Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas, Elvis Style


We all know Elvis loved Christmas. And I bet he would've been happy had he known what his own Christmas music means to a lot of people this time of year. This is how he helps me get in the merry mood:

On December 1 each year, I start listening to my favorite Elvis Christmas album If Every Day Was Like Christmas. Many Christmas compilations with Elvis have come and gone during the years, but this one remains the best. Released in 1994 it includes all the songs from his two original Christmas albums plus a couple of alternate takes.

Speaking of alternate Christmas takes, six more of them were released on the excellent FTD album I Sing All Kinds from 2007. Obviously not being overdubbed in any way, they offer a more intimate Christmas feeling than the masters. This is especially true when it comes to "If I Get Home On Christmas Day" that lacks the bombastic arrangement of the original release. I also have to mention the two outtakes of "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day," the best Elvis Christmas song in my opinion. Essential Christmas listening.

Not so essential, but controversial, is Elvis Presley Christmas Duets released last year. This Christmas I decided to give it a chance (having only heard audio samples of it on the Internet earlier) and actually bought it yesterday, on Christmas Eve. I have to say that Tygrrius over at The Film Frontier expressed it well when he called Christmas Duets "a bit of a jumbled mess" in his review of the CD.

Better then to stick to the original songs. Every Christmas I always play my very first Elvis record. Fittingly enough, it's titled Blue Christmas, and is a RCA LP manufactured in Sweden in 1976. It sports the same cover as Elvis' Christmas Album from 1957 which I admit is both confusing and unimaginative. But it has a pretty good mix of songs taken from Elvis' two oroginal Christmas albums and will always have a special place in my collection.

I guess every fan has his or her way of spending Christmas, Elvis style. How do you spend yours? Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I Remember Danny Mirror

Reading my brother's recent guest blog I was reminded of a similar experience also having to do with an album with a guy singing like Elvis on it (or at least trying to sing like him). This must have been in the early 80's when I wasn't too picky either. The nearest department store had a record sale and when I saw an LP with an oil painting of Elvis gracing the cover I bought it.

50 X The King featured ten medleys of hits, sung by someone called Danny Mirror together with The Jordanaires. Elvis' famous vocal group I was familiar with but it was not until later I learned that Danny Mirror was a Dutch singer who most fans remember for his 1977 tribute single I Remember Elvis Presley.

Needless to say I still have 50 X The King in my possession, but it's been ages since I played it. So today I pulled it out and gave it a spin after reading the notes by The Jordanaires on the back of the cover:

... Recording with Danny brought back memories, many times, that made us feel as though we were doing the originals. Danny's voice, sincere feeling and sensitive treatment of the material made many of the songs as good as, or better than the originals ...

High praise, indeed. But though Danny Mirror sings with feeling and a few times made me think of Elvis, not once did any of the songs sound better than the originals. Of course. The Jordanaires sounds very much like they did on the originals, though, and the arrangements are pretty similar too. Maybe because Elvis' 60's guitarist Hal Blain plays on the album.

The medleys are, at times, cleverly put together. But at the same time the format highlights the difficulty with taking on the task of singing Elvis songs spanning all over his career, as Elvis' voice changed, deepened and matured during the years. It's no easy task singing "My Boy" and then switching to "Love Me Tender," for example.

To me it's the medleys with material solely from the 60's that work the best, with songs such as "Kiss Me Quick" and "Devil In Disguise" while the early rock 'n' roll stuff like "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Jailhouse Rock" leaves a lot to be desired. But I have to hand it do Danny Mirror, ending the album with ... yeah, you guessed it, "Danny Boy."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Guest blog: I Can't Stop Loving ... Per!?

One of the first records I ever bought, ladies and gentlemen was ... still, still! Was ... terrible! Nah, it wasn't even a record, but a tape. I guess it wasn't long after I got the Loving You cassette from Thomas that I found a music cassette on sale somewhere, I Can't Stop Loving You, with ... Per 'Elvis' Granberg?!

I guess I wasn't too picky in those years, but instead very curious. What's this going to sound like? The cassette contained a range of well known Elvis songs, from "Mystery Train" to "Steamroller Blues," and I remember playing Per Elvis quite a lot on my little tape recorder. "I'm Yours" was the one song I hadn't heard before, by the way.

Going through a box of old tapes last week I found Per Elvis again and put it in the machine. It was ... not too bad. Of course he tries to sound like Elvis ("Take it!"), but he does it pretty well and the arrangements of some of the songs are quite nice, especially the ballads which are often done with just a piano.

It turns out that Per Elvis (he was from Norway) was already around in the fifties, made some records and then fell into obscurity, returning in the early seventies with live appearances and recording a few albums for the not so small Philips label. And, he even met Elvis, before his matinee show (Elvis's show, that is!) at the Nassau Coliseum on June 24, 1973. Check out the photographs here (Per Elvis is the guy in the blue clothes).

Per Elvis sadly died in 1980, at the early age of 38. But his music lives on. I guess. Take it!

/MĂ„rtenbrother

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mean Woman Blues

Today is my youngest brother's birthday. As he's as nuts about Elvis as I am, it's not hard to guess what kind of presents he gets from me. Or whose face is on the greeting card.

I'd like to tell you about one particular memory I have from this date many years ago. My guess is it took place in the early 80's when my brother was something like ten years old.

As a gift I had bought a cassette with the soundtrack from Loving You on it. This was in the days when a lot of Elvis albums were still "new" to us, in the sense that we had never heard them before, except for the hit songs they included. So I guess I was as excited as I thought my brother was going to be.

Unfortunately my brother had to be at school early, so me and the rest of the family had to sing to him and hand him his presents at an ungodly hour. Trying to recollect the moment, I think I just handed over the gift-wrapped cassette, and after seing the happy smile on his face when he realized what it was, returned to bed for some more sleep.

The following I remember clearly, though: Turning over in my bed and wrapping my bedclothes around me, I heard the first song from the Loving You album sounding through the walls. Not at all loud, my brother had the volume turned down, but enough for me to hear the first lines, "I got a woman, mean as she can be..."

I don't remember what I did after school that day, but I'm pretty sure me and my brother listend to that cassette tape over and over. That's why I'm doing the same thing right now, enjoying the songs from Loving You and particulary "Mean Woman Blues." Happy birthday, little brother!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

An Elvis In Concert Jacket Of My Own

Last weekend I went to the cellar to fetch a box with Christmas decorations. As I was about to leave my eye was caught by a bag in a corner. All of a sudden I remembered one of the things I had stored in it.

Opening the bag, I rummaged through it a bit until I found what I was looking for - my red Elvis in Concert jacket. Needless to say, I brought it with me along with the Christmas stuff.

After some detective work, I found out that I bought the jacket throught the Swedish fan club in 1984. (I located the ad for it in one of the first magazines I received when becoming a member.) My brother also ordered one, and man were we proud of them.

The only problem was that it wasn't particulary cool to dig Elvis back then, at least not in my school. It took courage to just wear a badge with Elvis, and the idea of wearing a screaming red jacket with a big Elvis In Concert patch on it... well I was to much of a coward to pull that one off.

My brother, a couple of years younger, had more guts. He wore his red jacket to school with pride. I only had mine on a couple of times at home, and then hang it in the closet. There it stayed until college when a friend of mine borrowed it for a party where he pretended to be a boduguard for Elvis. Guess who dressed up as the King?

Then the jacket went into storage until I remembered it last weekend. Unfortunately it can't be an original Elvis In Concert jacket as it has no white-striped collar and cuffs, although the patches look like the right thing. But I'm happy I found it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

New Haven '76 - good sound, bad show


Poor Elvis! That thought runs trough my mind while listening to "And I Love You So" from FTD's latest "escape" New Haven '76, recorded live on July 30, 1976. Not only does it sound off-key, but there is no mistaking the tiredness in Elvis' voice.

That Elvis is exhausted and out of breath is painfully evident during the next song as well. Usually "America" was one of the highlights during his concerts in 1976, but this time it's another story altogether. Elvis voice is weak and fragile.

In fact, pretty much the whole show is a sad affair. "You Gave Me A Mountain" has Elvis fighting for breath and "Help Me" sounds inspired, to say the least. During "Teddy Bear," a song he should be able to do in his sleep, Elvis' timing is off and "Hound Dog" is another throwaway version.

The sound on New Haven '76 is very good, but unfortunately that isn't something that works in Elvis' favor. Instead, it only helps to emphasize just how tired and exhausted he sounds.

This is easily one of the worst concert performances from 1976 that I've ever heard, right up there along with the show from August 1, released on the bootleg The Bicentennial Elvis Experience 15 years ago.

If you want a second opinion concerning New Haven '76 please check out:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Elvis In The 90's

November 1989 saw the dawn of a new era in the history of the RCA Presley tape legacy, for from Friday, 17th November 1989 and Monday the 20th onwards, the "Essential Elvis" team of Ernst Jorgensen, Roger Semon, Erik Rasmussen and Ger Rijff, "got down to business" and started on the massive and long term project of hunting down the "lost Elvis tapes" in the "box filling" system of RCA's New York tape vaults...

So began an article in the December 1990/January 1991 issue of the British fan club magazine, that I stumbled across while reading some back numbers a couple of days ago. Those of you familiar with my blog know this is something I like to do.

The article, in which the author David G Hall described the results of the initial searches of both the New York and Indianapolis storage vaults, was interesting in a couple of ways. For one thing, it made me realize that it's exactly 20 years this month since Ernst Jorgensen and his team started dedicating their time to locating elusive reels with Elvis music.

For another, it hit me (once again) how exciting it was to be an Elvis fan back then. When the article was printed, the 3 CD box set Collectors Gold was scheduled for release, and for me that's when it really started getting interesting. Certainly, the three first volumes in the Essential Elvis series had already been released, but Collectors Gold was the first package solely dedicated to unreleased outtakes.

It was also the start of what I suppose one could call "the box sets era." Elvis himself was again taken seriously by both the public and the critics with the release of The King Of Rock 'N' Roll: The Complete 50's Masters box set in 1992, that was followed by its two companions featuring essential masters from the 60's (1993) and 70's (1995).

Then in 1997, between the two Essential Elvis volumes 4 and 5 (featuring much of the outtakes described in the fan club article), came the Platinum: A Life In Music box set. 1999 saw the launch of the Follow That Dream collectors label, but that didn't stop the regular label from releasing a string of more box sets packed with unreleased material: That's The Way It Is - Special Edition (2000), Live In Las Vegas (2001), Today, Tomorrow And Forever (2002) and finally, Close Up (2003).

Yet that wasn't all that happened during those years. Under the slogan, "Elvis In The 90's," Elvis' back catalog was also taken care of. Practically all of the original albums were made available on CD, many of them with bonus songs. Now it's another story, altogether. The regular label has reverted to the 80's again, producing mainly compilations with the occasional exception, like the From Elvis In Memphis legacy edition released this year.

So nowadays it's entirely up to FTD to produce albums that put Elvis' music in the right context. That's ok for the fans, I guess, but what it means for the public's view of Elvis is another matter altogether.

A final thought: In 2000, RCA/BMG released Such A Night - Essential Elvis Vol. 6 while almost simultaneously FTD put out The Jungle Room Sessions. I've always believed that the latter was planned as The Jungle Room Sessions - Essential Elvis Vol. 7 and then re-scheduled for FTD release as the collectors label took off.

This post was inspired not only by the article in the British fan club magazine, titled "There's A Brand New Day On the Horizon," but also by a comment fellow Elvis fan Tygrrius posted on my blog in June this year.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"You by God watch me!"

In my latest post, I mentioned the last concert Elvis did in his hometown, on July 5, 1976. This show was recently re-released by an import label under the name of The Final Homecoming and is a lot more exciting than the one from Forth Worth recorded two days earlier and re-issued by FTD on Rockin' Across Texas.

Actually, the Memphis show is one of Elvis' greatest from the bicentennial year. Listening to it, I'm reminded of the concerts from the December tour, like the one from Dallas on December 28, found on the bootleg A Hot Winter Night In Dallas.

On July 4, on the actual National Day, Elvis held one of his best shows of the tour in Tulsa. "It was a helluva show," one critic wrote. Apparently, Elvis was determined to give his hometown fans more of the same the next day.

Not only is the show Memphis a great one, it's also long, lasting approximately 90 minutes. During that time Elvis sings "Softly As I Leave You" for the second and last time on tour, as well as over 20 other songs, including such rare gems as "One Night," "Blue Christmas," "How Great Thou Art" and Fairytale."

I also have to mention the introduction to "That's All Right," which is awesome: "The first record that I did here in Memphis was, you know, "That's All Right Mama." I heard a couple of people say, you can't do that anymore, well you by God watch me!"

It's obvious that Elvis is in a good mood, enjoying his work. He sounds focused, not slurring through the songs, and his humor is present as well. A fine version of "Help Me" is jokingly introduced as being from a two year old album called "Elvis In The Gutter" and after Ronnie Tutt's incredible work out during the drum solo he exclaims, "That was fair."

The Final Homecoming was originally released as Goodbye Memphis by the Fort Baxter label in 1997. It's a shame that FTD didn't re-release it first, going for the show from New Haven instead, recorded almost a month later, and not anywhere nearly as exciting.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mid-South Magic


About a week ago, it struck me that FTD should release an album or a box with concerts that Elvis did in Memphis. And then, maybe a day later, I found out that an import label had been thinking along the same lines, planning to release Bringing It All Back Home, featuring two concerts recorded in Elvis' hometown, one from March 16, 1974 and the other from June 10, 1975.

But FTD has a chance to do it better. My thinking goes like this: Release all the soundboards available from Memphis, not only the two mentioned above but also the last one Elvis did in his hometown, on July 5, 1976. And why not include the professionally recorded show Elvis held on March 20, known as Elvis As Recorded Live In Stage In Memphis, as a bonus?

This way, FTD would cover all the tours when Elvis played the Mid-South Coliseum. (He made three more appearances in Memphis during the tour in March, 1974, but these have not yet surfaced on soundboard, and only one as an audience recording.)

If I were Ernst I would present the whole thing as an "audiovisual documentary" like Live In L.A., only this time done right. With that I mean that the accompanying book would be an informative one, packed with great photos (in focus, thank you!) and with well written liner notes covering the stories behind the pictures and the shows. Original reviews from the press at the time should also be included.

I think this would be an exciting package. Not only was the atmosphere in the audience always incredible when Elvis held a concert in the Mid-South Coliseum, but the shows themselves were great. Mid-South Magic.

PS: Sometimes I'm afraid I spend more time thinking about the headline of a post than the post itself. This time alternative titles were The Memphis Homecomings and A Memphis Trilogy (the last one only working if the March 20 show isn't included).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Talk About The Good Times

Some upcoming Follow That Dream releases I long for more than I do for others. The re-issue of the 1974 Good Times album is one of them. This edition comes as a double disc set in the FTD Classic Album Series, and in addition to the masters, it will contain many outtakes from the Stax Sessions of 1973.

Some of these outtakes have already been released, the majority of them on one of my favourite Elvis albums, the excellent Rhythm And Country, in 1998. So what "new" outtakes can we expect on "Good Times?" A quick look in my well-thumbed Elvis Sessions III by Joseph A. Tunzi gave the following answer:

  • "Take Good Care Of Her" (rehearsal + take 1 + take 2 + take 5)
  • "Loving Arms" (take 1 + rehearsal)
  • "I Got A Feeling In My Body" (take 2)
  • "If That Isn't Love" (composite of take 5 & 7 + splice of take 5 & 7)
  • "She Wears My Ring" (takes 1-7)
  • "I've Got A Thing About You Baby" (take 1 + takes 6, 8, 10, 11)
  • "My Boy" (take 1 + take 2)
  • "Spanish Eyes" (take 1 + take 3)
  • "Talk About The Good Times" (takes 1, 2)
  • "Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues" (take 7 + takes 1, 4, 6)
As well as this, undubbed masters of all the songs are included, with the exception of "I've Got A Thing About You Baby" which features a rough mix of master instead. The undubbed master of "Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues" is also mentioned to be unedited.

Something to look forward to, isn't it, even if some of the takes are probably incomplete. To me the biggest excitement is that we finally get some outtakes of "My Boy" as well as more outtakes of "Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues," "I've Got A Thing About You Baby" and "Talk About The Good Times." And hearing Elvis rehearse "Loving Arms" will be interesting, too!

The only question mark I have is that that take 6 (false start) of "I Got A Feeling In My Body" seems to be missing. I also wonder if the undubbed master of "My Boy" will have the ending looped like the released version. Whatever the answer, I can't wait for Good Times to arrive!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Elvis Today now on Facebook

About six months ago I signed up Elvis Today on Twitter, and started micro-blogging. The idea was to send out short messages when I didn't have the time to write on my "real" blog, or when I thought a couple of words said it all.

Recently, I decided to let Elvis Today become part of another social networking website, the immensely popular Facebook. I've registered what on Facebook is called a fan-page, where I write what's on my mind and share links, photos, videos and so on.

By becoming a fan of Elvis Today on Facebook you will be able to see what I've written or the things I've shared, on your personal Facebook page. It's also possible for you in return to comment on not only my updates, but also on what other fans have written about them.

So far I think Facebook offers more possibilities than Twitter, as a complement to my blog Elvis Today. Why don't you sign up and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"You don't dig world trade, college boy?"

Watching Roustabout the other day made me remember a letter I wrote to the daily Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter in the mid 90's. More precisely, the letter was published on July 14, 1996, and was of course Elvis related. This is the way it was:

Each Sunday, the paper had a page called Kosmopoliten devoted to useful hints and tips for things to do in different cities around the world, such as visit new exhibitions, galleries and shops, stuff like that. One such paragraph dealt with the biggest tourist attraction in York county, Pennsylvania, namely the Harley-Davidson factory.

The paragraph was illustrated with a picture of Elvis, taken from Roustabout, where he's standing beside his demolished bike after being run off the road. And next to the picture was a caption reading, "This is no Harley. Maybe someone among our readers knows what kind of motor cycle Elvis rode in his 1964 movie Roustabout?"

Now this was a challenge I had to meet. I started to leaf through my books about Elvis, and on page 267 in Elvis: His Life from A to Z I found what I was looking for. Happy with what I had found out, I wrote the following letter, hereby translated to English for the first time:

In Sunday's Kosmopoliten you enquired the brand of Elvis' bike in the movie Roustabout. The answer is that Elvis character Charlie Rodgers rides a Japanese motor cycle, a 1964 Honda 350 cc. A couple of college guys thoroughly disapproves of this, and pick a quarrel with Elvis: "What's the matter, aren't American cycles good enough for you?" After which Elvis answers: "You don't dig world trade, college boy, after all the economics they've tried to shuffle into you?"

I have to admit, watching the above described scene the other day, that Elvis says "shove" and not "shuffle". This of course, wasn't something that bothered the paper. On the contrary, the editor must have been happy getting an answer from one of the readers, and published my letter the following week.

Thinking about it, my answer must have been somewhat shortened, as I seem to recall that I also mentioned that Elvis' Honda had California license number 204843. Just to show off, I guess. No matter, I've kept the press clipping with my published letter, and it's one of those Elvis memories I treasure.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Revisiting past glories

It's not everyday I catch an Elvis movie from the mid 60's. But yesterday I was in the mood, and slotted my copy of Roustabout into the DVD player. Turned out it was a good choice.

The movie cast Elvis as a moody and arrogant leather-clad biker and singer (what else!) who reluctantly accepts an offer to work at a carnival. Elvis role figure Charlie spends a lot of his time on screen in conflict with both the carnival boss (played by Barbara Stanwyck) and the foreman, who hates Charlie's guts because he takes an interest in his daughter Cathy.

When things get too complicated Elvis joins another, bigger carnival as an entertainer. But all ends well as he returns, telling Cathy that he loves her and at the same time promising to help save the carnival that is now at the brink of bankruptcy.

Except maybe for the ending, I think Roustabout is a pretty good movie, certainly the last one showing him in a serious role before the established formula and stagnation took completely over. Elvis does a good job, and at times I'm reminded of his pre-army days and the anger he displayed in films such as King Creole.

Unfortunately, some of the songs and the scenes they are sung in, tend to lessen the dramatic feel of the movie considerably. One such example is Elvis singing "Wheels On My Heels" while driving his bike after being bailed out of jail. It completely ruins the atmosphere.

The use of an indoor studio for scenes that are supposed to be outdoor are annoying, too. Especially since a lot of exterior shots are used as well. How did director John Rich reason, I wonder, when he first let Elvis walk among some real tents outdoor, and in the next scene had him walking past the same tents, but indoor?

That said, I enjoyed watching Roustabout, and although it's certainly not anywhere near King Creole, it was refreshing seeing Elvis revisiting past glories on the white screen.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Memphis Recording Service Is Back!

About six months ago I wrote a post wondering what had happened to the Memphis Recording Service, remember? I'm talking about the UK based label that put out, among other things, two impressive SUN volumes as well as the amazing Tupelo's Own, before all went quiet.

As you might have read, MRS is now back in the saddle. On November 9 Tupelo Welcomes Home Elvis Presley will be released, a book/CD combo focusing on the two homecoming concerts shows Elvis did on September 26, 1956.

In addition to the two shows, the CD will include a bonus interview with Elvis from Tupelo recorded one year later. The 40 page hardback book, according to MRS, is going to be packed with rare photographs and new information on the recording of the concerts by Ron Brandon.

In all fairness, Tupelo Welcomes Home Elvis Presley doesn't excite me that much, as the two concerts have been available for a long time, originally released 25 years ago by RCA on the A Golden Celebration box set. Also, the sound quality of these historical recordings leaves a lot to be desired.

However, the package looks attractive, and the bonus interview from Tupelo together with the promise of rare photographs makes it an interesting release. And the price asked for it is reasonable, as well. Your choice.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Speedway Jacket For Sale

Once more I'm reminded how great it would be to own something from Elvis' wardrobe. Not only the envelope containing a swatch of Elvis wardrobe, included on the 4 LP set Elvis: The Other Sides - Worldwide Gold Award Hits, Vol. 2, but a real article of clothing.

On ElvisNews.com I read that there's an upcoming "Music Icons" auction featuring Elvis items, held at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York on November 21 and hosted by Julien's Auctions. Among 19 Elvis related items there is the red-white striped jacket from the movie Speedway.

I've always thought Elvis looked really cool in that jacket, especially when he's performing "Let Yourself Go" at the racing-oriented discotheque called the Hangout. Come to think of it, I guess that's one of the few good things I have to say about that particularly movie.

Still, imagine watching it, and being able to say to some friends you want to impress, "See that read jacket he's wearing with the white stripes? It's hanging in my closet. Wanna take a look?" It's not an impossible dream, but you need money to make it come true. A lot of money. The estimated price for the Speedway jacket is between $6000.00 and $8000.00.

But there is a more inexpensive way. You can always buy an Elvis Speedway replica jacket. This jacket is available for "only" $350.00 and comes in both red and blue. A safe bet is it wont impress your friends as much, though.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Jailhouse Rock Vol. 1

Those who bought the Jailhouse Rock EP when it was originally released in the autumn of 1957 must have thought their money well spent. And so do I, when it comes to the FTD edition, released 52 years later. This is what the Follow That Dream label is all about.

Not only do we get the masters, alternate masters and movie masters together with some alternate movie masters and two bonus tracks. On disc two we're invited into the studio, given the opportunity to listen to Elvis and the band work their way through "Treat Me Nice" (takes 1-13), "I Want To Be Free" (takes 1-13) and "Young And Beautiful" (takes 1-22).

Of course one can argue that some of the movie masters aren't that interesting, as Elvis had to sing half of the songs in different versions to be used in the film showing various stages of Vince Everett's development as a singer. One such example is the Florida club version of "Young And Beautiful," the first recording studio version of "Don't Leave Me Now" another.

But that argument falls flat considering that FTD is a collector's label, and Ernst Jorgensen & Co should be given credit where credit is due. The fans want everything, right? This time we even get the movie opening theme, which is a first for a soundtrack album.

And there is more to come, next year we can expect more outtakes and binaural sessions on Jailhouse Rock Vol. 2. I wonder what those who bought the original EP would've thought if they knew then how much material from these sessions would be released more than 50 years later?

PS: Reading the FECC forum I found out that I wasn't the only one wondering why "Treat Me Nice" (splice of takes 10/13) is included both as an alternate RCA master (track 8) and as a movie master (track 22). Thankfully, a member on the same forum had the answer: the movie master has an overdubbed guitar.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The King lives on in Malta


Elvis is alive and well on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean. At least in Qawra, a seaside resort town from which I recently returned after a one week holiday together with my folks.

I'm always pleasantly surprised when I find things associated with Elvis when I travel. For instance, I still recall a visit to an Elvis pub in London back in 1985. For years after, my brother had a framed photograph on display showing him and me standing outside the entrance smiling happily at the camera.

But back to the present. The day after our arrival in Malta we stumbled across Simon's Elvis Tribute Bar, located just outside the hotel. A lifesize Elvis stand-up guarded the entrance. And parked right in front of the place was an Elvis truck. Needless to say, I liked Malta right away!

As it was early in the day, the bar wasn't open, but the door stood ajar so I took a quick look inside. I found the walls packed with framed photos, prints and posters of Elvis, and on the bar itself I spotted a Elvis '68 Comeback figurine.

Returning in the evening, we were welcomed by Elvis music and take after take of "As Long As I Have You." Here was proof if needed (as if the interior wasn't enough!) that the place was run by a real fan. I ordered Maltese beer and chatted for a while with the owner. Turned out he'd had the place for about 15 years.

Here my post could have ended if it wasn't for another Elvis-Malta connection I experienced the same week. A few days later on our way home to the hotel after a pleasant dinner we passed another bar (what else!) and spotted an Elvis impersonator inside belting out "Amen."

Walking inside, I was just in time to study "Aaron" leap into the ending of "I Got A Woman" and nearly expected him to throw his guitar away. But as there was no one impersonating Charlie Hodge, that of course didn't happen. Instead he continued with "I'll Remember You" and then "Stranger In The Crowd," which he did a pretty good job with.

And guess what? The day after I noticed an advertisement for another tribute act called "The Elvis Presley Show." But that one I was gong to miss, as I would be back in Sweden by then. It didn't matter much. I returned to Simon's Elvis Tribute Bar and listened to the real thing instead.

Finally, here are some more photos I took during my stay in Malta:

Inside Simon's Elvis Tribute Bar.

The walls full of posters and prints.

Even some woven carpets on one of the walls.

Big sign outside the entrance.

The front of the Elvis truck.

And the rear.

Whole lotta Elvis tribute shows going on!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

From Sunset To Las Vegas

There's been a lot of criticism leveled against the latest FTD release From Sunset To Las Vegas, featuring Elvis' rehearsal on August 16, 1974, recorded a couple of days prior to his Las Vegas engagement. After listening to it for the first time yesterday, here are my thoughts:

Many critics complain about the sound. Granted, it's not much better than it was on the bootleg From Sunset Blvd to Paradise Road released back in 1996, but there's only so much you can do with a tape that clearly wasn't professionally recorded in the first place. Actually, I think the sound is a little bit clearer on the official FTD release, although but not by much.

More serious is the omission of the first version of "It's Midnight," a take that was included on the unofficial release 13 years ago. Why is it missing? Is it because Elvis is using bad language at the beginning of the song ("Where's the fucking words?") or is it something else? I guess only Ernst Jorgensen knows the answer to that one.

Another complaint I concur with is that some of the live recordings on the second CD aren't unreleased. Both "Trying To Get To You," "Help Me" and "It's Now Or Never" were featured on the Live In Las Vegas box set in 2001.

It also annoys me that we get bonus songs in this way. What irritates me the most are the last two last tracks, performed by Sherill Nielsen on the closing show, September 2. FTD, as a collector's label, should be offering us the whole closing show, not snippets like this leaving the collector wanting more.

To me the whole problem with From Sunset To Las Vegas is that the bootleg From Sunset Blvd to Paradise Road is better content wise. On the unofficial release the second CD features the opening show, a more logical choice as most of the songs Elvis rehearsed are sung on that particular show as well. The next day songs such as "Down In The Alley" and "Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues" were dropped and the concert program back to the usual one again.

All this said, the rehearsal from 16 August is essential listening. It's fascinating to hear Elvis work with songs such as "Promised Land" and "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)": "What's so difficult about doing lo-o-o-ving-you. Well god damn, it's simple to me," he exclaims at one point, not being satisfied with the ending. That the sound isn't the best simply isn't that important, this is not an album you play in the background, it's a recording you study to so you can learn more about Elvis.

I only wish Ernst Jorgensen and FTD had treated this historical recording with a little more respect. That could have been done with the help of some better packaging, an informative booklet and a complete concert instead of the bonus tracks. If that would've meant a 3 CD album, so what? Elvis is worth it, don't you think? Come to think of it, so are the fans.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Karate King


One of my favorite parts in the movie This Is Elvis is the one having Elvis practicing karate to the sound of "Kung Fu Fighting." That's why I was looking forward to the release of Elvis Presley Gladiators, a DVD that brings together footage from Elvis' never completed martial arts New Gladiators film project.

"Never before seen raw footage of Elvis' passion for karate!" it says on the cover, and raw footage is what you get. There are no titles, the film starts with Red West putting his fist in Elvis' throat and Elvis then pushing Red West and fellow "gladiator" Al Hokum backwards.

Elvis himself is not at his best, he's somewhat overweight and sweating a lot more than all the other "gladiators." But seing his happy face in scenes such as the one mentioned above, there is no mistaking his passion for karate and his enthusiasm for the project.

The footage that follows isn't just about Elvis showing his moves. We also get to see other karate experts demonstrating different techniques, such as Dave Hebler (also one of Elvis' bodyguards), Bill Wallace and Khan Rhee. Often Elvis is talking in the background, like "There's a good move, right there." Unfortunately the sound isn't very good.

That doesn't matter much, though. Neither does the raw footage deal. This is in part thanks to Wayne Carman, another martial arts expert that trained Red West and was present when the film was shot. With insightsful comments he explains what's going on and and at the same time also share some of his memories. It's almost like he is sitting beside you, and it lends an intimate feel to the whole experience.

But of course it's the scenes with Elvis that are the most interesting. I especially enjoyed the one where he shows how to do when a guy (Red West) pulls a gun at you at ten feets away - he slowly gets on his knees and starts praying. Smiling, he exclaims, "The old master says, no way to stop bullet!" Elvis famous sense of humour at work!

I also loved the footage of Elvis arriving at the Tennessee Karate Institute, where most of the scenes were shot, on September 16, 1974. I noticed Elvis wearing his white boots in the training hall, and luckily for me Wayne Carman brought the subject up: "A lot of people say, why was Elvis wearing his boots in there? Because he was Elvis!"

If you want to understand more of Elvis passion for karate, Elvis Presley Gladiators is for you. Included on the DVD is also the footage without narration, "It Hurts Me" karate footage from the 1968 TV Special, an interview with Wayne Carmen (audio only) and a photo gallery. There's also six postcards of Elvis in his karate suit inside the DVD box, together with a pretty informative booklet. The only thing missing is Elvis own T.C.B. karate patch.

I guess one can argue that the footage could have been edited differently, maybe even in a way to resemble Elvis original intentions with his karate legacy project. I'm just happy it was released at all, adding another piece to the puzzle that makes up Elvis Presley.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The bootleg battle


The battle between the bootleggers continues, fueled I guess, by the never ending demand for live material. A couple of months ago the fight was between the two labels International and Audionics, both making available identical shows from Elvis August 1970 engagement in Las Vegas. (One of the shows was also released by FTD as The Wonder Of You.)

About a week ago two bootleggers joined battle again. Barely had The Gravel Road Music import label announced a double CD set called A Day In Dayton, featuring Elvis' two performances from October 6, 1974, when a new label called Boxcar (created by International and DAE) let us know that they would release the same two shows together with a book under the name of Dayton Reloaded.

Obviously, it's no coincidence that these two labels release the same shows simultaneously, and as double CDs as well. At least one of them (I bet both!) has to know what the other one is doing, and is rushing to do the same thing, only sooner. How they know about each others plans, I have no idea. I also don't know how they both come to have what they claim to be the original soundboard tapes in their possession.

One thing I know, however, is that the battle between these two import labels (my guess is that it's the same guys running both Audionics and Gravel Road Music) is leading to very professional products, that are miles ahead of FTD when it comes to cover art and booklets. Usually the booklets are packed with photographs from the shows in question and has well written liner notes.

One such example is the recent release from Gravel Road Music titled The Return Of A Prodigy (featuring Elvis dinner show from August 3, 1969), that includes a booklet 32 pages thick with over 50 shots of Elvis on stage, as well as a review from a fan that was lucky enough to see an Elvis show at the International Hotel 40 years ago.

For the millionth and the last time: How I wish FTD would learn from this. As long as the label doesn't, I can understand the fans having a hard time keeping their hands away from releases such as The Return Of A Prodigy. Of course, there is always the problem with which one to choose if two battling bootleg labels release the same show.

Maybe FTD hopes that the fans will be so confused that they'll buy neither. Or on a more serious note, maybe the strategy is to let the bootleggers drive each other out of business. So far, it hasn't been working.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Elvis on autopilot


Seems like FTD is ending the year specializing in 1976. Not only will we have the CD only re-issue of Rockin' Across Texas as well as The Jungle Room Sessions on vinyl. Now it turns out that the previously announced soundboard is going to be a concert from 1976 as well.

Titled New Haven '76, it features Elvis' appearance at the Veterans' Memorial Coliseum on July 30. A live version of "Return To Sender" is included as a bonus track from Hampton Coliseum on August 1.

As a matter of fact, the Hampton Roads show was released on the Fort Baxter label as The Bicentennial Elvis Experience in 1994. I seem to recall it beeing a very bad concert, and playing it today, I sadly have to say I remembered correctly. Elvis sounds so exhausted, and his voice is so weak, that it's actually painful to listen to him struggling through the songs.

That's why I don't have very high hopes for New Haven'76, recorded just two days earlier. During this particular tour "Elvis often lacked any spark and the shows were monotonous... Elvis had switched on the autopilot - and no radar was necessary to realise that the course was wrong," as Stein Erik Skar puts it in his book The Concert Years.

Better then to pick up the Rockin' Across Texas CD if you don't own the original book/CD release. Not only do you get a much better 1976 concert, recorded in Fort Worth on July 3, 1976, almost a month earlier than the New Haven gig, you also get a 1974 concert from Amarillo, recorded on June 19.

Or, if you only can afford one of the upcoming FTD releases this year, you could do worse than to wait until December and buy Good Times in the classic albums series. To use a worn expression: Worth waiting for...

Monday, September 28, 2009

An audiovisual disappointment

No real focus. To me those three words sum up FTD's fifth and (so far) latest book/CD combo Live in L.A. from 2007.

I received my copy last week, and unfortunately it's one of the weakest books FTD has published so far. It features some 200 photos of Elvis performing in Los Angeles, the majority of them from the evening concert Elvis did at Inglewood Forum on May 11, 1974, a show that is included as a soundboard on the accompanying CD.

Sounds good, doesn't it? The problem is, a lot of the photos, maybe as many as a third of them, are completely out of focus. In some cases a blurred shot of Elvis can enhance the feeling of action on stage, and pictures, even those that are out of focus expand the database. But mainly they lessen the quality of the book.

Another thing that drags the whole book/CD concept down is the lack of information. Granted, the release is a so called "audiovisual documentary," but the experience would be heightened with the story behind the pictures or the show (after all, Led Zeppelin were in the audience) or maybe some reviews from the newspapers at the time.

The book also includes photos from the other eleven concerts Elvis gave in Los Angeles during his career (four of them were held in the 50's) and in my view this makes nothing to enhance the "audiovisual" experience, it only confuses it.

Finally, the sound quality of the soundboard isn't that great, although the show is a good one with Elvis in a humorous mood. Given into account the high price asked for Live In L.A., one more soundboard would've been very much appreciated. But in it's current form, this is a release I can only recommend to the really die hard fans, and then just barely. Better then to just pick up the CD when it will be re-released without the book (as it's sure to be).

PS: You'll find a more favourable review of Live in L.A. on EIN and one along the same lines as mine over at Elvis Australia.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

From Elvis Back In Memphis

I finally got around to ordering the 40th Anniversary Legacy Edition of From Elvis In Memphis. It arrived with the mail a couple of days ago and since then I've been playing it a lot.

Maybe a bit ironically this release got me reacquainted with the companion LP Back In Memphis, included on disc two. Granted, this album isn't as strong as From Elvis In Memphis, but it features some great tracks, nevertheless. The bluesy Stranger In My Own Home Town is one of them, the beautiful You'll Think Of Me another.

That being said, From Elvis In Memphis is by far the superior of the two. Not only because the songs are better. It also has something to do with how they complement each other, how the fast numbers (like "Wearin' That Loved On Look" and "I'm Movin' On) balance the slower ones (such as "Gentle On My Mind" and "True Love Travels On A Gravel Road") and helps create a certain theme. It's hard to explain, but listening to Back In Memphis followed by From Elvis In Memphis, you just feel that there's something more to the latter.

Also, I was pleasantly surprised by the original mono single masters included on disc two, as well. As stated in the excellent review of the album on the Elvis Information Network, "these mono singles were produced so that the sound would jump off the 45rpm single or really punch out of the radio systems. In general they had a more prominent mix to Elvis' vocal, as well as more bass end and with a lot of audio compression. But there are also plenty of genuine differences in the mixes."

This is right on the money! There really is more "punch" in the mono masters, and they do sound different from the stereo versions. Even "My Little Friend" sounds better, with the acoustic guitar more prominent, and on "Mama Liked The Roses" you can hear Elvis humming along with the bells at the start of the song.

Incidentally, "Mama Liked The Roses" was dropped from the original LP and replaced by "Power Of My Love," according to a type written track list pictured in the accompanying booklet. A wise choice. It's also interesting to note that the single "In The Ghetto"/"Any Day Now," released only two months earlier, was included on From Elvis In Memphis when it hit the record stores in June, 1969.

Monday, September 14, 2009

8mm footage gets new life

When I first watched the DVD Tupelo's Own I was fascinated by the way silent footage of Elvis performing in Tupelo in 1956 had been synced together with a recording from the same show, making the whole thing come alive with sound! Now it seems we're about to experience another example of this technique.

This time around it's 8mm concert footage from 1974 that is getting similar treatment. The footage is included as extra material on the forthcoming Elvis, The Beauty Queen & Me, featuring Linda Thompson's friend Jeanne LeMay.

The editors of the DVD are promising lots of unseen footage in splendid quality, where the reels have been digitally transferred and restored, the speed corrected, the picture quality enhanced and the brightness and colour re-worked. Finally a soundboard recording has been added.

On Youtube there's an example of this 8mm restoration, done with footage from Kansas City, June 29, 1974 (lasting 13 minutes on the DVD):



Makes your mouth water, doesn't it? The only misgiving I have is that the footage, as opposed to what was used on Tupelo's Own, won't feature any music, as it's supposed to be a "100% legal DVD." If that's the case, then I guess our hope for a similar product that has Elvis not only talking, but also singing, is spelled F-T-D.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Special moments with FTD 9

Some of the early songs that Elvis did he of course remembered more than others later in his career. But sometimes the choices he made during rehearsals came as a complete surprise.

A couple of songs into his March 31, 1972 rehearsal, he unexpectedly starts to hum the words to the ballad "Young And Beautiful" recorded for his movie Jailhouse Rock 15 years earlier. Then the band joins in, and together they work out an arrangement that starts with a piano intro by Glen D. Hardin.

Elvis is in a good mood, changing the first line of the lyrics to "You're so young, and I'm so... you're beautiful." But then he is all business, delivering a beautiful rendition of the song, recalling the lyrics with ease.

Every time I listen to "Young And Beautiful" as featured on the FTD release Elvis On Tour -The Rehearsals I can't help wondering what went through Elvis mind as he sang it. Did he remember the scene in the movie where he sang the song? Did he think of his costar Judy Tyler who tragically died in a car accident soon after the film was completed? Or did he in fact just think it was a great song that he wanted to get right?

Whatever the reason, it's a pity Elvis chose not to include "Young And Beautiful" in his April tour that took off less than a week later. He didn't forget the song, however, and sang it spontaneous on rare occasions in concert, like in Lake Tahoe on May 9, 1976.

PS: The complete unedited rehearsal of "Young And Beautiful" was made available on Madison's Rock My Soul released earlier this year.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Live on screen one more time

When Elvis Presley in Concert, formerly known as Elvis The Concert, returs for another European tour next year I'm going to be in the audience when the show plays the Wembley Arena in London on February 27. And it's all thanks to my wife.

"Why don't we go there?" she said when I read about the tour a while back and mentioned it in passing to her. As I thought about it, I realised that it would be rather nice travelling to London to see Elvis in concert, if only "live on screen." After all, I haven't visited London in 25 years, and the last time I saw Elvis The Concert was in the year 2000.

Looking back, I never thought it would last as long as it has. As stated on elvis.com, "Elvis Presley In Concert reunites former Elvis band mates live on stage with a state of the art video-projected Elvis." But a while back Jerry Scheff sent the message that he decided to quit touring with the TCB band in Elvis Presley The Concert.

In a way, I understand him. The production has been going on for more years than Elvis himself toured during the 70's, and the song lineup is basically the same as it was in 1997, when the first prototype show was held in in Memphis. If Elvis concerts didn't change much during the final years of his life, imagine what it must feel like being on stage now, with no room for improvisation whatsoever. And let's not forget that the musicians are getting older, most of them are now in their early seventies.

Still, I look forward to see Elvis Presley In Concert, for what I feel will be the last time. And my wife will be pleased, too. She will finally have a look at Ronnie Tutt in action!

Friday, September 4, 2009

If you're lookin' for outtakes

Seems King Creole will not get the FTD treatment anytime soon. This I learned through an interesting article in the latest issue of the excellent Elvis magazine The Man And His Music.

According to the author of the article, Trevor Cajiao, only nine genuine King Creole studio outtakes/alternate takes have ever turned up. These nine takes have always existed on acetate, and were used for the first time officially in 1990 on the third volume of the Essential Elvis series, titled Hits Like Never Before.

Two years later tapes of these outtakes had been found. Two of them were used on the 50's box set The King Of Rock 'N' Roll and five featured on the upgraded King Creole CD released in 1997. In the article Ernst Jorgensen has the following to say:

We'd love to do a King Creole CD, but there's nothing new to add to what's already appeared on RCA. We live in the hope that at some point the missing outtakes will turn up, but it's been over 50 years now and that's a long time. Will we ever hear outtakes of things like "Dixieland Rock", "Hard Headed Woman" and "Trouble"? Your guess is as good as anyone's, but I feel they would have turned up now if they existed.

Doesn't sound too hopeful, does it? On the other hand, I remember an article in the British fan club magazine about the binaural (stereo) tapes from Elvis recordings at Radio Recorders in 1957. The article, published in the mid 80's, stated that RCA received the binaural tapes, but that somewhere in 1959 someone gave the instruction to erase them.

That didn't sound too hopeful either, but a couple of years later it turned out the tapes hadn't been erased after all. Instead binaural masters were issued on Stereo 57 - Essential Elvis Volume 2 in 1989. The upcoming Jailhouse Rock album from FTD will feature binaural session takes as well. So maybe there is some hope, after all.

Monday, August 31, 2009

When It Rains, It Really Pours


Not only was my concern for the future of FTD a month ago unwarranted, last week the label announced that it will end the year with no less than six new releases. An impressive figure, although a closer look at the list reveals that two of the planned albums are recycled.

I will definitely buy the 5 inch digipack 2 CD set titled From Sunset To Vegas which features the rehearsal recorded at RCA's studio on Sunset Boulevard on August 16, 1974, as well as a couple of live recordings from Elvis' Las Vegas engagement in August/September that same year. This release is the perfect companion to the double CD Nevada Nights that FTD offered us last autumn.

I know I nag about it now and then here on Elvis Today, but I've never been able to figure out why FTD doesn't put together a CD box. The two above mentioned titles would've been perfect candidates, don't you think? So would the recordings from Jailhouse Rock, apparently, as the second FTD album in September will be a 2 CD in the classic albums format, followed by a second volume next year.

The most exciting of the bunch is Good Times that will see the light of day around November 1. This one has always been high on my wish list for getting the classic album treatment, and finally it does. Ernst Jorgensen promises "many great outtakes" and I for one hope for an alternate version of "My Boy."

FTD also promises us a new soundboard, but no further details are given. As the label more and more turns to concerts already issued on bootleg, maybe we can look forward to Elvis' concert in Dallas, December 28, 1976? This incredible show was released as A Hot Winter Night In Dallas by Fort Baxter back in 1998.

As for the recycled albums, one of them will be Rockin' Across Texas, released as a 2 CD set without the book that is now deleted. The Way It Was got the same treatment a while back, so I guess it was just a matter of time.

One of the first FTD albums and also one of the best is The Jungle Room Sessions. Nearly ten years after its original appearance it returns in the shape of a 2 disc vinyl set, making up the final release of the year.

I really can't make up my mind about it. On the one hand I don't understand the decision to manufacture vinyl records featuring material already released on CD, but on the other hand an edition of The Jungle Room Sessions pressed on 180-gram vinyl and "supplied in a new gatefold sleeve featuring additional Graceland images" sounds pretty cool.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Elvis On Tour - Special Edition

Yesterday I spent a rainy morning on the coach watching my faithful VHS copy of Elvis On Tour. And, not very surprisingly, I started thinking about what a special edition would look like, if it was ever to materialise.

According to Stein Erik Skar's book The Concert Years about 50 hours were filmed from Elvis' concerts, the record studio and from the activity surrounding the concerts. Given the wealth of material filmmakers Pierre Adidge/Robert Abel had to work with, I think they did a good job editing the film.

That said, a special edition could, of course, be even better. The question is how to go about it. One approach could be a complete re-edit, to make it into a That's The Way It Is-movie, that is, let it start with the mock session/rehearsals recordings and then continue with the live performances. But maybe that's a questionable solution, as it would certainly go against the original intentions of the producers.

Another, and maybe more acceptable way to do it, would be to keep the original plot, but add new material and in some cases also delete some things. One example of the latter that immediately comes to mind is the scene where a very old guy wearing a hat, in a weak voice tells us which doors Elvis is going to pass through on his way to somewhere. Boring stuff.

More exciting is the prospect of adding rolls of films. The fantastic version of "Always On My Mind" from the mock session is a given. Also, I would like to see some more material from the rehearsal recordings, such as "Burning Love." In the original movie only the religious material from that day is used, to illustrate Elvis love for gospel music.

And of course, the addition of more live performances, is what really would make a special edition special. Immediately missing songs such as "How Great Thou Art," "I Can't Stop Loving You," "Release Me" and the incredible version of "Are You Lonesome Tonight" from Elvis: The Lost Performances comes to mind. And complete versions of "Suspicious Minds" and "Until It's Time For You To Go."

One thing I haven't made up my mind about is whether to keep the scenes from the 50's, including Elvis' performances on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956. What do you think?

PS: While I wrote this I listened to Live In Texas 1972, the final CD on the Close Up box set released in 2003. It features the next to last concert Elvis did during his April 1972 tour, in San Antonio. What hit me was that none of the older songs done in that breatless speed ("All Shook Up" and "Teddy Bear"/"Don't Be Cruel"among them) were included in Elvis On Tour. A wise choice.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Elvis Super 8 Film Festival

I repaid the courtesy and wrote a guest blog for The Film Frontier. You'll find it here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Elvis Today, Tomorrow And Forever


In Memphis, this years edition of Elvis Week is coming to an end. Thanks to the Elvis Information Network I've been able to keep track on what's going on, and as always I remember my trip to Graceland during Elvis Week 2005.

Unfortunately, the media coverage here in Sweden has been practically zilch when it comes to the anniversary of Elvis' passing. And just like on January 8 this year, TCM (Turner Classic Movies) disappoints us here in Europe by showing not a single Elvis movie on August 16. The American edition, however, delivers in great style, screening no less than 13 of the Kings movies.

Returning to Elvis Week, today was also the day when Ernst Jorgensen would attend and talk about upcoming Elvis projects. Apparently he appeared on the Sirius Radio where he stated that he had three engineers working on three different classic albums - but couldn't tell which one would be the first in line to be released.

He did reveal, though, that the next FTD release will be a 1974 rehearsal tape previously released on the bootleg From Sunset Boulevard To Paradise Road. That is great news, at least to me, as I've never succeeded in obtaining this title.

So ends Elvis Week and August 16. Thanks for reading Elvis Today. And thank you, Elvis.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Are you laughing tonight?

I've always liked the way Elvis laughs. The first time I heard him do it must have been in the early eighties when the laughing version of "Are You Lonesome Tonight" was played frequently on the radio. In Europe it was released as a single, taken from the Elvis Aron Presley box set, and went on to become a pretty big hit.

"There's something touchingly childlike in Elvis' uncontrolled laughter, and this performance has become a classic for the way it shows a side of Elvis that rarely surfaced in public," Colin Escott writes in the CD reissue of the silver box set. That got me thinking about other songs where Elvis gets the giggles. This is what I came up with:

On the above mentioned box set, there is another laughing version, that has in its own way become a classic, at least among the fans. I am, of course, referring to the infamous "Datin'" from Paradise, Hawaiian Style that has Elvis cracking up a number of times on numerous takes of the song. It's highly entertaining and I always smile when I listen to Elvis struggling with the silly lyrics and completely loosening it.

Another soundtrack song that has Elvis breaking up is "Beach Shack" from the movie Spinout. Thanks to FTD and its classic album series we can hear the first three takes, and right from the start it's clear that Elvis finds the lyrics he's reading from the lead sheet highly amusing. Giggles become an enormous laughter as he ad libs "What you think I am" right before he and the Jordanaires are about to sing the line "dum-di-dum-di-dum."

Trying to pull himself together he exclaims, "It's got to be the silly hour," before loosening it again on the following take. I guess humor was the weapon with which to survive those soundtrack sessions in the mid 60's. It's great fun listening to and my favourite laughing version with Elvis.

It wasn't just during studio hours that Elvis got the giggles. As you all know he often laughed on stage both between and during songs. "I'll Remember You" from FTD's Takin' Tahoe Tonight! featuring the 3 AM show he did on May 13, 1973, no doubt qualifies as a laughing version.

The reason for this is Elvis having fun changing the lyrics to fit the early hour of the show: "Long after this, long morning is through... I'll be horny, ..lonely, oh so lonely." He also, for some reason, cracks up right at the end of the song, after which he laughingly announces, "Well, that's about enough!"

Another live laughing version that comes to mind is "Love Me Tender" from Murfreesboro recorded on May 6, 1975, and included on the FTD release Dixieland Rocks. As I've written about that one before I wont go into any details, except to say that it's really funny.

The final song I come to think of the rehearsal version of "Memories" from July 24, 1970, only available on bootleg. It's really hilarious and has Elvis changing the lyrics, making peculiar noises and almost laughing his head off. You have to listen to it to fully understand what I'm talking about.

So there you have it. Six laughing versions that show the funny side of Elvis. Of course there are more of them out here. Can you help me out?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Defying every logic known

The last couple of weeks I've been listening a lot to the latest FTD "escape" The Wonder Of You. As you probably know, it features the August 13, 1970 Dinner Show, the sixth and last one to be recorded by RCA during that particular engagement.

I won't bother with a review, as I totally agree with the one written by Tygrrius over at the Elvis Australia site. Instead, this fantastic concert once more made me think about which show I would pick if there existed a one-use-only Elvis concert time machine.

No doubt one of the shows from the Elvis third Las Vegas engagement would be a very strong candidate. One of my absolute favorites is the Midnight show recorded on August 12, available on the 3 disc set That's The Way It Is - Special Edition released in 2000.

As Alex Richardson puts it in the latest The Man And His Music issue, while reviewing the unofficial CD/DVD package That's The Way It Is: The Complete Works:

"The perfect blend of old and new material - the highlight being the seemingly impromptu sit-down-with-electric-guitar session - from a man who was firing on all cylinders, this is a very strong contender for Elvis' greatest show ever."

Sometimes when I fantasize like this about which show I would like to travel back in time to see, I cheat and bend the rules a little. When I do, it's possible to pick both an early show (say, from 1969-72) and one from the later concert years (1973-77).

Still, I always have a hard time choosing between the legendary Pittsburgh concert from New Year's Eve 1976 (released by FTD in 2003) and the afternoon show performed in Nassau Coliseum, Long Island, on July 19, 1975 (available on the bootleg Americas Own). Both stand out as some of the best concerts Elvis did during those years.

It must have been an incredible experience sitting in audience watching him perform "Rags To Riches" or sing "Bosom Of Abraham/You Better Run."

But of course there are other highlights. The shows from Elvis' third tour in November 1971 show him in top form, as do the the ones from tour number eight that took place in the summer of 1973. And of course it would have been incredible to see Elvis perform during the filming of Elvis On Tour or when he was recorded live on stage in Memphis on March 20, 1974. Not to mention Madison Square Garden or the famous Aloha satellite show.

What it boils down to is that not only is it impossible to travel back in time to see Elvis, it's also extremely difficult to pick that one concert to attend. But if a time machine materialized right now in my living room I would punch in the following date and location: August 12, 1970, The International Hotel, Las Vegas, around midnight!

PS: Thanks for lending me the title to this post, Tygrrius!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Back In Kosovo

You have to admit that the title of this post is the perfect sequel to the latest one I penned, named From Elvis In Kosovo. I actually came up with the name before I had decided what to write. But then I remembered another thing having to do with Elvis and my time as a peacekeeping soldier a couple of years ago. Well, sort of, anyway:

When I arrived in Kosovo as part of the Swedish battalion stationed there, one of the first things I had to do was to visit Pristina, the largest town in Kosovo, to get to know the lay of the land, so to speak. Sitting in a green jeep, me and my buddies made big eyes taking it all in. After all, a war had taken place here not long ago.

Then all of a sudden, I caught sight of a large banner hanging over the street. In high letters it spelled E-L-V-I-S. It caught me completely off guard. I mean, here I was, not knowing what to expect or find, and right in front of me was the name of the greatest singer the world has ever known. It was a surrealistic moment.

Back at the Swedish camp, I couldn't help but wonder about that banner. Was there really an Elvis shop in Kosovo? And if so, what did it sell? I found the answer a short while later, while on foot patrol one night in Pristina.

In a city where electricity come and go randomly, it came as no surprise to me and my fellow soldiers that the street lamps were dark that particular night. After a while my night vision kicked in, and suddenly, walking on the pavement, I caught sight of that big banner again. And, turning my head to the right, I understood.

Though it was dark, I clearly identified a shopwindow and that the name of the store was – yeah, you guessed it, ELVIS. But, looking closely, I noticed that the goods displayed had absolutely nothing to do with Elvis Presley whatsoever. Instead, I found myself looking at a clothes shop.

As you can imagine, I was slightly disappointed. At the same time I guess I was glad the mystery was solved. And you know what? Every time I drove under that banner the following six moths or walked past that particular store, I saw the face of Elvis Presley in front of me. In an unsafe country far from home, it was a good feeling.

Friday, August 7, 2009

From Elvis In Kosovo

The above headline is obviously inspired by From Elvis In Memphis that is once again in the limelight thanks to the 40th Anniversary Legacy Edition CD. But the post itself has absolutely nothing to do with that great album. Here goes:

A couple of years ago I left the safety of civilian life and did a tour of duty with the Swedish Armed Forces stationed in Kosovo, as part of the peacekeeping mission. As you can imagine, I brought my fair share of Elvis albums with me together with a portable CD player. (This was just before the iPods made their entrance.)

One of my army buddies kind of digged Elvis too, especially the 70's stuff, so one day we talked about organizing an Elvis night in the mess room. This was a fairly easy thing to do, since music was played in the mess every Saturday evening during bar hours. Me and my buddy just volunteered to pull bar duty one particular night and we were on.

We then decorated practically the whole camp with posters announcing an "Elvis night" the following Saturday, where only Elvis music would be played. Admittedly, we were a bit worried that no one would turn up, but apparently word had spread quickly.

The night in question the mess room was packed with uniforms, most of them Swedish, but some from other countries as well. To this day I still remember the first song we played - "I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water" - and soon the place was cooking.

I also recall a Norwegian soldier turning up, armed with a guitar. All of a sudden he was doing his own Elvis imitation, something that came as a complete surprise. He was all right I guess, but many in the crowd wanted the real thing back, and pretty soon "Whole Lot-ta Shakin' Goin' On" blasted through the speakers.

All in all, the night was a complete success. I'd like to think that Elvis would've been proud had he known what his music meant to all those soldiers that night, serving in another country far from home.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Summer of '69


I just returned from a pleasant one week vacation in a little cottage on the western coast of Denmark. But as there was no connection to the Internet whatsoever, one of the first thing I did when I was home again was to visit the newly resurrected ElvisNews.com site as well as a few others to get myself up to speed again on things Elvis wise.

Half expecting the next FTD release to have been announced sometime during the week, I was a bit disappointed to find out that was not the case. What caught my eye instead was a couple of news items associated with Elvis exciting return to personal performances in Las Vegas 40 years ago:

1. A soundboard of the August 3, dinner show in Las Vegas, released in 1993 by Ford Baxter under the misleading name Opening Night, is to be re-released under the name of Elvis - Return Of A Prodigy. It's supposed to be edited, as to why I have no idea.

I own a copy of Opening Night and gave it a spin today. In short I found it pretty similar to the shows recorded professionally by RCA a couple of weeks later. Elvis is clowning around quite a bit, but maybe not as much as a bit later into the engagement. I guess he was still feeling a bit nervous as this was only the sixth show he gave.

Some of the arrangements also sound different, this is particularly true on "Are You Lonesome Tonight" where there is no high voice singing, instead that part is being played by a violin.

2. EPE's latest marketing item is a backstage pass where "you can explore Elvis’ dressing room as it may have looked during his historic 1969 engagement at The International Hotel. Included in the virtual online experience, are photos, artifacts, audio and video clips and lots more online fun." Coming from EPE, maybe not surprisingly this "fun" costs money, $1.99 for 24 hours of access.

3. Much more interesting is the Elvis: Vegas '69 book written by Ken Sharp, the guy who also put together Writing For The King, among others. Elvis Australia, another great Elvis site I favour, posted a review and after reading it, I have to say it sounds like a promising book.

Not only does it include a lot of previously unseen photographs, it also features first hand accounts of those who "where there." One of those, a lucky Mr Ian Fracer-Thomson, not only succeeded in sneaking into the opening night invitation only show, he also watched and listened to a large part of the dress rehearsal.

4. And finally, something I obviously didn't read about but wish was true: A CD box from FTD featuring the remaining shows recorded by RCA in the summer of '69 that so far has not been released in full. After all, if a bootlegger and a writer can pay attention, why can't Elvis official collectors label? (Although I applaud the Sony BMG release of From Elvis In Memphis Legacy Edition.)