Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition Box (RCA/Legacy)
The mismanagement of Elvis’ career by Colonel Parker is infamous and the Colonel’s treatment of the King as a cash cow wasn’t the worst of it. Elvis’ manager was a tin-eared philistine who imagined that the general public shared his bad taste. Elvis’ development as an artist was hindered by Parker’s insistence on churning out product cheap and fast.
Elvis at Stax gathers several 1973 sessions in which the King charted his own course. Recorded at Memphis’ legendary Stax Studio, where so many great ’60s soul recordings were cut, the sessions were released in bits and pieces during Elvis’ lifetime on the patchwork albums Parker used to maintain cash flow. A three-disc set, Elvis at Stax collects all previously released Stax numbers plus outtakes; the extensive booklet includes a 1974 photo of Elvis at the Milwaukee Arena. The King was still hampered by some iffy song choices, yet when given something he connected with, he made words and melodies his own.
The best tracks demonstrate that Elvis was listening to the world outside Graceland and Las Vegas. Among the standouts, “If You Talk in Your Sleep” rides a solid groove in a funky soul number with a country accent. It’s a fusion Elvis was especially able to execute. In another exceptional choice, Danny O’Keefe’s “Goodtime Charlie’s got the Blues,” the self-recognition of a life slipping downhill registers in the rueful undertones of Elvis’ voice.