Saturday, 20 August 2016

"Elite Hotel" by EMMYLOU HARRIS (2004 Warner Brothers 'Expanded & Remastered' Edition CD) - A Review by Mark Barry...





"...Wheels To Take Ourselves Away..."

Like Bonnie Raitt, Carly Simon and Linda Ronstadt - the silken-voiced Emmylou Harris has always been a class act.

Her third album "Elite Hotel" from late December 1975 (January 1976 in the UK) started a home run of platters in the Seventies than include much-loved and rightly revered gems like 1977's "Luxury Liner" and 1978's "Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town" - and along with her spiritual and musical partner Gram Parsons – their mission was to bring Country Music, Country Rock and Americana to the masses. And we've been listening ever since...

Her second album - the equally lovely "Pieces Of the Sky" from August 1975 had managed a No. 45 chart placing in the States - but it was "Elite Hotel" at the very end of the year (29 December 1975) that firmly lodged the Alabama gal in our hearts. Three US 7" singles from March to September 1976 saw the Reprise Records album sell steadily and eventually climb further than its predecessor to No. 25 on the Pop charts and made her first dent in the UK at an even higher No. 17 position. "Elite Hotel" also became her first No. 1 Country album.

Extended and Remastered by the original 1975 Producer BRIAN AHERN and featuring members of The Eagles, Little Feat, James Burton and Herb Pedersen to name but a few of the amazing musician ensemble - this beautiful-sounding 2004 Warner Brothers CD reissue of "Elite Hotel" only pounds home the goodies - 'Ooh Las Vegas' indeed. Here are the sweet dreams...

US released February 2004 (March 2004 in the UK) - "Elite Hotel" by EMMYLOU HARRIS on Warner Brothers/Reprise/Rhino 8122-78109-2 (Barcode 081227810924) is an 'Expanded And Remastered' Edition CD with Two Bonus Tracks and plays out as follows (48:17 minutes):

1. Amarillo
2. Together Again
3. Feelin' Single - Seein' Double
4. Sin City
5. One Of These Days
6. Till I Gain Control Again
7. Here, There And Everywhere [Side 2]
8. Ooh Las Vegas (Live)
9. Sweet Dreams (Live)
10. Jambalaya (Live)
11. Satan's Jewel Crown
12. Wheels [with Jonathan Edwards]
Tracks 1 to 12 are her 3rd studio album "Elite Hotel" - released December 1975 in the USA on Reprise MS 2236 and January 1976 in the UK on Reprise K 54060. Produced and Arranged by BRIAN AHERN - it peaked at No. 25 on the US Pop charts and No. 17 on the UK LP charts. It also became her first No. 1 album on the American Country charts.

BONUS TRACKS:
13. You're Running Wild – Duet with RODNEY CROWELL
14. Cajun Born – Duet with JO-EL SONNIER

The beautifully presented 20-page booklet offers all a fan could want – great colour photos from the period – full track-by-track credits – lyrics - and hugely detailed new liner notes from HOLLY GEORGE-WARREN. But the big news is a new CD Remaster handled by DOUG BEAL and the album’s original Producer BRIAN AHERN. What a result – warm and exquisite – all the instruments sailing into your living room accompanied by that honey-voice. A gorgeous job done by all...

With Linda Ronstadt on Backing Vocals, the legendary James Burton on Guitar and Banjo player Herb Pedersen at the helm - the album kicks off in 'yee haw' Country style with "Amarillo" - a co-write for Emmylou with that prolific Texan Rodney Crowell. Emmylou warns that she lost her man to a jukebox and a pinball machine outside of that man-stealin' town. It's followed by one of the albums true masterpieces - a gorgeous and aching cover of Buck Owens "Together Again" - a 'key to my heart' weepy that tells us her tears have finally stopped flowing because they're...together again. Special mention also has to go to Glen Hardin who played the Piano on the song but also arranged the beautiful strings that underpin the amazing melody. Reprise saw the song's magic and radio potential so they popped out Reprise RPS 1346 in February 1976 with her equally sweet cover of the Beatles Revolver masterpiece on the flipside "Here, There And Everywhere". The American 45 reached 65 on the Pop charts but stormed the Country charts to reach the top spot of No. 1.

Wayne Kemp stumped up the dancehall "Feelin' Single – Seein' Double" - but that’s roundly trumped by another killer ballad - "Sin City" penned by Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman. With both John Starling and Herb Pedersen providing superlative three-way vocals with Emmylou – once again Glen Hardin plays Piano while Bernie Leadon of The Eagles and Producer Brian Ahern strum the Acoustic Guitars. It’s a fabulous melody and one that lingers long after things have moved on to the deceptive "One Of These Days" penned by Earl Montgomery. Byron Berline plays mandolin on the song and Reprise USA used its gentle sway as the A-side to their 2nd single from the album when they paired it with the beautiful Rodney Crowell ballad "Till I Gain Control Again" on Reprise RPS 1353 in May 1976. Personally I much prefer Crowell’s B-side "Till I Gain Control Again" which features Bill Payne of Little Feat on Piano and a slew of quality backing vocals from Linda Ronstadt, Jonathan Edwards, Dianne Brooks and Fayssoux Starling. Its haunting beauty was used again when it was paired as another B-side in January 1980 on Warner Brothers WBS-49164 to "Blue Kentucky Girl" from the 1979 album of the same name. Still we shouldn’t downplay the achievement of the A-side "One Of These Days" which made an impressive No. 3 on the Country singles charts.

Side 2 opens with that McCartney nugget "Here, There And Everywhere" – less famous than "Yesterday" but just as precious. Amos Garret plays Guitar and Bill Payne adds his expert keyboard skills – but the song is actually made by that Harris vocal and an echoed Harmonica courtesy of Mickey Raphael. It seems odd that Rhino missed the opportunity of putting the 3:05 minute US 7” single edit of "Sweet Dreams" on here as a Bonus Track – but we do get the 4:08 minute album version – the Don Gibson cover recorded live in front of an ecstatic crowd at The Roxy Theatre in Hollywood in June 1975. The edited live single of "Sweat Dreams" released September 1976 on Reprise RPS 1371 with "Amarillo" on the flipside gave Emmylou yet another Country No. 1 – and rightly so – it’s a truly touching version.

I normally can’t stand the hick "Jambalaya" – but Hank Williams is safe with Emmylou - and a song with a title as bizarre as "Satan's Jewel Crown" is the same – another '...His love set me free...' peaceful battle made by understated Dobro from Mike Aulderidge. This perfect Country Rock album ends with two of her main men inspiring – the Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons penned take-me-away "Wheels" with Jonathan Edwards on duet vocals (lyrics from it title this review). The two Bonus Tracks offer up beauty and a hoedown – "You're Running Wild" is a lone Acoustic Guitar duet with Rodney Crowell on a Ray Edenton and Don Winters song. It’s shockingly lovely – while "Cajun Moon" is a Bayou knees-up with Accordion player Jo-El Sonnier.

The final line of the Holly George-Warren liner notes describe the "Elite Hotel" album as 'exquisite' - nailed it good lady...

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