Saturday, April 10, 2021

Guest Blog: From Elvis In Nashville – A Review

Ever since I got Rough Cut Diamonds in 1985, I’ve longed for this release. Not that I didn’t enjoy the 1985 bootleg album, I thought it was great to hear the 1970 studio masters without all the strings, horns and vocal overdubs that were present on – and in some cases more or less ruined – the songs. But the sound quality was pretty rough (!), there were still fade-outs and there were so many more songs from the Nashville marathon sessions. I wanted it all.

I was eleven years old when I got Rough Cut Diamonds. Now I’m 48. Has it been worth the wait? Well, I would say it has. The sound quality is top notch. And the new mixes sometimes almost transform the songs. I’ve always found "Got My Mojo Working" a bit dull, or as Elvis himself says just after recording the song: "We grew up on this mediocre shit." But through Matt Ross-Spangs’ mixing, with the organ much more prominent, it almost sounds like a new song. It definitely kicks more ass.

Another fine track in which the organ takes a more dominant part is "Funny How Time Slips Away." It just soars, and makes this recording even more haunting. And to think they nailed it in only one take! That is actually the case with several of the songs presented here.

There are some great moments on this album that weren’t on the original releases: Elvis’ fantastic vocalising in "I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water," the end of "When I'm Over You" where he (almost) starts from the beginning again, and the over and over ending of "The Sound of Your Cry," where Elvis sings like he just has to get the chorus out of his system. And for the first time on an offical mainstream release, we get to hear some of The King’s creative swearing. He was a human being, after all.

Sometimes I miss the overdubs, like the backing vocals in "Twenty Days and Twenty Nights," but that is not very often. This is how these songs should sound, and should have sounded when released back in 1970–1971.

One thing that does annoy me is that the songs in many cases still fade out in the end. Especially on disc three and four which contain outtakes, that could have been avoided. In the mini documentary The Making of From Elvis In Nashville (see below), producer Ernst Jorgensen says that the idea of this release is to hear what it would have been like sitting in the studio with Elvis and the band. Well, the fades were made afterwards and kinda contradict Jorgensen’s claim. And when, which is also the case on disc one and two (which contain the masters), you get some dialogue before the songs, the idea to fade them out doesn’t make any sense.

But that is really the only thing I don’t like about this release. From Elvis in Nashville contains great music, with Elvis and the band in great form. Pure Elvis country soul! I would have loved it back in 1985. And I love it now.



Thomas said...

Thank you for a great guest blog, Mårtenbrother! I can only agree with everything you write, I waited eagerly for this box set, and was not disappointed. It ranks among the best Elvis releases on the mainstream RCA label, and I have revisited it countless times. "I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water" sounds incredible, as does "Funny How Time Slips Away." "Make The World Go Away" is another beauty. Ernst Jorgensen puts it well in his producer's notes in the accompanying booklet: "Revisiting this work is a journey with Elvis and his band into the core of Elvis' musical universe. Free from the commercial considerations and tastemakers of the time. This is truly timeless music."

Mårtenbrother said...

Thanks, Thomas! Wonder if they will follow this up with a similar 1971 release? Maybe one disc of pop, one with religious music, and one with christmas songs?