HERE IS A REVIEW I WROTE FOR "MEMPHIS SESSIONS" A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO FOR MY WEBSITE:
Arugably some of the most historically significant recordings in the career of Elvis Presley were captured on tape at the American Sound Studios in Memphis, Tennessee during the winter of 1969. Elvis was at his peak physically, mentally, and musically!! The latest release from the good folks at the "Follow That Dream" (FTD) Collector's Label, "Memphis Sessions", captures some of that historic magic recorded during the cold winter of 1969!!
"Memphis Sessions" is a true testament to the perfection Elvis sought in his music. It is well-known how critical Elvis was of his own musical abilities, and his burning desire for perfection with each studio session. As "Memphis Sessions" will show listeners, Elvis lost NONE of his passion for making serious music in 1969, despite having been trapped in the music of his 1960's motion picture soundtracks for too long. Listening to Elvis rehearsing songs before takes, his in-between takes banter with the producer of the sessions, Chips Moman, as well as the musicians, and some of his off-mike comments highlight the 20 tracks presented on "Memphis Sessions".
Rather than give a general overview of "Memphis Sessions", we have once again decided to present everyone with our track-by-track review of each song on "Memphis Sessions".
AFTER LOVING YOU (take 3) - Slightly different phrasing of the lyrics, and some great pre-song banter highlight this great outtake!
STRANGER IN MY OWN HOMETOWN (undubbed master) - Slightly longer than the originally released version -- much cleaner sounding without the overdubs!
IN THE GHETTO (take 11) - This outtake features the use of extra drums during the first two verses, which we think detracts from this otherwise pretty outtake!
SUSPICIOUS MINDS (rehearsal plus take 6) - Elvis turns in a GREAT vocal performance on this outtake, which features some great pre-take rehearsal of the song!! A GREAT "fly-on-the- wall" perspective!
ANY DAY NOW (take 5) - Elvis' vocals are close to the master take, while the use of extra drums and organ add a little something extra to this track!
ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE (take 22) - A slightly longer ending, and the absence of the female overdubs create a very stripped-down sound for this AWESOME track!
WEARIN' THAT LOVED ON LOOK (take 3 & 10) - Take 3 is a false start, with Elvis' voice cracking causing him to break-up completely...CLASSIC ELVIS!! Take 10 is a complete alternate performance, which remains close to the master take!
DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM (take 1) - The beginning of this outtake features much less instrumentation than the studio master. Added finger-snaps, slight lyric changes toward the end of the song, along with Elvis' voice cracking once again only add to the rarity of this number!
AND THE GRASS WON'T PAY NO MIND (undubbed master/alternate vocal) - A BEAUTIFUL VOCAL PERFORMANCE turned in by Elvis on this track. A quick false start at the beginning, with Elvis singing "You can hear Chips calling", referring of course to session producer Chips Moman. Great stuff!
YOU'LL THINK OF ME (take 14) - Similiar to the studio master!
POWER OF MY LOVE (take 6) - Again, very similiar to the master recording, although Elvis' vocal is a bit more "gritty" on this outtake!
THIS IS THE STORY (takes 1 & 2) - A quick false start (take 1) is followed by the undubbed studio master (take 2)!
TRUE LOVE TRAVELS ON A GRAVEL ROAD (takes 6 & 7) - Both of these takes feature a much slower tempo, with heavier guitar playing on take 7!
LONG BLACK LIMOUSINE (take 6) - A VERY passionate reading of one of the true classics from these 1969 Memphis sessions. This outtake features a longer ending, with Elvis cracking up as the song fades out!
KENTUCKY RAIN (take 9) - A quick false start is followed with a rough sounding take musically!
WITHOUT LOVE (THERE IS NOTHING) (takes 3 & 4) - A false start is followed by a performance, which is quite similiar to the studio master!
HEY JUDE (spliced from takes 5 & 1) - Hands-down the low point of "Memphis Sessions". Even though Elvis attempts to sing the complete lyrics to the song, this song still seems out of place for a recording session of this magnitude. Historically interesting to listen to once, but that's about all!
IF I'M A FOOL (FOR LOVIN' YOU) (take 3) - Some great piano playing along with a beautiful vocal performance highlights this outtake. Listen for a neat exchange between Elvis and Chips at the end of the take!
FROM A JACK TO A KING (takes 1,2 & 3) - A couple of false starts lead into an early take, which features Elvis forgetting the lyrics in the middle of the song!
I'M MOVIN' ON (undubbed master) - This outtake features the extra second verse. First released on the "Suspicious Minds" package in 1999!
The artwork for "Memphis Sessions" is disappointing, and quite frankly, VERY sloppy in our opinion. The entire digi-pack features a western wood motiff, which we have no problem with. The problem we have with the packaging for "Memphis Sessions" lies in the atrocious photography used throughout the package. On the front cover, we have one small photo in the lower right-hand corner which ORIGINALLY featured Elvis with several other people. Apparently, the other people in the photo were felt to be unnecessary so the photo looks as though someone took a bottle of "White-Out" and covered up all the other faces, except Elvis'. VERY SLOPPY!! The back cover features the track listing in white text, and a single photo of Elvis with one of his singing idols, Roy Hamilton. However, the photo has been BADLY re-sized to fit the back cover, and both Elvis and Roy's faces are almost flat looking. Coupled with the obviously noticable distortion of the photo, due to the improper re-sizing, this makes for an embarassing piece of artwork in our opinion. The inside left cover again features the track listing in white text, with a photo covering the top third. Again, some sloppy work is evidenced by the "mirroring" of the photo...notice Elvis holding the guitar with the neck pointing to the LEFT. The one picture which doesn't appear to be backwards, distorted, or partially erased is the one featuring Elvis, George Klein, Roy Hamilton, and session producer Chips Moman. A nice photo which has been relegated to the location of underneath the CD tray. The CD of "Memphis Sessions" is an unremarkable solid cream color with black print.
The sound quality of "Memphis Sessions" is VERY crisp and clean. These tracks sound almost as if they were recorded using 2001 technology. Elvis' voice is properly mixed with the musicians, and the absence of the sometimes annoying overdubbed instruments and female vocalists make some of the tracks REALLY stand out (most notably "Long Black Limousine" and "Only The Strong Survive"). The obviously poor artwork for "Memphis Sessions" is MORE than made up for in the excellent sound of these tracks! A very fitting job for recordings which are of such historical significance in the life of Elvis Presley!!
Despite very poor work from the art department, "Memphis Sessions" really is a top-notch effort from the folks at the "FTD" Collector's Label. Looking at the packaging for "Memphis Sessions", a potential buyer's first impression might be that this is a "thrown together" project. But, the time taken to properly remaster these tracks, along with the outtakes chosen for this project, make "Memphis Sessions" yet another must-have for your Elvis collection!!
HOPE EVERYONE ENJOYS MY REVIEW!!!