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Return to “The Promised Land”: Elvis Presley’s Stax Sessions Collected In New Box Set

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Elvis Stax imageOn August 6, 2013, RCA and Legacy Recordings will release a box set fit for a King.  Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition compiles three CDs of master takes and alternates all drawn from Presley’s July and December 1973 sessions at Stax Recording Studios on McLemore Avenue in Memphis.  Elvis was right at home; he could even take Elvis Presley Boulevard to “Soulsville USA” on McLemore.  These final major studio sessions of Presley’s storied career yielded tracks for three albums: Raised On Rock/For Ol’ Times Sake (1973), Good Times (1974), and Promised Land (1975).  The new box set includes all of the completed master recordings alongside a number of alternate takes for virtual one-stop shopping for Presley’s Stax ouevre.

Though born in Tupelo, Mississippi, Presley called Memphis home from the age of 13, and indeed, began his career there at Sam Phillips’ Sun studio.  It was in Memphis, too, that Elvis recorded some of the most successful music of his later period when he returned to the city’s studios after a thirteen year absence.  At Chips Moman’s American Sound Studios, Elvis cut smash hit tracks like “In the Ghetto,” “Suspicious Minds” and “Kentucky Rain.”  When he journeyed to Stax in summer 1973, it wasn’t a wholly satisfying experience.  The studio only had one 8-track machine.  Elvis’ microphone disappeared.  And so on.  When Elvis returned with his troupe in December of that year, RCA’s 16-track mobile unit was also in tow along with RCA engineers.  Presley and producer Felton Jarvis were more prepared this time out, too, and eighteen new tracks were finished to accompany the completed recordings from July, most of which had been issued on Raised on Rock.

It wasn’t until March 1974 that the first album from the December sessions was released; that LP, Good Times, distinguished itself by its poor sales.  With just 200,000 copies sold, it was a low point in Presley’s career – something that today seems hard to believe, given the quality of the songs it contained.  Undeterred, Elvis continued to tour, and released Elvis: Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis (of course!) in June; it fared substantially better than Good Times, notching a No. 33 berth on the Billboard chart and eventually selling more than half a million copies.  The next album culled from the December Stax sessions, Promised Land, finally arrived in stores on January 15, 1975.  It peaked at No. 47 and although still a disappointment, its sales (350,000) were an improvement on Good Times.

After the jump, we’re taking a closer look at the new box set!

Elvis at Stax is arranged in segments.  The first disc presents The R&B and Country Sessions: The Outtakes, including takes of Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land,” Danny O’Keefe’s “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues” and Tom Jans’ “Loving Arms.”  Disc 2 kicks off with The Pop Sessions: The Outtakes featuring songs such as Tony Joe White’s “I’ve Got a Thing About You Baby” and Bert Kaempfert, Eddie Snyder and Charles Singleton’s “Spanish Eyes.”  This second disc then concludes with the complete set of July 1973 master takes.  Finally, the third disc offers up the eighteen December 1973 masters.

Most of the outtakes on Elvis at Stax were first released on the Follow That Dream collectors’ label’s expanded editions of Raised On Rock/For Ol’ Times Sake (reissued 2007), Good Times (reissued 2012), and Promised Land (reissued 2011).  (Note that not every alternate take from the FTD discs has been reprised here.  Elvis at Stax offers a representative sampling.)  This box marks a significant, large-scale effort to unify the Stax recordings; in Presley’s lifetime, these landmark recordings were only issued on albums in tandem with material recorded elsewhere.  Not only are these songs important to Presley’s career but they’re also a major part of the concluding chapter of the Stax story.  Before 1975 was out, Stax’s offices would shutter.

Produced by Follow That Dream’s Ernest Mikael Jørgensen, Roger Semon and Legacy’s Rob Santos, Elvis at Stax includes day-by-day, night-by-night liner notes by Memphis journalist Robert Gordon.  (Gordon and his wife Tara McAdams co-wrote the essay for Legacy’s 2009 reissue of From Elvis in Memphis, chronicling the American Studios recordings.)

August 6, 2013 is the date for RCA/Legacy’s Elvis at Stax.  You can pre-order this set of historic southern soul just below!

Elvis Presley, Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition (RCA/Legacy 88883 72418 2, 2013)

CD 1: The R&B and Country Sessions – The Outtakes:

  1. I Got A Feelin’ In My Body – Take 1
  2. Find Out What’s Happening – Takes 8-7
  3. Promised Land – Take 4
  4. For Ol’ Times Sake – Take 4
  5. I’ve Got A Thing About You, Babe – Take 14
  6. It’s Midnight – Take 7
  7. If You Talk In Your Sleep – Take 5
  8. Loving Arms – Take 2
  9. You Asked Me To – Take 3A
  10. Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues – Take 8
  11. Talk About The Good Times – Take 3
  12. There’s A Honky Tonk Angel – Take 1
  13. She Wears My Ring – Take 8
  14. Three Corn Patches – Take 14
  15.  I Got A Feelin’ In My Body – Take 4
  16. If You Don’t Come Back – Take 3
  17. Promised Land – Take 5

CD 2: The Pop Sessions – The Outtakes (Tracks 1-10) / The July 1973 Masters (Tracks 11-20):

  1. Mr. Songman – Take 2
  2. Your Love’s Been a Long Time Coming – Take 4
  3. Spanish Eyes – Take 2
  4. Take Good Care Of Her – Takes 1,2,3
  5. It’s Diff’rent Now (unfinished recording)
  6. Thinking About You – Take 4
  7. My Boy – Take 1
  8. Girl of Mine – Take 9
  9. Love Song of the Year – Take 1
  10. If That Isn’t Love – Take 1
  11. Raised on Rock (Hot 100 #41, Country #42)
  12. For Ol’ Time Sake (charts same as Track 11)
  13. I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby (Hot 100 #39, Country #4)
  14. Take Good Care of Her (charts same as Track 13)
  15. If You Don’t Come Back
  16. Three Corn Patches
  17. Girl of Mine
  18. Just a Little Bit
  19. Find Out What’s Happening
  20. Sweet Angeline

CD 3: The December 1973 Masters

  1. Promised Land (Hot 100 #14, Country #9)
  2. It’s Midnight (charts same as track 1)
  3. If You Talk In Your Sleep (Hot 100 #17, Country #6)
  4. Help Me (charts same as Track 3)
  5. My Boy (Hot 100 #20, Country #14)
  6. Thinking About You (charts same as Track 5)
  7. Mr. Songman (Hot 100 #35, Country #11)
  8. I Got A Feelin’ In My Body
  9. Loving Arms
  10. Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues
  11. You Asked Me To
  12. There’s A Honky Tonk Angel (Who Will Take Me Back In)
  13. Talk About The Good Times
  14. She Wears My Ring
  15. Your Love’s Been a Long Time Coming
  16. Love Song of the Year
  17. Spanish Eyes
  18. If That Isn’t Love

CD 1, Tracks 1, 3-5, 8, 10-14, 16 and CD 2, Tracks 2-3, 6, 8, 10 from Rhythm and Country (RCA 07863-67672-2, 1998)
CD 1, Track 2 from Raised on Rock (Follow That Dream 86971 28432, 2007)
CD 1, Tracks 6 & 9 and CD 2, Tracks 1 & 9 from Promised Land (Follow That Dream 50602 09750 1 9, 2011)
CD 1, Tracks 7 & 15 from Today, Tomorrow and Forever (RCA 07863-65115-2, 2002)
CD 1, Track 17 from PlatinumA Life in Music (RCA 67469, 1997)
CD 2, Tracks 4 & 7 from Good Times (Follow That Dream 50602 09750 0 3, 2012)
CD 2, Track 5 from Walk a Mile in My Shoes – The Essential ’70s Masters (RCA 7863-66670-2, 1995)
CD 2, Tracks 11-12 & 15-20 from Raised On Rock/For Ol’ Times Sake (RCA APL1-0388, 1973)
CD 2, Tracks 13-14 and CD 3, Tracks 5, 8-10, 13-14 & 17-18 from Good Times (RCA CPL1-0475, 1974)
CD 3, Tracks 1-4, 6-7, 11-12 & 15-16 from Promised Land (RCA APL1-0873, 1975)

Written by Joe Marchese

May 10, 2013 at 17:04

3 Responses

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  1. Here in Tupelo, Elvis’ birthplace, he’s a thriving tourist attraction where you can learn about his humble beginnings.

    Brian Hargett

    May 10, 2013 at 17:15

  2. This looks like a great collection–I have the FTD’s, but this still looks far more inspired than some of the other recent Legacy boxes. That said–the December 1973 sessions are highly recommended, and “Promised Land” is one of my favorite Presley titles. Presley’s last great studio sessions.

    That said–if you don’t want to wait until August, the eighteen songs on Disc Three were released on a single CD as an expanded “Promised Land” back in 2000 in their original “Promised Land/Good Times” track order/configuration.


    May 10, 2013 at 20:59

  3. I would like to know hoe much thebox set goes for?

    Linda Watson

    September 27, 2013 at 18:04

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