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Turn Back the Hands of Time... NEW hybrid of final Stax LP's

Published by Elvis CD Collectors Gold in CD · 5/12/2023 17:28:00
Tags: ElvisStax1973CD
Turn Back the Hands of Time... NEW hybrid of final Stax LP's

#(by EAS:) As a sequel to the Funk Soul Brother project [a re-imagining of the Raised on Rock/For Ol' Times Sake album] I worked on last year, I've now turned my attention to the follow-up Stax sessions recorded in December of 1973, which ultimately produced the bulk of the Good Times and Promised Land albums, respectively.

I think most fans would agree that one very good album could/should have been culled from these sessions, so the aim was to try and separate the wheat from the chaff and present it in an unashamedly commercial and contemporary form as possible, without compromising on performance quality.

As before, as well as attempting to improve on the sonics, the goal was to try salvage some of the more unfamiliar and noteworthy of nuggets from the available session tapes, to help fashion a new and enlightening listening experience, that was also able to gel as a cohesive entity in its own right.

As per the original LP's from which all tracks derive, my hybrid edit remains as a 10-tracker, which was pretty much the industry standard at the time.

All uploads are also in a sequential order.

There was no finer place to begin than with the breathless, rock 'n' roll cartography of Chuck Berry's "Promised Land".

An arresting, effective loop of Ronnie Tutt setting the tempo on the kick drum [just prior to Take 2] forges a brand new intro, that also highlights a neat call and answer guitar section [again, partly taken from the pre-take 'sketching'], before segueing into Take 4 proper [which includes the lyric variant: "there's an uncle their..."] - the only take in which Tutt fades in on the snare. To great effect it has to be said!

From the second solo onwards, it's a modified version of Take 2 that now correlates with the tempo of Take 4 - which bares more of a resemblance to the pulse and feel of Berry's original [as opposed to the revved up master take].

I simulated Elvis' harmony local lines of the master ["swing low chariot..."] via a vocal isolation [purposely pitch adjusted] of the corresponding verses [of Take's 4 and 2 ] but in a transposed configuration [i.e., "2" over "4" and "4" over "2"].

Finally, a brief dropout of the bass line on the outro has been repaired.
Next is the uncontainable gospel funk of Dennis Linde's "I Got a Feelin' in My Body": incredibly, the first cut documented to tape in December '73.

Rather unusually, the initial take was performed at a faster tempo than the proceeding takes and provides the bedrock here.

I overlaid onto the intro a short pre-take mini-rehearsal of the ladies running over some lyrics ["In my body, feel so fine"] - exclusive to the 2014 Elvis at Stax set - which blends in nicely with Elvis' endearing scat-singing, typical of the period.

The tremendous Wurlitzer electric piano solo [Pete Hallin] is seized from Take 4 [tempo increased] up to and including the first line of the turnaround [incorporating a vocal repair] before the reappearance of Take 1 [Elvis ad-libbing big-style!] and then it's Take 7 [Take 3 was the master] from the final "I gotta, I gotta..." refrain to conclusion.

Not the greatest mix you are ever likely to hear [there are no real highs or lows] but hopefully you will notice some audible improvement here.

Note: J. D. Sumner's vocal rasps were mixed out [along with Elvis' scat work over the intro] when Take 1 debuted on Essential Elvis - Volume 5 in 1998.

The bittersweet brilliance of Tom Jans' "Loving Arms" remains one of the most impressive of the non-single [Stateside] album tracks in the Presley oeuvre.

Take 1 [featuring another delightful lyric variant: "Yes, I'm, looking back..."] acts as the basis for this reworking, which has the addition and benefit of an insert of Take 2's superior first chorus [its tempo reduced] - coloured by some quite lovely vocal articulations.

Using restructured elements of a rehearsal of the ending that preceded Take 2 [initiated by a suggestion of Ronnie Tutt's], I forged both a new intro and outro by salvaging some of the unique Elvis vocables that were obviously not intended nor used [Take 2's original ending idea was thankfully dropped] on the finished product.

Red West's and Johnny Christopher's "If You Talk in Your Sleep" rides the funk-soul train boarded back at the initial Stax sessions in July; kicking things up another notch altogether.

The intro is pulled from Take 6 [a false start] which shows a nice variation of the rhythm guitar licks [played by co-writer, Christopher], which then morphs into Take 5 [the only other alternate take made available] - which may even be a tad more dynamic and slinky than the eventual master [Take 9].

I isolated the punchy horn accents from the original arrangement [using an unedited, moderately panned mix of the master that appeared on the highly recommended Venus import title: Unedited Masters - Stax 1973], and then carefully reinstated them [comprising of 14 individual edits] into Take 5.

The rhythm track was then brought forward by dismantling the stereo mix into two halves; firmly putting the spotlight on Burton's lead and a previously blurred Briggs organ track, elements of the now redundant string section overdubs basically mirrored.

I tried not to overplay the country card wherever possible, but was also conscious to the fact it was such an integral part of his work - particularly in the 70's.

It was striking the right balance, which I think I was able to achieve.

Both tender and tough ["Get mad at it" he memorably says prior to Take 1], Troy Seals and Denny Rice's "There's a Honky Tonk Angel [Who'll Take Me Back In]" kind of bridges the gap between the Countrypolitan era with leanings towards the soon to be popularized Outlaw movement.

Take 6 of Elvis' cut [possibly based on the Dobie Gray version featured on his 1973 MCA album, Loving Arms] provides the cleanest intro of all takes before the prominent bass line signifies the arrival of the very impressive inaugural take [except for the master - Take 8 - the only other complete take in existence] which also includes a brief 4-word opening line insert acquired from Take 3; from the bridge onwards a tempo decreased Take 3 [officially unreleased in complete form] is introduced, highlighted by some wonderful and markedly different phrasing patterns [curiously ignored on FTD's own composite version of Take's 5, 3 & 8 - complete with voice crack!].

Then we return back to Take 1 midway through the second bridge come chorus ["Cause if you don't want..."] enhanced by another one line insert flown in from Take 3 ["Well there's a honky TONK angel who'll take me back in"] to finale.

A special mention to Sherrill Nielsen here, who harmonizes to great effect on a terrific collaboration, that might just be his best work with Presley.

Note: The import CD On a Jet To The Promised Land [Venus] provided the source for all component parts, though, I switched channels to more accurately reflect the mix of the original album master.

Whilst 'Side A' is often shrouded in dark undertones, 'Side B' - for the most part - breezes towards a brighter and shinier pop direction; even if it juxtaposes with the actual subject matter of a couple of tracks. The overall quality, however, remains of a very high standard.

Jerry Reed's irresistible, revival-charged "Talk About the Good Times" rave-up consists of a lovely Sun-esque, Scotty Moore style intro [as per the master - Take 4] - pulled from Take 2 [channels reversed] which is affixed onto the swinging and more carefree Take 3.

Sadly, this mix exhibits quite noticeable NR, after it was disappointingly ported over from Essential Elvis - Volume 5 when recycled on FTD's expanded version of the Good Times album. Which is a shame, as Take's 1 & 2 [both fairly brief and inconsequential false starts] have a much more open and dynamic sound.

Rather unusually, the EE5 mix muted [some bleed is evident] the first half of the backing vocals - contrary to how the same take appeared on the overly-processed Elvis at Stax mix. More interesting, is that Take 3 spotlights a piano solo rather than the guitar arrangement of the master take.

Where Take 3 breaks down [shortly after Elvis going into his underused falsetto register], a crossfade of the untapped tail end of the unedited Take 4 [a short delay effect has been applied to marry up with Take 3] is drafted in; made complete by a loop that repairs the previously inconclusive ending.

The edit/splice at approx 2:55 mark is noticable:

As noted, Take 3 breaks down and gets sloppy shortly after that little falsetto bit he does [which was worth highlighting]; so the only way to extend it [utilising elements of the master that were not used] was to crossfade over the top of it, using the drum fill as a part obscurement.

With its well-crafted intervals and sweeping melody, the melodrama of "My Boy" [adapted from a French tune and lyric], not surprisingly, proved to be the most commercial [worldwide] of all the Stax recordings.

In a more measured and arguably stronger reading, my new composite comprises of two elements each of the best sectors of Take's 1 [Elvis alone on the first chorus] and 2, which in the process, also elongates the coda.

This was then embellished by flying in some stylish French horn passages, summoned from the original album mix.
Tony Joe White's easy-going, hook-heavy "I've Got a Thing About You Baby" [held back from the July '73 sessions] was right in Elvis' wheelhouse, even if he's not quite firing on all cylinders.

Channelling the Billy Lee Riley arrangement [produced by Chips Moman], Take 8 [a LFS] repairs the awkward phrasing of Take 14 - through to the first chorus; by which point, the latter take [tempo matched] takes up the baton: incorporating the original lyric: "She'll give you just a little love, and it'll get you every time".

As well as pulling Elvis' vocal back a fraction, I decided to drop the tempo down a little here, culminating in an interpretation closer to the Tony Joe version.
"Thinking About You" written by Tim Baty of "Voice", drew out of Elvis a wistfully evocative upbeat performance, that was a welcome change-of-pace in contrast with the more maudlin break-up songs of the period.

With none of the existing outtakes being of a particularly high or memorable standard, I opted to work on the extended and stripped-down version of the master [basically undubbed, save for the removal of the backing vocals] that appeared on the second volume in the Our Memories of Elvis series: the superior mastering of the 1988 Dutch 'It's Elvis Time' CD pressing [Re-EQd] being the source used here.

There aren't that many recordings in which Elvis sings without an array of additional vocalists enveloping him when also accompanied by an orchestra [the album master of "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen" is one exception], so I figured a bare-bones mix which reinstated the strings but in an unobtrusive manner, could serve as both an engaging listen and noteworthy departure from the norm.

For me, it's 'thee' track [in this formation] whose stock has now risen, if only by virtue of being encompassed by loftier, top-drawer material.
Amendment to "Thinking About You":

Channels reversed [of the basic track] to conform with the panning of the original mix; additionally, a short loop has been applied to fix the hitherto rather abrupt fade.

As essential as "Promised Land"'s introduction and gateway was into this 'record', the melancholic lament of Danny O'Keefe's "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues" painfully but fittingly closes [as it did Good Times] this reconceptualizing of Elvis' final Stax sessions.

We commence with the stately and a perhaps a little freer Take 6: underscored by those wonderfully spiky Hammond organ riffs and Presley's already on the money vocal track.

From the third solo onwards [where the fade begins on the original album master] it's the unused section of the master [Take 9 - in a tempo decreased form] featuring an additional repeated verse/chorus as well as lovely variation of James Burton's concluding guitar solo.

Of course, Elvis' stellar cover was missing the fabled verse: "I got my pills to ease the pain..."; however, using a bit of artistic license, I decided to carefully graft O'Keefe's corresponding verse from his 1972 hit version [a re-recording used as the opening track of his third album - cut at American Sound with Stan Kesler engineering] into my new composite, combined with some isolated Burton guitar fills in an attempt to make the sound as harmonious as possible; the end result culminating in a genuinely compelling and very effectual edit; certainly better than I originally envisaged.

To finish, an intonation repair to the penultimate line completes this remodelling.

Note: O'Keefe's 1972 album and single mixes of "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues" differ significantly; even as far as the album version substituting an alternate phrase for the decidedly evocative "Said they're movin' to LA" lyric.

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