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1971

Sat Jan 01, 2011 8:24 pm

“Elvis Presley: Exodus” is an album that has haunted me for over 30 years.

In reality, of course, it doesn’t exist: in fact, there’s not an Elvis album remotely like it at all.

But in my world, this LP was released in the summer of 1971, following hot on the heels of the glorious “Elvis: I’m 10,000 Years Old”.

“Elvis Presley: Exodus” is an exploration of adult relationships expressed through the medium of folk music.

In the wake of the recent FTD issues of “Elvis: Now” and “Elvis: Fool”, I’ve taken the opportunity to lay the ghosts to rest and finally assemble my definitive collection of secular 1971 tracks: this is the 1971 album that should have been.

I’ve collected my thoughts regarding the songs and the circumstances surrounding their recording: apologies for the length of this article but I have much to say about this lost masterpiece.

If the Nashville 1971 material isn’t your bag then keep movin’ down that long lonesome road.

But if it is, make yourself comfortable and welcome to my world …

Exodus 3.jpg

(YouTube have recently removed my posting so please see the new upload on Dailymotion.)

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Elvis Presley: “Exodus”
1 (Prologue): “I Shall Be Released”
2: “I’m Leavin’”
3: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”
4: “Early Mornin’ Rain”
5: “It’s Still Here”
6: “Until It’s Time For You To Go”

7: “Help Me Make It Through The Night”
8: “It’s Only Love”
9: “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen”
10: “For Lovin’ Me”
11: “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”
12: “I Will Be True”

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1 (Prologue): “I Shall Be Released” (Bob Dylan / Richard Manuel)
Source: “Walk A Mile In My Shoes”
Note: Song fades before Elvis says “Dylan” and segues seamlessly into track 2.
See this site for further information on “I Shall Be Released”:
http://everybobdylansong.blogspot.com/2009/05/bob-dylan-song-101-i-shall-be-released.html

A remarkable opening to any project, this impromptu jam sets the scene for an album of lost-love songs and poignant ballads. The big questions here, of course, are
a) how does Elvis know this song, and
b) why did Elvis choose to sing it in-between takes of “It’s Only Love”?

At the time Elvis recorded this track, it was (and probably still remains) one of the coolest songs on the planet: if you even knew about this song in 1971 it signified an air of hipness (Joan Deary didn’t recognize it when cataloguing Elvis’ tapes).

It was originally released on “The Basement Tapes Acetate” (circulated only among the movers and the shakers in the music business) during the autumn of 1967, a collection of 14 songs recently written and recorded by Bob Dylan and The Band in their Woodstock hideaway. The song has incredible depth - it can be read in many ways and it’s been covered by hundreds of artists over the decades. It is probably the greatest song from Dylan’s Woodstock period despite never having been a hit record in the way that, say Manfred Mann’s “Quinn The Eskimo” has.

Was Elvis given a copy of the original acetate? I think not. Did he hear the Band’s definitive take on their 1968 debut album? Maybe, but unlikely, in my opinion. Elvis was apparently a fan of Peter, Paul and Mary and they included a version on their 1968 “Late Again” LP. It’s also worth noting that The Box Tops (Chips Moman’s house-band) issued their version as a single in March 1969, and, as Elvis was immersed in the whole Memphis sound during that period, it is likely that he’d have at least heard their take.

I tend to side with other writers, in that I’m just surprised / delighted / relieved that Elvis knew the song at all: it connects Elvis with the real world, a place from which he seemed further removed as the years went by. It’s a bit like finding a home demo of Elvis running through “Thunder Road” in 1975.

Wikipedia suggests that a group named The Heptones had a US “hit” reggae version in 1969: I can’t find any documentary evidence as to how big a hit it was but the performance itself is very good.



Why did Elvis launch into this track between takes of “It’s Only Love”? I have two thoughts on this:
(1) the obvious point to make is that the lines that Elvis sings here are very similar to the opening words of the song he’d been working on for the previous half hour: it’s a small jump from “I see the sunlight” to “I see my light come shining”
(2) a more unlikely point but worth mentioning, is the fact that just before Elvis launches into his rendition, the bass player (Norbert Putnam) throws out a most odd but almost reggae-like riff - Elvis then sings “I … I …” as if looking for some kind of direction and slips beautifully into his staggered opening, “I see my light, I see my light”. Did the reggae-styled notes prompt Elvis to connect the lyrical similarities to the “hit” version by The Heptones? Maybe I’m reaching too far but it’s a tantalising thought.

So, from what is it that Elvis is soon to be "released"? A failed relationship? A period of frustration and doubt? Is this a positive or a negative song? It’s certainly a wonderful opening to the album, full of layers and meanings.

The “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” mix is preferred here because the musicians (as heard on “Elvis: Now" [FTD]) are obtrusive.

Highlight: A backing vocalist joins in at 0:36.

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2: “I’m Leavin’” (Sonny Charles / Michael Jarrett)
Source: “Walk A Mile In My Shoes”
Note: see this site for further information on Michael Jarrett and “I’m Leavin’”
http://www.elvisnews.dk/interviews/interview-michael-jarret/interview-michael-jarret.htm

The first of only two “Elvis-originals” on the LP, this is a beautiful song written by Michael Jarrett with help and advice from Bobby Charles: a remarkable and uncharacteristic choice by Elvis, and a song that seemingly spoke to him deeply. Not only would he select it as the session’s lead single (c/w “Heart Of Rome”) but he’d feature the song in his live act for several years to come (Jarrett would actually witness Elvis perform the song on stage).

It’s a song that focuses on desolation and regret, and the careful arrangement of acoustic guitars, vocals (Elvis is almost buried among the backing singers) and strings projects a feeling of unease and impending sadness. This is the track which Elvis declared to be “tough but … worth working on” between takes and he’s quite correct. It’s a daring and bold choice which perfectly suits Elvis’ tired and drawn vocal delivery.

The single infamously died at #36 in the Billboard chart but it did make #2 in the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart which focussed on radio stations dedicated to playing modern but less cutting-edge music (John Denver, Carole King, James Taylor, Carly Simon, etc). Almost every Elvis US single of the 1970s fared better in this chart than in the standard chart.

An atmospheric and moving performance: the mix on “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” is the best.

Highlight: Putnam’s bass run at 3:09 (the bass playing on this project is never less than superb).

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3: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (Ewan MacColl)
Source: “Elvis: Now” [FTD]
Note: see this site for more information on Elvis’ performances of this song:
http://www.elvis-collectors.com/first%20time%20everdownunder.html

This track is the keystone to the whole album and to the entire sessions. Perversely, it was both the first and the last secular master to be recorded: Elvis guided the band through twelve takes on 15 March, whilst singing a duet with Ginger Holliday. Elvis was clearly happy with the sprightly, acoustic arrangement because, even though he re-recorded his vocal on two further occasions, he retained the basic track recording.

A second attempt at a duet (this time with Temple Riser, 21 May) can be heard here:



Elvis apparently recorded this song at the instigation of girlfriend Joyce Bova who was very fond of the track (she was in the studio when Elvis taped the second duet). It was written in 1957 by Ewan MacColl specifically for his lover, Peggy Seeger, who first recorded it. Dozens of acts have taped their own interpretation over the years, almost all of which (including Elvis’) were loathed by the composer.

As is well known, Elvis chose to sing only the first two of the three verses (leaving out the “first time ever I lay with you” verse) but he did restore these lyrics on many of his live takes. The dropped verse could have given a clue as to whose version Elvis was channelling but I’m unable to locate a single similar performance by any other artist. Also, there seems to be no comparable musical template which means that this lyrical / musical approach to the track may well be Elvis’ own. Sadly, the rehearsal tapes are missing and so we are denied the opportunity to hear Elvis developing the song in the studio.

The only similar performance I can find with regard to the feel of the song is again from Peter, Paul and Mary who included it on their 1965 “See What Tomorrow Brings” LP.



Of course, as far as the general public is concerned, THE version of this song is by Roberta Flack (released 1969, big hit 1972). Elvis’ performance is generally unfavourably compared to Flack’s but this is an unfair and unnecessary comparison. The hit single is slow and intimate, Elvis sings in a more joyous and majestic fashion: he is completely lost in this performance.

Are there many other instances of Elvis recording a song on three separate occasions in order to obtain the sound he’s looking for? It’s been said that when Dylan starts an album project, the first track recorded is the one to look at most carefully because that’s the one which sets the tone. This is the song Elvis brought to the first session and he wanted to sing it straight away. This is the song he was still perfecting (this time as a solo rather than as a duet) almost three months later in the wee small hours of a Gospel session.

There is great ambivalence in this track: is it a romantic song … is it a poignant song of lost love? It can be read either way and so it is with much of the LP.

Elvis sang the track on stage many times, often declaring it to be a great song and announcing how much he loved singing it: it was one of those tracks (like its predecessor on this LP) to which he almost always gave his full on-stage attention.

An epic track: this is Elvis in great form on one of the great songs.

The “Elvis: Now” [FTD] mix is preferred, again blending Elvis’ vocal beautifully among the backing singers.

Highlight: the delicate opening lines with the restrained vocal back-up.

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4: “Early Mornin’ Rain” (Gordon Lightfoot)
Source: “Elvis: Now” [FTD]
See this site for a write-up of the song:
http://www.allmusic.com/song/early-morning-rain-t1996107

This was one of the songs that Elvis brought with him to the March session and one of the tracks to most fully realise his vision of a folk sound. There’s little doubt that it’s the Peter, Paul And Mary version that Elvis is templating (he uses their line “Where the pavement never grows” rather than the original “Where the cold wind blows”), and he has the Nashville Edition follow their vocal echoes (“Can’t jump a jet plane”).



The song was written by Canadian singer / songwriter Gordon Lightfoot in 1964 and Peter, Paul and Mary and Ian and Sylvia both enjoyed minor hits with it the following year. Also of interest is the 1966 country hit by George Hamilton IV which features Charlie McCoy on harmonica, Millie Kirkham on vocals, and was produced by Felton Jarvis.



Elvis turns in a lovely, easy-going version which is commendable bearing in mind he was suffering major nose and throat issues at this session. It’s quite revealing that Elvis chose this as one of his five bonus songs for the “Aloha” show in 1973: the other four tracks all had clear Hawaiian connections but this song seems to have been included because Elvis just liked singing it. Indeed, within a few years Elvis would be performing the song regularly on stage during the extended band introductions, allowing rhythm guitarist John Wilkinson a chance to pick and shine.

So what is it about this song that Elvis found so appealing? Well, it’s certainly a very likeable track with a lovely tune: I suspect it’s also a relatively easy song to sing and offered Elvis a chance to deliver a laid-back stage performance in-between the showstoppers.

Another “leaving” song: restrained and tasteful with some exquisite instrumental work (the bass is glorious). The “Elvis: Now” [FTD] mix best captures the warmth of the performance.

Highlight: McCoy’s harmonica enters at 0:48

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5: “It’s Still Here” (Ivory Joe Hunter)
Source: “Walk A Mile In My Shoes”
Note: Song fades before Felton’s comments.
See this site for a brief overview of Hunter’s life and career:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivory_Joe_Hunter

This was the first of the three “piano songs” that Elvis taped in the early hours of 20 May having dismissed most of the session players for the night.

There is some uncertainty and misinformation regarding the origins of this song. Some sites (including iTunes) insist that the existing Ivory Joe Hunter performance was recorded (and released?) in 1964 but to my ears it sounds like a much later recording. Furthermore, I can find no evidence of a release from that year, and there would seem to be no other recording at all by any other artist before Elvis. Therefore, I suggest that Elvis’ was the first commercial recording of this track, hence the Gladys Music publishing copyright.

There have been suggestions that Elvis also recorded Hunter’s “This Old World Is Mighty / A Mite Lonesome” (Ivory Joe’s estate insists that Elvis’ people cleared the song with them) on 20 May and it is true that some tapes from this part of the session are missing. Again, I can find no trace of any commercial recording of this song which does create an obvious question: why did Elvis record or perhaps consider recording these tracks?

The answer to this may lie in the ups and downs of Ivory Joe’s career: during the 1950s, Hunter was a popular and successful RnB star and he also enjoyed occasional success in the pop / RnR markets. By the end of the decade, however, his star was on the wane and the 1960s were not kind to him. During this decade, he turned to country music, performing on The Grand Ole Opry and he switched from one record label to another in the hope of a comeback.

In 1971, Epic released an album of newly recorded material named “The Return Of Ivory Joe Hunter”. The LP was well received but flopped commercially. Elvis, a huge Hunter fan back in the day, would doubtless have noticed / purchased the album and this may have reminded him about an old Ivory Joe song he’d long wanted to record for himself, “I Will Be True” (see track 12).

Is it possible that Elvis then arranged for his publishers to contact Hunter’s people and enquire about other tracks that were on offer? Perhaps they suggested the two above named songs and clearance was arranged for all three. Elvis, however, decided not to record all of the tracks.

Interestingly, not long after the release of “Elvis: Fool” in 1973 (which contained Elvis' edited performance of "It's Still Here"), Hunter recorded a full-blown C&W LP named “I’ve Always Been Country” and it was released shortly before his untimely death in 1974. I believe that Ivory Joe recorded his version of “It’s Still Here” during these sessions (maybe having heard Elvis’ take?) but it was left off the LP. It was (I suggest) eventually released on a posthumous album entitled “This Is My Country”.

(I welcome any contradictions to the above theory - let’s get to the truth!)

Intriguingly, although Ivory Joe and Elvis are both obviously singing the same song, the lyrics are quite different: note also that Elvis changes the opening line as he works through the outtakes of the song.

So, I have my theory as to why Elvis actually recorded the song but I have no idea as to why he chose to record the track almost solo (I think there’s also a bass on there). Maybe he’d recently seen the TTWII documentary and was impressed at how good the solo “How The Web Was Woven” sounded and decided to expand upon that? Who knows?

But what is important to note is that Elvis is making a conscious artistic decision to record these tracks in a stripped down, almost naked fashion. It’s as far away from the likes of “The Wonder Of You” as can be imagined and Elvis should receive more credit for the attempt. It’s a beautiful performance from Elvis: stark and moving. Robert Matthew-Walker (“Studies In Music”) is full of praise for Elvis’ piano playing.

Here we have a C&W song written by an afro-American Texan RnB star, who sang ballads and blues, as recorded by a white RnR star on a folk album: that’s Elvis for you. You can almost hear him directing, “Well, it doesn’t have to be strictly folk …”

I’ve plumped for the edit from “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” which has the most logical musical flow.

Highlight: Elvis re-ignites the song 2:02

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6: “Until It’s Time For You To Go’” (Buffy Saint Marie)
Source: “Elvis: Now” [FTD]
Note: see this site for an interview with Buffy Sainte-Marie:
http://exclaim.ca/News/Buffy_Sainte-Marie_Looks_Back_with_New_Reissue_Collections/

The third single from this LP, this is a beautiful love song written by Canadian singer / songwriter Buffy Saint-Marie in 1965 and released on her album “Many A Mile”.



There were a number of non-hit single versions issued but the one that Elvis must have noticed was Neil Diamond’s 1970 offering and he follows Diamond’s style (it’s also worth checking out Bobby Darin’s 1966 take):



Peter Guralnick writes that Elvis was asked by bass player Norbert Putnam to record this song, and Putnam was following an instruction given to him by Felton Jarvis. Why Felton would need someone else to pitch songs is unclear but Guralnick suggests that because Putnam was producing Buffy the idea would make more sense coming from him. My research suggests that Putnam may possibly have known and recorded with the songwriter but his production duties didn’t necessarily start until after this session.

However it came to be, this is a lovely song and Elvis sings it simply and quietly. Here again, Elvis had more than one attempt at laying down a master, recording a more dynamic but less intimate (rejected) version during the June session.

The lyrics (“I’m not a king, I’m just a man”) are astonishingly profound for Elvis in 1971 and although some don’t care for this song I find it a sensitive and poignant performance. Elvis continued to sing the song live from late 1971 until early 1973.

Although Elvis’ single stalled at #40 it’s still his take which is the “hit version” and it did climb to a respectable #9 in the adult contemporary chart.

An underrated gem, “Elvis: Now” [FTD] captures the song in all its gentle beauty. A perfect ending to the first side of the LP.

Highlight: Elvis singing the final “For you to go” at 3:29 almost in falsetto sotto voice.

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7: “Help Me Make It Through The Night’” (Kris Kristofferson)
Source: “Elvis: Now” [FTD]
Note: see this site for a basic overview of the song’s history:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help_Me_Make_It_Through_the_Night

The original (somewhat jaunty) version of this modern country standard was laid down by the writer himself on his eponymous debut album from 1970.



However, the US hit (and Grammy Award winner) was by country singer Sammi Smith who was all over the charts with it during early 1971.



Elvis must have heard and loved the song from the start because rather than wait to record it in a studio setting he was already singing it in Vegas in February 1971 (maybe arranged by Glen Hardin?) in a piano-led version. As per both “originals”, Elvis inserts an instrumental passage halfway through the song, something he would remove from his studio takes. Elvis’ early Nashville rehearsals kick off with the band but by take 8 Elvis decides to use the (now standard) acapella introduction. This also brings about a slight change in the melody line. Of all the tracks on the LP, this is the current hot number: this is Elvis covering an absolutely-up-to-the-minute chart-topper. Once the Christmas recordings were out of the way (15 and 16 May), this is the first song Elvis tackled.

It seems that he had a high regard for Kristofferson’s work because (according to Guralnick) Elvis had planned to record “Sunday Morning Coming Down” at the original March session. Guralnick further asserts that Elvis’ people had been unable to secure a publishing deal and the song fell through. This is a situation that I find difficult to accept: I think it very unlikely that Elvis had any kind of publishing deal going with “Help Me Make It Through The Night” (Kristofferson was so hot he didn’t need anybody else to give his work a push) and yet he still recorded it. Why then would there be an issue with “SMCD”?

Whatever the ins and outs of the publishing situation, this is clearly a song that Elvis has brought to the session, it’s a song he cares about and invests quite some time perfecting (the finished master is the third arrangement of the song he’s worked on). It’s a decent Elvis performance of a great song. I tend to agree with Robert Matthew-Walker who feels that Elvis sings the track in an over-beefy fashion: the delicate spell of the opening verse is broken during the “I don’t care” passage.

A modern folk classic, it’s still a good opener to side 2 of the LP and “Elvis: Now” [FTD] captures the song in the best quality.

Highlight: the light-as-a-feather opening lines.

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8: “It’s Only Love’” (Mark James / Steve Tyrell)
Source: “Elvis Aron Presley”
Note: see this site for an overview of BJ Thomas’ career
http://www.bjthomas.com/Bio/tabid/967/Default.aspx

Continuing the contemporary song theme, this was the second single from this LP and was originally a minor hit for BJ Thomas on the Scepter label in 1969.



There are enough BJ Thomas and Mark James connections in Elvis’ career to fill a small book and it’s interesting to note that BJ’s single was recorded at American and produced by no less a genius than Chips Moman. Co-songwriter Steve Tyrell was head of A&R at Scepter Records.

This is the one track that doesn’t fit in with the LP’s folk theme (although the lyrics still carry the lost love concept) but is included for its likeability factor. It’s a pop song which has a gentle nod in the rock direction.

During the early takes, one can hear Elvis struggling with the Thomas arrangement before deciding to simplify the structure (it’s possible to almost recreate the original arrangement by splicing takes 3 and 7). Generally speaking, Elvis follows BJ’s template and produces a decent pop song and, even though he’s not singing particularly well, he still has the ability to thrill with the high note on “throw it aside”: compare this section to the outtakes and you’ll see what I mean.

A disappointing #19 hit on the Adult Contemporary Chart and a disastrous #51 on the regular chart, the song remains popular, particularly in the UK where it registered as a #3 smash on the BBC chart when re-issued in 1980.

The “Elvis: Now” (FTD) mix is excellent but “Elvis Aron Presley” delivers a few extra seconds and that wins the vote.

Highlight: the high note on “throw it aside” as mentioned above.

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9: “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen” (Thomas Westendorf)
Source: “Elvis: Fool” (FTD)
Note: see this site for a list of other artists’ recordings:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27ll_Take_You_Home_Again,_Kathleen

There have been innumerable versions of this pseudo-Irish classic and it would be impossible to track down Elvis’ direct inspiration but as a movie and a cowboy fan he must have heard the Sons’ of the Pioneers’ beautiful take from the 1950 western “Rio Grande”.



He may also have heard The Platters 1959 version on their “The Flying Platters Around The World” LP.



The 1957 Slim Whitman single could also be a source (the B-Side was “Careless Love”) and for those who like their connections and originals presented as a full circle, it’s worth noting that Ivory Joe Hunter recorded a version in September 1956.

“I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen” was written as an answer song to George Persley’s “Barney, Take Me Home Again”, both of which were published circa 1876 (technically, therefore, Elvis is singing this track as a character called Barney).

This is the second of the “piano songs” (see tracks 5 and 12) on the LP and also the second to be recorded. What is particularly fascinating is that although no 1971 outtakes have surfaced, we can hear Elvis’ singing the song on the 1959 Germany home-demo tape, again accompanied by just his own piano playing. Without question, his vocals are better, purer, on the German take but there is greater artistry on the Nashville recording - it’s as if he’s traded that choir-boy voice at the crossroads for an unparalleled ability to emote. His piano playing is also superior on the studio version.

There are other written verses but Elvis sticks with what generally seems to the standard lyric. Curiously, Elvis inserts the adjective “soft” into the song twice: “Your voice is soft (sad) whene’er you speak” and “When the fields are soft (fresh) and green” which he doesn’t do in 1959.

At first sight, this appears to be an odd choice for a mainstream pop album but Elvis had previously and successfully recorded several old classics: “Old Shep”, “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”, “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” to name but three. This is also the oldest song on the LP and in that sense fits the folk (songs of the people) concept well.

It would be almost six years before Elvis reached for something similar when he taped the definitive “Danny Boy” at Graceland.

Actually, for all this, the boogie-woogie uptempo alternative take from 1959 is possibly the best of the available versions: Elvis’ tongue-in-cheek irreverence is irresistible.

The “Elvis: Fool” (FTD) mix is excellent and the tasteful strings overdubs add just enough colour.

Highlight: Elvis’ “Kathleen” chiming perfectly with his two piano notes at 1:39.

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10: “(That’s What You Get) For Lovin’ Me” (Gordon Lightfoot)
Source: “Elvis: Fool” (FTD)
Note: see this site for a viewpoint on this song type:
http://www.chromehorse.net/rants/rants2006/20060801_ramblers.htm

Again, there’s no doubt that Elvis is channelling the Peter, Paul and Mary sound on this Gordon Lightfoot number (see track 4): this comes from their 1965 LP “A Song Will Rise” (both Lightfoot originals feature on his 1966 eponymous debut). What is particularly interesting though, is that lyrically Elvis is taking his cues from Waylon Jennings’ 1966 Beatlesque country hit:



You’ll note that Elvis uses the Jennings’ line “You should have known how things would end”, a much better lyric than the original which simply repeats the previous “Now there you go you’re crying again”. He also completely ditches the “Moving is my stock-in-trade” part and replaces the “I’ve got a hundred more like you” line with the subtly different but much sexier “I’ve had a hundred just like you”.

This is a most unusual song in the Elvis canon: Elvis portrays himself as a serial philanderer, happy to break hearts in a callous fashion wherever he may wander. Indeed, it may be seen as the reverse of the usual Elvis lost-love lyric where it’s the singer who has been wronged. By also using the faster tempo (again, from Jennings) Elvis adds to the breezy devil-mare-care feel. As such, it’s a fascinating extension of the theme of this LP (and the next track takes a not dissimilar stance) and helps to present a rounded view of the topic.

This was the last of the four songs Elvis recorded in March, just before his eye problems forced the early closure of the session. If Elvis was willing to step this far out of type this early into the proceedings then it is indeed a great shame that the project was interrupted.

“Elvis: Fool” (FTD) is the only CD mix to capture the full deep woody sound of this acoustic gem.

Highlight: Elvis’ wordless mumbling during the chorus: 0:43.

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11: “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” (Bob Dylan)
Source: “Our Memories of Elvis” [It’s Elvis Time]
Note: see this site for an overview of this song:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don't_Think_Twice,_It's_All_Right

Elvis almost certainly learnt this track from the Peter, Paul and Mary version (hit single 1963) taken from their “In The Wind” LP which also featured “Blowin’ In the Wind” and “All My Trials”.



But he may also have been familiar with Waylon Jennings’ breezier rendition from his 1970 compilation LP named for this track:



And he must have heard Odetta’s take too (“Odetta Sings Dylan” 1965). Dylan’s original came from his first hit album (“The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” 1963) and popular Dylan writer Paul Williams has listed it among a handful of genuine Bob masterpieces. This is the second of the shoulder-shrugging no-big-deal songs (see track 10) which allowed Elvis to step out of his usual recording character and portray himself as the (more true to life?) casual womaniser.

It was taped during the second night of recording as Elvis was completing the Christmas LP in May and was obviously played off-the-cuff, Elvis probably relishing the chance to break away from the less than inspiring festive material. Jorgensen writes that it was inspired by a stray guitar lick from James Burton and also suggests that this was one of the songs that Elvis brought with him in March.

The full jam (or at least that which was taped) runs to 9:19 (“A Life In Music” suggests 11:25 for some reason) and it has been released in various edits over the years. For me, the best remains the “Our Memories Of Elvis” edit (8:35) which cleverly gives the song a sense of structure by editing on a neat introduction.

Elvis uses just two of the four original verses but his casual, freewheeling style gives the song great energy and the band are with him every step of the way. It’s a delight to hear Elvis is such excellent form (there’s none of the tension and edginess that you hear on almost all of the other 1971 vocals) and for me this is a work of genuine brilliance. In many ways, it’s comparable that other half-remembered jammed gem of the previous evening, “Merry Christmas, Baby”. You might even say that this is the other side of the coin, the bright and perky folk kiss-off track balancing the slow, lazy blues celebration.

Dylan gave a press conference in 1965 in which he claimed, “All my songs basically say is 'Good luck.' They all tail off at the end with good luck, hope you make it”, and I think this song demonstrates that very well: there’s no bitterness in Elvis’ singing - this is a glorious penultimate track, interjecting a much-needed burst of good humour and humanity.

Highlight: Elvis’ higher note on “Heading down that long lonesome road, babe”: 6:29

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12: “I Will Be True” (Ivory Joe Hunter)
Source: “Walk A Mile In My Shoes”
See this site for an overview of Hunter’s early life and career:
http://home.earthlink.net/~jaymar41/ivory1.html

Here is Ivory Joe's original single from my own collection:



The final track acts as a postscript to the LP: Elvis interprets Ivory Joe Hunter’s 1952 MGM single as a simple solo performance. Again, seated at the piano, this time he has no bass or strings to act as support. This is just Elvis.

Here we have another rare opportunity to compare an earlier Elvis’ performance as the 1959 Germany tape contains an almost identical vocal although Elvis’ early piano playing is probably attempting to copy the accompaniment on the Ivory Joe original. The 1971 master makes no such attempt and the playing is simple and stark.

A declaration of intent that Elvis had kept in the back of his mind for almost 20 years before laying down this beautiful and moving interpretation.

Highlight: the high note on “Un-til the day” 2:03

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Final thoughts

This LP would not have been a big seller: there were no hit singles to push it into the top 10. But I do believe it would have been well accepted critically. In particular, I think it’s worth noting the absolute contrast between this delicate / broken singer and the cocksure frontman of the “Elvis Country” project.

Elvis is not necessarily singing well from a technical point of view, but as an expression of emotion this is a beautiful piece of work and the band is in excellent form.

Elvis uses a splendid selection of (relatively) contemporary folk-songwriters mixing old and new tracks to great effect. It’s worth noting that, had he had the inclination, Elvis could have recorded seven of these songs in 1966 alongside his version of “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” - that would have been a fascinating listen.

Elvis came into these sessions as The Man: his recent LPs, singles, concerts, TV shows, JC’s Award and MGM documentary had all marked him as an immensely talented and successful artist. During this year Elvis recorded a Grammy Award winning Gospel album, half of a great Christmas LP (the rest was at least listenable) and, as detailed above, the basis for a fascinating secular LP.

Many writers have portrayed the 1971 sessions as chaotic which may be justified but I feel that their opinions may be one-sided: Guralnick manages to write four pages about the sessions without once mentioning the undisputed masterpiece that is “Merry Christmas, Baby”.

The job of a producer is not only to work in the studio with the artist but also to sift through the recorded material to find the heart and soul of the LP that has been recorded. Clearly, songs like “Fools Rush In” had no place on an album of this nature and issuing the above listed 12 songs over two albums and singles was a grave error which robbed Elvis of a potentially vital LP.

This, then, is "Elvis Presley: Exodus": this is how I choose to listen to the great Elvis secular recordings of 1971.
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Last edited by George Smith on Sat Jun 25, 2016 11:46 am, edited 7 times in total.

Re: 1971

Sat Jan 01, 2011 8:34 pm

I love the title you have chosen. The tracklist is also pretty interesting although a tad too sad, maybe. But it still is a great concept album, much more interesting at least than what was released at the time.

Re: 1971

Sat Jan 01, 2011 8:42 pm

Absolutely a brilliant post George! 1971 was such a different year for Elvis, musically. He really was a genius!

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 12:04 am

Bravo! One of the best posts I've seen at FECC. Very well researched an eloquent. It also strikes a big chord with me, I know exactly how you feel - I myself have long held a similar vision for this kind of LP from the '71 Sessions. It would have been right up there in my book among his greatest works. It's quirky and different and won't appeal to everyone.

Once again - fantastic post. Wouldn't it be something rather cool and different for SONY to release today. I say why not? For new ways to market and release his work this is a much better idea than any "Viva Elvis" type project. They did something similar with the "Tomorrow Is a Long Time" release.

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 12:47 am

After "Elvis Country" and the "Exodus" album, Christmas could have been a perfect time for a 5th volume of the GOLDEN RECORDS serie focusing on the years from 1968 and 1970.

SIDE A
1. The Wonder of You
2. Kentucky Rain
3. Suspicious Minds
4. Patch it up (single studio version)
5. I´ve Lost You (single studio version)
6. In the Ghetto

SIDE B
1. You don´t have to Say you Love me
2. Clean up your own Backyard
3. Don´t cry Daddy
4. Rubberneckin´
5. If I can Dream
6. I Really don´t Want to Know

It was not 1956 anymore but the quality was still high and there were several international hits too. I took ten A-Sides and two B-Sides, two rockers actually because the rest was too heavy on ballads.
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Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 12:58 am

an amazing thread george thankyou :smt023

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 1:46 am

Great concept and post, George.
Wished you had been around and working for RCA in 1971

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:21 am

I've resurrected a post I made about a month ago on another topic which is in essence similar in theme to this one. Of course, not a patch on George's but I think it's a pretty cool idea:

I've long championed the idea of a 1970/1971 album using the remaning material after "That's the Way It Is" and "Country" instead of the awful mis-mash of artistically murderous releases (In both singles and albums) we saw between 1971-1973. A lovely mature sounding LP could have been made, with various nods to the different American musical elements that surrounded Elvis' upbringing including Gospel, Blues, Country, Folk and Ballads. Side 1 features a lovely blend of these and Side 2 is the "Jam" side, each track a spontaneous musical moment in the studio, still keeping with the theme and showing a greater depth into Elvis' art-form and unique approach to classic American music.

Rags to Riches: The sounds of America by Elvis Presley

Side 1
Early Mornin' Rain
Until It's Time for You to Go
It Ain't No Big Thing (But It's Growing)
Rags to Riches
Cindy Cindy
(That's What You Get) For Lovin' Me
Amazing Grace

Side 2
Got My Mojo Workin'/Keep Your Hands Off Of It
I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen [Undubbed]
I Will Be True
Merry Christmas Baby
It's Still Here
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right [70's Box Edit]

"It's Only Love"/"I'm Leavin" could have made a nice separate single release at the time, but the rest of the 1970 and 1971 Secular Masters have little, if any, other use at all. A nice album could have been released around Christmas time 1971 though; just using the best of the Christmas songs ("Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees", "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day", etc.) for 1 side of the LP and the best of the religious songs ("Reach Out to Jesus", "Lead Me, Guide Me", etc. ) for the other side. Instead of two separate mediocre releases in "He Touched Me" and "Elvis sings the Wonderful World of Christmas"; this one could have been a bit of an Elvis classic itself. Sometimes the cow didn't always need to be milked dry to achieve the best results.

But overall, from the oft maligned material at one's disposal if you disocunt tracks already used for "That's the Way It Is" and "Country" - you can achieve a surprisingly good album.

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:35 am

Thank you for your kind words and suggestions: all very much appreciated.

jeanno wrote:I love the title you have chosen. The tracklist is also pretty interesting although a tad too sad, maybe. But it still is a great concept album, much more interesting at least than what was released at the time.

The title has been with this project since I started working on it in 1979: a tad too sad? Maybe, but that's what Elvis recorded.

Great cover for Gold 5, by the way. I think the best time for an LP of this nature was as a summer 1973 follow-up to "Aloha"

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:41 am

Was "TFTEISYF" (duet version with Ginger Holliday) ever released by RCA or FTD ?

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:41 am

FTD buyer wrote:Thank you, George. Very nice thread! You obviously put a lot of thought and effort into this and it is much appreciated

Thank you, and welcome to the board, FTD Buyer!

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:43 am

TCB-FAN wrote:Was "TFTEISYF" (duet version with Ginger Holliday) ever released by RCA or FTD ?

No, they only seem to exist as low quality acetates transferred to bootleg.

The duets are generally not popular but I'd love to hear a studio quality take.

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:48 am

George Smith wrote:
TCB-FAN wrote:Was "TFTEISYF" (duet version with Ginger Holliday) ever released by RCA or FTD ?

No, they only seem to exist as low quality acetates transferred to bootleg.

The duets are generally not popular but I'd love to hear a studio quality take.



What a missed opportunity ! They could've included this real duet on one of the FTD titles "Now", "Fool" or "Standing Room Only". Un-fu**ing-believable.

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:53 am

Indeed, but I assume RCA don't have the tapes.

The only tape that seems to survive of this song is the multi-track master.

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:54 am

George, you have raised the bar for astoundingly thoughtful posts this year, and it is only January 1!

Bravo!

If I may, I have some comments:

- the title, 'Exodus,' is perhaps more idiosyncratic than either Elvis or RCA would have chosen


- "I Shall Be Released" is one of the most thrilling archival finds, and exactly the kind of challenging material he should have been looking towards. So sad no one around him seemed to recognize that this should have worked on to a completed master. Beyond Peter, Paul and Mary's 1968 recording as the source of inspiration, there is also a very nice live recording from the Troubadour in October 1969 by Rick Nelson. It closes side 2 of Rick's original LP:



Rick Nelson, "I Shall Be Released"
Rick Nelson In Concert (Decca DL 75162, 1970)



- I've always felt Elvis saw himself as the protagonist in "Early Morning Rain," thus his long-standing attachment to it.


- Interesting that "It's Still Here" may be a previously-unrecorded Ivory Joe Hunter song. It's possible Hunter released it under a different title. Was Elvis in touch with the great singer-songwriter in 1971? That would be fascinating to confirm.

You make a beautiful observation here about the recording:

Here we have a C&W song written by an Afro-American Texan RnB star, who sang ballads and blues, as recorded by a white RnR star on a folk album: that’s Elvis for you. You can almost hear him directing, “Well, it doesn’t have to be strictly folk …”


- “Help Me Make It Through The Night" is a great, if over-recorded, Kristofferson song that Elvis simply fails to capture in the studio. This miscue also underscores the paucity of really terrific, original compositions the Presley team brought to the 1971 sessions. It could have been so much different; even if Elvis' vocal powers were inconsistent, the final results might have been worthwhile. That said, I would "cheat" a bit here and substitute Red West and Glen Spreen's stark, melancholy "Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees." It was much more than a Christmas song, and Elvis invests more of himself in this number than almost anything else he cut in 1971.


- Given the nature of the 1971 piano recordings, it seems very likely Elvis' inspiration for “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen” is Ivory Joe Hunter's 1958 recording. Although the arrangement is a little different, the passion is the same. Elvis either owned the Hunter disc, or bought the record while in Bad Nauheim, and it was the catalyst for his 1959 home demos of it and "I Will Be True" (from the 1952 Hunter single B-side on MGM).


Image

Billboard - April 26, 1952


Image

Billboard - April 7, 1958


Image

Ivory Joe Hunter, “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen” --> Click Here
Sings the Old and the New (Atlantic 8015, 1958)


Again, wonderful post. I hope you like my additional thoughts.

What a nice way to usher in 2011!

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 4:02 am

George Smith wrote:Indeed, but I assume RCA don't have the tapes.

The only tape that seems to survive of this song is the multi-track master.



The only good quality copy can be found on this bootleg :

Image

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 4:08 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:Again, wonderful post. I hope you like my additional thoughts.

Additional thoughts and comments are always welcome, Doc.

I was hoping that this would be a discussion-starter and fact-confirmer, rather than a fait accompli.

With regard to the "Exodus" title - I do agree but, hey ... it's my fantasy!

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 4:09 am

George Smith wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Again, wonderful post. I hope you like my additional thoughts.

Additional thoughts and comments are always welcome, Doc.

I was hoping that this would be a discussion-starter and fact-confirmer, rather than a fait accompli.

With regard to the "Exodus" title - I do agree but, hey ... it's my fantasy!

Do you have the 1958 Hunter LP?

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 4:13 am

Speaking of "Exodus" Theme.......
What a lovely song it is.....one of the greatest compositions of all time, IMHO.


Vocal Version :



Piano Instrumental Version :

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 4:18 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:Do you have the 1958 Hunter LP?

No, but I have downloaded "Kathleen" from said LP.

Lyrically it's similar to Elvis' take but he uses the very old lyrics at the end, omitting the final word.

On the subject of Ivory Joe, I'm unable to locate Hunter's "I Will Be True" original.

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 6:14 am

George, thank you for the time and effort you put into that post. That being said, I think the 1971 secular recordings, while offering some intriguing moments, were lacking a cohesive feel in general that was necessary to create a relevant record. The '71 sessions produced fragmented results. Clearly combining them with some of the March '72 sessions would have created a legitimate, contemporary album with greater potential.

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 6:35 am

George AWESOME post mate. Love the material listed on there.,

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 12:27 pm

George Smith wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Do you have the 1958 Hunter LP?

No, but I have downloaded "Kathleen" from said LP.

Lyrically it's similar to Elvis' take but he uses the very old lyrics at the end, omitting the final word.

On the subject of Ivory Joe, I'm unable to locate Hunter's "I Will Be True" original.

Hunter's version of "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen" -- at least in the sample link in my post -- seems to be reflected in the vocal Elvis delivers in 1959 (Bad Nauheim) and 1971 (Nashville).

Even Elvis' reflective instrumental medley while at the piano of "Kathleen" and "My Wish Came True," from July 1970 in Culver City, is an indication he associated the song with Hunter, who wrote that 1959 B-side.

Hunter's 1952 MGM single B-side of "I Will Be True" does seem difficult to locate on the internet, although I did find the original 78 labels:


Image

Image


The odd thing here is while Hunter's A-side of "I'm Sorry For You, My Friend" was a cover of the recent Hank Williams recording and properly credited to "Williams," the B-side credit is given to someone named "Kyle," not Ivory Joe!

Another mystery.

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 12:33 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:reflective instrumental medley while at the piano of "Kathleen" and "My Wish Came True," from July 1970 in Culver City, is an indication he associated the song with Hunter, who wrote that 1959 B-side.

I did listen to the Culver City tape during research but I didn't pick up on the fact that it's a medley of "Kathleen" and "Wish".

Thank you - I'll go back and relisten.

Re: 1971

Sun Jan 02, 2011 12:35 pm

Any idea who "Kyle" may be?