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Albums Of The Week: Elvis Presley | Elvis: Back In Nashville

The King tackles everything from gospel & Christmas carols to blues, Bob Dylan & Chuck Berry on this collection of recordings from a marathon 1971 studio session.


THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Like its predecessor From Elvis In Nashville (released in November 2020), Elvis: Back In Nashville is designed to showcase Elvis Presley and his core band as they sounded during the actual sessions without orchestral overdubs and vocal accompaniment. A key difference between Elvis’ 1970 and 1971 Nashville sessions is that many of the 1971 recordings included backing singers; therefore, Elvis: Back In Nashville offers a variety of song performances both with and without vocal augmentation.

Given the prolific output of great recordings created by Elvis and his musicians during the fabled 1970 marathon sessions heard on From Elvis In Nashville, RCA and the Elvis camp decided to stick with the winning combination of tight band, seasoned studio, well-chosen repertoire and relaxed spontaneous Elvis behind the microphone and, once again, record as much material as possible over a short period of time. With Elvis’ upcoming concert activities increasing, future studio time would be limited and so the goal of these sessions was to generate perhaps a year’s worth of new songs. RCA and Presley’s manager Col. Tom Parker let Elvis know they’d like a new Christmas album, a gospel album, a pop album, and “several new singles for summer and fall releases” and so, Elvis’s music coordinator/producer Felton Jarvis booked a whole week of all-night sessions starting March 15, 1971 and brought on the same band he’d used the year before.

Presley’s return in 1970 to recording in Nashville had been revelatory. Those sessions, on the heels of his Memphis recordings and a return to the stage, had done more than simply sustain a comeback. They also introduced Elvis to a great new rhythm section and gifted Elvis with a great new sound. Bassist Norbert Putnam, drummer Jerry Carrigan and pianist David Briggs had helped transform country music rhythms in the sixties after they transplanted their R&B-indebted style from Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to Nashville session work. When Jarvis teamed Elvis with the Muscle Shoals boys, along with session guitarist Chip Young, jack-of-all-musical-trades Charlie McCoy, and Presley’s bandleader James Burton, they together created the belatedly acclaimed Elvis Country — in the process providing Elvis with a country-soul template he’d trace often in the last years of his life. Overdubs removed, what’s revealed on Elvis: Back In Nashville is some of the most compelling singing of Presley’s career.

Disc 1 features 18 tracks and includes The Country/Folk Sides (an unrealized Elvis project featuring songs by Ewan McColl, Gordon Lightfoot, Kris Kristofferson, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Bob Dylan), The Piano Recordings (raw Elvis singing Ivory Joe Hunter with piano accompaniment) and The Pop Sides (classic pop compositions including Padre, Fools Rush In Where Angels Fear To Tread, My Way, I’m Leavin’ and more). Disc 2 features 25 tracks divided between The Religious Sides (classic and contemporary gospel) and The Christmas Sides (sacred and secular seasonal holiday music). Disc 3 features 19 tracks and picks up on the country pop repertoire of Disc 1 and adds some rock ‘n’ roll with a variety of cuts including impromptu performances of Johnny B. Goode and Lady Madonna, an epic take on Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, (It’s Alright), fresh interpretations of Help Me Make It Through The Night, Early Morning Rain and more. Disc 4 features 20 tracks and includes The Religious Outtakes and The Christmas Outtakes.”