On initial release Elvis’ October 1973 LP ‘Raised On Rock’ with its paltry 10 tracks running only 28 minutes, was one of Elvis’ poorest 1970’s albums. The later STAX albums ‘Good Times’ and ‘Promised Land’ being so much better.
Fans hoping to find the ‘King of Rock’n’Roll’ (post Aloha TV spectacular) demonstrating that he was "Raised on Rock" were surely disappointed. ‘Three Corn Patches’, ‘Sweet Angeline’ and ‘Girl of Mine’ were obvious album filler and not the real deal. Even worse Elvis had decided to hold back two of the best July session tracks ‘I've Got A Thing About You Baby’ and ‘Take Good Care Of Her’ for future single release. Of all the STAX albums this was certainly the least impressive, and so creating an interesting ‘Classic Albums’ double CD release from this first STAX session would seem to be a real challenge.
After Aloha in 1973 there had been a fast downhill slide with Elvis canceling shows. By July his divorce from Priscilla was looming and he had been hospitalised just two months before. It is well documented that Elvis had little interest in this July recording session and appeared a little "medicated" when he arrived. In fact Elvis recorded nothing at all on the first evening and on the second day you can hear his voice slurring on the first few songs.
So knowing all that, FTD have achieved terrific work in delivering a new insight into the original album via "Rough Mixes" with less echo and muddiness, as well as an excellent selection of alternate takes. There is no doubt that, despite the mediocre quality of the material, these all help capture a new spark not previously heard in these July sessions.
‘For Ol’ Times Sake’ has never sounded so good and even a track like ‘Girl Of Mine’ has a new sparkle and excitement that you will never have noticed before. So while this CD can be nothing like the revelation that we discovered with the sensational ‘Jungle Room Sessions’ FTD (after all there was far less overdubbing used on this album) this classic FTD release reveals more interest and enthusiasm than most fans would have thought possible.
Unfortunately due to the technical limitation of Stax studios the original album as featured here shows no major leap in audio improvement despite the work of praise worthy Vic Anesini. However the rest of the two disc compiled and mastered by Jean-Marc Juilland ('I Found My Thrill' FTD) have a fabulous new audio sparkle.
The ‘Session Highlights’ on CD1 certainly provide a delicious "best of" the sessions along with a major audio improvement on their earlier ‘Rhythm & Country’ versions. Plus the album’s ‘Rough Mixes’ have a real edge over the muddied original album release.
The packaging is excellent with an honest look ‘Behind The Scenes’ and a good selection of photos and memorabilia. It even includes an original LP review calling the album "a weak-kneed, mealy-mouthed drivelling attempt." To be honest, in the power-packed early seventies era of David Bowie & Roxy Music they had a point.
There’s studio session notes and potential tracklistings as well as a note from The Colonel in October (the month of release) where he claims not to be aware of the recorded song ‘Girl Of Mine’!
My one complaint is that another very interesting letter from Colonel Parker about the album - including "tell Elvis there would be not overdubbing or whatnot" on his Palm Spring tracks - is somewhat hidden by other memorabilia.
Another interesting side-note is the first recording sheet on July 20 stating that the record session time was "Indefinitely" and that is "Elvis ready to record 2 albums." Sadly someone badly misread the real situation.
Delving a little deeper ..
CD1 - Sessions Highlights
‘I Miss You’ Take 10/11 composite is a beautiful version. Elvis’ superb vocal and the stark piano and guitar suit the song so well. The edit is at 01.32 as presumably the full Take 11 does not feature as strong a beginning. The later Take 5 also has a lovely feel but uses a different arrangement with more spanish guitar picking.
‘Find Out What’s Happening’ - Take 6. This is the classic alternate funky take previously on ‘Essential Elvis Vol.5 - Rhythm and Country’ however that BMG album used more additional echo and here we get a much cleaner studio sound and better stereo special spread, plus the new intro & count in.
‘It’s Different Now’ – Another treat as now we get the full session recording that was previously edited for the ‘70’s Box-set’ where Elvis’ naughty vocal on the middle verse had been faded out. Here it is complete with Elvis unbelievably singing, "I’m so happy to say, you feel well-f***d by me" – no wonder it was edited! Fascinating even if you might think of fading the full vocal yourself!
'Three Corn Patches’ Take 1 / 2 - Elvis states it perfectly, "You can’t kick this mother-fu*ker without a stick of dynamite up its ass" – a perfect description of this lame Leiber/Stoller tune. It amazing that he bothered trying for 15 takes.
Here, however, on Take 1 everyone is trying their best to Kick It. Elvis laughs on the very first line so this was definitely "rehearsal fun" and the sloppiness of their run-through only improves the feel of the song. At least it sounds enjoyable here, compared to the final Master. The girls, Kathy Westmoreland, Jeannie Greene with Ginger & Mary Holladay) get their backing vocals wrong, Elvis throws in some messy lyrics while James Burton is playing some fine R&B. It’s like hearing Elvis and the boys in a Beale Street bar – it’s just a shame there’s a fade-out.
‘If You Don’t Come Back To Me’ Take 5 – As featured on the FTD ‘Made In Memphis’ Elvis is obviously running "on slow’ (slurring on the first evening) which gives the song a rather interesting and laid-back vibe. Here it feels that the song is actually being driven along by the hot backing-vocals provided by Kathy Westmoreland with Ginger & Mary Holladay. Elvis does give 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. Nice to have this in context.
‘Girl Of Mine‘ Take 9 – A real lousy pub sing-along song that oddly I have always been a little partial to! This take was also previously issued on ‘Vol.5 Rhythm & Country’ but here it is an audio revelation! This must be a better generation tape source, as it sounds so different. Elvis’ vocal is nice and clear - whereas previously it sounded as if he was singing in the toilet down the hall. This is a great improvement and will always be better than the dreadful overdubbed Master. A real highlight!
‘Three Corn Patches’ Takes 13 / 14 – On the false start Elvis jokes and sings the first line of the classic Four Aces song "Three Coins in a fountain". Take 14 is the bouncy version featured on ‘Vol.5 Rhythm & Country’ but again the audio mix is much better here, sounding brighter and with higher backing-vocals which previously were almost faded out. Again this is better than the Master although Elvis’ enthusiasm has waned - was there really any to start with? The ending where he sings, "Take it home, hey, hey" is good as it kicks the band back into a bit of life. For some reason these last parts of Elvis’ singing were faded out on the ‘Vol.5 - Rhythm & Country’ version.
‘Are You Sincere’ Take 2 – Another revelation! While this was previously on the ‘Platinum’ box-set this is fascinating for being a totally different mix. Before the song was driven by the rhythm section alone, but here the piano is the prominent instrument. From the booklet notes we know that The Colonel refused Elvis any chance to do any overdubs due to the last-minute track substitution. It is therefore easy to imagine Elvis and James Burton and Charlie Hodge alone recording this is his Palm Springs home and without any vocal back-ups, this is a great version. Pianist Donnie Summer keeps on playing past the end of the song (again edited out on the ‘Platinum’ version) with Elvis cutely commenting, "Donnie, that’s the end of the song!"
‘Find Out What's Happening’ Takes 8/7 composite. These composites are a very clever idea. Elvis sets the scene saying, "That’s good girls, whatever you’re doing" before throwing in one line of the Star Spangled Banner! Take 8 has the punchier start, but falls apart halfway through. Combined with the Take 7 ending (the edit is at the guitar solo) this becomes a great new funky version.
‘For Old Times Sake’ Take 4 – Another ‘Vol.5 - Rhythm & Country’ release but here sounding even better. Previously this was released with unnecessary added echo, but here we get the true openess of the studio ambience which also gives the song even more of that feeling of loneliness. Compared to The Master this take really captures the emptiness of the man begging for one more chance. With a lovely clarity to the bass, this version is so good that it could break your heart.
Six "Rough Mixes" start off the second CD. And although we get no information as to where, why, or how these exist, presumably engineer Al Pachucki (like Rick Ruggieri did on the 1975 ‘Today’ album) supplied quick mixes for Elvis to check out.
We are lucky to have these however as these Rough Mixes lack the added unnecessary echo that muddied the original release and also present us with different mixes, with the levels of backing-vocals - and Elvis’ vocal track itself - often higher in the mix.
‘For Ol’ Times Sake’ features a greater emphasis on the guitar picking and organ, while ‘If You Don’t Come Back To Me’ delights in having less added echo along with Elvis’ vocal being present all the way through. Listen for Elvis in the background singing along which was previously faded out!
‘Find Out What's Happening’ rough mix is a real gem as Elvis sings along during the guitar solo obviously getting into the feel of the song more than we ever realised before. Listen out for him @ 01.27 humming along "Ummmm, you’re gonna.." A very nice addition.
‘Three Corn Patches’ also goes almost a minute passed the ending of the original LP release and sounds all the better for it. Elvis continues singing bass towards the end of the song and without the added echo the take sounds far more interesting that the album-filler it previously seemed. Played to the full length it could have made a better ending to the original album. I wonder who decided on the lesser short-edit?
‘Just A Little Bit’ similarly goes right to the song’s cool ending but also adds a great intro of Elvis joking in the Studio. He does sound tired (it was 3.am in the morning) but is still in a fine mood joking, "It’s OK. The band has gone crazy and will return shortly!"
‘Raised On Rock’ With no outakes yet found the Rough-Mix itself is another great discovery. One has to wonder what was the point of drowning the original single in the echo-chamber effect that only led to that final dreaded muffled and messy sound. This version is FAR punchier, FAR more Rock’n’Roll and also kicks on for another 20 seconds longer. While I could never accept this as a great Elvis single, this version does show that there was more feeling to the song than we originally expected.
‘If You Don’t Come Back To Me’ Takes 1,2,3 – The earlier takes have a slower laid-back tempo as well as some nice wah-wah guitar. The false starts help capture the studio feeling. Felton stops a take but Elvis only laughs, "I was saying Hallelujah, man!" Although previously on 'Vol.5 R&C’ there’s a lovely full ending to Take 3 with Elvis producing the session noting, "There’s a chance to sing a little bit of bass J.D." and commenting "the tempo’s just a little bit slower than the demo." Elvis’ vocal is also higher in this mix.
The later Takes 6 & 8 are fun for the recording falling apart with Elvis singing, "I Almost lost my mind. . if you don’t fuck up!" It’s the Sweets call & response that drives these later takes with Elvis sounding rather un-engaged but at the end Elvis actually hums along and sounds as if he is enjoying the funk.
These are all the better for missing the unnecessary echo of the final original releases.
'I Miss You' Take 1 – As featured on ‘Today Tomorrow & Forever’ this first take recorded at Elvis’ Palm Springs home is all that more sincere and touching for having a simpler arrangement and less intrusive backing-vocals.
Take 10 features a delightful vocal and the surprise here is that Elvis still wasn’t satisfied with this complete take. Takes 12,13,14 are interesting for being able to eavesdrop on some of Elvis banter as they record. At the time he must have had an interest in astrology as he talks about the signs of the zodiac.
We also get an alternate mix of the final Master Take which again holds-back on the backing vocals and has the feel of an earlier version. This lighter mix sounds better than the final release.
A long time ago Ernst Jorgensen said that they would never release alternate "Masters" so this is an excellent bonus.
‘Girl Of Mine’ – Phewie those orchestral overdubs on the Master sure were dreadful, so every take here has to be an improvement. However why Elvis even tried recording this sub-standard Cliff Richard fare is beyond me.
On Take 1 Elvis jokes about his "pipe smoking bass-player" and all the versions are nice and clear compared to the overdubbed Master with the earlier takes featuring a simpler Spanish guitar arrangement. By Take 3 the slide guitar has been added which gives it more of a laid-back Country & Western feel. There’s some nice studio banter about Elvis "popping" the microphone. He jokes, "How can you say Pillow without the ‘P’ in it?" This is nicely followed by Elvis actually singing "illow" on the next Take 4. He laughs, "That stops that shit, don’t it?!"
This is interesting stuff observing Elvis in good humour since this was the last song he recorded before walking out of the studio in annoyance. Even "Dear Georgie" gets another mention!
Elvis left the session in a huff because someone had stolen his personal gold microphone. And yes his vocal tracks do sound noticeably muffled because he is using the replacement mic.
Previously unreleased outake #6 is interesting for having a new slide guitar arrangement giving the song more of a laid-back country and western feel.
‘Find Out What’s Happening’ – The first track of the second evening and Elvis obviously had more enthusiasm. Takes 1 and 2 soon fall apart as he laughs, "Missed the goddamn word, I can’t read anymore!" & "Goddamn it, Can somebody get me a pencil!" By take 4 the feeling is better but it again soon falls apart when Elvis fluffs the lyric. He also jokingly apologies for his bad language, "Sorry girls I get carried away. Yeah, I shouldn’t say that in front of J.D!"
Take 5 has a slower tempo and a nice almost laid-back feel. Elvis again messes up the lyric so everyone knows it’s a rehearsal but they continue to the end with Elvis humming in the background and getting into the groove and great call & response towards the end. A nice addition, this version has none of the urgency of the final Master.
By Takes 7 and 8 the tempo has been sped up, these are a bit faster than the Master. Half way through Take 8 Elvis once again messes up the words and sounds genuinely annoyed stating, "I want to find the writer of this and crush his fingers!" Take 7 was on ‘Made In Memphis’ and again the backing vocals drive the song with nice "call & response" work. The very cute comment from Elvis at the end of the ‘Made In Memphis’ version, "That’s good girls, whatever you’re doing" is missing here since it is used at the start of Take 8 on the session highlights on CD1.
‘Three Corn Patches’ – It’s hard to believe that they tried so many takes, fifteen in total, of this lame song from Leiber & Stoller. When Elvis sings a line of "wasted years" on Take 9 he sure was right. The versions on the highlights CD are the most interesting but Takes 5 & 6 (also on ‘Made In Memphis’) are fun for their piano arrangement and "sloppy late-night Beale Street" feel. On Take 9 Elvis is still having problems "popping" the microphone. He adds, "I made thirty six movies and I never did learn how to get around that P." Take 10 turns into some good fun after Elvis adds "take it home" as the band begins play some funky blues and Elvis adds some bass lines.
‘For Ol’ Times Sake’ – Felton says, "Take 4 had a great feeling to it Elvis." Take 5 has a lovely sincere vocal which unfortunately soon breaks down. There’s no joking here as Elvis honestly apologises for missing his timing. Take 6 stops half way through when Elvis messes up the lyrics but through every take there’s that aching edge to his voice that makes this song the emotional highlight of the album.
‘Are You Sincere’ Take 1 – I’m surprised this wasn’t a CD 1 highlight. While this was first on ‘Our Memories Of Elvis’ LP, there it was edited in half (the edit on that release was at Elvis’ final "are you sincere"). Here we get the full 3 minutes with Elvis doing a second soliloquy and includes a subtle guitar solo plus no backing vocals as on the final Master. Near the end Donnie Sumner misses a key on the piano but as a first rough attempt, along with Elvis’ final comments, this is a great addition.
The final two tracks on both CDs are the instrumental backing tracks that the band laid down on the final day of the booked session when Elvis never returned. Of course one can never know how these songs would have sounded with Elvis’ vocal but they are a great addition to our history of Elvis’ musical legacy.
‘Colour My Rainbow’ sounds soulful and laid back. Listen to it, as it is intriguing to consider how Elvis would have matched his voice against the backing-vocals. However if this really was the Master backing-track waiting for Elvis’ vocal overdub I’m not sure how there can be engineer’s chatter breaking through at the start of the recording.
‘Sweet Angeline’ – Of the four final instrumentals this was the only song that Elvis agreed to overdub. Knowing about Elvis’ indifferent mood at the time maybe this was just the easiest to finish off? It does however sound very different with Kathy Westmoreland’s’ soprano taking centre stage. Overall of all the four tracks this is possibly the least interesting and not the song Elvis should have chosen.
‘The Wonders You Perform’ – A medium paced Gospel song that would have suited Elvis’ voice very well. There’s nice bass work by Booker T & the MGs Donald Dunn but it would never have been a classic.
‘Good, Bad but Beautiful’ - A slow ballad with backing vocals that put it into that terrible middle-of-the-road territory. Thank God Elvis didn’t record this one as it would have been a real stinker. Noteworthy is the fact that composer Clive Westlake commented in the excellent ‘Writing For The King’ book that when Elvis recorded his other songs, ‘Twenty Days & Twenty Nights’ and ‘It’s A Matter Of Time’ in 1970/1972 "Elvis was probably at his worst as a singer"! - Nuff said!
Overall Verdict: A very impressive new presentation of a very mediocre Elvis album. With two CDs packed to the brim, along with some excellent new outtakes and upgarded audio, there is a lot to listen to here. After all a classic album like this is surely what the FTD Collector’s label is all about. Most of us will certainly enjoy the new Rough Mixes over the original album and if the original LP sounded uninspired it was only a true refection of Elvis’ own state of mind at the time. My feeling is that this set is great value for money – which makes the future ‘Good Times’ and ‘Promised Land’ FTDs an even more exciting prospect.
Review by Piers Beagley
-Copyright EIN, January 2007
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'Raised On Rock'
FTD 2007 August release #8869712843-2
Raised On Rock
Are You Sincere
Find Out What’s Happening
I Miss You
Girl Of Mine
For Ol’ Times Sake
If You Don’t Come Back
Just A Little Bit
Three Corn Patches
- - Session Highlights
I Miss You (Take 10-11)
Find out What’s happening (Take 6)
It’s Different Now (Rehearsal, unedited)
Three Corn Patches (Take 1-2)
If You Don’t Come Back (Take 5)
Girl Of Mine (Take 9)
I Miss You (Take 5)
Three Corn Patches (Take 13-14)
Are You Sincere (Take 2)
Find Out What’s Happening (Take 8, 7)
For Ol’ Times Sake (Take 4)
- - Instrumentals
Color My Rainbow
- - Rough Mixes
For Ol Times Sake
If You Don’t Come Back
Find Out What’s Happening
Raised On Rock
Three Corn Patches (Including FS)
- - Session Outtakes
If You Don’t Come Back (Take 1-3)
I Miss You (Take 1)
Girl Of Mine (Take 1)
Find Out What’s Happening (Takes 1,2,4,5)
Three Corn Patches (Take 4-6)
For Ol’ Times Sake (Take 5-7)
I Miss You (Take 10)
If You Don’t Come Back (Takes 8, 6)
Find Our What’s Happening (Takes 8, 7)
Are You Sincere (Take 1)
Girl Of Mine (Take 3-6)
Three Corn Patches (Take 9-10)
I Miss You (Take 12-15)
- - Instrumentals
The Wonders You Perform
Good, Bad But Beautiful