The Made in Memphis FTD CD is another in an extended string of vault excavations from Elvis Presley's apparently inexhaustible library of alternate, unused, and unfinished takes, to be issued by the custom label Follow That Dream through RCA-BMG. For starters, as with many of the unused takes, because there's been no dubbing or the loss of even a single generation, you get a much closer sound than on most of Elvis' released recordings, even the properly remastered editions; on 'Do You Know Who I Am', you are close enough in the mix to the voice microphone that you can hear every breath and even the whisper of the smallest nuances in his performance, almost too close in terms of picking up flaws that are very evident -- on the other hand, his vocal charisma is more evident here, on this flawed take (that begins with a false start at the wrong tempo), than it would be on more polished and successful readings; the effect is almost addictive to the listener.
The takes here run from the classic Chips Moman produced American Studios Memphis sessions from 1969 through sessions held at Sun Records into the mid '70s. Except for the count-offs and talk leading in, and some of the unfaded endings, much of this material is close to releasable in the conventional sense -- even casual fans may be attracted by the presence of alternate takes of 'In the Ghetto' or 'Moody Blue'. But whether it's a unfinished take of the Moman produced 'You'll Think of Me' or the mid '70s 'Three Corn Patches' -- a killer rocker for those unfamiliar and worth the price of admission for its nearly finished 'Take 6' -- everything here is justified in release. In fact, in many ways, the tracks on this and similar 'Follow That Dream' releases could make converts of non-fans -- when you get this up-close-and-personal on the vocal and instrumental playback, the raw energy is seductive, and very difficult to resist, in ways that the finished records aren't always, at least in so direct a manner. On 'Find Out What's Happening', the whole basic song is there, even the chorus, until it gets blown -- which sometimes happens elsewhere with a curse from Elvis (as on 'You Asked Me To', as he forgets a line or a word), or something else breaks down -- about four minutes in, but the mix is so close that you can practically hear the action on the drum kit and on the bass (which is louder than it ever was allowed to be in a formal studio release), and hearing Elvis 'live' in that setting shows how he won over even some of his harshest critics. He was a greater singer in many ways by the early '70s than he had been in the mid-'50s, and he was working with some of the best musicians in the business, and it comes out here as much as (or even more so) than it did on the finished recordings. No one is knocking the latter, but here is where you get to hear how he sounded to the musicians he worked with, and how they sounded to him when they were working together -- so you hear the action on the strings of the lead guitar on 'She Thinks I Still Care'; some of this, such as the outtake of 'Moody Blue', may have been too exposed for a release that was expected to get radio play in the mid-'70s, but as an archival release it's worth more than its weight in gold.
The last five cuts here are special even in the context of this release, however -- recorded in November 1973 during an impromptu 'session' at the home of friend and musical colleague Sam Thompson in Memphis, and preserved by the latter on a cassette that was later damaged and repaired before being copied (and later lost in a fire), they capture Presley (on acoustic guitar) and friends running through 'Baby What Do You Want Me to Do', 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry', 'Spanish Eyes' (adopting a falsetto voice), 'See See Rider', and 'That's All Right' in varying degrees of informality; and closing with a foul-mouthed but very funny poetic moment that some parents won't appreciate. The fidelity is astonishingly good and by itself this could have made a great EP if we were still living in an era of vinyl. The only complaint one is tempted to focus upon is the relatively thin annotation -- given the high list price for the CDs in this series, one could expect more detailed session information, background, and the names of other musicians involved; yes, that information is available elsewhere, but for the high premium price, it ought to be here. ~ Bruce Eder, All Music Guide
Made in Memphis is a single-disc regular Follow That Dream release featuring outtakes from Elvis' sessions in Memphis in 1969 (American Sound Studio), 1973 (Stax Recording Studio) and 1976 (the den at Graceland). There is an additional 5-song set of home recordings made at Sam Thompson's place in November 1973. (Sam was a member of Elvis' entourage and the brother of Linda Thompson, Elvis' girlfriend from 1972 to 1976.)
Recorded January & February 1969, at American Sound, Memphis:
December 1973 - Stax Studio:
February 1976 - Graceland - Jungle Room:
November 1973 - Sam Thompson's House, Memphis:
Elvis Presley (Arranger), Felton Jarvis (A&R), Ernst Mikael Jorgensen (Art Direction), Ernst Mikael Jorgensen (Compilation Producer), Roger Semon (Art Direction), Roger Semon (Compilation Producer), Lene Reidel (Mastering), Sam Thompson (Liner Notes), Steve Barile (Photo Courtesy)