The Studio One Project: Elf

The Fourth Album From Studio One

After way too many months away from this series, I'm happy to post my review of the fourth album produced at Studio One in Doraville GA. The album is the first album from the band "Elf" featuring Ronald Padavona. Who's that, you ask? Read on to find out..... This is the fourth review in my ongoing series that I call “Studio One Project: Great Music From Doraville” where I acquire and review a copy of every album that was recorded at Studio One in Doraville Georgia. Why would I do that you may be asking? Good question…..to find out the reason please check out the original post in the series (which has the table of albums recorded at Studio One along with links to my review of each album).

As always, before we dive into the review I must first issue this disclaimer:

“Warning, I am not a trained music reviewer! I’m just a guy who likes music. Anything that is said in any of my reviews is purely my own interpretation/opinion and should not be relied upon as an endorsement of the quality of any particular piece of music or compilation thereof.” How's that for Lawyerspeak? :-)

OK, now that we got that out of the way…onto the review!

Review #4 Elf

The fourth album produced or recorded at Studio One was the debut, self titled, release from Elf and featured a couple of iconic collaborators that helped define rock music. Many of you may have never heard of Elf but I bet many of you probably have heard of it's lead singer's later name, Ronnie James Dio.

Here’s a summary of the LP version of the album (courtesy of Discogs). You'll notice in the credits that there are a couple of members of one of the best bands of all time, Deep Purple, acting in the role of Producer-Ian Paice and Roger Glover:

Elf (3) ‎– Elf

Label:
Epic ‎– KE 31789
Format:
Vinyl, LP, Album
Country:
Released:
Genre:
Style:

TRACKLIST

A1 Hoochie Koochie Lady 5:32
A2 First Avenue 4:22
A3 Never More 3:50
A4 I'm Coming Back For You 3:27
B1 Sit Down Honey (Everything Will Be Alright) 3:48
B2 Dixie Lee Junction 5:08
B3 Love Me Like A Woman 3:46
B4 Gambler, Gambler 4:28

Credits

The Purchase

Much like the last album review in this series finding a copy of the album in good shape took a little bit of time. As I'm quickly finding out when trying to find quality copies of these older/rarer albums, there oftentimes aren't a lot of copies of the albums for sale at any one time, especially in good condition. After a little searching I found a good candidate on Discogs, a VG+ copy from a highly rated seller. The cover was listed as G+. The problem was the price, which was very high ($45.00). If I bought this copy it would be the single most expensive album purchase to date!

Damn, this "vintage vinyl" phase I'm going through sure is getting expensive. I guess it's cheaper than a little red sports car though.  :-) After some waffling back and forth along with double-checking the budget I plunked down my cash and waited for the vinyl to show up.

The Vinyl

After a 10 day wait the album arrived. As advertised, the vinyl was in very good shape but it did need a good cleaning, actually two good cleanings. I gave it my usual cleaning using my custom solution of distilled water, a drop of Palmolive pure dish soap and a lab-grade surfactant (Triton X-114) and tossed it on the turntable and noticed a fair amount of pops and clicks. I put the vinyl back on my cleaning machine (self made for <$50) and gave a good, vigorous 2nd cleaning. That did the job. The sound quality was much improved. It shows that even a good looking/glossy piece of vinyl can still need a good cleaning. The album is nearly 45 years old at this point and who knows what the "provenance" of this album was. All I know was that 2nd cleaning brought up a lot of dirt...

The Packaging

The album is a basic single vinyl LP in a standard cardboard sleeve. The cover is in OK condition (at best) but acceptable, especially since the vinyl was in good shape. It's obvious that this album has seen a lot of "shelf wear. The image on the front cover looks very Elf-like, though it does have a bit of an "evilness" to it. Here’s the front cover:

front cover of elf featuring ronnie james dio

And here’s the back cover. As you can see it's in a little better shape than the front. The image is a typical shot of the band but there's that little naked elf-like thing running off the right edge, which is a little strange. The photos were taken by Ronald Padavona/Ronnie James Dio:

back cover of elf album

The First Listen

I grabbed a tasty beer, warmed up the Lounge LCRMKIII preamp (a great preamp, watch for a review at some point) and Pro-ject Debut turntable, put the newly cleaned vinyl on the cork pad, lowered the arm and sat down for a listen....

SIDE 1

The first side started with “Hoochie Koochie Lady” which is a fairly straight-forward 12-bar blues/honky tonk song. Not a bad opening number.

The second track, "First Avenue"is in the same vein as track one with Mickey Lee Soule once again providing a strong honky tonk piano backbone.

The third track is "Never More" and it's on a bit of a different track than the first two, taking a slight turn at the "heavy metal" intersection and doesn't look back. I felt a bit like I was listening to a Deep Purple or Black Sabbath song, which isn't surprising given that Paice and Glover are producers. The vocals by Ronald/Ronnie James are strong and solid along with some nice piano by Mickey Lee Soule. It's probably the most interesting track of the entire album.

"I'm Coming Back For You" is track #4 on the first side and it's more of a straight up gritty rock song with over-driven guitars in the front and piano backing it up.

SIDE 2

Side two starts off with "Sit Down Honey (Everything Will Be Alright)". To me, this is another honky tonk number mixed with some distinctive rock guitar riffs. It's a nice way to kick off side two.

"Dixie Lee Junction" is the second track and it starts off as a rock ballad but switches to more blues-focused with Ronnie longing to be away from the city and back in Tennessee. There's a nice distorted guitar solo from David Feinstein to keep things moving along.

"Love Me Like A Woman" is the 3rd track on side 2 and is more honky tonk influenced rock. Dio does a good job with the vocals but there's not too much special about the song overall.

The album ends with "Gambler, Gambler" and it closes out the album on a strong rock note. Like "I'm Coming Back For You" on side one, this track is edgier and more what you would associate with Dio based on his work in later groups like Rainbow and Sabbath.

Second Listen and Thoughts

Listening to music is something that can happen in just about any state of mind but I find that to really get into the songs I need to give things at least two concentrated and distraction free listening sessions. So, as I've done with every album in this series, I waited a while (3 months) to take another listen to Elf. The second time around the goal is to get a deeper view of what the whole album is about rather than concentrating on each track.  I re-cued my "$45 piece of spinning plastic" on my Pro Ject Debut Carbon Turntable and sat down for another listen...

As I listened to Elf again, in it's entirety, I got a better feel/opinion for what this album is and represents in the career of it's most famous member (Ronald Padavona/Ronnie James Dio). It seems to me that Elf was a transitional project for Dio in the sense that it got him in the studio with two key people (Ian Paice and Roger Glover) who recognized his talents and allowed him to move to the "next level" in his career. The album's tracks reflect that with the majority of them from Dio's past (the honky tonk style songs) while a few show what the future would be like. The album itself is pretty basic but knowing where Dio ended up going it is interesting in that context.

The bottom line on Elf is that it's an interesting album in a historical context as it relates to the career of Ronnie James Dio. It is neat to say I have it in my collection, but only because of the fact that I'm deeply interested in collecting original albums produced at a long defunct studio here in Atlanta. For everyone else who's interested in it, I'd recommend finding a CD version or just listening to it on some streaming service (like Tidal) as part of your monthly subscription fee.

Up Next....

Assuming my schedule allows it I hope to have the next review in this series posted within the next few weeks. The album is "Get Right" by Mose Jones. Keep your fingers crossed.........

Help Support This Project

OK, here’s where I shamelessly ask for money :-) Seriously, buying vintage vinyl (heck this one album cost me $45) and hosting this site doesn’t come without a cost so any help you can provide toward that effort is greatly appreciated! If you like what you read and want to help out just click on one of the links below. You can get some music for yourself, or anything else that Amazon sells, by Clicking on one of the links.

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