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Expanded “Elvis Country” Coming From Legacy, Joined with “Love Letters”

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One of the lynchpin songs on Elvis Presley’s 1971 Elvis Country was the singer’s reading of Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away.”  Presley undoubtedly connected with Nelson’s lyrics: “Well, hello there/My, it’s been a long, long time/How am I doing?/Oh, I guess that I’m doing fine…”  Though Nelson’s narrator is addressing an old flame, Elvis could have been speaking directly to his fans.  When Elvis walked through the doors of RCA’s Nashville Studio B in June 1970, the last time Elvis had set foot in any recording studio was in March 1969 for his co-starring film vehicle with Mary Tyler Moore, Change of Habit.  His last original studio album was even earlier, in 1969.  That was when he recorded in Memphis with producer Chips Moman, resulting in the acclaimed From Elvis in Memphis LP.  What would listeners expect from the album that came out of those June 1970 sessions and their follow-up date in September?  Despite Elvis’ recent triumphs onstage at Las Vegas’ International Hotel and a record-breaking stint at the Houston Astrodome, few would have predicted the inspired conceptual classic Elvis Country.

Elvis Country and its “sequel” Love Letters from Elvis, drawn from the same sessions and released just months later, are being combined into one 2-CD set from RCA and Legacy Recordings under the Legacy Edition banner.  Due on January 3, the Legacy Edition will mark the first Presley release of 2012, with a “full schedule” of reissues promised by Legacy and longtime archivists/producers Ernst Mikael Jorgensen and Roger Semon.  Both albums have been expanded by associated singles and outtakes.  Elvis Country debuted January 23, 1971 on the Billboard 200 album chart.  The album peaked at No. 12, spent 21 weeks on the chart, and was certified RIAA Gold.  Three bonus tracks are drawn from the original recording sessions of June and September 1970.  On the second disc, the 11-song Love Letters from Elvis was derived from the same June sessions.  Love Letters made its chart debut on June 26, 1971, peaked at No. 33 and spent a none-too-shabby 15 weeks on the chart.  It is also presented with three bonus tracks from the original sessions.

Elvis Country stands apart from the King’s other studio albums in its conceptual strength.  Though the song “I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago” didn’t appear on the album in full, excerpts from the track were strung between songs for an approach that had never before been taken on a Presley LP.  The country classics tackled by Elvis might as well have been from ten thousand years ago, so ingrained were they in the performer even as he was embarking on a more flashy, more glitzy path in Las Vegas.  I’m 10,000 Years Old even became the album’s subtitle.  There were, of course, ballads, delivered in Presley’s booming voice with high drama.  But Presley returned to rock with a smoking version of Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” and an emphatic “I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water.”  An unexpected highlight was Presley’s album-opening cover of Anne Murray’s “Songbird,” proving his acumen for contemporary material was still high.

Elvis was joined at these June 1970 sessions by a new band assembled by producer Felton Jarvis.  Chip Young (guitar) and Charlie McCoy (harmonica) were familiar to Elvis, and three members were part of the original Muscle Shoals sound: bassist Norbert Putnam, pianist David Briggs, and drummer Jerry Carrigan.  Of course, guitar legend James Burton was on hand to take care of business!  The idea of a country-themed album began to take shape once both singer and band realized they had stumbled on a particularly successful groove.

Hit the jump for more, including the complete track listing and pre-order link!

Though most of Elvis Country was recorded in June 1970, the group reunited in September for a one-night session which yielded “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, “Snowbird,” and two sides of a later single, “Where Did They Go, Lord” b/w “Rags To Riches.”  Both sides are included here in the appendix to Love Letters from Elvis.

From the June 1970 sessions, that album included a medley of Muddy Waters’ “Got My Mojo Working” with “Keep Your Hands Off Of It,” a blues rave-up in a similar vein which originally was recorded in the 1940s.  Three songs by the young Shirl Milete were performed: “Only Believe” and “Life” appeared on Love Letters, while “It’s Your Baby, You Rock It” debuted on Elvis Country.

Elvis Country:  Legacy Edition continues Legacy’s repackaging of some of Presley’s most classic albums into affordable, well-annotated reissues designed to appeal to both collectors and more casual fans.  It follows similar Legacy Edition sets such as From Elvis in Memphis (2009) and On Stage (2010), both of which also offered two albums drawn from related performances with well-selected bonus material.  Elvis Country hits stores on January 3.  The track listing with discographical information appears below.  It should make for a very happy new year!

Elvis Presley, Elvis Country: Legacy Edition (RCA/Legacy 88697 90439 2, 2012)

CD 1: Elvis Country (Tracks 1-12 originally issued as RCA 4460, 1971)

  1. Snowbird
  2. Tomorrow Never Comes
  3. Little Cabin On The Hill
  4. Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On
  5. Funny How Time Slips Away
  6. I Really Don’t Want To Know
  7. There Goes My Everything
  8. It’s Your Baby, You Rock It
  9. The Fool
  10. Faded Love
  11. I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water
  12. Make The World Go Away
  13. I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago (released on Elvis Now, RCA 4671, 1972)
  14. A Hundred Years From Now (studio jam) (released on Walk a Mile in My Shoes: The Essential ‘70s Masters, RCA 30331, 1995)
  15. Where Did They Go, Lord (B-side of RCA single 447-0680, 1971)

CD 2: Love Letters from Elvis (Tracks 1-11 originally issued as RCA 4530, 1971)

  1. Love Letters
  2. When I’m Over You
  3. If I Were You
  4. Got My Mojo Working/Keep Your Hands Off Of It
  5. Heart Of Rome
  6. Only Believe
  7. This Is Our Dance
  8. Cindy, Cindy
  9. I’ll Never Know
  10. It Ain’t No Big Thing (But It’s Growing)
  11. Life
  12. The Sound Of Your Cry (released in U.S. on Walk a Mile in My Shoes: The Essential ‘70s Masters, RCA 30331, 1995)
  13. Sylvia (released on Elvis Now, RCA 4671, 1972)
  14. Rags To Riches (A-side of RCA single 447-0680, 1971)

Written by Joe Marchese

November 22, 2011 at 13:31

One Response

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  1. This is an interesting choice. These sessions first spawned “That’s The Way It Is”, the “soundtrack” to the documentary film of the same name (but which only actually contained four songs recorded live in Las Vegas) before “Elvis Country” appeared less than two months later. I’m a big “Love Letters From Elvis” fan, but that album (released less than six months after “Elvis Country” and less than eight months after “TTWII”) essentially consisted of the leftovers from these June 1970 sessions. “That’s The Way It Is” was expanded into a 3-disc set in 2000, and all three albums have been expanded into 2-disc FTD titles.


    November 22, 2011 at 14:22

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