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Elvis Presley
Gospel Favourites
Take My Hand


  Take My Hand - Gospel Favourites - UK (EU) 1999 - BMG 74321 709132 Take My Hand - Gospel Favourites - UK (EU) 1999 - BMG 74321 709132

Release: 1999 BMG 74321 709132 UK (made in EU) 11 €

Matrix number: 74321709132 03

Take My Hand - Gospel Favourites - UK (EU) 1999 - BMG 74321 709132

Take My Hand, Precious Lord
I Believe
It Is No Secret (What God Can Do)
Amazing Grace
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus/Nearer My God To Thee
How Great Thou Art
Farther Along
Crying In The Chapel
In The Garden
Working On The Building
He Touched Me
Where Could I Go But To The Lord
(There'll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me)
Put Your Hand In The Hand
By And By
Somebody Bigger Than You And I
Joshua Fit The Battle
Reach Out To Jesus
Swing Down Sweet Chariot
Milky White Way
 

From the very beginning Elvis Presley's musical life was dominated by gospel music. As a child in Fast Tupelo, Mississippi, in the heart of the Bible Belt, he would attend meetings of the First Assembly of God Church with his Mom and Dad. It was here that Elvis first sang in public, before a tiny congregation made up of many relatives and close neighbours. It was also here that he picked up his first chords on both the guitar and piano from The Rev. W Frank Smith, the pastor (also a Presley family mernber). The First Assembly of God is part of the Pentecostal movement, and as such was progressive in welcoming all musical influences into the church, and also active in interracial ideas. The Pentecostal Church of the South was the bedrock from which sprang many of the rock 'n' rollers who caine out of the fifties.

When Elvis was thirteen his family moved to Memphis, where he attended the First Assembly of God Sunday School, making friends with Cecil Blackwood, a younger brother of The Blackwood Brothers gospel quartet. At this time the Blackwoods held monthly sings at the Ellis Auditorium where Elvis became a regular visitor and quickly a friend of the vocal group. The Blackwoods invited Elvis into their concerts free of charge as he was so poor, and encouraged his enthusiasm for singing. Young Cecil became a member of The Songfellows (a sort of junior Blackwoods) and when two members of the senior group were killed in an airplane disaster, Cecil moved up to the Blackwoods. Although Elvis had failed an audition for The Songfellows previously, he was asked if he would like to replace Cecil in the group. Nineteen year old Elvis had just signed his contract with Sun Records, but the fact that he gave the offer serious consideration shows how much gospel music meant to him, even as he was embarking on a career that would make him a secular star. Importantly, he was considered good enough to be offered a place with The Songfellows.

Elvis was a regular visitor to radio station WMPS, where The Blackwood Brothers had their own live programme. At WMPS he met his future manager, Bob Neal, therefore consequently Elvis' initial contact with the world of professional music was through The Blackwoods. Elvis continued to visit the Blackwoods at their concerts alter he was famous still getting in free! At these concerts he met his friend, J. D. Sumner, once a member of The Sunshine Boys, later with the Blackwoods, and eventually the leader of Elvis' live vocal group in the seventies. He also regularly saw Hovie Lister and the Statesmen, featuring the flamboyant lead singer Jake Hess, a tremendous influence on Elvis both as a singer and performer. When Elvis became too famous to go to the shows, he would invite groups like The Sunshine Boys over to Graceland, his home, for private sings.

When Elvis left Sun Records and started recording for RCA he introduced gospel quartets to his recordings immediately. Initially it was The Jordanaires; later The Imperials (who had once featured Jake Hess); then The Sweet Inspirations, and finally a reformed Stamps Quartet with J. D. Sumner as leader. Elvis did not just use back-up session singers, he used actual gospel quartets both live and in the studio.

When Elvis needed to unwind after a show, or needed to relax before a recording session, he would sing spirituals with his vocal group. He always kept a large collection of Southern quartet gospel records at home. All the gospel quartets that Elvis came into contact with have said at some time that Elvis knew the words to any song they could come up with. Although bis favourite gospel music was Southern Quartet style, when he recorded spiritual music he tended to arrange it in the same style as bis pop songs, with the quartet backing up bis lead. Of course, at times of relaxation he would just join in as a second bass or baritone, offen chording the piano if the stool was free.

In December 1956, the famous Million Dollar Quartet jam session was recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis at the end of a Carl Perkins taping. Elvis, Carl and Jerry Lee Lewis sang longer and harder on some favomite gospel songs than on any of the pop, blues or country that they ran through that night. Included in this session is the first hearing of Elvis running through the famed gospel song Peace In The Valley. Shortly after, on January 6 1957, he would perform the song on the Ed Sullivan Show, with The Jordanaires. This was the first time that Elvis was heard to perform a gospel song for the public at large; it was the last song he perfonned during that broadcast; and that broadcast was the last TV appearance he would make during the fifties. lt has offen been suggested that he may have used the song in an attempt to tone down bis rebel image, and to appeal to a broader audience. He may have wanted simply to share bis first and greatest musical love. A few nights later, on January 12/13, he cut the song at a recording session held in Hollywood, together with two other gospel songs, I Believe and Take My Hand Precious Lord. These three songs plus It Is No Secret recorded on the 19th, would be released as a 45rpm EP tifled Peace In The Valley, Elvis' first collection of recorded gospel songs. All four songs would later be added to the "Elvis' Christmas Album" LP of 1957. Peace In The Valley was written by Thomas A. Dorsey, as was Take My Hand, Precious Lord, and country singer Red Foley had a huge hit with the song in 1951. It was also recorded by The Stamps Quartet in 1952 and The Golden Gate Quartet, among numerous others. The most famous version of I Believe was by Frankie Laine who scored a big hit with it in 1953. This is actually a pop song in form rather than a gospel song. Take My Hand, Precious Lord was originally recorded by The Heavenly Gospel Singers in 1937, and later by The Golden Gate Quartet. On all four of these sides Elvis is accompanied by The Jordanaires.

In October 1960 Elvis recorded an album called "His Hand In Mine", the first of three full albums of gospel music he would release in his career. Although Crying In The Chapel was recorded during these sessions it was not included on the album but was released as a single five years later to become a top ten hit. It was originally recorded by Darrell Glenn, son of its writer, Artie Glenn, and was a country hit. The same year saw an R&B hit for Sonny Til and The Orioles. Four years later Elvis' girlfriend, Anita Wood, recorded the song. Other tracks on this collection taken from these sessions are Working On The Building originally recorded by both The Blackwood Brothers and The Jordanaires, Joshua Fit The Battle, Swing Down Sweel Chariot and Milky White Way. On all these songs Elvis is accompanied by The Jjordanaires and Elvis studio regular, Millie Kirkham.

How Great Thou Art was the title track from Elvis' second album collection of inspirational music, recorded in May 1966. These sessions marked Elvis' return to the studio for his first non-soundtrack recordings in nearly three years. For this retum he chose gospel music and it earned him his first Grammy. His biggest influence for How Great Thou Art was undoubtedly The Blackwood Brothers' version of 1957. Other songs included here from these sessions are Where Could I Go But To The Lord, the original b-side to Red Foley's version of Peace In The Valley and a song that Elvis featured in his 1968 TV Special; By And By, Somebody Bigger Than You And I, In The Garden and Farther Along. This last track, interestingly, was recorded by Elvis' friends The Stamps Quartet in the late 1940's, and when they later re-recorded the song the record credited the piano accompaniment to "Presley"! This was another song that Elvis jammed with Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee at the Million Dollar Quartet session. Vocal accompaniment on the How Great Thou Art sessions was by The Jordanaires, The Imperials and Millie Kirkham.

The main title track from Elvis' third and final gospel album was He Touched Me, released in 1971. Other tracks from this album session are Amazing Grace (which Elvis cut shortly after he had laid down a version of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face), Reach Out To Jesus and Put Your Hand In The Hand. This last track was unusually a contemporary gospel song at the time Elvis recorded it. Although the track was recorded during the same sessions as the others, it was instead included on "Elvis Now", an album made up of largely secular songs from the same sessions.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus / Nearer My God To Thee is a medley of two spirituals that was recorded at an impromptu session during the filming of "Elvis On Tour"' in March 1972. This recording does not appear in the movie and was not released as a sound recording until the "Amazing Grace"' collection in 1994. Vocal accompaniment is by J.D. Sumner and The Stamps.

During his career Elvis won three Grammy Awards. They were all for gospel recordings or performances.


BRIAN NEVILL 1999