The album opens with "Tomorrow is a Long Time", a Bob Dylan Song. Recorded by Bob some 4 years earlier, Elvis makes of it a somber, all acoustic haunt. "Elvis recorded a song of mine. That's the record I treasure the most" recalled Dylan. Elvis driving acoustic guitar sets the rhythm as it used to do back at Sun Studios in Memphis some 12 years ago, while Scooty Moore and Chip Young, both also on their acouspics, fill in with some nasty rural country blues licks that might take you either, back to the delta, or to your favorite desert scene on some spaghetii western or in Jim Jarmusch: Dead Man. No drums, just a mean bass line punctuated with some tambourine beating , making you think of rattlesnakes, a chain gang, an old train, courtesy of D.J. Fontana, Elvis long time drummer, bass provided by Charlie McCoy, same guy that played Bass for Dylan same year on his John Wesley Harding Album. This master Elvis piece must have been in Jack White's mind when he recorded "Will There Be Enough Water?" with The Dead Weather last year.
By the fall of 1967, Elvis Presley was sick to dead about Hollywood and the business side of his career, he was sick of scammers and thieves. Early that year, after spending some time in a deep depression, tired of being forced to record music that did not appealed to him in anyway, to appear in movies he was embarrassed of being in, feeling fooled with an industry that did nothing but milk away on the success that he earned with his original talent and hard work back in the mid 50's, Presley simply called it a day. A just married 32 years old Elvis retreated to his hideaway ranch minutes across the Tennessee state line, and spent most of the year there, away from everyone and everything, doing nothing but riding horses and resting, playing music in private just for his own amuse, spending time with his woman and friends. That felted good, but with his career hitting his lowest, life seemed uncertain.
In September 1967 he decided to travel to Nashville Studio B and to start all over again, producer Felton Jarvis on charge, Scooty Moore on guitar, D.J. Fontana on Drums, Bob Moore on Bass, Charlie McCoy this time on the Hammond and Harmonica, Pete Drake on Steel Guitar (also working with Dylan at the time he did Wesley Harding also in Nashville), and legendary guitar player Jerry Reed, invited at the request of Jarvis, Elvis was in great mood, rested and just about to become a father, the possibility of leaving all the bad stuff behind in was right there. History tells about how in 1968 he made his comeback to the rock music scene, where he had faded year by year since 1963 until his street credibility was none. He had nothing to loose now, back in the 50's when he left Sun records and signed to RCA, there was the pressure, in those early sessions, to perform up to expectations, when he returned from the army he had the pressure of an image to rebuild, and then when he was trapped in the Hollywood machinery there was the unbearable pressure of having to do something you hate po do. Elvis now stepped into the studio under a nobody cares situation, which, against all odds, provided him with a creative freedom, he hadn't experienced since his days at Sun studios, one that he used to find his musical way back home.
Session started with "Guitar Man", followed by "Big Boss Man", both wild acoustic guitar driven numbers, the sound was crisp and vibrant, between takes the room buzzed with energy, it sounded different from anything Elvis had ever done before, in fact it sounded worlds away from anything coming out of Nashville at the time, it was new, it was at the same time as close, as hot, as anything Elvis did back at Sun Records, melting Country and Blues, Honky Tonk and R&B in his unique style. There is the feeling of a jam and yet the sound is intricate and precise, but funky all the way at the same time.
If "Guitar Man" and "Big Boss Man" where the perfect melt, "Just Call Me Lonesome" is as Country as you can get, with Pete Drake Steel Guitar licks coming out of the speakers as a wind on your face across the highway, on the other hand "Down in the Alley" is pure R&B, a funky number that could match anything coming out from Stax studios in Memphis at the time. From one track to another, Elvis take you from Nashville highways to a Memphis blues joint.
At the height of psychedelic rock, Elvis chooses to record some heavy roots music, "I don't play for snob interests" he declared, and yet, more than time traveling to the past, the sound is new and looking to the future,, this recordings stand besides Dylan's same year "John Wesley Harding" and its follow up "Nashville Skyline", The Byrds "Sweet Heart of the Rodeo", soon psychedelic bands as the Grateful Dead would be recording country music and roots stuff.
Hi-Heel Sneakers introduces the electric sitar to the Blues, (well after all this was months around the summer of love), Canned Heat would build their sound out the same idea around the same time, Elvis was paying attention to the new sounds.. Elvis was rocking again, the King wasn´t dead, he was just sleeping, now he was unchained once again. "Too Much Monkey Business" is Elvis lifting the finger, Johnny Cash style, to that same political system that was about two inches to kill his career. Tackling a Chuck Berry song in rockabilly style, he bothers to change the lyrics a bit to make his own statement about the Vietnam War: too much monkey business. "U.S. Male" proves that situation given, Elvis could fire up in rockabilly anytime, even if the style was by than relegated to the past, the rock and roll revival was just around the corner.
In "Beyond the Bend" and "Mine", Presleys shared with us his love for country ballads, as well as his piano playing, the first is dominated by more of that fantastic job on the Steel Guitar, the sound is out of a midnight jam, while the second, is that polished one of Nashville's new countrypolitan style, big chorus included. Somewhere along the same line goes "Singing Tree" which might bee seen as an advance of Presley self found style of doing a country ballad latter on in the mid 70's, Elvis duets with himself delightfully on this one. About "Stay Away", Billboard stated: "Elvis comes on strong with a folk flavor in this rhythm number". In "You´ll Never Walk Alona" Elvis sits alone at the piano at the end of studio work and looses himself for his own pleasure in a gospel infused number that he took from his singing; idol Roy Hammilton. Never intended to be recorded at the begining, released as a single, it end up to be nominated for a grammy next year under best sacred performance category.
None of this recordings became a No.1 on the charts as it used to happen with everything Elvis touched early 60's, neither where considered trend setters at the time, and except for the moderate success of "Guitar Man" and "U.S. Male" reaching #19, and #15 respectively in the U.K. they pass almost unnoticed at the time. Yet this back to basics sessions paved the way for Elvis amazing regeneration and comeback to rock music next year. On their own, passing the test of time, proved to be great music, sessions becoming one of Presley''s most free spirited, reminders of that Sun rawness and spontaneity, some of this recordings tracks actually reaching cult status among the fans.
As a bonus to these album, we have added a second and a third Cd. The second celebrating Elvis and the band music making, letting you feel, take after take the mood in which these music was recorded, as well as sharing with you some rare items, like Presley and the band jamming on "The Prisioner's Song". CD3, takes you to Elvis home months before this sessions, making music just for the pleasure of it. Listening to the recording of "Tumblin' and Tumbleweeds" found in one of this rare home tapes, and after experimenting the feeling and imaginary expressed on this music collection, you can help but think that Elvis might have enjoyed that opening scene from the Coen's brothers "The Big Lebowsky" and that "The Stranger" character, after all those long drivings back home from Hollywood to Memphis on his private bus, back to his real self. This are just casual recordings in the middle of a close friends gathering at Elvis place, or Elvis just fooling around alone with a tape recording like in Blowing in the Wind, but in any case they are so reveleaing, they parallel if not musically but in meaning tho Dylan and The Band Basement Tapes.This is Elvis in his most intimate.
Hope you enjoy the music we have put together here on yeahelvisblogspot for all of you:
Tomorrow is a Long Time
Down in the Alley
Just Call Me Lonesome
Guitar Man/What'd I Say [Unedited Master]
Big Boss Man
Beyond the Reef
Tennessee Waltz [Outtake]
Hi-Heel Sneakers [Unedited Master]
Too Much Monkey Business
You'll Never Walk Alone
You'll Never Walk Alone
All I Needed Was the Rain
Guitar Man [Single Edit]
Hi-Heel Sneakers [Single Edit]
You Don't Know Me [Single B side to Big Boss Man]
Suppose [Unused Master]
Too Much Monkey Business [Alternate Edit]
The Prisoners Song [Informal Jam]
Tomorrow is a Long Time [Take 3]
Down in the Alley [Take 1]
Big Boss Man [Take 2]
Guitar Man/What'd I Say [Take 10]
Just Call Me Lonesome [Take 6]
Too Much Monkey Business [Take 10]
U.S. Male [Takes 4-5]
Big Boss Man [Take 9]
Singing Tree [Take 13]
Just Call Me Lonesome [Alternate Master]
Guitar Man [Take 4]
Too Much Monkey Business [Take 9]
Stay Away [Take 2]
Comin' Home [Take 25]
Hi Heel Sneakers [Take 5]
You´ll Never Walk Alone [Take 3]
Hi Heel Sneakers [Take 5]
You´ll Never Walk Alone [Take 3]
If I Loved You
I've Been Blue
After Loving You
Blowin' in the Wind
It's No Fun Being Lonely
Sessions at RCA'S Studio B, Nashville Tennessee 1967.
Produced By Felton Jarvis and Elvis Presley
The Band Was
Elvis Presley: Vocals, acoustic rhythm guitar. (Piano on: You'll Never Walk Alone, Beyond the Reef, Mine, Suppose & Tennessee Waltz)
Scotty Moore: Lead electric & acoustic guitars.
Jerry Reed: Lead acoustic guitar.
Chip Young and Harold Bradley: additional guitars.
Charlie McCoy: Hammond organ & harmonicas. Bass on: Tomorrow is a Long Time.
Pete Drake: Steel guitar.
Bob Moore: Upright bass & Fender Bass
D.J. Fontana: Drums
Buddy Harman: Drums and adittional percutions.
Floyd Cramer: Piano
Boots Randolph: Sax
The Jordanaires with Millie Kirkham: Backing Vocals.