Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, left an indelible mark on the music industry with his iconic recordings. One of the most intriguing periods of his career occurred in 1973 when he recorded at Stax Studios in Memphis. While RCA/Legacy released a three-CD compilation of these sessions, titled ELVIS AT STAX: DELUXE EDITION, some argue that it was merely a repackaging effort. Nevertheless, the Stax sessions were a pivotal moment in Elvis’s career, marking both a triumph and a turning point. Let’s delve into the significance of these recordings!
A Snapshot of the Stax Sessions
The Stax sessions took place in two phases, one in July and the other in December, resulting in a total of 28 masters. Some notable tracks include “Raised on Rock,” “For Ol’ Times Sake,” and “Promised Land.” These recordings provide a fascinating glimpse into Elvis’s creative output during the twilight of his career.
Behind the Scenes at Stax
Ernst Jorgensen, the renowned Elvis historian, sheds light on the Stax sessions in his book. Despite not being physically present during the recording process, Jorgensen meticulously analyzed the session tapes and gathered insights from musicians and technicians who were there. It becomes apparent that Elvis’s mood during the two sessions varied significantly.
During the July sessions, Elvis was dealing with personal and health issues, which affected his enthusiasm. His weight gain and physical deterioration were noticeable, and his lack of interest in recording was palpable. However, in the December sessions, after his divorce and with no imminent live engagements, Elvis’s attitude improved. He displayed moments of excitement and frustration, resulting in a mixed bag of recordings.
Mixed Success and Commercial Impact
The commercial success of Elvis’s Stax recordings paled in comparison to his earlier achievements. In 1969, his recordings at American Studios propelled him back into the spotlight, with chart-topping hits like “Suspicious Minds” and “In the Ghetto.” In contrast, none of the Stax singles reached the top 10 on the Billboard charts. The resulting studio albums, Raised on Rock (1973), Good Times (1974), and Promised Land (1975), sold modestly, with combined sales of around 700,000 copies.
The Legacy of the Stax Sessions
While Elvis fans may argue that the Stax sessions produced many underappreciated gems, the truth is that these recordings failed to make a lasting impact beyond his loyal fan base. Instead of revitalizing his recording career, the Stax sessions marked a decline in Elvis’s output. The subsequent years saw fewer studio recordings and a reliance on home recordings.
Ultimately, the Stax sessions serve as a testament to the complex and challenging period in Elvis’s life. They provided glimpses of brilliance, but they also hinted at the struggles that would define the latter part of his career. Despite their commercial shortcomings, the recordings remain an essential part of Elvis’s discography.
To learn more about Elvis Presley and his incredible music legacy, check out All about Elvis.