" became somewhat of a latter-day standard for Elvis, its melody and lyrics beautifully elevating the ordinary into poetry.
Asking the Lord to "Help Me" in Larry Gatlin's song of the same name, Elvis sounds particularly comfortable. "My Boy," in which the narrator attempts to comfort his son in the wake of a divorce, cut even closer to the bone. With its sweeping French melody that teeters on the edge of bombast, the song could have become treacly in the hands of a lesser artist, but Elvis invested it with conviction and sheer believability. It's one of a few tracks here adorned with brass; Red West and Johnny Christopher's funky "If You Talk in Your Sleep" is another to benefit from the orchestral treatment with both horns and strings. Elvis himself is brassy - san horns! - on Rory Bourke's "Your Love's Been a Long Time Coming," another big ballad in the mold favored by the singer in his later years. More restrained is "Spanish Eyes," the Bert Kaempfert song already associated with Al Martino and Engelbert Humperdinck. It might be the least soulful track ever laid down
at Stax, but Elvis' reading is certainly as enjoyable as that of the other gentlemen who had recorded it.
But "If You Talk in Your Sleep" wasn't the lone rock song here. Dennis Linde's "I Got a Feelin' In My Body" isn't as ferocious or as melodic as "Burning Love," but is nonetheless imbued by Elvis and his singers with true church fervor. The band sounds as if they relished the chance to tear into Chuck Berry's "Promised Land," and to Jerry Reed's breakneck "Talk About the Good Times." In Reed's song, also infused with a spiritual bent, the singer is actually reminiscing about childhood, family and loved ones, "when a friend would meet you, and a smile would greet you" with "good, old-fashioned love."
Elvis at Stax would be a landmark release simply for bringing the Stax masters together; even the most diehard Elvis fan will likely admit that most of his original album releases weren't crafted or packaged with an eye to posterity or even to a standard matching that of his performances. But the box set adds 27 outtakes and alternate takes that allow listeners to trace the evolution of a song. This is a fly-on-the-wall experience, with plenty of stops, starts and in-studio chatter.
For those not familiar with the FTD titles (from which most of these outtakes and alternates are drawn), Elvis at Stax offers a rare and immersive look at how
Presley, producer Felton Jarvis, and their talented band developed each song into a memorable recording. Elvis is frequently looser on these early takes, and sometimes more tentative; the rolling tape captures him joking around, but also fiercely committed to getting each song just right. Elvis even riffs a bit, such as singing a few lines of "Softly, As I Leave You" while readying his pipes for a try at "Loving Arms," or clowning, grand opera-style, before "If You Don't Come Back." Sonically, these tracks are just as crisp as the finished masters for a true "you are there" feeling.
This Memphis soul stew is housed in an 8 x 8" slipcase similar to that of last year's Prince from Another Planet. Like that set, the discs slide in and out of slots in an illustrated folder. A 42-page softcover book is also enclosed, containing an introduction by Roger Semon, a lengthy essay by Robert Gordon, and a full track listing with all relevant session information and complete discography. The book is generously illustrated, too, with well-captioned photographs of Elvis and assorted memorabilia relating to the sessions. (Trivia: What was Stax's hourly rate for studio use? According to one bill reprinted here, it was $70.00 for the July
Vic Anesini has marvelously remastered all three discs, and the outtakes have been newly remixed by Steve Rosenthal and Rob Santos, the box set's co-producer with Ernest Mikael Jorgensen. Touching on all of the styles that shaped the one and only King - pop, R&B, country, gospel, and of course, rock and roll - Elvis at Stax chronicles some of his last truly great studio sessions. As such, it's another essential release as part of Legacy's streamlining and repackaging of his vast musical catalogue. When push came to shove, nobody took care of business quite like Elvis Presley.
Go to FULL review here.
Review written by Joe Marchese
‘Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition' - Review from TribLive
Of all the Elvis Presley reissues and compilations that have dropped the past couple years — and trust me, there have been a lot of them — the three-disc “Elvis at Stax” is the best to date. The 55-song set features tunes recorded at the famed Stax Studios in his hometown of Memphis. It includes 28 masters and 27 outtakes and, amazingly, remains fascinating throughout its nearly three-hour run time.
In addition to the hit singles the sessions produced — “Raised on Rock,” “I've Got a Thing About You Baby,” “Promised Land,” “If You Talk in Your Sleep,” “My Boy” and “Mr. Songman” — there are dozens more winning tunes that found Presley bouncing between country, pop and R&B. Among the many, many keepers here are “I Got a Feelin' in My Body,” “There's a Honky Tonk Angel,” “Spanish Eyes,” “If That Isn't Love,” “Girl of Mine,” “Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues” and “She Wears My Ring.” An absolute must for Presley fans.
FIVE STARS - Review by Jeffrey Sisk
Go here for full review
‘Elvis At Stax’ [Deluxe Edition] - Blog Critics Review
The year 1973 was a good one for Elvis Presley. He was riding high from the success of the 'Aloha From Hawaii' TV broadcast and live album; he had signed a new record deal with his label, RCA; and he was the beneficiary of a $5 million buyout of his back catalog from the label. While that buyout ultimately may have been a bad deal for Presley, at the time it gave him the financial freedom to live the way he was accustomed to. In addition, his manager Col Parker had formed a new publishing company, which freed Presley to choose what he felt was stronger material to record. In short, life was good. This being the world of Elvis Presley, it wasn’t without its complications, however.
Presley’s relentless touring schedule had left him exhausted. He was separated from Priscilla during this time, and his daughter was scheduled to visit him that July. The problem was, RCA decided they needed new material from Presley during that time and he was forced to accommodate him.
American Studios, where Presley had so much success with songs such as "Suspicious Minds" just a few years earlier, had closed down, but another hometown label, Stax, was thriving during this period. Presley knew of Stax and its success, and its proximity to Graceland couldn’t be beat, so he scheduled sessions for July and December of that year. A plethora of material was recorded — enough for nearly three complete albums — and RCA, as they were apt to do, spread the material out over multiple releases. Elvis At Stax, a new 3-CD collection of Stax masters and alternate takes, attempts to rectify this, putting all the masters and many notable outtakes in one place and offering a fresh look at these sessions.
The sessions proved fruitful, providing material for three albums: Raised On Rock, Good Times, and Promised Land. While all the songs from the latter two releases are included here, "I Miss You" and "Are You Sincere" are missing from Raised On Rock, as those tracks were not recorded at Stax. Still, the collection presents two complete albums and nearly a third, plus a multitude of outtakes. While many of these outtakes have been previously released on various box sets or the acclaimed FTD series, Elvis At Stax cherry picks many of the best of these tracks and presents them in one place.
Rather than order the original albums as they were released, the songs are instead presented thematically.
Disc one contains 17 R&B and country outtakes, while disc two features 10 pop outtakes. The remainder of disc two includes all of the July 1973 masters while disc three is comprised of the December 1973 masters. Ordering the tracks in this fashion allows the material to be viewed in a different light. While the December material is stronger, the July sessions are not without their highlights. "Raised On Rock" is a slice of driving R&B written by Mark James, who previously had contributed "Suspicious Minds" to the Presley oeuvre, while one can hear the pain in Presley’s voice on the touching "For ‘Ol Times Sake." Presley had a hit on both the country and pop charts with "I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby," a breezy country tune also included in outtake form on disc one. Completists will love pointing out the subtle differences between the two versions presented here.
The December material is the most satisfying, however. From the longing of "It’s Midnight" to the throwback rock of Chuck Berry’s "Promised Land" to the funk of "If You Talk In Your Sleep" to the gospel-tinged "I Got A Feelin’ In My Body," Presley reminds the listener just how easily he was able to switch between genres, sometimes combining them into his own, unmistakable sound.
While some of this material may not be as strong overall as earlier triumphs such as From Elvis In Memphis or Elvis Country, listeners who dismiss it outright are missing out on many fine performances. These sessions would prove to be Presley’s only visits to the famous Stax studios and would also be some of his last sessions in an outside recording studio period.
Elvis At Stax does a good job of presenting Presley’s Stax sessions in a manner that makes sense — something Presley fans have wished for years — while offering a fresh view of this material.
Review by General Jabbo - Go HERE for the full Blog Critic review
'Elvis Presley – Elvis at Stax (2013)' from S.E.Reviews
So much for the long-held notion that Elvis Presley had simply thrown away his own gifts by the 1970s. In fact, these soul-soaked sessions at Memphis’ legendary Stax Studios show an artist still deeply committed — for now, at least.
How much of that has to do with working within those hallowed halls, we’ll never know. But over a dozen days in July and December of 1973, Presley managed to coax out some 28 songs — three of which became late-period Top 20 hits. Interestingly, Presley had never recorded at Stax before then, despite living less than 10 minutes away in Graceland. His 1969 comeback recordings (including “Suspicious Minds” and “In the Ghetto”) had been done at American Studios in Memphis, but Chips Morman had since closed up shop — leading Presley to new environs.
Something important happened there, a last gasp of fizzy artistry from a singer about to disappear into his own jump-suited myth onstage, though you would have been hard pressed to put it all together before now. The bulk of these efforts would be scattered about a trio of recordings beginning with 1973′s Raised on Rock/For Ol’ Times Sake, including 1974′s Good Times and 1975′s Promised Land. Presley’s Stax tracks were blended with material put to tape elsewhere, however, blunting their ultimate impact.
The 3-CD Elvis at Stax from RCA/Legacy — puts a frame around this special moment, then enlarges it. The sneer that seemed to be forever working around Presley’s smile fit right in, of course, with the tough, swaggering music long associated with Stax. But as this set pairs those original 28 masters with 27 interesting outtakes, it also offers new insights into just how meticulous, how lovingly crafted and focused, these seemingly care-free recordings had always been.
Sure, Presley had gotten much of the way there on instinct (just as Stax legends like Otis Redding, Booker T and the MGs, Wilson Pickett, and Sam and Dave had), but this kind of magic really isn’t magic at all. It’s work, and a lot of it. Elvis, for instance, would have a hit with Tony Joe White’s “I’ve Got a Thing About You Baby” from these sessions, but it would take 15 tries to nail it to his satisfaction.
Presley was making song selections that hit home, and working in his own backyard. That part came easy. Getting it just right often did not. “Girl of Mine” took 11 takes; “You Asked Me To” needed 6; “If You Talk In Your Sleep” was mastered from take 9. The sessions, which included guitarist James Burton and Elvis’ regular working band — though Donald “Duck” Dunn, Al Jackson Jr., Steve Cropper protege Bobby Manuel and some Muscle Shoals sidemen occasionally chipped in — would stretch into the wee hours.
Yet, it was over in the blink of an eye. The schedule came together so quickly, in fact, that Isaac Hayes — and this is an incredible image — ended up having to move his studio schedule around to accommodate things. Presley and his manager Tom Parker had recently sold the singer’s complete back catalog to RCA, for a then-whopping $5.4 million, and part of the deal called for two new singles, and two new 10-song albums — one devoted to pop and another to gospel music.
The Stax stuff would, sadly, became grist for the mill, only notable if you listened closely on albums populated with blended sessions. Even so, “Promised Land,” “If You Talk In Your Sleep” and “My Boy” were each Top 20 smashes. “Mr. Songman” went to No. 35, “I’ve Got a Thing About You Baby” to No. 39, and “Raised on Rock” to No. 41.
Unfortunately, Presley wouldn’t return to Stax, passing away on August 16, 1977. A posthumous single, “I’ve Got a Feeling in My Body,” would follow in 1979 — providing yet another glimpse into this largely forgotten time. It’s a moment finally placed into proper perspective with the lovingly compiled, utterly revelatory Elvis at Stax.
Review by Nick DeRiso
Go HERE for full review and sound-samples.
|'Elvis At Stax' Uncut Mini-Review: The UK music magazine UNCUT have published their review of the new Stax deluxe set. They gave the set a good rating of 7/10.
Elvis In the wilderness: gems from the King's downward spiral. - As the '70s passed, the lustre of his peerless comeback years fading, Elvis found himself increasingly tangled in a web of poor health and drug abuse, bad business decisions and artistic dead-ends. Recording sessions became haphazard affairs. RCA shamefully releasing anything bearing his name or likeness. However well-intentioned revisionism takes precedence on 'Elvis At Stax', with the producers rifling through the 1973 session tapes, attempting a coherent narrative. The box-set features 55 tracks over three discs cut at Memphis' famed Stax studio, although in truth this grab-bag of would-be pop standards, stale "in-house" Elvis material and a few honest-to-goodness rock'n'roll nuggets bears faint resemblance to the label/studio's classic Southern-soul sound. While you may have to be a serious Elvis scholar to stomach cornball like "Three Com Patches" or multiple takes of syrupy dreck like "Mr Songman", Chuck Berry's "Promised
Land" (all three takes!) fired by spot-on vocals and brilliant James Burton guitar, belongs in Elvis' upper echelon. And so it goes - schizo-style - from the scintillating to the off-the-charts lame. When Elvis connected with younger writers - eg. Tony Joe White (For Ol' times Sake), Dennis Linde (I Got A Feelin' In My Body) and Danny O'Keefe (Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues), Elvis proffered a plausible artistic path, one that regretfully never quite materialised.
7/10 - Review by Luke Torn. See below for tracklisting and good value deals
"Out of the Past: 'Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition'" - From the Lincoln Journal Star
In 1973, Elvis Presley needed to do some recording. Home in Memphis, Presley rented a studio that was about a 10-minute drive from Graceland -- the legendary Stax Records studio. Doing a four-day session in July that bumped Isaac Hayes out of the studio and then a week in December, the Stax tracks were Presley's final extensive studio recordings. The 28 songs completed in those sessions were spread across three albums, the last of which wasn't released until 1975. With "Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition," a three- CD set, those songs are presented together, coherently, along with 27 outtakes. All of the latter have been released previously over the past 15 years, but again not together. There are few smash hits on the set. Presley had peaked as a singles artist by then.
But the recordings find him at his final peak, working his way through a combination of rhythm and blues, country, gospel and rock 'n' roll, accompanied primarily by key members of his touring band, including guitarist James Burton.
Stax musicians, including Donald "Duck" Dunn and Al Jackson from Booker T and the MGs, played only one night in July -- a short session marred by
technical difficulties. So their soul sounds don't pervade the record. But there was something about the Stax studio and a freed-up Elvis that brought some of the Stax feel and that of Hi Records, the home of Al Green, to the songs.
To be sure, Elvis didn't put everything in every song, e.g. Leiber and Stoller's trivial "Three Corn Patches." But when he put himself to it, he owned songs like "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues," "Just a Little Bit," "Raised on Rock" and Chuck Berry's "Promised Land" that kicks '50s rock forward two decades.
"Elvis at Stax" isn't an indispensable set. Presley stalwarts already have all of this material, and neophytes are better off picking up other, more career-spanning packages. But it is a valuable look at Presley's last major studio sojourn that confirms that, at least until the last couple of years of his life, he remained the greatest rock singer ever.
Lincoln Journal Star - Go HERE for full review
'Elvis at Stax -- Deluxe Edition' -from EDGEOn The Net
In 1973, Elvis Presley was finally establishing the artistic independence that he craved. Finished with Hollywood films, he and manager Colonel Tom Parker negotiated a landmark deal (for the time period) that would transfer all the rights to Presley’s back catalog to RCA for $5.4 million.
In exchange for the money that would solidify their lavish lifestyles (in hindsight) for the rest of their lives, the deal stipulated that the singer would go back into the studio of his choice and deliver 24 master recordings, including a new pop album (ten songs), a new gospel album (ten songs) and two new singles (four songs).
Presley chose Memphis’ famous Stax Studios for these sessions. Known for launching the careers of soul pioneers Otis Redding, Booker T. and the MG’s and Isaac Hayes, Stax was also located ten minutes from Graceland, and would allow him to go home when not recording.
The result of these two sessions in July and December of 1973 has been compiled into a three-CD box-set and released by RCA/Legacy. The songs culled from "Elvis At Stax: Deluxe Edition" were originally spread out in conjunction with live performances over several releases between 1973 and 1975, never allowing fans to appreciated this specific body of Presley work.
Placed in a single package, it is now possible to observe the famed performer’s musical influences at this specific time in his career. Presley was riding the wave of success from his hits post-1968, and it’s intriguing to hear not only the cross-genre melding that created a "sound" that only Elvis had been able to achieve, but it leads to speculation as to how his sound would have evolved had he lived past 1977.
Surrounded by a combination of his touring band and vocalists, mixed with some of the top notch session players from the country/pop world, Presley delivered on his end of the deal with RCA, and the highlights of this release include Mark James’ "Raised on Rock," the Chuck Berry-penned "Promised Land," "I Got a Feelin’ In My Body" and "Take Good Care of Her." Eleven of the tunes in this collection charted on both the Pop and Country top-100.
This 40th anniversary collection of these noted recordings gives fascinating insight into a portion of Presley’s career that seldom receives the attention that it deserves.
by Steven Bergman -
Go here for full article.
Elvis Presley: Elvis at Stax – review from the UK Guardian newspaper
"Damn, these takes are going by fast," Elvis tells the studio engineer at the beginning of one song on this 3CD set, which has been pulled together for the 36th anniversary of his death this month. And he would know: while recording at Memphis's Stax studios in 1973, he did up to 14 takes per song. So many of these unused versions survive, with jivey studio banter intact, that they make up half of the 55 tracks. (The other half is comprised of masters that were originally released on several albums of the period.)
Without the cutting-room-floor extras, RCA would have had the makings of a decentish double album: among the highlights are a cover of Chuck Berry's Promised Land that drips with rockabilly sweat, and a French ballad, My Boy, that's transformed into a ripsnorting Southern tearjerker.
By padding it so shamelessly, however, the label is hastening the day when there's simply nothing left to release – not even an outtake of Find Out What's Happening in which he slips in part of The Star-Spangled Banner in a jokey lisp.
By Caroline Sullivan, The Guardian. (EIN notes that The Guardian is generally unsympathetc to on-going Elvis re-releases)
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|'Elvis At Stax: 40th Anniversary' Legacy: Celebrating the 40th Anniv of Elvis' STAX studios sessions SONY is releasing a 3 CD 'Elvis At Stax: 40th Anniversary' complete set plus a "Elvis At Stax: 40th Anniv: Best Of" 1CD version. They are both out on Aug 6, 2013.
... The last major studio sessions in the career of Elvis Presley have finally been gathered together for the first time in one comprehensive package as 'ELVIS AT STAX: DELUXE EDITION' bristles with energy and dynamism. The deluxe 3-CD box set, a 40th anniversary chronicle of a dozen nights that Presley spent at Stax Recording Studios in his hometown of Memphis in July and Dec 1973.
Released simultaneously will be a single Best Of CD simply titled ELVIS AT STAX, and a 180-gram, double-vinyl LP.
The official website notes 'ELVIS AT STAX' bristles with energy and dynamism. The proof is in the six consecutive singles that the Stax sessions produced, all of which skirted the Top 40 from 1973 to 1975. In effect, they rivaled some of the hottest streaks that Presley had charted a decade earlier. 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).
(EIN note - How odd that Elvis "skirting the Top 40" is a sign of dynamism! Surely RCA would have hoped that Elvis would get into the Top Ten after the success of 'Aloha'?)
Ernst Jørgensen 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 reissues of those three albums on the FTD label. ELVIS AT STAX was produced by Jørgensen, Semon, and Rob Santos of Legacy A&R.
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 liner notes essay for the box set.
| Elvis spent 12 days at Stax in 1973 (July 21-25 and December 10-16), and the rollercoaster 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.
|CD1 - The R&B and Country Sessions
1. I Got A Feelin' In My Body - take 1
2. Find Out What's Happening - tks 8/7
3. Promised Land - take 4 (I)
4. For Ol' Times Sake - take 4
5. I've Got A Thing About You, Babe - take 14
6. It's Midnight - take 7
7. If You Talk In Your Sleep - take 5
8. Loving Arms - take 2
9. You Asked Me To - take 3A
10. Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues - take 8
11. Talk About The Good Times - take 3
12. There's A Honky Tonk Angel - tk 1
13. She Wears My Ring - take 8
14. Three Corn Patches - take 14
15. I Got A Feelin' In My Body - take 4
16. If You Don't Come Back - take 3
17. Promised Land - take 5
| CD 2 - The Pop Sessions / July 1973 Masters
1. Mr. Songman - take 2
2. Your Love's Been A Long time Coming tk4
3. Spanish Eyes - take 2
4. Take Good Care Of Her - takes 1,2,3
5. It's Diff'rent Now (unfinished recording)
6. Thinking About You - take 4
7. My Boy - take 1
8. Girl Of Mine - take 9
9. Love Song Of The Year - take 1
10. If That Isn't Love - take 1
11. Raised On Rock
12. For Ol' Time Sake
13. I've Got A Thing About You Baby
14. Take Good Care Of Her
15. If You Don't Come Back
16. Three Corn Patches
17. Girl Of Mine
18. Just A Little Bit
19. Find Out What's Happening
20. Sweet Angeline
|CD 3 - The December 1973 Masters
1. Promised Land
2. It's Midnight
3. If You Talk In Your Sleep
4. Help Me
5. My Boy
6. Thinking About You
7. Mr. Songman
8. I Got A Feelin' In My Body
9. Loving Arms
10. Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues
11. You Asked Me To
12. There's A Honky Tonk Angel (Who Will Take Me Back In)
13. Talk About The Good Times
14. She Wears My Ring
15. Your Love's Been A Long Time Coming
16. Love Song Of The Year
17. Spanish Eyes
18. If That Isn't Love
Compiled by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN August 2013 - DO NOT COPY.
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See EIN review of 'Prince From Another Planet'
See EIN review of 'A Boy From Tupelo'
See EIN review of 'Young Man With The Big Beat'.
See EIN review of 'Elvis Is Back!' Legacy Edition review:
See EIN review of 'The Complete Elvis Presley Masters' in-depth Review
See EIN review of 'On Stage' 40th Anniversary LEGACY in-depth review:
See EIN review of From Elvis In Memphis (40th Anniversary Legacy Edition)
See EIN review of 'I Believe' BMG Gospel set.
See EIN review of 'The Complete '68 Comeback Special' CD Review:
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