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Thread: From Elvis in Memphis overrated?

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    From Elvis in Memphis overrated?

    Hi everyone

    I was wondering if any of you on this board felt that the 1969 album From Elvis in Memphis or the entire 69 Memphis sessions were overrated?

    Let me explain in January of 69 Marty Lacker upset with all the bad songs Elvis was recording for the movies and Elvis going to Nashville for another average recording session suggests to Elvis that he go to American studio with Chips Moman and the American studio band to record some new songs where publishing wouldn't be an issue and extremely set of creative and innovate musicians who played on 120 chart hits over a six year period would back him up. Elvis agrees and sessions are set up.

    I do agree that several good songs were recorded at the sessions like Wearin that loved on look, True love Travels on a gravel road, And the Grass won't pay no mind, you'll think of me, Little bit of green, Do you know who I am etc. but for a really creative session that it was suppose to be Elvis does record a lot of covers like Eddy Arnold ''After loving you'' and ''I'll hold you in my heart'', Johnny tillotson ''keeps right on a hurting'' and then Glen Campbells well known Gentle on my mind and Ned Millers from a jack to a king.

    I actually like Eddy Arnolds versions of those 2 songs better and I think if all Elvis was going to do was record covers of country songs he could have stayed in Nashville. I read that Lamar brought Elvis 2 songs for the session Come on, Come on (slow and swampy ) and an uptempo song Memory revival that I feel that would have been good to replace I'll hold you in my heart and it keeps right on a hurtin but Elvis never recorded them.
    regarding the singles I like all of them but Don't cry daddy and in the Ghetto were both written by Mac Davis who began writing songs for Elvis in 1968 and Elvis did get a piece of Kentucky rain so he probably would have recorded those songs in Nashville anyway the only song he wouldn't have recorded was suspicious minds which Chips had the publishing on.

    Marty Lacker is a champion for Memphis Music and in particular the American studio band and he says that while the Nashville and L.A. studio musicians Elvis worked with were talented they were no where near as creative as the Memphis musicians. I sort of disagree with him on that I feel when the material was good anything Elvis recorded in Nashville or L.A. was equal to what he recorded in Memphis, Just like if the American studio band played on some of those movie soundtracks no matter how talented or creative they were bad material is bad material.

    Don't get me wrong I like the Memphis sessions and I do own a copy of From Elvis in Memphis but I do feel the 69 sessions are a little overrated.
    How do all of you feel about it?

  2. #2
    TCB Mafia EnigmaticSun's Avatar
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    His productivity in terms of quantity seems to be remarkable to say the least, but it's not my favorite session as far as his vocals are concerned. However it's obvious that this was something fresh and Elvis enjoyed himself.

    I think these sessions may be appreciated like this because it featured Elvis in good health (it's easier to confront friends, family and the "progressive" press with it) and with vigor, at least it fits the rock 'n roll image.
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    ELVIS from day one with his first hit was known for remaking songs. I really love this recording session, I could only think of a few songs I'm not happy with but, in comparison to what he was doing in the late 60s and even after 1971 this session produced a lot of great material.
    It also introduced the world to a more serious and mature Elvis. His new vocal style was amazing.
    This was a new Elvis in the makings and that's part of what made this session so interesting.
    This also proved that Elvis could re-create himself if he wanted to. I'll never forget when I first heard that LP completely, I was like, "wow his voice is so rich and expressive", to me at the age of 11 it was like a new Elvis and spoke to me personally. Elvis had that personal magic touch in his voice and I very rarely played them out loud for a reason.

    Bing Crosby said it best when he said in 1970,

    "Music used to be a personal thing, you went home and listened to the records in private and related to whatever song to your life. weather to cheer you up, bring you to a place of solitude or remembrance of someone. Now, it has to be played over speakers and the whole room has to be in agreement that the music playing is good".

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    Too Much Monkey Business Jumpsuit Junkie's Avatar
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    Hi Brian, wow what a great topic! First of all I have to say my favourite period in terms of material and voice is 1969 more specifically the Elvis In Memphis Sessions but I promise to be objective

    You raise some great points, bad material is indeed bad material. to prove that point you have only to look one year ahead from the Memphis Sessions to see songs like "This Is Our Dance" It's miles away from something like "Any Day Now"

    Perhaps there is bias towards the Memphis Sessions because of the previous material coming from Soundtrack Sessions, the quality varied a great deal with little being released as a stand alone album. The Memphis Sessions capture a sound unlike anything recorded previously or again afterwards, Elvis still had an edge to his voice as heard in the 68 Special, there is social commentary in the track "In The Ghetto" something Elvis never did before.

    Like you have already commented, Elvis covered tracks that he didn't necessarily have to cover, however I believe that Elvis wouldn't have given complete control to Chips and these were either his choice or other external influences.

    I also agree that Elvis was capable of sounding just as good given material that was above the usual movie standard, for instance "Change of Habit" recorded 2 months after "Long Black Limousine" sounds great which was recorded in California as was "Charro" 5 month's prior which also showcased Elvis' voice.

    IMO the Memphis Sessions delivered songs that remain key highlights in Elvis' career. 1970 saw a return to the usual middle of the road play it safe material. No other sessions after the Memphis Sessions were ever as productive in terms of the amount of successful material or quality IMO. There is no other Album that is a strong as the Memphis Sessions unless you want to start talking about the Sun Sessions

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jumpsuit Junkie View Post
    Hi Brian, wow what a great topic! First of all I have to say my favourite period in terms of material and voice is 1969 more specifically the Elvis In Memphis Sessions but I promise to be objective

    You raise some great points, bad material is indeed bad material. to prove that point you have only to look one year ahead from the Memphis Sessions to see songs like "This Is Our Dance" It's miles away from something like "Any Day Now"

    Perhaps there is bias towards the Memphis Sessions because of the previous material coming from Soundtrack Sessions, the quality varied a great deal with little being released as a stand alone album. The Memphis Sessions capture a sound unlike anything recorded previously or again afterwards, Elvis still had an edge to his voice as heard in the 68 Special, there is social commentary in the track "In The Ghetto" something Elvis never did before.

    Like you have already commented, Elvis covered tracks that he didn't necessarily have to cover, however I believe that Elvis wouldn't have given complete control to Chips and these were either his choice or other external influences.

    I also agree that Elvis was capable of sounding just as good given material that was above the usual movie standard, for instance "Change of Habit" recorded 2 months after "Long Black Limousine" sounds great which was recorded in California as was "Charro" 5 month's prior which also showcased Elvis' voice.

    IMO the Memphis Sessions delivered songs that remain key highlights in Elvis' career. 1970 saw a return to the usual middle of the road play it safe material. No other sessions after the Memphis Sessions were ever as productive in terms of the amount of successful material or quality IMO. There is no other Album that is a strong as the Memphis Sessions unless you want to start talking about the Sun Sessions
    I have to agree with you here. You and Brian bring out good points. The list of songs do jump around a lot in style but I agree with the track listings of this LP. Elvis gave Memphis another new sound.

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    TCB Mafia EnigmaticSun's Avatar
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    It looks like quantity and success seem to be key elements here.

    But is it wrong to like Elvis' voice, say from 1975 on?

    There's enough I like about the sessions adding up to his '69 studio albums. But I can't harmonize with the thought that it was no good afterwards.

    I like the operatic and warm sound he developed later on, is this like betrayal to rock 'n roll? In some cases songs from the 70's portray a crying Elvis, expressing his pain in music and singing his heart out, which I don't find in the sessions of '69 (and that's perfectly okay, since he wasn't hurt, ill or depressed at that time). His later work is so dramatic, painful, compelling, heartbreaking.. it's what made me love the 70's.

    I think the sessions from 1970 were pretty good too.. "I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water", "There Goes My Everything" are among my favorites.

    Maybe I'm feeling too country here, as "From A Jack To A King" is one of my favorite songs from 1969. I wonder if there are members who understand my point of view..?
    Last edited by EnigmaticSun; 09-02-2008 at 03:39 PM. Reason: edit
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    Heartbreak Hotel, Room 11 Albert's Avatar
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    I believe the '69 sessions as a whole are overrated. RCA just didn't understand the way Elvis worked, and Elvis didn't understand the business.

    Elvis loved to cover songs that he liked. So what better moment to sing them when in a studio with fellow music lovers? The problem was that RCA recorded everything ELvis did in the studio.....and released everything they recorded.

    It's very common that artists fool around in a studio in way to relax, create a vibe or just to expirement. But normally the recordcompany understands that. And the artist or group see into it that the released album has a good selection of the songs. Sometimes half of the songs they've recorded are dropped during this selection. Those dropped songs are used as b-sides or bonustracks for compilations.

    The covers and some of the poor songs never should have been released on an album. Songs like "From a Jack to a King" is wonderfull for us as a hidden gem, but was really out of place in 1969 when ELvis tried to come back as legit artist and entertainer.

    Same goes for the 1970 Nashville Marathon: drop half the songs and you have 2 great albums for 1970 (which was already way too much: popular acts in that time released 1 album a year maximum).
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    TCB Mafia EnigmaticSun's Avatar
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    Seems like a form of miscommunication between Elvis and his record company. I think you're right, as a lot of releases by RCA look rather silly and out-of-place to me.

    And those terrible overdubs.. I'd call it over-overdubbing. I've often wondered whether Elvis wanted to have that.
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    TCB Mafia Joe Car's Avatar
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    Elvis From Memphis is one of the great recordings of all-time, overrated, I have to disagree.

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    TCB Mafia hounddog's Avatar
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    i think Elvis In Memphis is one of his underrated albums. I say this because it's only fans that know about this wonderful album. It covers so many styles and it really shows Elvis' abilty and musicianship to take any genre of song and make it his own.

    Soul, country, rock and blues it's all on this album
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    Roustabouts pat10's Avatar
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    overrated hell no

  12. #12
    International Level Cryogenic's Avatar
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    Overrated? No. Underrated? Yes.

    Firstly, let it be said that I *love* Rolling Stone's 2001 remark about this album, and for me, it sums the entire achievement up: "new as polyester yet old as leather". I love the tactile feel (haha) of that phrase. And I think it says something about the power of the recordings that someone could make that comment over 30 years after it came out.

    Start the album up and hear the first bars of the first song. It is fresh and invigorating with a world weary Elvis validating the whole body of work the moment he begins to sing "Wearin' That Loved On Look". Yet there's this remarkable warmth and familiar personality even with this new sound, too. To get both of these strands at the same time, and with such energy and vivacity by Elvis, does, in many ways, make "From Elvis in Memphis" his finest work. Even the title reads like a gift tag.

    But the voice leaves me with mixed feelings.

    It's not that Elvis has a bad voice here -- on the contrary, it's brilliant. I hear a conscious choice to return to the more spontaneous sound of his 50's persona, using whoops and trills, embracing a slightly wobbly-at-times vibrato and a number of other vocal ticks and mannerisms, all subtly and enigmatically blended as only Elvis could blend them. It's an interesting choice in light of the fact that Elvis was mounting his artistic comeback here. It's like he was trying to convey his energy and enthusiasm to the listener by drawing on his original "energetic" period for inspiration. It's a kind of self-referentiality, even.

    What's the problem, then? Four digits: 1970. In this year, Elvis had a new approach entirely, and it's this voice out of all his "adult" voices I love the most. His voice in 1970 had a darker, more chocolatey quality, being both incredibly husky and very controlled. I know some hate these songs, but point me to a performance in 1969 -- or anytime, for that matter -- with the same vocal style as "Heart of Rome" or "Sylvia". To say he "belts" these out barely begins to cover what I want to say, but there is a kind of passion in these numbers I don't hear anywhere else. All his vocals from 1970 have this richer sound. Maybe the ultimate recording from this period is his studio master of "Just Pretend". Again, point me to something comparable from 1969. Maybe you can, but you'd be missing my point. The timbre of his voice is different and he puts it across in a different way, much more closer to Tom Jones than anything he'd ever done before.

    It boils down to this: Every time Elvis entered into a recording studio, I think he was going for something different. He really has a multitude of feels. How does one connect the dots between "My Happiness" in 1954 and "Unchained Melody" in 1977? I'm not talking theme or motif or anything like that; I mean vocally. How can you describe in a non-demonstrative form (i.e. not with samples of Elvis singing) the sound and texture of his voice and the way he delivers both songs? How, in words, can you get from Elvis A to Elvis Z? And what about all the other Elvi in between?

    Brian started this thread talking about material. I half agree with his sentiments. For example, I also prefer the original version of "From A Jack To A King" -- it has a kind of slow burning richness I like. Elvis' version is very expressive and a little over-the-top for me, though still cool and unusual and by no means bad (to my subjective opinion). But I also think Brian misses the point of a choice like "I'll Hold You In My Heart", which Elvis makes into a private meditation and sublime work of art (again, to my subjective opinion). Some songs may have been stronger than others, but the overall focus and ethic at American Sound Studios not merely overcame defecits, it more or less made the issue of them irrelevant.

    Elvis knew he had to leave Nashville out this time and head straight for the hottest producer and recording studio in town. While song selection is not unimportant, interpretation is key. Chips Moman was a headstrong producer with a signature style. Elvis was a headstrong singer with a signature style. So why not marry the two? If Chips stuck to producing and Elvis to singing, they'd find perfect partners in each other and make some of the most outstanding popular music of all time. And that's exactly what they did.

    The material of 1970 may be less challenging, but the voice is not. And I take objection to the idea of weaker material, too. Overall, nothing can beat the freshness of the 69 material, in my book. But Elvis cut some radically different stuff in 1970, which should be acknowledged. "The Next Step Is Love". A contemporary pop song. "This Is Our Dance". A waltz. "Heart Of Rome". A dance-pop number. All totally new for Elvis. And the voice from that year is a real thrill. As much as I love "Long Black Limousine", hearing him arc his voice up at the end of "Heart of Rome" kinda grabs me more. Name me one other singer who has ever had that specific sound. There isn't one. Keep listening to the music, for that's what it's all about.
    Last edited by Cryogenic; 09-02-2008 at 06:10 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cryogenic View Post


    .



    Brian started this thread talking about material. I half agree with his sentiments. For example, I also prefer the original version of "From A Jack To A King" -- it has a kind of slow burning richness I like. Elvis' version is very expressive and a little over-the-top for me, though still cool and unusual and by no means bad (to my subjective opinion). But I also think Brian misses the point of a choice like "I'll Hold You In My Heart", which Elvis makes into a private meditation and sublime work of art (again, to my subjective opinion). Some songs may have been stronger than others, but the overall focus and ethic at American Sound Studios not merely overcame defecits, it more or less made the issue of them irrelevant.



    I don't think I miss the point about I'll hold you in my heart my point was if Elvis was going to record in a new studio with new musicians he should've recorded more original material. I know that Elvis covered the song because he liked it and he gave it a different arrangement and interpretation but I was saying I liked Eddy Arnold's version better. I know a lot of fans like it but I know a lot of people who don't, he could've recorded the same song in Nashville with the same arrangement.

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    International Level SeeSeeRider777's Avatar
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    Overrated, I dont think so. It was a great session. IMHO Any Day Now should have been a bigger hit.
    "When I was a child, ladies and gentlemen, I was a dreamer. I read comic books, and I was a hero in the movie. So every dream that I ever dreamed has come true a hundred times. I learned very early in life that without a song, the day would never end; without a song, a man ain't got a friend; without a song, the road would never bend; without a song. So I keep singing a song." - Elvis Presley

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    TCB Mafia KPM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian View Post
    I don't think I miss the point about I'll hold you in my heart my point was if Elvis was going to record in a new studio with new musicians he should've recorded more original material. I know that Elvis covered the song because he liked it and he gave it a different arrangement and interpretation but I was saying I liked Eddy Arnold's version better. I know a lot of fans like it but I know a lot of people who don't, he could've recorded the same song in Nashville with the same arrangement.
    Why?
    Elvis sang originals when he wanted to, and he sang covers when he wanted to. By 1969 there were more singer/songwriters than ever before and a lot of the good ones were doing their own songs. Also lets not ever forget that the new material was limited to writers who would give a cut to the publishing companies associated with Elvis/Col. After the mid 60s that list became smaller and smaller.
    I was always so excited to hear Elvis do songs I had heard by others and wanted to hear his take on. He very seldom let me down with his versions.
    As far as Eddy's version as opposed to Elvis's-I like Elvis's because it has an excitement, a fire which just is not in Eddy's. Eddy was a mellow singer and I am not knocking his sound. To me he is a country version of Perry Como and Dean Martin.

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    It's one greatest Lp all times, Overrated no, I agree that Any Day sure had An Hit and same for Gentle On My Mind.. Gentle On My Mind Is One Old Time Classic, I listen To Glen Campell version before I Was A Elvis fan.. I think That Elvis is power version , it miss good Guitar work liked Glen Version , That's I think .. The "From Elvis In Memphis also miss hits liked "Suspicious Minds" And "Don't Cry Daddy"
    If We Have Gentle On My Mind and True Love TRavels On Gravel road as Single , maybe That another Hit for Elvis.
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    Take a look at you and me,,Are we too blind to see, Do we Simply turn our heads and look the other way.....(Line From "in The Ghetto")

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    Quote Originally Posted by KPM View Post
    Why?
    Elvis sang originals when he wanted to, and he sang covers when he wanted to. By 1969 there were more singer/songwriters than ever before and a lot of the good ones were doing their own songs. Also lets not ever forget that the new material was limited to writers who would give a cut to the publishing companies associated with Elvis/Col. After the mid 60s that list became smaller and smaller.
    I was always so excited to hear Elvis do songs I had heard by others and wanted to hear his take on. He very seldom let me down with his versions.
    As far as Eddy's version as opposed to Elvis's-I like Elvis's because it has an excitement, a fire which just is not in Eddy's. Eddy was a mellow singer and I am not knocking his sound. To me he is a country version of Perry Como and Dean Martin.
    That's your opinion and I have mine. Elvis recorded there so he could get more original and better material and to work with an exciting creative musicians but didn't do that all that much, there were still many songwriters Elvis never cut songs from. I think I'm movin on'' was the best of the country covers. I would have dropped I'll hold you in my heart, After loving you, it keeps right on a hurtin and Gentle on my mind for more original material.

    I agree with your opinion about Eddy Arnold's sound that's one of the reasons why I like him.

  18. #18
    TCB Mafia KPM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian View Post
    That's your opinion and I have mine. Elvis recorded there so he could get more original and better material and to work with an exciting creative musicians but didn't do that all that much, there were still many songwriters Elvis never cut songs from. I think I'm movin on'' was the best of the country covers. I would have dropped I'll hold you in my heart, After loving you, it keeps right on a hurtin and Gentle on my mind for more original material.

    I agree with your opinion about Eddy Arnold's sound that's one of the reasons why I like him.
    I thought Elvis recorded there because he wanted to try and get a more contemporary sound and to try and make some good hit records-it was a studio which was hot in 1969 and it was in his own backyard so to speak.
    I don't think anyone cared if the songs were covers, or originals-IMO they wanted to make great music which would sell. If that music was an original fine-if it was a cover fine.
    To me good music is good music no matter who recorded it first or who covered it.
    I like Robbie Robertson and the Bands version of "Mystery Train"-its a cover of Elvis's (and his is a cover of Junior Parker), I like them all and bought them all.
    I like Elvis's "Hound Dog" but also like Big Mama Thorntons.
    I like "My Way" by Elvis and Frank for different reasons.But they are both good.
    If Elvis had only done originals I think he would have grown bored of recording way before the mid 70's-it seems he needed to sing what appealed to him, what touched him in some way.
    I like Eddy Arnold-but can't listen to him as often as I listen to Elvis. I like a little Perry Como also-but only when I'm going to sleep.

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    TCB Mafia kathy parkinson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hounddog View Post
    i think Elvis In Memphis is one of his underrated albums. I say this because it's only fans that know about this wonderful album. It covers so many styles and it really shows Elvis' abilty and musicianship to take any genre of song and make it his own.

    Soul, country, rock and blues it's all on this album
    Agree with you on this, love this album.

  20. #20
    Cadillac King Trelane P's Avatar
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    This should have been the album tracklist for Elvis In Memphis. I suggest it would be hailed as the greatest album ever made leaving the likes of Sgt Pepper and Pet Sounds in it's dust:

    1. Wearin' That Loved On Look
    2. Only The Strong Survive
    3. I'll Hold You In My Heart (Till I Can Hold You In My Arms)
    4. Long Black Limousine
    5. I'm Movin' On
    6. Power Of My Love
    7. Gentle On My Mind
    8. After Loving You
    9. Any Day Now
    10. In The Ghetto
    11. Suspicious Minds
    12. You'll Think Of Me
    13. Kentucky Rain
    14. Stranger In My Own Home Town
    15. From A Jack To A King
    16. Do You Know Who I Am
    17. A Little Bit Of Green
    18. And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind
    19. Rubberneckin'
    20. Inherit The Wind

    RCA should release this album and delete previous 69 American releases. While I am at it they should also release a definitive Stax album. Elvis At Stax, another gem.
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