Finding The Way Home
Wearin' That Loved On Look (7 f.s. & 1 alt. take)
Only The Strong Survive (4 f.s.)
Long Black Limousine (take 1,2,4,7,8 & 6)
Only The Strong Survive (2 f.s.)
You'll Think Of Me (take 1,2,4,7,8 & 6)
From A Jack To A King (take 1 & 2)
Only The Strong Survive (1 f.s.)
Without Love (take 1& 2)
Only The Strong Survive (1 alt. take)
If I'm A Fool (take 1,2,3)
Suspicious Minds (take 1,2,3 & 7)
Only The Strong Survive (take 1, 3 f.s. & 1 alt. take)
In The Ghetto (take 2 & 1)
Kentucky Rain (take 1,4 f.s. & 1 alt. take)
Suspicious Minds (take 4,5 & 6)
In The Ghetto (take 7,8,9,10,11)
You'll Think Of Me (take 4,5 & 8)
From A Jack To A King (2 f.s. & 1 alt. take)
Without Love (take 4)
Wearin' That Loved On Look (3 f.s. & 1 alt. take)
If I'm A Fool (take 6,7 & 5)
Only The Strong Survive (3 f.s. & 1 alt. take)
A Little Bit Of Green (take 2 & 1)
Kentucky Rain (2 f.s., take 7 & 10)
Poor Man's Gold (instrumental)
"That slide was good, but it seemed like it was a little out of tune there." Halting a take from the get-go on a loose "Wearin' That Loved-On Look," it's the gentle voice of American Sound studio producer Chips Moman leading one of Elvis Presley's finest artistic achievements, the Memphis 1969 sessions.
The last three or four years have been a boon for both fans and scholars of the Presley musical legacy. RCA/BMG, through the sure hands of Ernst Jorgensen and Roger Semon, have presented superb box sets and lovely single CD reissues of all the important moments in an intelligent and compassionate manner. Peter Guralnick's near-definitive two volume study of the man's life and music is nothing short of staggering.
And those saints behind some of Presley's high quality "import" releases have unleashed revelatory alternate studio studies spanning 1956 to 1976, home demo collections from as far back as 1959 and surprisingly engaging live performances as late as December, 1976. 'Finding The Way Home,' a 2xCD set in superb mono sound, is perhaps the single most important "private" issue this side of 1998's 'Greetings From Germany' (complete 1959 German home demos, one elaborately packaged CD), 'Elvis Rocks Little Rock' (a complete performance, 16 May'56) or 'The Burbank Sessions, Volume 1' (complete 68 TV Special sit-down gigs, his greatest rock'n'roll, one elaborately packaged 2xLP set with photo booklet).
Forget 'G.I. Blues' or 'Spinout' outtakes, this is, as the kids say, "the shit." Elvis rediscovered many things when he chose American Sound to record in January and February of 1969. He learned he could work with newer musicians and a tough-minded producer in a funky, disheveled downtown studio. He remembered that he could tackle almost any kind of number, from funky blues to pop country, and seize every ounce of majesty from it. And he emerged from these sessions a full-blooded rock artist, something no one would've dreamed he'd become again, given the previous seven years of movie soundtrack misery and waste.
This assortment complements (and in half a dozen cases, duplicates) 1997's 'American Crown Jewels,' a superb "import" of similar material. Tastefully assembled with an attractive 12 page booklet and a few unpublished shots of early Elvis even Joseph M. Tunzi hasn't uncovered, one absorbs Presley approaching his music as an art, something he seldom managed to do.
For the first time anywhere, here are all the takes of "Suspicious Minds" leading up to the master. Although the single might've sounded effortless, it actually required a great deal of work by all involved. Presley has never been better than on this gorgeous Mark James tune. Of course, even the false starts and naughty Elvis asides that crop up ("would I still see, see, see, fuck you rider ...") are exciting. Every shot resembles the number one hit it would be that winter.
The other great singles from Memphis '69, the tender and tragic "In The Ghetto" and tension-laced "Kentucky Rain" are heard here as well, and again what strikes the listener is how dedicated Elvis is to the material. His singing, even when he's hoarse, makes one feel completely humble. Numerous attempts to capture "In The Ghetto" flesh out Guralnick's assertion in "Careless Love," it's a perfect example of a natural genius crafting a timeless piece of art. "Kentucky Rain" provides another example of producer Chips Moman's acumen, as he cuts off an otherwise good take by noting that "it needs to have a little edge to it." Precisely! From such gutsy and right-minded decisions are classic pop songs duly made.
The give-and-take of Moman and Presley that is given witness during the session outtakes is fascinating. There are no angry outbursts from Elvis (except at himself), instead one feels a warm camaraderie just this side of "Uncle" Sam Phillips at Sun Studios. The sympathetic, hit-making talents of Reggie Young (guitar), Tommy Cogbill (bass), Bobby Wood (piano), Gene Chrisman (drums) and the entire band takes one's breath away. Something is happening here.
Other highlights (as if one can really choose) include loose as a goose renditions of "Wearin' That Loved-On Look," rhythmic workouts on Mort Shuman's "You'll Think Of Me" and a few incredible, unadorned versions of "Without Love (There Is Nothing)," a passionate ballad first cut about a decade prior by one of Elvis' favorite r'n'b singers, Clyde McPhatter. Until recently the pure version was essential, since it blew away the hail of voices and strings Felton Jarvis coated onto the original master released in November '69.
"Only The Strong Survive," as soulful as Presley ever got, yields a great number of false starts and a few alternates, including the one originally on 'American Crown Jewels' which contains a "nasty" spoken interlude. These "Dear Georgie" monologues that pop up on the Memphis '69 tapes sound suspiciously like material from a Redd Foxx "party" album Elvis might've gotten for Christmas from one of his lackeys.
The last three minutes of CD-2 conceals a neat little prize: the backing track to Mac Davis' "Poor Man's Gold." The entire ten seconds of vocal Presley laid down for this tune, before a distraction killed it, finally found a home on RCA/BMG's terrific official Memphis '69 anthology 'Suspicious Minds,' released this year.
There are a few mastering problems on CD-2 for which the producers apologize: tracks 3 and 4 should be just one, while cut 10 should be written as two individual tracks. Also, one may find it curious that many takes fade out; where did the endings go? At least these don't negatively affect the listener experience.
On the other hand, it seems many Elvis fans would choose to live without the "mammy" cartoon that adorns the "Southern Style" CD labels; with less than a year until the millenium, it's time to lose the black stereotypes! It's also rather bizarre to observe a prominent color photo in the CD booklet of Elvis and Felton Jarvis but none of Presley with Chips Moman. By his own admission Jarvis was nothing more than a cheerleader at American, but without Chips there would be no music to discuss.
'Finding The Way Home' is an essential purchase for the Elvis scholar and a super-fine companion to both RCA/BMG's 'Suspicious Minds' and Bilko's 'American Crown Jewels.' What Elvis, Chips Moman and the house musicians accomplished at American Sound studio back in 1969 will stand the test of time: they aimed for the moon and stars, hit the moon and stars.
Reviewed by Johnny Savage, USA
In this the second volume of American crown jewels we are really in for a treat,not only do we have a two disc set with running times close to one hour on each disc but we also have the same fantastic sound that we had on volume one. The only difference is that instead of being on the familiar Bilko label these two discs are on the new southern style label . The front cover boasts a black and white candid of Elvis from 69 inside we have a very well done and informative booklet featuring detailed song by song info and some great unseen pictures check out the pic of young E.P AND his "daddy" on page eight. There are very few duplications of songs from jewels vol one when they repeated they are listed in the book with an asterisks next to the take and they are included so all of the takes on the discs are in order all this makes this a very complete set of the historical Memphis 69 sessions.
Now let's talk about the music and believe me if you are not impressed by these songs nothing is ever gonna impress you! The biggest highlight on these cd's has to be the outtakes of on of everybody's favorite songs the classic Suspicious Minds. This marks the first time we have ever heard incomplete takes of this Presley gem , on disc one we are treated to takes 1,2,3,and 7 take 7 was issued on vol 1 last year on disc two we have tak