'Made In Memphis'
- FTD CD Review -
-By Piers Beagley
‘Made In Memphis’ is the most recent FTD compilation which rounds-up those left-over outtakkes from Elvis’ recording sessions in his home-town.
As a bonus it also becomes the perfect place to release the famous home recordings of Sam Thompson.
Initially I felt sceptical about this grab-bag collection of the inclusion. Haven’t all these Memphis sessions already been pretty well-covered by previous CDs, including 4 definitive alternates of ‘In The Ghetto’ and even 3 alternates of ‘For The Heart’! The inclusion of a few too many songs from Elvis’ abortive early STAX session seemed dubious, plus there is no doubt that FTD would have to be holding back a few 1969 gems for their future ‘Elvis In Memphis’ deluxe release.
Looking back Ernst Jorgensen even told EIN 4 years ago that, "Everyone is screaming for ‘Jungle Room Sessions Vol 2’. The problem is that there will be no fast songs on it… it would have to be a very, very low-key record and there’d be quite a few takes of ‘She Thinks I Still Care’. But there are still good (unreleased) performances & we will find a way."
So reflecting on these facts & Ernst’s statement, it is surprising that this "Patch-It-Up" selection of outtakes works as well as it does. By focussing the theme onto Elvis in a thoughtful & introspective mood, FTD once again surprises one & all with a very accomplished compilation that will become a favourite.
Starting with an early, simple, arrangement of an impassioned ‘In The Ghetto’ flowing nicely through some sensational new STAX outtakes (‘Thinking About You’, ‘Find Out What’s Happening’) to the historical Jungle Room session (‘Love Coming Down’, ‘For The Heart’) there is a lovely, emotionally-involving, late-night feel to this CD.
Elvis touches our soul with ‘Do You Know Who I Am’, the loneliness & sparseness of ‘It’s Midnight’, and surprises with his sincerity on ‘She Thinks I Still Care’. The insight on Elvis’ final session nicely ends with Sam Thompson’s (famous) home-recordings which also capture the feel of Elvis emotionally recovering from all his traumas of 1973.
With almost all the "important" or "different" outtakes previously released on BMG or FTD it would be difficult to suggest that these various alternates are individually indispensable. However FTD have gathered together a clever selection and some tracks are a genuinely important addition to any Elvis collection. It is surprisingly good!
The cover features some nice candid photos (left) of Elvis in 1969, a view of the famous & long-gone ‘American Studios’, as well as the first liner notes ever on an FTD release with some thoughts from Sam Thompson. These include some nice scene-setting comments..
"We all went into the small den at the rear of the house and began talking. Elvis picked up an old 1966 Gibson acoustic 6 string guitar that he had previoulsy given to me and began to strum it. Soon he began to sing softly and after a few minutes I turned on an old cassette recorder I had in the den. Elvis was aware I was that I was taping him and he smiled and winked."
With the barrel of Elvis’ unreleased Studio recordings getting closer & closer to the bottom any Elvis fan has to be thankful for FIFTEEN brand new tracks (only 2 of which have been available on bootleg before). And all in the best audio quality so far.
In 1976 Elvis sang..
"There was a man, a lonely man,
Who lost his love, through his indifference
A heart that cared, that went unshared
Until it died within his silence.
And solitaire is the only game in town
And every road that takes him, takes him down"
This FTD is an interesting look at Elvis in his last emotional decade. If you spend sometime examining this journey, you’ll find it well worth the visit.
Looking Closer at the outtakes.
‘In The Ghetto’ Tk 13 – There could never be a bad version of this all-important song. While take 11 has always been my favourite (Memphis Sessions) this is also delightful. The tempo is slightly faster than Take 11 but this has a shorter fade-out. Elvis also takes the lyrics at a faster pace at times. Check out Elvis’ phrasing of "a hungry young man" - and at the end the organ is more prominent in the mix.
‘You'll Think of Me’ Tk 8 – I have always loved this uncharacteristic Elvis song. While I prefer the more prominent sitar mix featured on Takes 16 & 14 (Memphis Sessions) this is still a nice addition. I think that the slower Take 14, where Elvis hangs more onto the lyrics, better suits the "warm & loving bed" theme. This version was previously on the ‘Finding The Way Home’ bootleg but that was in mono and this stereo mix is glorious.
‘Do You Know Who I Am’ Tk 4 – This is with the bonus of two false starts. Elvis comments, "Yeah, It’s too slow now I think". Another heart-breaking song where the echo plus string-overdubs of the original did no favour to Elvis’ emotional vocal. This is much slower than the first take and surprisingly with an even simpler arrangement. Beautiful & sincere, listen to the emotional crack of Elvis’ voice singing, "It’s so dark in this place, that I can’t see your face, Can we leave?" @ 1:10. There’s also a fascinating ending where Elvis starts singing the bass-line. Elvis rightly comments, "You’re going to save that last take aren’t you?" An important new addition to your collection and better than the Master.
‘If You Don’t Come Back’ Tk 5 – Moving onto the 1973 STAX recordings, this track was one of the few successes from the initial July session. Elvis is obviously running on slow but this actually gives the song a rather interesting, laid-back feel. Here the song is driven by the hot backing-vocals. Elvis gives a nice growl @ 1.46 and there is a great ending with James Burton working out on his wah-wah guitar, with Elvis humming along. Interesting if not essential.
‘Three Corn Patches’ Tk 5&6 – A very low-key Leiber/Stoller tune, Elvis rightly sounds uninterested & uninvolved. However this slower tempo & different backing-vocal arrangement actually suits the song better than the Master. The piano is more prominent in the mix & this has the feel of a live, sloppy, late-night Beale Street arrangement. Not earth-shattering in anyway but if this was genuinely Elvis live on Beale Street in 1973 then it would be something-else!
‘Find Out What’s Happening’ Tk 7 – Another July 1973 song. Elvis announces at the start, "Lucky 7" but he still sounds slightly disconnected. The tempo is a bit faster than the Master and once again the backing vocals drive the song. The "call & response" works very nicely and Elvis obviously starts enjoying the ride himself. It’s a bonus to hear the genuine ending rather than a fade-out and Elvis actually comments, "That’s good girls, whatever you’re doing."
‘It's Midnight’ Tk 11 – From the excellent December STAX sessions it is great to have another version of this classic. While the original overdubs suited The Seventies, the song is so much better without them. On the ‘Elvis Platinum’ Take 10 the backing vocals were mixed higher and some echo had been added. Here, without that echo, the poignancy and purity of Elvis’ feeling shines through. Put on headphones & revel in the emotion. The clarity of the recording even reveals the hum of STAX’s recording equipment! The backing vocals slip towards the end – this could never be the Master – but the simple production makes this a winner.
‘Thinking About You’ Tk 3 – This is gorgeous with a chance to eavesdrop on the session. Elvis initially laughs and practices the lyrics over two false starts, "Let’s get this tempo right" he says. Take 4 on ‘Rhythm & Country’ had a slight echo added but this is a beautiful & clean mix. Elvis sings along to some delicious guitar work by James Burton and, with a perfectly prominent vocal, this is a genuine highlight. An extended version, once again we get the whole song without the fade-out.
‘You Asked Me To’ Tk 1 – More fun eavesdropping on Elvis as he tellingly teases Charlie Hodge, "I can’t hear Charlie properly but it’s probably best." Felton asks, "You want more volume?". . "Hell, no" laughs Elvis, "I’m having fun, man." There’s another false start while @ 0.40 David Briggs throws in a line from Dusty Springfield’s ‘Son Of A Preacher Man.’ (What a shame Elvis didn’t catch on to that!) There’s real humour in the studio and it all helps elucidate on Elvis’ positive feelings towards the end of 1973. This leads into a very rough & ready first run-through of the song with a very different arrangement. James Burton hasn’t added his guitar part yet, while it also includes the backing-vocals that would be dropped from the next Take 2. James Burton’s solo is very different and Elvis seems to get more involved towards the end of the song finishing the take by singing, "fade this son-of-a-bitch right now!"
‘Solitaire’ Tk 7 – Moving onto the 1976 Jungle Room sessions. This track was never a favourite song of mine. The original was dreadful as Felton Jarvis buried it with ghastly orchestral overdubs guaranteed to destroy any possible emotion of the song. With a lighter drum & guitar arrangement this version has an even sparser mix than Jungle Room’s Take 3 making it feel even more intimate. The tempo is also slower in the breaks. There’s also some nice eavesdropping with Elvis jokingly saying, "I’m going to kill Neil Sedaka when I see him."
‘She Thinks I Still Care’ Tk3&4 - After a beautiful, almost a-cappela false start Elvis says, "Hey fellas, don’t stop playin’ on me". Without the vocal intro of the earlier Take 2 (Jungle Room) this is at a slow, more laid-back tempo. On Take 2 Elvis’ vocals sounded "punchier" but here the guitar arrangement has changed to a "strumming" feel compared to their earlier picking. Was Elvis still thinking about the loss of Priscilla in 1976? Whatever the case Elvis sounds even more sincere singing about his heartbreak and this version carries on over a minute longer than Take 2. Again with a lighter drum arrangement this has a more "Unplugged" feel. Listen out for Elvis’ sincere, "Lord, Lord, Lord" @ 3.55. A very nice addition.
‘Moody Blue’ Take 6 – The key to all these outtakes is the fabulous feel you can get of actually being there in Graceland with the band, which disappears once Felton’s overdubs were added. Of course this is not as much fun as the eavesdropping on the ‘Jungle Room’ FTD’s "Italian" version but still an interesting addition & better than the Master with all those overdubbed strings. Elvis’ vocal sounds much more assured than on the earlier versions, even if his concentration wanders off at 0:40. Listen out for, "Hell, I’m talking ‘bout Moody Blue" @ 2.59. This runs to four minutes where The Master was only 2:45.
‘Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall’ Take 1 – Great to have the first take of this song. This is before the "Shoot the dogs" interruption of the ‘Jungle Room Sessions’ FTD. For a first take this is surprisingly similar in sound & arrangement to the next take. Elvis’ vocal is a little higher here and, no matter what, Elvis’ sincerity drips from this compared to the overdubbed Master. Listen to the lovely ending with the quaver in his very final note.
‘Love Coming Down’ Take 4 – This is similar again to the ‘Jungle Room’ Take 3, however this does feature a richer mix and a more complicated piano arrangement. Elvis’ vocal is more assured here and it is a great take.
‘For The Heart’ Take 5 – A nice hum from Elvis at the start leads into a slow, laid-back version. The mix is very different from both the ‘Jungle Room’ & ‘Platinum’ versions with more acoustic guitars & less electric lead. There’s some nice interplay between Elvis and J.D Sumner @3:10 and this seems to push Elvis onto a longer version and to a delicious final fadeout.
Elvis "at home" 1973. – These five songs do deserve an official release and nicely reflect Elvis' emotions at the end of a turbulent 1973.
Elvis’ official divorce with Priscilla had been finalised on October 9th 1973, and just 6 days later Elvis was admitted to Memphis’ Baptist Hospital in a semi-comatose state. Linda Thompson was on-hand as his full-time companion & slept beside him in hospital for Elvis’ more than 2-week stay. Elvis needed to recuperate and get back on top form and at this point he had a well-deserved 2½ month rest. In this relaxed context Elvis’ cool, laid-back versions of ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ and ‘Spanish Eyes’ are quite revealing showing Elvis in better spirits - stress-free & just singing with friends.
There are some differences to the tracks previously released on ‘Elvis By The Presleys’. There has been yet more sound improvement to get rid of some tape-hiss & squeal, and the slight speed error (too slow on EBTP) has been corrected. It is a shame that Elvis & Linda’s duets had to be left out especially ‘Your Life Has Just begun’ however FTD were brave enough to include the expletive ‘Robin’ poem at the very end.
The longer ‘Spanish Eyes’ is particularly charming as Elvis laughs about going into a falsetto, "I can go up into falsetto"! With a cool ‘See See Rider’, and ‘That’s All Right’ – great to know that Elvis still played his first recording at home for fun – these are revealing & fun. If by any chance you haven’t come across these home recording before then you are in for a treat.
Verdict - By its very concept this has to be a mixed-bag of goodies. Not every track can be an essential new discovery but with a lovely overall feel, that delves into Elvis' more introspective side ('Do You Know Who I Am?'), this FTD is yet another winner. With fifteen unreleased studio outtakes, all in superb audio quality, there are plenty of treats to unearth. While the original ‘Memphis Sessions’, ‘Jungle Room Sessions’ and ‘Rhythm & Country’ CDs are all vital purchases, this is a highly recommended follow-up to them all.
Reviewed by Piers Beagley
Copyright EIN - 2006
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EIN Note – By collecting together all the extra ‘Jungle Room’ tracks together from other BMG CDs you can compile yourself a very pleasing ‘Jungle Room Session Vol.2’.
Give it a try.
‘Jungle Rooms Sessions, Vol.2
For The Heart (Tk 1) (Platinum)
Pledging My Love (Tk 3) (P)
Way Down (Tk 2) (P)
She Thinks I Still Care (Tk 2B) (70’s box)
Hurt (Tk 5) (P)
Danny Boy (Tk 9) (P)
Solitaire (Tk 7) (Made in Memphis)
She Thinks I Still Care (Tk 3,4) (MiM)
For The Heart (5) (Tk MiM)
Moody Blue (Tk 6) (MiM)
Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall (Tk 1) (MiM)
Love Coming Down (Tk 4) (MiM)
She Thinks I Still Care (Tk 10) (TT&F)
For The Heart (Tk 4) (TT&F)
Hurt (Tk 5) (TT&F)
Danny Boy (*Bonus off ‘Tucson 76’)
Click here for Jungle Room Sessions Vol 1.