REVIEW: From Elvis In Memphis CD Set (2009 Legacy Edition)

From Elvis In Memphis CD set (Sony Legacy, 2009)

Elvis takes it home

“Take it home, son, take it home,” Elvis proclaims near the end of his 1968 Comeback Special. Just a few weeks after the special aired, Elvis did just that. He had not formally recorded in his adopted hometown of Memphis since his last session for Sun in 1955.

By January 1969, the musical landscape had changed, the entire world had changed, and even Elvis had changed. The 20-year-old kid who last recorded in Memphis as he was on the verge of becoming an unrivaled superstar was now a 34-year-old husband and father looking to continue pounding his way out of a creative slump.

Was the success of the ’68 Special a fluke, or was Elvis truly back on the track? His January and February 1969 sessions at the American Sound Studio in Memphis would help answer that question.

Outside of the hit singles, I first heard most of these songs when my brother gave me The Memphis Record double LP set as a Christmas gift back in 1988. It collects 23 of the best tracks from the sessions, including all of the songs from the original From Elvis In Memphis album.

As an Elvis fan, The Memphis Record changed my life. As I said, I was already familiar with “Suspicious Minds,” “In The Ghetto,” and the other hits, but I remember being blown away right off the bat by “Stranger In My Own Home Town,” “Power Of My Love,” “Any Day Now,” and “After Loving You,” to name just a few.

How had I not heard these songs before? Why wasn’t the radio playing these constantly? Unlike most of the kids my age back then and their favorite music fads, I knew at that moment I was going to be an Elvis fan for the rest of my life.

As I typed those words, I have just realized that I am now 34-years-old, like Elvis during these Memphis sessions. Since I first played The Memphis Record back in 1988, the musical landscape has changed, the entire world has changed, and I have changed. I’m a husband now, and I hear the words to some of these songs differently than I did as a 13-year-old. Yet, here I am, still listening to Elvis. Despite all the change, Elvis is still here.

In the early 1990s, I switched over to the CD format and eventually picked up The Memphis Record on CD and complimented it with Back In Memphis to get some of the remaining songs from the session—which I found I didn’t like as much. Even the Back In Memphis songs I was familiar with sounded “muffled” to me.

In 1993, RCA treated the Elvis world to From Nashville To Memphis: The Complete 60s Masters I, a five-disc set that included all of his non-movie and non-gospel studio master recordings from the 1960s, including the complete 1969 Memphis sessions. While this was probably the most authentic sound to date at the time (I only found out later that the mixes on The Memphis Record were slightly altered to sound more contemporary), I remember being just a touch disappointed by the 1969 Memphis sound again for some of the tracks.

For the thirtieth anniversary of the Memphis sessions, RCA released Suspicious Minds: The 1969 Memphis Anthology in 1999. The sound was improved over 1994, but still muffled and lacking to me at times. I figured that it was the best we were ever going to have, though, and I was content with it.

When I first heard about the Legacy Edition of From Elvis In Memphis, now upgraded to include Back In Memphis and all of the other songs from the sessions, I was not planning to buy it. As much as I loved them, I had bought these songs countless times over. Then, a new press release announced that From Elvis In Memphis—Legacy Edition was going to include the original mono versions of all of the singles.

There, Sony/RCA had hooked me. At first, I planned only to purchase the ten individual mono singles online as legal downloads. However, I realized that just for three or four dollars more, I could buy the entire set of 36 songs by just purchasing the CD in a store (buying Elvis music in an actual store: “it’s been a long time, baby”). I probably wouldn’t need all of those other songs, but at least the packaging looked nice.

I played the mono singles first on Disc 2, and once I heard the quality of their sound, I could hardly wait to go back to Disc 1 and play From Elvis In Memphis proper. I don’t know what Sony/RCA did differently this time, but they finally got rid of that sort of muffled sound some of the Memphis tracks had before. Crystal clear. I’m loving this release! What a great surprise!

Yet, I’m sure this won’t be the last time I buy these songs. Sony’s Follow That Dream Elvis collectors label will undoubtedly release both From Elvis In Memphis and Back In Memphis as part of their Classic Album series in the coming years. The whole world will probably have changed by then, but I’ll still be listening to Elvis.

Songs: 10 (out of 10)

Audio & Mix Quality: 10

Liner Notes: 5

Cover Art: 10

Packaging: 10

Overall Experience: 10