on 20 March 2005
The traditional issues with material where blown away in the new year. Claude Demetrius wrote the great tough rock'n'roll song "Mean Woman Blues", Schroeder and Weisman contributed the flat out "Gotta Lotta Livin' To Do", two of the best rock'n'roll songs Elvis ever recorded. The country "Have I Told you Lately", "Don't Leave Me Now" and "I need you so" are wonderful, varied and powerful. Elvis was now at his best!
The additions to the album are less than enlightening. The reasons for omitting the wonderful "All Shook Up" doesn't make any sense at all. Instead you get the tough gospel flavoured "Tell Me Why" and two songs Elvis never really got on top of, "When It Rains" and "I Beg Of You".
The highlights of the additional material though is the 'dirty' version of One Night, simpler piano driven version when compared to the the superior version record a few months later, but fine never the less. As his is beautiful rendition of the lovely "Is It So Strange", just gorgeous.
In one way this is a bit of an odd one. Because they were short of material when the soundtrack was due to be released - which itself is a bit odd because the film plot was based on the rise to fame of a character rather like Elvis with a tacked on love plot, you would have thought that there was plenty of scope to pack songs in - they padded out the second side of the LP with tracks that had been recorded at broadly the same time but were nothing to do with the film. With the CD release they added alternates of film tracks plus other tracks which I think were recorded slightly later (obviously in order to get the number of tracks up to a respectable level).
But none of that is of any importance whatsoever. What matters is that this lot is almost all from the early period at RCA where the energy and enthusiasm that had characterised the Sun sides were still present in abundance, and Presley's sheer joy at being in a recording studio along with legendary session men as well as long term colleagues translated itself into music that was almost an equal joy to listen to. There's something of interest in every track and several are outright classics.
For vitality there's little to beat "Got a Lot o'living' to do" which is very reminiscent of his Sun tracks though the drums and understated Jordanaires give it away as RCA Nashville. The alternate take that closes the album has the Jordanaires in a more prominent position and is less effective though is in no way a bad track - this was an occasion when the producer made the right decision. Melodically it's more complex than most of his rockers and has the sound of songs like "I don't care if the sun don't shine". From the original film tracks we get three more good rockers in "Party", "Hot Dog" and "Mean Woman Blues" though Jerry Lee Lewis was to trump Elvis on the last named in a storming, superfast version with mucho swagger that came out at the tail end of `57 as flip to "Great Balls of Fire".
Still sticking with the film songs the other one that must be highlighted is the title track which for me is the second of his great ballad performances. That is with "Love me Tender" as the first. Yes I know this ignores "I forgot to remember to forget" but since the Sun single wasn't released in the UK most Brits didn't get to hear this until the first "Greatest Hits" album came out in `58. It also ignores "I want you, I need you, I love you" which is more of a blues ballad and also "That's when your heartaches begin" which was tucked away on a flip side". Well it's all subjective this stuff....
Moving onto the second side of the original vinyl we get an excellent rendition of Blueberry Hill, a song that will for ever be associated with Fats Domino and another superb rendition of a country ballad in the magnificent, soaring, "Don't leave me now" plus more good ballads in "True Love", a song from the very recent Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly film (and not to be confused with Carl Perkins "Your True Love" which was out at just about the same time) and a chugalong version of the 1945 tune "Have I told you lately that I love you", a song which has inspired a host of cover versions - Wikipedia list approximately 50 but I'm sure there are more.
Possibly the best of the non film tracks on the vinyl album was Presley's cover of Ivory Joe Hunter's blues ballad "I need you so". This is one of those tracks that has caused terms like country soul to enter our vocabulary. And it's worth remembering that Ivory Joe was one of the very first black performers to perform country inflected material.
The extras that come with the CD version are all well worth having as well. Again we get very good ballads in "Tell me Why" - more of that soaring voice, and, "Is it so strange" with neat guitar triplets. We also have the blues influence showing itself in an early and somewhat murky take of "One Night" - still nice to have even it is missing several touches that characterised the later chosen cut, plus "When it rains it really pours", a song from Robert (Billy the kid) Emerson, which Elvis had originally cut at Sun. The Sun version of the song wasn't deemed worthy of release (though you can find it on Youtube). The cut contained here is instrumentally clumsy towards the end of each verse but Elvis delivers well.
We also get an alternate take of "I beg of you" featuring a guitar riff that was absent from the released version. Again very nice to have. I always liked the released cut which was tucked away on the flip of "Don't". It's in the mould of "Don't be Cruel" and "Teddy Bear", a sound that was developed in the early RCA days, and totally separate to and very unlike his Sun stuff.
Which leads me to "Teddy Bear" itself which I see I forgot to mention earlier. I have seen one review which rather regrets this track (particularly in comparison to Sun rockers). It's maybe because I've lived with it that I disagree. It's playful rather than scorching but it does still have that joyous Elvis sound even if the subject matter is trivial - and do the lyrics always matter that much in some of the best recorded rock'n'roll?
I've also ignored "Lonesome Cowboy" which is very like certain other relatively quiet tracks recorded in `57, "Old Shep" and particularly the splendid version of "Blue Moon". This one sounds almost like a dry run for "Blue Moon".
Easily five stars.
on 8 June 2011
Always mad about Elvis!!! Was is and will always Reign in our hearts. This coming from a strictly "Classical Music" background was strange. In stages it went to "Light Classical", then "Country & Western - finally it became - "Pop". Yes then Elvis visited our house, He came in via the radio..... After that he reigned supreme!!!! He helps me through my long lonely hours spent "Editing my RAW files down to prints". Did I buy two of the latest 27" Quad Core iMac from Apple for my work or as a music station? Elvis has picked me up time and time again. My work-flow suddenly became more enjoyable. I even found a lot more time to watch his best films, with my "harmon/kardon" blasting away. All from Amazon. All Amazing.....