Music on Vinyl just released Elvis At Stax’ 2LP version. I’m still waiting for the CDs, but I can’t wait to share my thoughts about the good old black discs.
A lot has been said about the front cover. It’s not my piece of cake either, but at least they gave it a thought – something that can’t be said of most of Elvis’ original album covers . The result is a bit of retro 70s, so it fits.
The 2 discs are in a single sleeve, so no extra information, pictures or whatever at the inside. The back is so 70s again… hardly any information, except the session dates (not per song!), the tracklisting, 4 other album covers that are available at MoV (the albums, not the covers only), some urls and copyright info.
The LP labels are the late 60’s/70’s orange ones, but Victor replaced with the old “flash” RCA-logo and the (Sony) Legacy-logo.
All together a sober presentation.
I couldn’t help frowning my brows when I noticed most of the tracks were outtakes. In my opinion they shouldn’t have done that on a main stream release. One or two tracks, okay, but not 3 out of 4 sides.
I could hold myself and started not with the side with my favourite tracks, but just with Side 1… and was hit by a hammer directly. The sound is amazing, crystal clear, all instruments audible as if the musicians are playing in the room.
I still play vinyl regularly, especially since I bought a new turntable a couple of weeks ago. Promised Land has always been one of my favourite 1970s albums so I’ve listened to it very recently. No way it comes close to this version of Promised Land and not only because my album is a few decades old (and still in a pretty good shape ;)). The party went on with Tony Joe White’s I’ve Got a Thing about You Baby and If You Talk in Your Sleep. Even Raised on Rock (of which I always thought it could have been so much better) sounds fresher and less dull than the versions I have on CD (or the original album). Help Me isn’t one of my top songs either, but it sounds great here.
Side 2 is like Olympus to me, ambrosia in the form of the 4 marvellous tracks and nectar in the form of the quality they are brought in. I Got a Feelin’ in My Body (Take 4), For Ol’ Times Sake (Take 4), Talk about the Good Times (Take 3) and Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues (Take 8) belong certainly to the top 10 songs of the 1970s in my book and I played this side at least a dozen times already, within 24 hours after receiving the album.
After such a side the next one can only be a disappointment. And yes, You Asked Me To (3A), Your Love’s Been a Long Time Coming (4) and Spanish Eyes (2) are not the strongest songs, but even Spanish Eyes is listenable in this quality. The remaining second track, Loving Arms (Take 2) belongs quality wise on Side 2… one of the most beautiful ballads Elvis ever sung.
The last side starts with another beauty, It’s Midnight (Take 7), before going in two lesser songs, according to most. Find Out What’s Happening (Takes 8-7) and Three Corn Patches (Take 14) surprised me. The clear sound and separation of instruments make them a lot better (but I have to admit I never hated them like others do). I even kinda like the pumping rhythm of Three Corn Patches, but have to admit the piano and guitar breaks are my favourite parts. My Boy (Take 1), is My Boy… sounding beautiful on this edition, but it has to be your thing.
I saw a lot of complaints about the length of the sides, with only 4 tracks. I am not an audiophile myself, although I do prefer the sound of good vinyl above CD. The real freaks say you should put max 18 minutes on one side, but 15 is even better. I guess one of those made the decision in this case, since all sides are around 15 minutes. If so, it was the right choice, since Elvis never sounded better on vinyl (neither on CD) before with these songs.
I realize it has been a long time since I felt like a child on Boxing Day with a new Elvis album, but this 2LP-set brought that feeling back! The only danger is that I will be disappointed by the deluxe set now. I still wonder why they took outtakes and not the masters, but maybe that has to do with soundquality too.