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Stax Trax

Bilko CD 1591 (Released 1989)

If you talk in your sleep (alt. take)
MR. Songman (alt. take)
Promised land (undubbed echo version)
Love song of the year (undubbed version)
Help me (undubbed version)
Sweet sweet spirit (rehearsal, March 30, 1972)
Your love's been a long time coming (undubbed version)
Thinkin' about you (undubbed version)
You asked me to (undubbed version)
It's midnight (undubbed version)
There's a honky tonk angel (undubbed version)

In a whirlwind year that found Elvis Presley doing the first ever worldwide satellite show, and at the same time going thru a heartbreaking divorce. He returned to his hometown of Memphis to record at the Stax studios. He had recorded here earlier when he did his "Raised on Rock" LP. The particular session on this CD, held in December of 73' would make up his "Promised Land" album. I'm sure in the back of his mind, he probably thought of the great sessions in 69,' which produced his comeback material. Unfortunately, these would not be as rewarding as the 69' sessions were. What these recordings do offer, is a glimpse into Elvis' recording sessions before the rough edges have been polished. This is the pure Elvis without all the background singers, strings, etc.

The CD opens with a song that was written by Red West and Johnny Christopher. This is a pretty good song, and one Elvis can be heard defending himself against in various concert recordings("If you talk in your sleep", Fort Baxter 2094) from this time period.("Ladies and Gentleman this song is not written about me, it was actually written by my friend Red West", "I don't know why he wrote it".) This is a good alternate version of this song. Next up is a song written by Donnie Sumner, (JD's stepson, (at one time a member of the Stamps and of Voice) who also wrote "I miss you" for Elvis.)"Mr. Songman" is a song about a man talking to a jukebox, and feeling down on his luck. This is a pretty good alternate version, although not one of my favorite songs from this session. This also without background vocals.

"Promised Land" is of course the Chuck Berry classic, and this version rocks in my opinion, this is probably my favorite song on this disc. I really enjoy the echo being a little heavy on this version. And like the others, there are no overdubs. "Love Song of the Year" says undubbed on the CD, but background vocals can be heard in various parts of the song, which tells me the engineer that produced this collection, wasn't paying attention to his job. "Help Me" is a great song written by Larry Gatlin, and probably says how Elvis was really feeling in this period of his life. (In "Elvis Sessions" by Joseph Tunzi, Jeannie Green says that when she and Elvis went in the control room for the playback of "Help Me", he held her hand and just wept and wept, and that he seemed really moved by the meaning of the song.) This is the album version, just without overdubs. Track 6 is just a very brief rehearsal of "Sweet sweet spirit", a song usually done by J.D. Sumner and the Stamps. What is unique about this version, is Elvis is singing lead. This just wet my appetite, and made me wish for an entire recording of Elvis singing this song. He really sounds good on this one, as on all the gospel songs he sang thru his career.

"Baby your loves been a long time coming" is next, and once again I am not a big fan of this song, I think some of these songs are a good example of the low point of Elvis career, as far as song selection is concerned. But it probably reflects how he felt about life, considering he had just went thru his divorce. And I feel the same about "Thinkin' about you", this is another so-so song, and both of these are without the tons of overdubs that RCA was putting on everything(Elvis) in this era. The next song is a pretty good country tune written by country "outlaws" Waylon Jennings and Billy Joe Shaver. Waylon had an earlier hit with this song on the country charts, before Elvis covered it. Next is the song which Elvis would send out to Priscilla in many of his Vegas shows in this time period, (Desert Storm, etc.) I personally believe this is one of the few songs Elvis recorded, that can be described as a "message song". This is just my opinion.

The last song on this disc is one that I think could have been a big country record for Elvis, but Conway Twitty released his single version just weeks before Elvis released his(album), so a single release was never to be. This CD is pretty much the same format as the 70's releases by RCA, "Memories of Elvis" I and II. If you are wanting to hear the true Elvis, before the engineers got their hands on the master tapes, then be sure and get this one. This is filled with good alternate and undubbed versions of the "Promised Land" album, and one of the last few times Elvis would venture into a recording studio in his lifetime.

Elvis would return to a recording studio only once more, this would be on April 8, 1975 at the Quadraphonic Sound Studio in Nashville, Tenn. All other recordings after this would either be at Graceland or via the soundboard at various concert venues. So in a historical sense, these are takes from his next-to-the-last studio session. So once again if you're a collector of rare takes like this, be sure and check this CD out. If not, you might not want to get this one.

Sound Rating ***

Reviewed by Andy Norman