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Ernst Jorgensen Interview ICE Magazine, Issue 157

By ICE Magazine, Issue 157, April 2000, April 09, 2000 | People
RCA has May 16 pegged for four more upgrades from its vast Elvis Presley catalog.

0n that date, newly revamped CDs will be released of From Elvis in Memphis, Elvis Country ( I'm 10,000 Years Old), Promised Land and Moody Blue. Each disc features new mastering from the first-generation master tapes, newly expanded booklets with fresh liner notes by Grammy winner Colin Escott, and additional bonus tracks (although nothing previously unreleased this time around). As usual, the reissues were produced for RCA by Ernst Mikael Jorgensen and Roger Semon.

From Elvis in Memphis, first released in June 1969, ranks as one of the half dozen most critically acclaimed Elvis albums ever released. Still on a high from his 1968 comeback TV special, Presley went into a Memphis recording studio with producer Chips Moman and recorded a body of material that impressed even his harshest critics, and produced a number of hit singles, including "Suspicious Mind," "Kentucky Rain" and "In the Ghetto." Back in the '80s, RCA went into the vault and produced a 23-track CD drawn from the Memphis sessions called The Memphis Record, in which the material was newly mixed for the digital age.

But that still leaves a missing gap for those consumers wanting a good sounding CD of the From Elvis in Memphis album in its original mix. The new RCA issued delivers that, plus adds six bonus tracks: "Suspicious Minds," "The Fair's Moving 0n," "Don't Cry Daddy," "You'll Think of Me," "Kentucky Rain" and "Mama Liked the Roses."

"From Elvis in Memphis was a fabulous album in 1969," Jorgensen tells ICE. "When you add to it six million-selling singles recorded at the same sessions, it becomes a very meaningful package. "This is the original album, in the original sequence, with the original mixes. There are all types of consumers still out there who bought the original vinyl and still haven't replaced it."

As for The Memphis Record, Jorgensen says that hindsight hasn't treated it well. "You don't want to go in and try to duplicate Chips Morman's mixes," he opines. "It was a brave attempt that failed on a number of levels. I'm not totally against tampering with audio, but in that case, it was wrong. They left out the horns on 'Suspicious Minds,' and so forth."

Elvis Country was originally released in January 1971 and featured 12 tracks with a series of musical interludes running between the selections. RCA's new CD carries six bonus tracks, including the title track in its entirety; "It Ain't No Big Thing," "A Hundred Years from Now," "If I Were You," "I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago,," "Where Did They Go Lord" and "Got My Mojo Working"/"Keep Your Hands 0ff of It."

"This record and From Elvis in Memphis are the two albums in Elvis'' latter days that got very good reviews, in Rolling Stone and elsewhere," Jorgensen points out. "This is the original album, with that funny little piece going in and out, linking the songs." Again, this is the album in its original mix, so the interludes are intact; on the tracks found on RCA's Presley box set of '70s material, the interludes were mixed out.

But wait a minute...the RCA CD of Elvis Country on file at ICE, dating from 1991, was also produced by Jorgensen and Semon.

Is this a case of Ernst and Roger upgrading a previous CD production by Ernst and Roger? What's a consumer to do?

"This one's taken from a better tape," Jorgensen explains. "When you talk about 1991, we had just started. and we didn't have access to everything we wanted in those days. If you work in the vaults long enough, you eventually find first-generation tapes, as opposed to the second and third-generation tapes which you used at the time. I don't think we really got things going the way we wanted until we did Elvis's '50s box set, in 1992. Before that, it was a matter of compromising here and there; after the success of the '50s box, we could pretty much do it our way."

Elvis's Promised Land album from 1975 was recorded at the legendary Stax Studios in Memphis. A healthy eight bonus tracks have been added to the new CD: "lf You Talk in Your Sleep" and "My Boy" (both Top 20 singles), plus "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues," "Loving Arms," "Talk About the Good Times," "Spanish Eyes," "If That Isn't Love" and "She Wears My Ring."

"With Promised Land," Jorgensen says, we took the 10 tracks from the album and added eight more which were recorded at the same sessions, but released on an album called Good Times at the time. So what you're getting, on one CD, is the entire output of that December 1973 recording session at Stax: it gathers all 18 masters from those sessions on one disc. Which tells you, of course, that we're not going to do an upgraded version of the Good Times album [chuckling]."

And every fan is aware that 1977's Moody Blue was Elvis's current LP on the charts when he died on August 16 of that year. For the new CD release, the nine-track album has been supplemented with the entire contents of 1976's From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee, resulting in a two disc, essentially with a total of 19 selections in all.

Jorgensen says that despite all their bells and whistles. these new upgrades were not produced with the collector in mind. "I don't mind collectors buying these," he says, "but they're not aimed at them. The intention here is to have for the general public, classic and well-known Elvis records available on CD [in exemplary form].

"It's basically a restoration of the catalog to get it into retail and get shelf space and attention again. That's the name of the game. Nobody wants a 10-track CD at full price anymore. And you take the opportunity to make some nice records while you can."

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