I was reading the obituary of Chips Moman, someone I’d never heard of before, and discovered he was the producer of Elvis Presley’s 15th and possibly greatest album ‘From Elvis in Memphis.’ (1969) Moman had a reputation of revitalising careers, and keen to capitalise on the King’s ‘68 Comeback Special.’ Presley’s management approached Moman. They wanted Momon to record and produce an Elvis album in American Sound Studio at Memphis.
Elvis agreed to jettison his default band, the Jordanaires, in favour of the tighter, more adventurous ‘The Memphis Boys’ — Momon’s house band. Elvis also agreed to reduce the size of the huge entourage that accompanied him, and presumably sucked on cough sweets, because he began recording suffering from a heavy cold. ‘When I told him he was off pitch, his whole entourage would nearly faint,’ Momon later wrote.
What I got from the obiturary was the sheer hard work that went into the album. In the first song, The Long BlackLimousine, “Elvis’s tone is rasping, coarsened by his cold, but the result after nine takes is raw and powerful.”
Moman knew what he was doing. At the end of the session, Elvis said to Moman: “We have some hits, don’t we Chips?” Without hesitation Moman replied: “Maybe some of your biggest.”
And he was right.
In the words of the rock critic Bruce Eder, other than Presley’s 1956 album, ‘From Elvis from Memphis’ was Elvis’s “greatest album” and “one of the greatest white soul albums (and one of the greatest soul albums) ever cut.”
And so last Saturday when I had the house to myself I played the entire album very loud, and by the Seven Lords of Hell, he was right.