Sunday, March 15, 2009

Rhythm And Country

One of my favourite Elvis albums is Rhythm And Country, released in 1998. It's the fifth volume of RCA's "Essential Elvis" series, and can be seen as a kind of pre-Follow That Dream album, together with the fourth and sixth volumes (A Hundred Years From Now and Such A Night).

As it was a while since I listened to Rhythm And Country, I decided to play it on my faithful Ipod sitting on a train bound for home a couple of days ago. And I was so impressed I enjoyed it one more time today, with the volume turned way up loud on my stereo.

What makes Rhythm And Country so great is that it includes 18 alternate versions of songs recorded at Stax Studios in July and December, 1973. What's more, these versions lend another dimension to the recording sessions, being undubbed and in most cases, including different phrasing by Elvis.

The album kicks off with "I Got A Feeling In My Body" and I just love the part where Elvis sings, "I gotta, I gotta, HOT DAMN!" Then it's on to a beautiful rendition of "Loving Arms" followed by "I've Got A Thing About You Baby" where it's pretty clear Elvis is in good spirits judging by the studio banter before the song starts.

And so it continues, with great versions of songs such as "You Asked Me To," "Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues" and "Promised Land." Maybe the biggest surprise back when the album was released was the quality of the July recordings, showing a spark not evident on the original Raised On Rock LP (but very present on the FTD classic album version from 2007).

Thinking back, the song I thought really stood out when I first listened to Rhythm And Country, was the funky take of "Find Out What's Happening." It's an opinion I still stick to, this version is way above the master.

Before I sign off I also have to mention the alternate take of "For Ol' Times Sake" which is so beautiful it's hard for me to find the right words to describe it (at least in English). Also, I've always had a soft spot for "Talk About The Good Times," and the take included on Rhythm And Country didn't disappoint me, with driving piano and hand clapping.

Now I can only wish for the millionth and the last time that the FTD classic albums Good Times and Promised Land soon will be announced. Then we'll finally get the material from the December 1973 session in the proper order and context, just like we did with Raised On Rock. Ernst Jorgensen. You are my only hope.

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