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Archive for May 10th, 2013

Return to “The Promised Land”: Elvis Presley’s Stax Sessions Collected In New Box Set

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Elvis Stax imageOn August 6, 2013, RCA and Legacy Recordings will release a box set fit for a King.  Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition compiles three CDs of master takes and alternates all drawn from Presley’s July and December 1973 sessions at Stax Recording Studios on McLemore Avenue in Memphis.  Elvis was right at home; he could even take Elvis Presley Boulevard to “Soulsville USA” on McLemore.  These final major studio sessions of Presley’s storied career yielded tracks for three albums: Raised On Rock/For Ol’ Times Sake (1973), Good Times (1974), and Promised Land (1975).  The new box set includes all of the completed master recordings alongside a number of alternate takes for virtual one-stop shopping for Presley’s Stax ouevre.

Though born in Tupelo, Mississippi, Presley called Memphis home from the age of 13, and indeed, began his career there at Sam Phillips’ Sun studio.  It was in Memphis, too, that Elvis recorded some of the most successful music of his later period when he returned to the city’s studios after a thirteen year absence.  At Chips Moman’s American Sound Studios, Elvis cut smash hit tracks like “In the Ghetto,” “Suspicious Minds” and “Kentucky Rain.”  When he journeyed to Stax in summer 1973, it wasn’t a wholly satisfying experience.  The studio only had one 8-track machine.  Elvis’ microphone disappeared.  And so on.  When Elvis returned with his troupe in December of that year, RCA’s 16-track mobile unit was also in tow along with RCA engineers.  Presley and producer Felton Jarvis were more prepared this time out, too, and eighteen new tracks were finished to accompany the completed recordings from July, most of which had been issued on Raised on Rock.

It wasn’t until March 1974 that the first album from the December sessions was released; that LP, Good Times, distinguished itself by its poor sales.  With just 200,000 copies sold, it was a low point in Presley’s career – something that today seems hard to believe, given the quality of the songs it contained.  Undeterred, Elvis continued to tour, and released Elvis: Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis (of course!) in June; it fared substantially better than Good Times, notching a No. 33 berth on the Billboard chart and eventually selling more than half a million copies.  The next album culled from the December Stax sessions, Promised Land, finally arrived in stores on January 15, 1975.  It peaked at No. 47 and although still a disappointment, its sales (350,000) were an improvement on Good Times.

After the jump, we’re taking a closer look at the new box set! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 10, 2013 at 17:04

Where Were You When We Needed You: Latest Volume of “The Complete Motown Singles” Arrives in June

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Motown 12ALet’s dispense with the “Get Ready” puns: after a four-year wait, Hip-O Select’s Complete Motown Singles series inches closer toward the finish line with Volume 12A: 1972.

This five-disc set includes every single side released by Motown during the first half of 1972, a time of transition for the company. Berry Gordy had already moved his Detroit-based media empire westward to Los Angeles, leaving some of his flagship groups in a transitional period. The Jackson 5 still had their hits, but not with the blinding intensity of their earliest years (though Michael still enjoyed hits off of his solo debut Got to Be There). Marvin Gaye released a one-off single, “You’re the Man,” in between two masterpieces (1971’s What’s Going On and 1973’s Let’s Get It On), while Stevie Wonder began his journey as a fully in-control adult artist with “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)” from Music of My Mind. Both Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and Martha & The Vandellas released their farewell singles in this era, while a new up-and-coming band named The Commodores released their first.

It was certainly a unique time there, and now, it’s coming home, The Complete Motown Singles-style. That means gorgeous book packaging with a bonus 45 (devoted MoWest’s The Blackberries, whose single “Somebody Up There” actually was never issued as a 45), multiple essays (including by Motown engineers Russ and Ralph Terrana, Susan Whitall of The Detroit News), and track-by-track notes by Bill Dahl and producers Keith Hughes and Harry Weinger.

The box ships from Select on May 31 and from all retailers June 11. Hit the jump for a full track list and Amazon pre-order link!

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