Elvis Presley is one of the biggest icons that modern music has ever seen. Despite his death in 1977 aged only 42, Presley’s fame and success has continued for decades afterwards. You may think that’s not altogether surprising given how he changed the landscape of music but in his later years, Presley’s popularity waned alongside his declining health. Just years earlier though, Presley was enjoying a resurgence following his ‘Aloha From Hawaii’ concert, which was the first live concert to be broadcast around the world and that success paved the way for his now iconic sessions at STAX.
In 1973 Presley decided he was going to record at STAX, the studio famed for launching the likes of Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes, in his home town of Memphis, Tennessee. Using his status and connections, he enlisted a stellar band of musicians including members of Booker T. and the MGs, The Memphis Boys and his own TCB band. As he searched for new material, Presley recorded for seven days and that material was split across 1974’s ‘Good Times’ and 1975’s ‘Promised Land’, which isn’t the way the icon has envisioned the music being released.
‘Elvis At STAX’ was first released in 2013 and now Music on Vinyl is reissuing it on vinyl. Limited to 2000 numbered copies on blue vinyl, it features two LPs remastered from the original session tapes pressed on 180-gram audiophile vinyl. The outtakes on the record are all newly mixed too, meaning they sound better than you’ve ever heard them before. The first LP kicks off with ‘Promised Land’, a rock-leaning number driven by an electric guitar riff. The song was a hit in 1974 from the album of the same name, and it’s an engaging start to this 17-track collection.
Highlights across the first LP include ‘I’ve Got a Thing About You Baby’, one of two releases from Presley’s ‘Good Times’ album, the uptempo rock gem ‘Raised on Rock’ and ‘Talk About The Good Times (Take 3)’, a song that leans into a more soulful gospel-inflected take on Presley’s signature rock sound. On the second LP ‘You Asked Me To (Take 3)’ opens the first side and it showcases a softer side of the King. Vocally Presley is on particularly fine form backed by a Country leaning production. Highlights on that LP include the Latin-tinged ‘Spanish Eyes (Take 2)’, the soulful and funky ‘Find Out What’s Happening (Takes 8-7), and the gorgeous ballad ‘Loving Arms (Take 2)’.
The LP comes to a close with Presley’s take on the Richard Harris hit ‘My Boy (Take 1)’, and it really shows what the King could do with his voice. The song isn’t an easy one to sing and it highlights a range in Presley’s voice that wasn’t always utilised.
It’s a shame that both Presley’s label RCA and his manager Colonel Tom Parker lacked the foresight to release the singer’s STAX recordings in a better way. The material here is some of the best Presley recorded in years and it wiped away the memory of the soundtrack albums he’d been locked into making thanks to his manager signing contracts with film studios. Raw, energised and on his best form in years, ‘Elvis at STAX’ shows that Presley had begun to find himself again and his eye was definitely back on music rather than money. Presley fans will want to add this stunning reissue to their collection, and crank up the volume to hear the King like never before.
Track listing: Side 1 – 1. Promised Land 2. I’ve Got a Thing About You Baby 3. If You Talk in Your Sleep 4. Raised on Rock 5. Help Me Side 2 – 1. I Got a Feelin’ in my Body (Take 4) 2. For Ol’ Times Sake (Take 4) 3. Talk About the Good Times (Take 3) 4. Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues (Take 8) Side 3 – 1. You Asked Me To (Take 3A) 2. Loving Arms (Take 2) 3. Your Love’s Been a Long Time Coming (Take 4) 4. Spanish Eyes (Take 2) Side 4 – 1. It’s Midnight (Take 7) 2. Find Out What’s Happening (Takes 8-7) 3. Three Corn Patches (Take 14) 4. My Boy (Take 1) Record label: Music on Vinyl Release date: 22nd April 2022 Buy ‘Elvis at STAX’ now