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Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Thu Aug 15, 2013 11:22 pm

Out of curiosity, I've decided to gauge the public response to Elvis at Stax by tracking down all the significant reviews I can find, since it's always interesting to read the reactions of people who aren't necessarily Elvis fans or hardcore Elvis fans. I'm reprinting or excerpting them here. Feel free to add more.

First comes Blogcritics, which ran three reviews, at least two of which have been syndicated in newspapers like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

No.1:
Music Review: Elvis Presley – ‘Elvis At Stax’ [Deluxe Edition]
By Cinema Sentries Saturday, August 3, 2013 (http://blogcritics.org/music-review-elvis-presley-elvis-at-stax-deluxe-edition/)
Written by General Jabbo

The year 1973 was a good one for Elvis Presley. He was riding high from the success of the Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite 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, Colonel Tom 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.


No.2:
Music Review: Elvis Presley – “Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition”
By Greg Barbrick Wednesday, August 14, 2013 (http://blogcritics.org/music-review-elvis-presley-elvis-at-stax-deluxe-edition-2/)

The new Elvis at Stax presents a fascinating chapter in the musical life of The King. In July and December of 1973, Elvis Presley recorded at the famous Stax studios in Memphis. Although most of the songs have been previously released, they were parceled out bit by bit among five different albums between 1974-2002. Before Elvis at Stax, fan would have had to create their own mixtapes out of all of that to hear it all. Maybe some superfans did do that, but I think most of us were completely in the dark about the whole thing. What we were missing out on was a very significant episode in Presley’s career, not to mention some great music.

The set contains 27 outtakes and 28 masters for a total 55 songs, spread over three CDs. I really like the way these are presented. Disc one contains 17 outtakes; disc two has ten outtakes, followed by 10 masters; and disc three has 18 masters. Listening to Elvis at Stax in order is a wonderful journey. The outtakes contain all sorts of in-studio banter, goofing around, and plenty of good music. The 10 masters on the “half and half” second CD are all from July 1973. The 18 masters on the third disc are all from the December sessions.

The songs are from the three genres he was best known for: pop, country, and R&B. There is a nice, large-format booklet included in the set, in which Robert Gordon explains what was going on with Presley’s career in 1973. There is a reproduction of a letter from RCA outlining what his outstanding obligations were. It lists an album (10 songs), two singles (four songs), plus a religious album (10 songs). Two 10-song pop albums were culled from these sessions, Good Times (1974), and Promised Land (1975). The remaining eight masters were posthumously issued on Platinum – A Life in Music (1997), Rhythm and Country (1998), and Today, Tomorrow, and Forever (2002).

In his essay, Gordon laments the use of the standard image of Presley onstage for the album covers of Good Times and Promised Land, and I agree. They look cheap, and when they showed up in cut-out bins later on, they looked like they deserved to be there. I had never heard most of this material before, and was really surprised at just how good it is. Hindsight may be 20/20, but the marketing of Presley at the time was just terrible. If the albums had been promoted properly, I believe they really could have had an impact.

In 1973, Stax was one of the hippest studios in the country, and Presley made some great music there. Had anyone thought to trumpet the fact that he was recording at “Soulsville USA,” which was right down the road from Graceland in Memphis, it could have been a big deal. A spread in Rolling Stone, coupled with maybe a shot of Elvis in front of the studio for the album cover, might have worked wonders. But it took 40 years for anyone to figure this out, as RCA Legacy have done here.

It is sad when you listen to funky tracks like “If You Talk in Your Sleep” or “Mr. Songman” and realize that the audience who would have most appreciated them had no idea they even existed. On top of that, those two songs were actually considered inferior, and landed on the “leftover“ Promised Land. The powers that be selected the 10 “best” Stax sessions for Good Times, and the next 10 became Promised Land. As noted earlier, the remaining eight were divvied up posthumously.

So why not just buy Good Times and Promised Land then? You would be getting the “best” of the sessions that way, and it would be a bit easier on the pocketbook. Well, for one thing, you would not be saving much, as RCA Legacy have priced Elvis at Stax very reasonably. And if you wanted all 28 cuts, buying the three additional collections would be considerably more expensive. But it is really the extras that make this set so cool. The outtakes present a side of The King that we have never really known before. He is just a guy in the studio, doing his thing. By the early ‘70s, Presley’s image was everything, and it is highly refreshing to hear him just being himself.

I was also impressed with the book. Besides some nifty memorabilia, the story behind the music is very interesting. The July and December sessions are broken down as to who was playing on each song, along with other relevant data. Mr. Gordon also makes a point that I had never considered before. Graceland was just down the road from McLemore Avenue, the home of Stax. Yet Elvis almost always recorded either in Hollywood or in Nashville. Had he recorded more at Stax, he could have slept in his own bed at night. Again, it is hindsight, yet based on the quality of music in this collection, working at Stax was clearly a good thing for him.

Presley’s groundbreaking years were well before my time, and while I always respected him, I thought that his ‘70s music was kind of past its sell date. Elvis at Stax has completely changed that perception. The music is extraordinary, and the outtakes provide us with a sense of being right there with him. RCA Legacy did a nice job with this one.


No.3:
Music Review: Elvis Presley – ‘Elvis at Stax’ [Deluxe Edition/3-CD Box Set]
By David Bowling Saturday, August 3, 2013 (http://blogcritics.org/music-review-elvis-presley-elvis-at-stax-deluxe-edition-3-cd-box-set/)

Elvis may be long gone but his music just keeps on coming in various incarnations and combinations. The latest release is the 3-CD box set, Elvis at Stax, the “Deluxe Edition.”

While all the material has been available in various forms and on multiple albums, the concept for this release is solid. Gather together the tracks from the last major studio recording sessions of his career, which took place at Stax Studios in Memphis, add in a number of outtakes, put them in some semblance of order, select a number of archival pictures, put together a booklet that provides a history of the sessions, and you have a cogent look at a specific period in the career of Elvis Presley.

The 1970s were a hit-and-miss period for Elvis. His studio albums were somewhat haphazard affairs of hastily recorded songs of the day. Some worked and some did not. Many of his live albums repeated the same songs over and over again. The one constant during this period was his single releases. They were polished, well recorded, found Elvis engaged, and were consistently excellent. The tracks issued as singles from his various Stax sessions are the highlights of the release.

Included in the set are rocking versions of “Promised Land” and “Raised on Rock,” country hits “Take Good Care of Her,” “It’s Midnight,” “If You Talk in Your Sleep,” “Help Me,” and the pop songs “My Boy” and “Thinking About You.” They prove that even as his health and enthusiasm were beginning to decline, he could still produce extremely good music when motivated.

The album tracks are a different matter. Most of them were issued on the albums Good Times, Raised on Rock/For Ol’ Times Sake, and Promised Land. While there may be a good performance here and there, the albums are not among the best of his career and many of the songs demonstrate why.

There are almost two discs worth of alternate takes. There is always the somewhat interesting question of why such takes as number four of “Your Love’s Been a Long Time Coming” and take nine of “Girl of Mine” were selected over others, but so be it.

The sound is good but limited somewhat by the Stax Recording Studio’s equipment of the day. It still had an eight track system rather than 16, which had become fairly common. On the positive side, Elvis always surrounded himself with the best session musicians available. Guitarist James Burton and drummer Ronnie Tutt were part of his touring band and they were joined by such artists as bassist Donald Dunn, drummer Alan Jackson, vocalist Kathy Westmoreland, and the ever present J.D. Sumner & The Stamps, among others.

Elvis at Stax [Deluxe Edition] is not the place to introduce yourself to the music of Elvis Presley. It is a release for the fan who wants everything or the collector who wants to dig a little deeper into his legacy with this snapshot of his time spent at Stax.

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Thu Aug 15, 2013 11:33 pm

Now for some shorter reviews.

From The Austin Chronicle (http://www.austinchronicle.com/music/2013-08-16/elvis-presley-elvis-at-stax-deluxe-edition/):

Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition (RCA Legacy)
Reviewed by Scott Schinder, Fri., Aug. 16, 2013

Elvis Presley's late Sixties comeback recordings at Memphis' American Studios are rightly celebrated as his last batch of consistently great music. Yet the widely accepted narrative of the King rapidly losing his way thereafter is inaccurate, and the best of his admittedly spotty Seventies output demonstrated his capability for making inspired music when the spirit moved him. Dismissal of the autumnal Elvis comes refuted by this 3-CD set, which gathers his 1973 sessions at Stax Records' Memphis studio, which were originally parceled out on such forgotten Presley LPs as Raised On Rock, Good Times, and Promised Land. Elvis at Stax takes the unconventional step of leading off with a disc-and-a-half's worth of outtakes. The move works, establishing a loose audio-verité tone that makes it easy to appreciate Elvis' command of his own gifts and his engagement with the tight, funky group of touring sidemen and studio aces who back him here. The assortment of pop, country, and R&B material assembled for the occasion varies in quality, but when the singer connects with the right song, as he does here on Chuck Berry's "Promised Land," Tony Joe White's "I've Got A Thing About You Baby," Leiber & Stoller's "If You Don't Come Back," and Danny O'Keefe's "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues," you're hearing the work of a world-class stylist at the top of his game.



From The Lincoln Journal-Star (http://journalstar.com/entertainment/music/album-reviews/review-out-of-the-past-elvis-at-stax-deluxe-edition/article_656a4cd6-c912-5dab-8535-82b6ceeb340a.html):

Review: Out of the Past: 'Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition'

August 08, 2013 11:00 pm • By L. KENT WOLGAMOTT

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. Grade: B


From AllMusic (http://www.allmusic.com/album/elvis-at-stax-mw0002548817):
Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The title "Elvis at Stax" is slightly misleading, suggesting Elvis Presley decided to set up shop at the famed Memphis recording studio so he could use their house band, or perhaps co-opt some of the Southern soul groove. That wasn't the case. Elvis chose the Stax studios to conduct several recording sessions in 1973 for a simple reason: it was close to his Memphis home. He rented out the studio twice, once in July and once in December, and brought in his crack backing band, recording enough material to fill out three CDs. This music was doled out over the years, accounting for five hit singles over three years (a B-side and a posthumous single also came from these sessions), along with three albums: 1973's Raised On Rock, 1974's Good Times, and 1975's Promised Land. These albums were all strong, but aren't often considered part of Presley's core canon, possibly because this mid-'70s run of records were often packaged like product (certainly there's not a memorable album cover among them), possibly because, apart from "Promised Land," there were no hit singles that could be called a true smash or part of his core canon. And that's why Elvis at Stax is so valuable: taken as a whole, these 1973 sessions are revealed as his last great blast of creativity in the recording studio. Essentially, he was working the same ground he began to plow on his 1968 comeback, but the aftershocks of Elvis Country are apparent, along with just the slightest hint of funky, organ-driven grooves. In this context, the preponderance of alternate takes are not tedious, but rather show Elvis' good humor and creativity as he tries out slightly different approaches on each take. What impresses is Presley's virtuosity and how he cannily constructed his performances to seem effortless: there's sweat fueling these tight, punchy renditions, and heart behind his ballads, and you can hear him work it all out on the alternate takes, then reach full flight on the finished masters. None of this was readily evident on the three LPs of Stax material, but this triple-disc, alternate-laden box lays it out plain and it's a joy to behold.
4 out of 5 Stars


From The Guardian (UK; http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/aug/01/elvis-presley-at-stax-review)

Elvis Presley: Elvis at Stax – review
(RCA)
3 out of 5
Caroline Sullivan, Thursday 1 August 2013
"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.



From The Seattle Times (http://blogs.seattletimes.com/soundposts/2013/08/06/elvis-presley-elvis-at-stax-rcalegacy/):

August 6, 2013 at 5:30 AM
‘Elvis At Stax: Deluxe Edition’ gathers hits and misses
Posted by Gillian G. Gaar

“Elvis At Stax: Deluxe Edition,” a 3 CD set that contains all the tracks that Elvis Presley recorded at the Memphis-based Stax studio in 1973 (home to soul acts like Otis Redding and Booker T. & the M.G.’s), reveals how ill served Elvis Presley was by his management. He was still tethered to a contract that required him to release two albums and four singles a year, at a time when other artists of his stature were down to releasing just one album in the same time frame — if that.

As a consequence, the need for a constant flow of product meant that instead of culling the best 12 tracks out of these sessions to create one excellent album, the 28 tracks recorded in July and December 1973 were spread over three albums, none of which managed to crack the Top 40.

It’s a shame, because there’s enough good stuff here to create the kind of album that might have ranked up there with the classic “From Elvis in Memphis,” the 1969 album that pulled Presley’s career out its ’60s slump, and featured such hits as “In the Ghetto.” And there was the hope that the Stax sessions might produce the same kind of results.

As “Elvis At Stax” shows, when Presley’s interest was engaged, he was still capable of delivering an impressive performance. His cover of Danny O’Keefe’s “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues,” is appropriately bittersweet; “I Got a Feeling in My Body” is so funky you might miss the song’s religious connotations; “I’ve Got a Thing About You Baby” is a nice slice of country pop; and his take on Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land” is the last solid rocker he ever recorded.

Then there’s the dross — like “Three Corn Patches,” a limp track by the legendary songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (who also wrote “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock”) that should’ve stayed in the vaults. The bland “Girl of Mine” and “If You Don’t Come Back” are equally uninspiring.

But it’s nonetheless fascinating to have all the tracks gathered in one place (and the set contains 27 outtakes, though none are previously unreleased). These were the last major sessions of Presley’s career, and his last in a Memphis studio. What you hear is an artist who’s willing to make an effort on occasion, but who doesn’t bother hiding his disinterest at other times; standing on the precipice before his final decline.

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Thu Aug 15, 2013 11:50 pm

More reviews!

From No Depression (http://www.nodepression.com/profiles/blogs/cd-reissue-review-elvis-presley-at-stax-rca-legacy-2013):

CD Reissue Review: Elvis Presley - At Stax (RCA/Legacy, 2013)
Posted by hyperbolium.com on August 6, 2013 at 8:30pm

Starting with his '68 Comeback Special, a reawakened Elvis conjured a remarkable late-career hot-streak that included 1969's From Elvis in Memphis, the revitalized Vegas stage shows documented on That's the Way It Is and On Stage, and a return to his country, blues, gospel and rockabilly roots on 1971's Elvis Country. In January of 1973, Elvis stormed the airwaves with Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite, and soon after signed a new seven-year contract with RCA. In July and December of that year he booked himself into the legendary Stax studio on McLemore Avenue, adding to a string of Memphis studios that had been good luck charms: Elvis had launched his career at Sun, and revived his sense of self at Chip Moman's American Sound in 1969.

The July sessions produced ten masters, eight of which were released on 1973's Raised on Rock, and two held back for 1974's Good Times. Four were also issued as singles, with "Raised on Rock" climbing to #4 on the pop chart, and "Take Good Care of Her" and Tony Joe White's "I've Got a Thing About You Baby" hitting the same spot on the country chart. All ten of the masters were solid, though by no means extraordinary. Elvis was in good voice, but neither the material nor the band assembled from road regulars and Memphis guests sparked anything really deep. Elvis connected well with bluesier material like "Just a Little Bit" and Leiber & Stoller's "If You Don't Come Back," and gospel-tinged backing vocals add weight to a few ballads, but the sessions never lift off in the way of his earlier work at American Sound. Two tracks - "Girl of Mine" and "Sweet Angeline" - swapped in players from the Stax house band, including the MG's rhythm section of Donald "Duck" Dunn and Al Jackson, but you'd barely know it from the final outcome.

The December sessions were a great deal more productive, both in final output - 18 finished masters - and in musical vitality. The results were split across 1974's Good Times and 1975's Promised Land, further dissipating the sessions' unity and squandering the marketing value of "Elvis at Stax." But even with the inept marketing, the sessions turned out three Top 20 hits on each of the pop and country charts, and a country chart topping album in Promised Land. Elvis sounds much more deeply engaged than he had in July, and the material and arrangements are a great deal stronger. Highlights include a fiery take on Chuck Berry's "Promised Land," the strings, horns and deep bass of "If You Talk in Your Sleep," the gospel-funk "I Got a Feelin' in My Body," Jerry Reed's revival-charged "Talk About the Good Times," and feeling covers of "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues" and "You Asked Me To." Two ballads, "It's Midnight" and "Loving Arms," feature deeply touching, standout vocal performances.

Beyond the twenty eight masters, this 3-CD set includes a generous helping of alternate takes and one unfinished track. All of this material has been released before, but scattered across a number of posthumous collections and expanded reissues. Augmented with bits of studio chatter, the outtakes give a more organic view of Elvis' presence at Stax than did the dispersed master takes. What you'll hear is an artist who's really committed to most of the material, and though the master takes were chosen for their commercial viability, the alternates are filled with vitality. Unlike the many soundtrack sessions through which Elvis often sleepwalked, and despite the Stax sessions being the product of a contractual obligation, Elvis was ready to make great music of his own volition. Freed from the confines of Hill & Range's catalog, Elvis drew from both longtime suppliers and contemporary songwriters, recording songs with which he felt a personal resonance.

That personal resonance also applied to the assembled players, who were drawn from Elvis' road band and key Memphis and Muscle Shoals players such as guitarist Reggie Young and bassist Norman Putnam. But the results weren't as deeply impacted by Southern soul as were the earlier sessions at American Sound; Stax, it turned out, was more of a conveniently located venue than a sound with which Elvis wanted to engage. The label's legendary musicians were barely involved in the July sessions, and not at all in December. By the time the later dates came around, even the Stax recording equipment had been swapped out in favor of RCA's mobile unit, leaving the converted movie theater studio as Stax's only real participation. Still, Elvis was home in Memphis, riding the crest of a remarkable career resurgence, and mostly (modulo the Colonel's lingering machinations) in control.

The 3-CD set is delivered in an 8x8 box that includes a deluxe 42-page booklet stuffed with photos, ephemera and notes by Roger Semon and Robert Gordon. The discs are screened with images of tape reels, and slid into the pockets of a tri-fold cardboard insert, from which fans will likely want to relocate them to jewel cases or other appropriate storage. Collectors who already own Rhythm and Country and the FTD reissue of Raised on Rock, Good Times and Promised Land will have most of the tracks in this set, though having them all together in one (affordable!) place produces a uniquely coherent view of the sessions. One thing that becomes clear is that Elvis had a great album in him, but a contract that demanded two albums and multiple singles per year dug deeper than the sessions could support. What's great here is really great, and what's good is still passable. Though he'd record more in 1975-76, these Stax sessions are the last major sessions in his remarkable comeback.



From American Songwriter (http://www.americansongwriter.com/2013/08/elvis-presley-elvis-at-stax-deluxe-edition/):
Elvis Presley: Elvis at Stax (Deluxe Edition)
Written by Hal Horowitz August 6th, 2013

Rating: 4 stars

The title of this newest attempt to organize Elvis’ recordings, although technically accurate, perhaps promises more than it delivers. You might assume that Presley wanted to get some of the greasy Stax studio R&B mojo into his increasingly slick music by booking time in his hometown studio and laying down tough, funky tracks with the studio’s legendary house band of Booker T. and the MGs, or its then current superstar, Isaac Hayes.

The reality was, as we learn from this package’s detailed and lavishly laid out 44 page book, that Elvis just wanted a studio conveniently located near Graceland to record music that was contractually required by RCA. So in July 1973 he went into Stax for four nights, bringing his own band. Those sessions—ultimately his last major studio ones– yielded nine masters and in December of that year, he booked another week that resulted in 18 more. RCA scattered these between three cheaply packaged records, all with photos of Elvis on stage in his customary white jump suit. This three disc set collects all of the songs recorded at Stax for the first time, adding rare demos, photos and memorabilia for collectors.

Musically, it’s a mix of country, gospel, rock, blues and the adult contemporary sound that defined much of Presley’s output in his final years. He rocks convincingly on Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land,” hits a somber countrypolitan groove on “There’s a Honky Tonk Angel (Who Will Take Me Back In),” goes back to his bluesy roots with a frisky “Just a Little Bit” and even gets Shaft-like funky on a tough, sinewy “I Got a Feeling In My Body.” There’s also a fair amount of schlock such as the bloated “Love Song of the Year” complete with sugary MOR backing vocals. But even on then recent hits such as his version of Danny O’Keefe’s “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues,” Presley sounds loose and inspired. Although his band isn’t the Stax go-to guys, his own musicians, many from his touring band including guitarist James Burton, were top shelf. The remastered audio is sharply defined and it’s a treat to have all of these sides collated under one cover for historical perspective.

Comprehensive recording information is another plus and the outtakes show how much fun Elvis was having with material he personally chose for the first time in a long while. All told this a classy and worthy addition to your “Elvis, the later years” collection.



From Something Else! Reviews (http://somethingelsereviews.com/2013/08/03/elvis-presley-elvis-at-stax-2013/):

Elvis Presley – Elvis at Stax (2013)
by Nick DeRiso

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 — due August 6, 2013, 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.

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Thu Aug 15, 2013 11:58 pm

Thanks so much for taking the time to do it. Really appreciate it!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Fri Aug 16, 2013 12:02 am

Great read really enjoyed this stuff thank you.

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Fri Aug 16, 2013 12:07 am

Here is the last set of reviews for today.

From The Buffalo News (http://www.buffalonews.com/gusto/disc-reviews/listening-post-chick-coreas-new-group-the-vigil-elvis-presley-samuel-blaser-rostropovish-plays-shostakovich-and-the-deadly-gentlemen-20130811):

Elvis Presley, Elvis at Stax: The Deluxe Edition (RCA Victor/Legacy, three discs). Elvis Presley was the Memphis boy to end all Memphis boys. Stax was the Memphis record label of the ’70s just as Sun had been the Memphis record label of the ’50s. It was nothing if not natural that Memphis’ favorite musical native son (yes, the competition would be fierce – B.B. King, among others) would eventually find his way to Memphis’ McLemore Avenue to record with some of Stax’s favorite musicians as well as more than a few of his own (most notably his great traveling guitarist James Burton). In the years 1973 to 1975 Elvis was in desperate need of overthrowing the conspiracy of mediocrity that Col. Tom Parker and RCA Victor management had long since established. Enter Stax records, for some of the finest work of Elvis’ latter-day career. He sounds great on these three discs – not only when he’s singing but when he’s hacking around in the recording studio – making jokes, regaling his troupes with mock opera. The disc titled “The R&B and Country Sessions” is stronger overall than the Pop Sessions and the December 1973 masters. But there’s a wealth of very fine Elvis here from an era where there wasn’t always much of that to be found. This is the era of “Spanish Eyes,” “Promised Land,” “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues,” “Mr. Songman,” “Raised on Rock,” “Talk About the Good Times” and “It’s Midnight.” If you remember that this was both the era and the same RCA that gave the world David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” and Lou Reed’s “Transformer,” it isn’t hard to figure that Elvis would be nothing if not restless with Col. Parker’s regimen of Hollywood hackery and Vegas pomp (though anywhere that Elvis went with his guitarist James Burton, something good could always happen). I think the exalted reputation of Elvis Stax recordings lies less with how great they truly are than it does with the great musicians he made them with and the sterility of so much else he’d been doing. ΩΩΩ½ (J.S.)



From The Second Disc (http://theseconddisc.com/2013/08/06/review-elvis-presley-elvis-at-stax/):

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 completed Stax masters, plus numerous alternate takes and outtakes, have now been collected by RCA Records and Legacy as the new 3-CD box set Elvis at Stax (88883 72418 2, 2013).

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.

After the jump, take a trip to Memphis!

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 Follow That Dream 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 sessions.) 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.



From e-music (http://www.emusic.com/music-news/spotlight/elvis-at-stax/):

Spotlight: Elvis at Stax
by Karen Schoemer

If you’re the kind of person who used to care about Elvis, if during the nostalgia boom of the ’80s and ’90s you sought out storefront churches and funky Elvis-themed downtown art shows, if you collected vintage “Love Me Tender” shampoo bottles and thrift-store busts with painted sideburns and homemade buttons with faux samples of hair and toenails, and if your trip to Graceland is something you now bond over with long-lost friends on Facebook, there is something you need to hear. It comes midway through “I Got a Feelin’ in My Body (Take 1),” the opening track on Elvis at Stax, a new three-disc collection of recordings made at the famed Memphis studio in 1973. From the moment the tape rolls, the nervous excitement in the room is palpable. Organ keys bobble as the band warms up, chick background singers test gospel harmonies, the bass players drops a chucka-chucka rhythm, a hi-hat shimmers; it’s as if an otherworldly groove is rising from the floorboards. Then, the song begins in earnest, a muscled, sweaty jive number written by Dennis Linde, who’d cooked up Elvis’s hit “Burnin’ Love” in 1972. Elvis’s voice sounds tentative at first: There’s a burr on the high notes, he rushes the beat in the second verse and misses a couple of lines in the bridge. But a keyboard solo revs him up, and by the time he heads into the third chorus, he’s stuttering. “I got a — I got a —” he sings, and then the frenzied mood of the song takes over. “Hot damn,” he spits, as if some devil from the southern soil is reaching up from down below.

Elvis at Stax is the box set for people who thought they didn’t need box sets anymore, a return to the sensibility that music doesn’t just float around the internet any old way it pleases — that there’s inherent value in having it organized and annotated by industry wonks and historians who know their subject inside and out. Leading off with a disc-and-a-half of outtakes then laying out every track from sessions recorded in July and December of ’73, the collection brings together material that was initially spread over multiple releases during Elvis’s lifetime, allowing nerds to newbies alike to ponder the emotional and vocal state of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest singer just four years before his death his death in 1977.

Not that there isn’t a little Colonel Parker-style hype involved. Those who are hoping for a meeting between Memphis’s original groovy white boy and the studio and label responsible for civil-rights-era hits by Otis Redding, Booker T. and the MG’s and Isaac Hayes should cool their jets; with the exception of a couple of throwaway tracks featuring members of Stax’s house band, Elvis employed his regular musicians and producer. He got so fed up with Stax’s outdated console that he brought in RCA’s mobile recording unit for the December sessions; all he used were the walls. The collection bills itself as Elvis’s last major studio work, but that’s misleading. Though his output was clearly sputtering, he continued to record, albeit in ever-shorter bursts, through 1977.

Still, Elvis at Stax is wildly special. From the front-loading of souped-up funk tracks on disc one, through the sequestering of outtakes into “R&B and Country Sessions” and “Pop Sessions,” this collection is the opposite of a slapped-together cash-in; it’s thoughtful, provocative and steeped in love and lore, asking listeners to do no less than stitch together the monumental variety of Elvis’s influences, from choir rafter-raisers to good-time road songs to honky-tonk teardrop shedders. By 1973, his drug problem was already out of hand — he was hospitalized for two weeks between the July and December sessions, covered with bruises from shots of Demerol — but the guy still sang with a beauty and devotion that could boggle the coldest skeptic. Besides “I’ve Got a Feelin’ in My Body,” my favorite moment comes in disc two with “Take Good Care of Her (Takes 1, 2, 3).” The song itself is a middle-of-the-road weeper, with the singer ruefully acknowledging that he blew it with a gal who really mattered. Elvis had finalized his divorce with Priscilla Presley just two months before, and he gets this one by the throat. In this outtake, as the band tinkers around with the beat and a pedal steel guitarist drapes a few notes, Elvis sings the opening lines quietly to himself: “I suppose I ought to say congratulations/ For you’ve won the only girl I ever loved.” For all the grotesquerie of Vegas showmanship that defines his ’70s period, here’s a moment of introspection where the only audience is himself. Regret and transcendence mingle in a masterful, complimentary balance.

Elvis at Stax awakened something in me I hadn’t felt in a long time: a feeling of music as event, as something mind-opening and cherishable. I’ve always been a late-Elvis gal: Back in ’92, when the post office staged a contest over competing stamp designs, youthful rocker versus jumpsuited Las Vegan, I was among the 25 percent minority who voted for the latter. The music here, from the mellow singer-songwriter lament “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues” to a vaguely kitschy reboot of Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land,” retains that weirdly overdone gloss of ’70s Elvis; some tracks feature no fewer than 11 backup singers. You can hear him aping something that used to come naturally, practically boxing his own shadow. I’ve always believed these complexities make his late work more mesmerizing than the uncomplicated innovations of the ’50s. Elvis at Stax brings out the superfan in me, pouring over liner notes, gazing at photos, winding and rewinding illuminating moments.

Still, I think the potential audience goes beyond diehards. As an experiment, I tried it out on my 13-year-old, Tumblr-obsessed, Fall Out Boy-adoring daughter and her best friend. I flashed the cover image at them, a sienna-tinted photo of Elvis in 1970, tie loosened, eyes droopy behind aviator shades, mutton chops disappearing into his tall white collar. At first, the two of them squealed in horror.

Then my daughter’s friend quieted down and studied the late King for a few discriminating moments. “That,” she concluded, “is the coolest thing ever.”

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Fri Aug 16, 2013 12:51 am

Seems the media is welcoming this release.

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Fri Aug 16, 2013 8:10 am

Yes, nice to see such positive reviews.

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Fri Aug 16, 2013 8:52 am

You have to wonder about a review that begins with "The year 1973 was a good one for Elvis Presley".

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Fri Aug 16, 2013 10:40 am

Music Review: Elvis Presley – “Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition”
By Greg Barbrick Wednesday, August 14, 2013 (http://blogcritics.org/music-review-elvis-presley-elvis-at-stax-deluxe-edition-2/)

Presley’s groundbreaking years were well before my time, and while I always respected him, I thought that his ‘70s music was kind of past its sell date. Elvis at Stax has completely changed that perception. The music is extraordinary, and the outtakes provide us with a sense of being right there with him. RCA Legacy did a nice job with this one.


That's great to see.

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Fri Aug 16, 2013 10:42 am

That's a great selection of reviews - thanks for taking the time to bring them together in one place. It's encouraging to see how receptive the reviews are to the fact Elvis could still turn in a great performance at this stage of his life / career.

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:30 am

Thanks Revelator for sharing these reviews.
Very positive most of them, more so then I thought they would be.
We hardcore Elvis fans perhaps need to read reviews written by non- or more ordinary fans who see things a little differently than we do who has listened and (over) analyzed everything our hero has done.

Lennart

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Fri Aug 16, 2013 1:33 pm

Great reviews. Thank you very much for posting.

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Fri Aug 16, 2013 2:11 pm

Thank you so much for posting, Revelator! Great read.

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Fri Aug 16, 2013 2:14 pm

Lennart wrote:Thanks Revelator for sharing these reviews.
Very positive most of them, more so then I thought they would be.
We hardcore Elvis fans perhaps need to read reviews written by non- or more ordinary fans who see things a little differently than we do who has listened and (over) analyzed everything our hero has done.

Lennart


I agree wholeheartedly, Lennart.

Revelator - you've done a great job here. It's a really solid topic which takes us outside of our closeted world. I'm impressed, too, by the length of (and detail within) most of the reviews - it's very refreshing !

Thanks !!!!!

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:27 pm

It looks like the set is very well received and reviewed!!
Not that many critical remarks.
It should too, it's a very fina package with solid good music.

Thanks for this topic!!

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:44 pm

Justin wrote:
Music Review: Elvis Presley – “Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition”
By Greg Barbrick Wednesday, August 14, 2013 (http://blogcritics.org/music-review-elvis-presley-elvis-at-stax-deluxe-edition-2/)

Presley’s groundbreaking years were well before my time, and while I always respected him, I thought that his ‘70s music was kind of past its sell date. Elvis at Stax has completely changed that perception. The music is extraordinary, and the outtakes provide us with a sense of being right there with him. RCA Legacy did a nice job with this one.


That's great to see.


Indeed . . . this stood out to me as well.

Thank you, Revelator.

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Sat Aug 17, 2013 12:59 am

Music reviewer Greg Barbrick seems to have no idea that the Raised On Rock album existed and that it preceeded Good Times and Promised Land.

"... Two 10-song pop albums were culled from these sessions, Good Times (1974), and Promised Land (1975). The remaining eight masters were posthumously issued on Platinum – A Life in Music (1997), Rhythm and Country (1998), and Today, Tomorrow, and Forever (2002). :facep:

The powers that be selected the 10 “best” Stax sessions for Good Times, and the next 10 became Promised Land. As noted earlier, the remaining eight were divvied up posthumously.
:facep:

And if you wanted all 28 cuts, buying the three additional collections [Platinum – A Life in Music, Rhythm and Country, and Today, Tomorrow, and Forever] would be considerably more expensive."

:facep:

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Sat Aug 17, 2013 1:06 am

Blue River wrote:Music reviewer Greg Barbrick seems to have no idea that the Raised On Rock album existed and that it preceeded Good Times and Promised Land.

"... Two 10-song pop albums were culled from these sessions, Good Times (1974), and Promised Land (1975). The remaining eight masters were posthumously issued on Platinum – A Life in Music (1997), Rhythm and Country (1998), and Today, Tomorrow, and Forever (2002). :facep:

The powers that be selected the 10 “best” Stax sessions for Good Times, and the next 10 became Promised Land. As noted earlier, the remaining eight were divvied up posthumously.
:facep:

And if you wanted all 28 cuts, buying the three additional collections [Platinum – A Life in Music, Rhythm and Country, and Today, Tomorrow, and Forever] would be considerably more expensive."

:facep:

More from Greg...

"It is sad when you listen to funky tracks like “If You Talk in Your Sleep” or “Mr. Songman”..." :D

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Sat Aug 17, 2013 1:18 am

Thanks to everyone for their kind words. The media reaction to the set has been very encouraging. And lest anyone think I've left the bad reviews out, let me say this--every review I've come across has been positive.

I have a few more reviews for today as well. First, from the Biloxi-Gulfport Sun-Herald (http://www.sunherald.com/2013/08/08/4860331/the-musical-way-back-machine.html):

This Aug. 6 three-CD release remedies a flaw in RCA's 1970's presentation of Elvis' music: the lack of distinction between concert and studio recordings with emphasis on live shots in the ubiquitous jumpsuit. This collection presents Elvis' self-directed redemption during 1973 that were inexplicably split over at least two albums. This Legacy release aims to put things right. It features many outtakes, remixes and studio banter, highlighting Elvis at work. Lavish packaging, liner notes and more will be treasured by Elvis fans.
Album highlights (disc three) include "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues," the somewhat-cheesy "She Wears My Ring," and a hard-driving version of Chuck Berry's "Promised Land."
Highlights among the disc one and two outtakes/alternate versions are also interesting, but space is running out. Elvis devotees will definitely dig this interesting assortment of rock, soul, country and more.



From The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
The King lives on
By Jeffrey Sisk

‘Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition'
Elvis Presley (RCA Legacy)

★★★★★

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.



From Popmatters (http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/174373-elvis-presley-elvis-at-stax/):


Elvis Presley: Elvis at Stax
By Jerrick Adams 16 August 2013

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.

Rating: 7 out of 10



And now to close with something special--two reviews from France! Both are obviously in French, so I'm just going to give a couple of brief excerpts, courtesy of Google Translate and my mostly-forgotten high school French. If you know French, please correct any mistakes I have undoubtedly made.

First, a bit from Le Nouvel Observateur (http://leplus.nouvelobs.com/contribution/917277-elvis-at-stax-d-elvis-presley-28-chansons-de-legende-qui-etaient-pourtant-mal-parties.html):

Above all, these recordings, the ultimate of such quality, where the voice of the hilbilly Caruso was in rare unison with a band as flexible in rock and soul as in country, show the fullness of their interpreter (who made the decision to sing "Help Me" on his knees, begging to the Lord), then aged 38. So much so that between 1973 and 1975 no less than six singles team finished in the top 40 [...]
In 2013, the outrage is finally repaired: presented chronologically, 28 masters (and 27 alternate takes) restore the exact consistency of a moment of grace, a genuine swan song before the final farewell to the music hall on August 16, 1977.



Last, a section from Le Monde (http://www.lemonde.fr/culture/article/2013/08/15/les-ultimes-fulgurances-aux-accents-de-soul-sudiste-du-king-elvis-presley_3461978_3246.html):

Vocally, Presley is generally impeccable. Caressing the country ballads, conqueror of the ambiance of rock in all its variety, very exacting in his approach to soul and even funk. [...]

The soulful gospel spirit of Stax is not present from start to finish, but when Presley gets going, it is with passion and drive--"I've Got a Thing About You Baby" (by Tony Joe White), "If You Don't Come Back" (Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) with funky guitar and rumbling organ; "If You Talk in Your Sleep", "I Got A Feeling in My Body" or "Talk About the Good Times"--with choirs that could make the saints dance set against the wail of country guitars. [...]
Forty years later, this set allows us to rediscover the ultimate dazzling singer imbued with the Southern soul that arose from the songs of the church, where he had entered the music as a child.


Thanks again everyone, and if you find any other reviews, feel free to contribute!
Last edited by Revelator on Sat Aug 17, 2013 1:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Sat Aug 17, 2013 1:21 am

JohanD wrote:It looks like the set is very well received and reviewed!!
Not that many critical remarks.

No, but certainly a lot of inaccurate ones by Greg Barbrick.

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Sat Aug 17, 2013 1:34 am

Blue River wrote:
JohanD wrote:It looks like the set is very well received and reviewed!!
Not that many critical remarks.

No, but certainly a lot of inaccurate ones by Greg Barbrick.


I think that's a reflection of how confusing the Elvis music catalog can be to "outsiders." Most of us here study this stuff to some degree or other, so the mistakes are much more obvious. That being said, I do not have this particular re-package, so I do not know if the information accompanying the Stax set actually should have made it clear for the reviewer.

These reviews have been very interesting in that many of them follow the pattern of the general public's knee-jerk negative image of Elvis in the 1970s, which results in something nearing shock when they actually play the material and discover it is not the wretched mess they expected.

I seem to recall similar surprise in many of the media reviews for the Legacy Edition of On Stage, regarding "Vegas Elvis" of 1969 and 1970. They went in expecting one thing, and received something else entirely.

Thank you to Revelator for taking the time to compile the reactions.

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:27 am

Thanks for posting all these reviews.......a great read for sure. One in a Danish media was posting a great review on the Stax album with pic of Elvis and Nixon.......saying "When Nixon meet Elvis"......and I thought, well that was a new one.......I liked that, most times it`s Elvis meeting Nixon, not the other way around.

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Mon Aug 19, 2013 3:24 am

Thanks for sharing these reviews. They were nice to read, and quite positive.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Re: Elvis at Stax Reviews--What the Media Thinks

Tue Aug 20, 2013 8:33 pm

Thanks again everyone. A few more reviews left to reproduce, and then I'll probably be done. As always, if you come across any reviews, feel free to post them here.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer (http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/entertainment/music_nightlife/Review-Elvis-at-Stax.html):
Review: 'Elvis at Stax'
POSTED: Saturday, August 17, 2013, 12:14 PM
Dan DeLuca, Inquirer Music Critic

It's Elvis Presley's death day. The King expired in his Graceland bathroom on August 16, 1977. (Not to be a name dropper, but Willie Nelson once told me a joke. "What were Elvis' last words?" I don't know, Willie, what were they? "Corn? I don't remember corn?!")

In any case, it's to the anniversary of Elvis' death, combined with the 40 years that have passed since the native Memphian decided that the best way to meet a pressing recording obligation was to record a couple of dozen songs at a studio just down the road from Graceland, that we owe this month's release of Elvis at Stax (Legacy ***), a 3 CD box that gathers the King's last productive burst of studio recordings into one release.

The title is accurate in that these tunes - the biggest hit of which was a cover of Chuck Berry's "Promised Land" - were recorded at Stax studios, where so much great soul music was cut by the likes of Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas, Sam & Dave and Isaac Hayes (who postponed one of his own sessions to make way for the King).

Presley used his own band, though, and much of the time, brought in his own equipment, so it's not exactly a case of Memphis' favorite son getting acquainted with horn powered Memphis soul. It is, however, a case of a singer still at the height of his vocal powers, and not yet fully into his bloated, fat Elvis stage, working with a new degree of creative control,thanks to a split with his longtime publishing company, Hill & Range, and recording in a country, R & B, rock and gospel vein that largely plays to his strength, and only occasionally indulges in overblown kitsch.

As pointed out by liner note writer Robert Gordon - who has a history of Stax called Respect Yourself: Stax Records & the Soul Explosion coming out in November - Elvis was riding high in 1973, selling out arenas and still moving forward on the career momentum that began with the 1968 Comeback Special.

The 1973 Stax sessions are undervalued in part because they were never properly presented in their own time. Col. Tom Parker, Elvis' manager, out did himself in cahoots with RCA records by spreading the material over three albums and several singles, and presenting each release to look like a live album. (Throughout the 1970s, according to Roger Semon, Elvis never had a single off stage photo session for RCA, so almost all of his albums were packaged with a picture of him wearing a white jump suit on stage, whether it was a live album or not.)

Elvis at Stax is structured rather oddly, with 27 outtakes preceding 28 finished masters. There are some redundancies - Dennis Linde's "I Got A Feelin' In My Body," for instance, shows up in three versions. But the effect is to show Elvis as a somewhat of a regular Joe in the studio, palling around with musicians like guitarist James Burton on the unfinished recordings, and then hearing them come together as polished products on discs two and three.

The Stax period is short on late Elvis bench mark hits - there's nothing on the level of "Burning Love" or "Suspicious Minds." But its loaded with small pleasures, many suffused with sadness in the aftermath of his divorce from his wife Priscilla, such as Tim Baty's "Thinking About You" and Danny O'Keefe's "Goodtime Charlie's Got The Blues." And mostly, it counters the prevailing conventional wisdom that Elvis' final decade was a vast artistic wasteland ruined by the Jungle Room excess and lack of discipline that would shortly do him in. On the contrary, Elvis at Stax argues that only a few short years before his death, Elvis was still holding it together.



From The Morton Report (http://www.themortonreport.com/entertainment/music/music-review-elvis-presley-elvis-at-stax-deluxe-edition/):
Music Review: Elvis Presley - Elvis at Stax (Deluxe Edition)
August 16, 2013
By Chaz Lipp, Contributor

What better way to commemorate the 36th anniversary of the King of Rock and Roll’s passing (August 16, 1977) than losing oneself in RCA/Legacy’s new Elvis at Stax deluxe box set? This remarkable release chronicles the dozen recording sessions Presley undertook at the legendary Memphis recording studio Stax, in 1973. While the material has all been released before (sprawled over an unwieldy number of albums and anthologies), this marks the first time it has been intelligently compiled in one place. We’re talking 28 master takes and 27 outtakes. That’s a lot of material, divided between pop, R&B, and country sessions, and it all adds up to a fan’s dream.

Legacy Recordings has been doing Elvis’ legacy proud over the years, reissuing remastered packages that smartly organize the King’s work. The most recent of these have been historically-valuable live releases, Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite and Prince from Another Planet (Presley’s 1972 Madison Square Garden concerts). But much of the stuff on Elvis at Stax, including outtakes bookended with warm-ups and chatter, might be unfamiliar to all but the most serious collectors and completists. The first disc in the well-organized collection is “The R&B and Country Sessions - The Outtakes.” The second disc is split evenly between “The Pop Sessions - The Outtakes” and “The July 1973 Masters.” The more productive December, ’73 sessions yielded the “Masters” that comprise the third disc.

As good as the polished master takes are, it’s the alternate takes that help achieve the stated goal of showcasing the spontaneity of the Presley’s Stax sessions. The R&B stuff really cooks, with the band laying into chugging, funky grooves and Presley cutting loose with some of his most inspired and energetic vocals of the era. There are two smokin’ alternates each of “I Got a Feelin’ in My Body” and Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land.” The top 20 hit “If You Talk in Your Sleep” is, in its alternate take, even more authoritative than the master. Jerry Reed’s somber country ballad “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues” turns up as well, with Norbert Putnam’s simple yet effective bass line doing the steering (as it does on the official take). Though most of the outtakes are superficially quite similar to their corresponding master, they are generally rawer. Their “live in the studio” immediacy suits the material well.

The mainstream pop tunes are arguably the least-interesting selections here, but again the alternate takes provide stripped-down evidence of how they sounded prior to that final shellacking the master takes received. Hits from the pop material include “My Boy” and “Mr. Songman,” both served up in alternate form. Clive Westlake’s “It’s Diff’rent Now” was interestingly never completed, though the unfinished take is included. It first turned up on the Walk a Mile in My Shoes ‘70s box set from 1995. Again, nothing here is previously unreleased. Conveniently, the liner notes let us know exactly where each take first appeared.

Extensive, newly-written liner notes by Robert Gordon, author of It Came from Memphis and The Elvis Treasures, tell the story of the July and December 1973 visits Presley made to the revered Stax studios. Isaac Hayes forfeited studio time to clear the slate for Presley. Being only a few minutes away from Graceland, Presley was able to record and Stax and still go home in between sessions. Though Presley’s entourage included his own musicians, legendary Stax house band members Al Jackson Jr. (drums) and Donald “Duck” Dunn (bass) sat in (along with Steve Cropper’s sub, and future “Disco Duck” producer, Bobby Manuel on guitar) for a pair of songs. As Gordon explains, despite the MG’s members enthusiasm to work with Presley, the session was cut short when it was discovered the King’s personal microphone had been swiped earlier that day. Fascinating material, these notes (accompanied by loads of photos) are a real value-booster for an essential set.



From Edge (http://www.edgeonthenet.com/entertainment/music/reviews/cd/145334/elvis_at_stax_--_deluxe_edition):

Elvis at Stax -- Deluxe Edition
by Steven Bergman
EDGE Contributor
Tuesday Aug 6, 2013

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.