Elite Hotel

30 May

Elite Emmylou

I can remember exactly where I was when I decided that I had to have this, the first country rock album I ever bought.  I was sitting in a pub in Bradford, drinking beer with three equally under-age schoolfriends! We were studying for our A-levels (a national school exam English children take at age 18) and on a geography field trip to Yorkshire. On this day, groups of us  had been dropped from our coach at different points around the periphery of the city with instructions to record the changing land use as we walked to our rendezvous in the central business district. Since we were fairly smart kids, we realised that, if we could find a pub to serve us, we could have a convivial lunch and then ride into the city centre by bus, straight down the arterial road,  noting the different zones as we went.

And so, I first heard Emmylou Harris sing her achingly beautiful cover of  Lennon and McCartney’s ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ on the jukebox of a dodgy Bradford pub – and was smitten by her voice so much that I’m still buying her music more than 35 years later!  Having heard that one track, I had to search out this artist – and then had the bonus of finding out from the LP covers that Ms Harris was extraordinarily attractive too! In an era when country music meant women with big hair standing by their men she was HOT in a way that meant she had no problem crossing over to a rock audience of teenage boys!

Elite Hotel, issued in 1975, was Emmylou’s second ‘proper’ solo album (third overall if you count a very early effort) following two further albums with the late Gram Parsons – and it oozes class and quality.

Prominent among  the backing musicians are the great James Burton on guitar, Glen D. Hardin on piano with Bill Payne, Hank DeVito and Emory Gordy also in the mix. Along with a young Rodney Crowell,  both Bernie Leadon (lately of the Eagles) and Linda Ronstadt – both of whom were better known than Emmylou at the time – added backing vocals.

The songs are well chosen. Ms Harris tips her hat to Gram Parsons by recording the Flying Burrito Brothers’ ‘Sin City’ and ‘Ooh Las Vegas’, pays her Country dues by covering Hank Williams (‘Jambalaya’) and Buck Owen (‘Together Again’) and gives a career boost to Rodney Crowell (her co-writer on ‘Amarillo’ and sole credit on ‘Till I Gain Control Again’).

My CD version of the album, bought just a  couple of years ago,  is on WEA/Reprise/Rhino (8122-78109-2) and is tastefully remastered, with a couple of bonus tracks  ‘You’re running Wild’ and ‘Cajun Born’) plus sleeve notes and lyrics which is more than the original issue which just had personnel listings for each track.

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