MEMPHIS SESSIONS - BMG 74321 89293 2
|1. Review by Oven Egeland
This volume 9 in the FTD-series is quite clearly one of the best ever! Perhaps not at the same level as Jungle Room Session since that CD mostly offered material previously unavailable on both official and import releases! The material on Memphis Sessions is already available on either official CD's and/or bootleg CD's.
Memphis Sessions represents the first CD from BMG with outtakes and alternative versions from American Sound studio ever. About time! This fact makes the CD highly valuable even though most of the content is very familiar to most Elvis fans.
The sound is of course a lot better than on the bootleg releases. Mainly because it is in stereo. Unfortunately this CD suffers from bad digital re-mastering like many other FTD CD's does. BMG has obviously discovered a sort of a "miracle" machine that cleans up the sound! And it works...but again it also destroys the ambience needed for maximum (dynamic) listening pleasure. I won't go on messing about this since I have mentioned it several times earlier...quite clearly to deaf ears!
The mixing done by D. Ferrante however is almost perfect. Especially 'Power Of My Love' is done well, much better than other outtakes we had gotten earlier. The only "not so perfect mix" I can spot is the mixing of 'I'm Movin' On'.
Since almost all takes on this CD have been released on great sounding bootlegs - American Crown Jewels in special - I will only comment some of the songs.
Many fans have asked for the undubbed master of 'Stranger In My Own Home Town'. Now we have it, and obviously we will not mention it anymore. This was a song recorded with the intention to overdub instruments later. The "clean" version doesn't quite match the final master...
The outtake of 'Suspicious Minds' (take 6) was released on Essential 60's Masters, but this time it comes with some rehearsal before the take. This has not even been released on bootlegs earlier, and it gives a certain "fly on the wall" feeling. Nice touch, Ernst!
'In The Ghetto' (take 11) is featured on the bootleg Finding The Way Home. This is a version very unlike the final master, but still a very effective one!
'Any Day Now' (take 2) has been released several times on different bootlegs, first on There's Always Me Vol. 2. I really dig this take, as the clean version offers much more than the final master did. The master was drained by overdubbed instruments and "narrow" mixing. 'Wearin' That Loved On Look' (take 10) has been released earlier, on Time Life. It looks like BMG was unaware of this fact, as it is listed as previously unreleased on the cover. This time take 10 comes with a very false start (take 3) in front.
'You'll Think Of Me' is listed as being take 14 on this release. Take 14 was released on Suspicious Minds and they are not equal (note). BMG has released an outtake of 'Power Of My Love' several times. This time we get take 6. I like the earlier versions better, but as mentioned above this version is superior sound wise compared to for instance take 1 (as released on Suspicious Minds).
'This Is The Story' is the undubbed master. This was, like 'Stranger In My Own Home Town' above quite clearly meant to be overdubbed later. However, in this clean form it is even more effective than the final master would be. A great surprise!
'Hey Jude' is a doctored version. It is a splice between take 5 (first 50 seconds) and take 1 (Elvis tries to sing the correct lyrics). It ends up like a parody of the song, but is a nice listen all the same. The refrain works very well, indeed. The refrain was the only thing Elvis would later use of the song on live performances in Vegas.
Finally we also get a outtake of 'From A Jack To A King'. Released numerous times on several bootlegs (first on American Crown Jewels) in mono, it is nice to have it in a "so-so" stereo. Like Elvis says at the end "alright except for the words...". However, Ernst label this take as number 3, while bootleg releases label it as take 2. I think that take 2 is correct, though it looks like Ernst Jørgensen has started to label several of the songs from this session with new take numbers. Put it this way; if the master of 'From A Jack To A King' is take 5, then the outtake on Memphis Session is not take 3! I would like Ernst Jørgensen to give a new updated list of take numbers from this session. See also above on 'You'll Think Of Me' where we have to different outtakes, both labelled as take 14 (note). In general both American Studios sessions in 1969 are a mess when it comes to take notifications. Steve Sholes was much more precise than Chips Moman on this issue!
This CD is higly recommended!
, Norway, October 2001
# Note: The explanation goes like this: When Suspicious Minds was produced BMG believed that the take used for this CD was take 14. Later BMG found another two early takes on at another 4-track tape. This leads to the fact that 'You'll Think Of Me' on Suspicious Minds is take 16 and that the take on Memphis Sessions is take 14. Thanks to Jesper and Arjan/Ernst for solving this query.
|2. Review by Kevin Walters
I've been listening to this for a couple of days.
First off: the packaging. Unfortunately, no professional photos were taken during the American Sound Sessions. So, they used the existing "snapshots" we've seen before. The negatives are probably lost, so the pictures have most likely been scanned from an actual print.
Due to the low resolution and high grain of the images, I suppose they used the wood as a background in order to fill up the empty space, while keeping the snapshots small enough to maintain acceptable resolution.
The way they removed the faces surrounding Elvis on the cover photo looks cheesy. Amateur work in Photoshop. Substandard. As noted, the back cover has been tilted an incorrectly "compressed" in Photoshop, causing the image to distort and pixelize. Very sloppy!
So, the packaging, while somewhat acceptable, is really kind of shitty.
But the important thing is really the sound, right?
For some reason the sound is a little brash, grating on the ears. I think it's due to mediocre mastering job by Lene Reidel. I'll never understand how such incompetent hacks are able to safeguard the legacy of the King.
In fairness, this material was recorded on 4 track (American Sound was way behind the times, as 16 track with Dolby NR was available at most major studios in 1969) tape, and the piano and guitar are on the same track on several selections--making it impossible to make the piano louder in the mix without increasing the volume of the guitar. Further, the original engineer
under-recorded the piano and organ on some cuts.
But still, the material seems to sizzle with WAY too much "digital" top end - as if the mastering engineer used a digital EQ and perhaps slight digital reverb on some tracks. These tracks lack warmth. This a mastering issue. The mastering here is the quintessence of "digititus".
Hiss levels are remarkably high, but some of this is due to the fact that the track levels are boosted to pick up conversations slightly off mic. So I'll forgive that. Of course, these recordings were never the greatest in the first place, but it just seems like they could and should have sounded better.
If there was ONE release that demanded a retail release, it is a CD of outtakes from the 1969 American Sound sessions.
Instead, what we get is a tossed of packaging effort with substandard, sloppy, dashed-off mastering.
This could have been a killer if they'd polished the sound more and put more effort into the design, as well as commissioned detailed liner notes for this historically significant and critically acclaimed session.
Nice to have this material...but something of a let down. This should have been a full-blown retail release with a larger production budget. This should have been released in the Essential Elvis series...just like the outtakes from 1960, 1973, 1970 etc.
© Kevin Walters, October 30, 2001
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