Follow That Dreams “Promised Land” completes the STAX trilogy and the 2-CD version is a welcome addition to the growing catalogue of collectors releases. The 1974 released classic album includes: yearning ballads, funk, late night laments – and a burning Chuck Berry cover that could melt speaker grills. Elvis was a huge Chuck Berry fan and the feeling was mutual. There's a great story about Elvis and his entourage walking into the duck walking legends Vegas show around 1972-73, and sitting in a front row booth and calling out to him to play his favourite hits, Chuck duly obliged (Jerry Shilling book).
Elvis takes Chuck Berry's classic 1964 musical travelogue and amps it in a rocking tour-de-force –– and it’s fantastic to hear takes 3, 4, powered by Ronnie Tutt’s powerhouse drumming and James Burton’s driving guitar. Elvis is working towards the master, but with a meticulous ear stops the song mid-intro, it’s a fascinating moment and is a great example of how in control he was...
On the lyric he sings: "there's an uncle who cares a lot about me" which is similar to the Berry classic, "Memphis Tennessee" (also recorded by Elvis) – it's fascinating to hear him get to grips with the lyrics which are almost perfect except for the aforementioned "uncle" lyric.
He then nails it on the stunning high-octane "Promised Land" master (take 6), and a snippet of "Columbus Stockade Blues" is also sung before the intro (CD-2) –– CSB is a traditional country song that dates back to the 1930s, Elvis loved singing it, evident in his short rendition, but what if it had appeared on the Promised Land album proper? It’s another highlight of the FTD release, but there's so much more...
The heartbreaking ballad – "It's Midnight" - take 7 is gorgeous, but it has to be said all the takes offer something a little different, whether it's Elvis joking with his musicians (takes 1-4, 8), and the beautiful reading of the Billy Ed Wheeler's/Jerry Chesnut lyrics - Elvis sings: "Where is all my self control, I'm burning way down in my soul, and needing you," it's stunning, and beautifully written, it’s one of the most overlooked ballads of his entire career; the delicate, emotive phrasing after the chorus: “lord, I miss you” is heartfelt and poignant, with Elvis pouring his heart out in a masterly performance.
The album is a compelling listen with something for everyone. The funky "If You Talk In Your Sleep" take 5, with James Burton's bluesy, infectious guitar riff, is just delicious! But there’s more on CD-2 with take 6 and 9 adding to the funky mix. Furthermore the sound is clear, defined, and detailed with every instrument in harmony. The sound is simply stunning! Hats off to Mr. Anesini especially after the reported sound difficulties.
More standouts: "Love Song Of The Year" (rehearsal) is great fun - Elvis is having a great time on this one, and it's sure to make you smile...likewise “Thinking About You” rehearsal + take 2, and take 3, has it’s moments too. On the “The Making of” (CD-2), Elvis is letting loose and having fun in the moment and it’s a sheer joy to hear.
The new Vic Anesini mixes reveal more detail and add a wonderful freshness to the recordings, all the songs benefit in a new light and one example is “Love Song of The Year” which, love it or loathe it sounds good here. Wonderful lyrics, Elvis sings: “That I let love slip through my fingers like a golden breath of air. If I cared I wouldn’t be singing this love song of the year.” The ‘golden breath’ of air lyric is startling in its imagery – that’s the magic of a great singer interpreting the simple but effecting lyric.
Additionally, “There’s A Honky Tonk Angel’s theme of neglected love and the dimming of the home-fires has never sounded as good on take-1.
The Promised Land album is indeed a classic but by including the alternate album and "the making of" – it’s now widescreen... To sum up, Elvis took us on a trip to the promised land that's one hell of a ride – Kudos to the FTD team for releasing the ultimate edition of a classic album.