Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I'm Leavin' as performed by Joe Var Veri

I've always preferred artists doing their own interpretations of Elvis songs instead of trying to sound and sing exactly like Elvis did, i.e. being impersonators. One example of the former is Joe Var Veri, a talented artist from Australia that I had the pleasure to discover a couple of days ago.

In fact, it was songwriter Michael Jarrett who pointed me in the right direction by telling me about Joe Var Veri and his new recording of Jarrett's song "I'm Leavin'." Listening to it on the internet, I was impressed with the arrangement that reminded me of Elvis' recording at the same time as it offered a more contemporary sound.

It might come as no surprise that Joe Var Veri is a dedicated Elvis fan himself. Apparently he even made a special trip to Graceland and wrote a song about it. He's also posted a couple of Elvis covers on Youtube with just him and his guitar, among them a nice version of "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day," another great song written by Michael Jarrett.

Returning to "I'm Leavin'" I think it's pretty amazing that a song that wasn't even a hit for Elvis at the time (but certainly deserved to be) nowadays is seen by many fans as one of his best performances. It speaks tons about the quality of the song, and if you listen to "I'm Leavin'" as performed by Joe Var Veri it seems like it could've been written today.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lover Doll

I recently bought a new lens to my Canon EOS digital camera. For you who are into cameras, it's an EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens, which means that it's great for portraits as the images get really sharp and the backgrounds blurred.

For some reason or other I thought I'd test it on my '68 Comeback Elvis figure made by McFarlane Toys. After a couple of shots I got the idea to include a background as to make it more realistic. It wasn't easy to find a photograph from the NBC television special I could use, as Elvis always took up a big part of the picture.

After a fruitless search in my Elvis books I came to think of the booklet accompanying The Complete '68 Comeback Special 4 CD box set. Turned out the centerfold contained just what I was looking for: a great shot of the studio with a big part of the audience visible and Elvis just occupying a small part of the photograph.

I then asked my wife to hold the booklet open behind the figure, which I placed on the floor. Lying down in front of my hastily constructed "NBC studio", I grabbed my camera and took a couple of photos.

After some creative image editing in Photoshop I was rather pleased with the result, even if the audience is too far away and it's painfully clear that Elvis is in fact a doll.

PS: The second photograph included was in fact taken using part of a picture I found later on in a photo book with images of Elvis from the archive at Graceland titled Elvis: A Celebration.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

High Sierra

Most of the shows Elvis did during his May 1974 Lake Tahoe engagement were of a high standard. The May 21 midnight show recently released by FTD as High Sierra is no exception. The repertoire is certainly a varied one, and with Elvis in good form, the end result is an entertaining and pleasant show.

"We're gonna do our best to entertain you, you know, sing songs, drink water and walk around ... go streaking later. All of us, you gotta do it too, I ain't going by myself, I'll be in jail tomorrow," Elvis kids the audience and later on changes a line in a powerful version of "Trying To Get To You" to "I kept streaking all the way, baby trying to get to you."

Some of the songs during the first part of the show aren't that exciting, though. "All Shook Up," "Love Me Tender" and "Hound Dog" are done in the usual style and "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" as well as "Suspicious Minds" are a bit sloppy, especially the latter one.

But things get better during the second half, with one highlight after another. "Help Me" is performed flawlessly and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" is delivered in great style, a strong version indeed. "Big Boss Man" has a funky arrangement and "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" is beautifully sung, including a different line on the third verse: "And the first time, ever I held you close" instead of "And the first time, ever I laid with you." "I like that song," Elvis exclaims at the end. I do too!

Seven bonus tracks from the same engagement rounds off the album, including "Spanish Eyes" and "I'm Leavin'" All in all High Sierra is a fine release, even including a booklet (although not a very impressive one, only eight pages with no liner notes, just the track listing together with ten photos in varied quality, six of them so small you can hardly make out Elvis.) You could do worse than buy this one.

That said, if you don't own copies of the two classic bootlegs from the December ’76 tour, Burning In Birmingham (re-released as High Voltage) and A Hot Winter Night In Dallas (re-released as At Full Force), I would recommend you spend your money on the official FTD pairing release Showtime! instead. Here you can read why.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Power Of Elvis

Me and my wife recently spent a week in a cottage on the western coast of Denmark. Naturally I brought my faithful iPod along, because a week without Elvis.... unthinkable! But I needn't have worried, because Elvis turned up anyway. Four times to be more precise.
The first night we went to a local restaurant, cosily decorated with things nautical, such as boat models and paintings of sailing ships. Suddenly, through a speaker located nearby, I heard a familiar intro and then Elvis singing "We're caught in a trap..." I guess "Thanks To The Rolling Sea" or "We're Coming In Loaded" would've suited the atmosphere of the place better, but who was I to complain. It's always a great feeling to hear an Elvis song at a public place, knowing I'm not the only one listening to the greatest artist there is. And I had to smile when the waiter passed our table, hearing him humming along.

One day we went on an excursion in our car, visiting a church that is slowly migrating into the ocean due to coastal erosion. As we were approaching the parking space "Jailhouse Rock" started playing on the radio. Once again, maybe not the most appropriate "soundtrack"to fit the occasion. Looking at the church standing only a couple meters from the cliffs, I thought of something a little bit more sober, like "How Great Thou Art" or "Somebody Bigger Than You And I" but then started stamping my foot against the floor and singing "Let's rock, everybody let's rock..." It's hard to resist that kind of beat.

On June 8, 2010, Nancy Sinatra turned 70, and on the radio they played some of her songs. I immediately hoped for "Your Groovy Self" or even "There Ain't Nothing Like A Song" but wasn't that lucky. But in the paper there was a fairly long article about Nancy, mentioning among other things, that she had participated in seven movies, and that she was "best remembered for Speedway with Elvis Presley in 1968 and The Wild Angel with Peter Fonda in 1966." I wished I'd brought my DVD copy of Speedway with me, it would have been a fitting tribute to watch it that night.

The fourth and final time Elvis popped up was during a commercial for the upcoming World Cup Football Championship in South Africa. Accompanying some of the most famous players dribbling and shooting the ball was Elvis' voice belting out the lyrics to "Burning Love". The producer obviously knew his stuff!

So you see, even if I had forgotten my Ipod, Elvis would've been part of my vacation anyhow, although not as much as I'd like. Yet it's amazing how he keeps turning up, sometimes when you least expect it. Such is the power of Elvis.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Don't quote me on that"

Thanks to the June issue of Elvis The Man And His Music, not only did I learn of the rare Louisville 1974 footage. I also found out long before the news were announced on various Elvis sites that FTD are going to release an expanded version of the How Great Thou Art album (finally!).

Furthermore, the magazine reports that Ernst Jorgensen and company are working on an Elvis (Fool) classic album as well. As "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" was recently among the bonus tracks on Elvis Now I wonder if it will be part of the Elvis (Fool) package as well. Maybe it will, just as "Something" was featured on both That's The Way It Is and Love Letters From Elvis.

I feel a more logical choice would've been to include the June 1971 remake of "Until It's Time For You To Go" on Elvis Now instead of "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and put the latter on the album were it was originally released, i.e. Elvis (Fool).

But let's move on to another piece of information I thought I'd like to share with you, courtesy of Elvis The Man And His Music. It concerns FTD's long awaited and much anticipated Sun book/CD project and goes like this:

Ernst Jorgensen told EMM: "The book is more or less written and we're about two-thirds through the design stage. But just when we think we've gathered all there is to know about the period, along comes something brand new. Recently, for example, an American lady contacted me and was able to supply another six unpublished photos from various 1955 shows in Texarkana. I'd love to think that we'll be able to have the thing out before the end of this year, but don't quote me on that." Whoops, we just did.

I don't know about you, but if Ernst wants to collect "all there is to know about the period" I think we're in for a long wait...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Elvis Today #300

Elvis Today has been up and running since August, 2007. As this marks my 300th post, I thought of a way to mark the occasion. About two weeks ago Tygrrius over at The Film Frontier blog celebrated his 500th post by looking back at his personal favorites. I hope you don't mind if I borrow your idea, Ty?

Being steadfast, loyal and true
(September 17, 2007)
In one of my first posts I wrote about the time I saw King Creole in a real cinema. I arrived late and was afraid there'd be no tickets left. I shouldn't have worried...

Introductions (September 26, 2007)
I never saw Elvis in person, but I've taken comfort in the fact that I've met and talked to a lot of musicians that once played for Elvis, such as D.J. Fontana and Glen D. Hardin.

Pot Luck with Elvis (November 31, 2007)
One of the aims with Elvis Today is sharing my thoughts about new Elvis albums. The first one I reviewed was Pot Luck in the classic album series done by FTD.

Blue Christmas – my very first Elvis records (December 24, 2007)
We all have one – the first record we bought with Elvis on the cover. For me it was Blue Christmas, a RCA LP manufactured in Sweden in 1976.

You have to own Tupelo's own (December 29, 2007)
What a great idea, to combine silent footage of Elvis performing live at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show in Tupelo 1956 with the recording of the same show. The DVD Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley is an amazing releases and its importance as a historical document is priceless.

Take me to the fair (January 21, 2008)
It's always interesting when "new" footage of Elvis is discovered. Albert Fisher hang out with Elvis during the shooting of It Happened At The World's Fair and brought along his 8mm movie camera.

Elvis was coming to Sweden (April 3, 2008)
One of my favorite pictures hanging on the wall at home is a framed concert poster promoting Elvis-The Concert, and the first tour date in Sweden, back in 1999. I'll never forget the expression on my buddy's face when "Also Sprach Zarathustra" started playing, like he couldn't believe this was really happening.

Special moments with FTD III (April 7, 2008)
If you could travel back in time to watch Elvis record a song, a good date to punch into the time machine would be September 11, 1967. The location? RCA's studio B in Nashville. The song? "You'll Never Walk Alone."

How That's The Way It is Was Woven (May 11, 2008)
One of my favorite FTD releases and also one of the reviews I'm most satisfied with. If you could own only one Elvis album (heaven forbid!) I would probably choose That's The Way It Is classic album.

3D Elvis (October 13, 2008)
Being a fan of 3D computer animated movies, I was delighted to find a clip on Youtube of a 3D animated Elvis singing "Tiger Man." Impressive stuff!

"Together they burn up the screen"
(December 9, 2008)
Viva Las Vegas is a fun movie to watch, if for no other reason because of the obvious chemistry between Elvis and Ann-Margret. "Together they burn up the screen," the trailer proclaims, and that's no exaggeration!

It's only live? (January 17, 2009)
Was the original Standing Room Only LP supposed to have been a live one or a half live/half studio album? When FTD announced their version I did some research.

The extra verse (February 9, 2009)
The songs "Spanish Eyes" and "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" included an extra verse when Elvis sang them live. But there are other versions of songs that all have an extra verse not found on the original releases. I thought it an interesting subject to write about.

Guest blog: I forgot all the words (July 24, 2009)
The above mentioned Tygrrius not only runs two blogs, among them the excellent The Mystery Train Elvis Blog. He's also written a guest blog for Elvis Today on the subject "Does Elvis forgetting the words to a song in a concert ruin the performance?"

Are you laughing tonight? (Aug 15, 2009)
This post was fun to write! Six laughing versions that show the funny side of Elvis, among them "Are You Lonesome Tonight," "Datin'" and "Beach Shack." I've always liked the way Elvis laughs, that's for sure!

From Elvis In Kosovo (August 7, 2009)
A couple of years ago I did a tour of duty with the Swedish Armed Forces stationed in Kosovo, as part of the peacekeeping mission. One of my army buddies digged Elvis too, so we organized an Elvis night in the mess room. Soon the place was cooking.

The King lives on in Malta
(October 23, 2009)
Elvis is alive and well on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean. At least in Qawra, a seaside resort town I visited during a one week holiday together with my folks. The day after our arrival we stumbled across an Elvis bar where a lifesize Elvis stand-up guarded the entrance.

Guest blog: I Can't Stop Loving ... Per!? (December 15, 2009)
I'm fortunate to have a brother who is as crazy about Elvis as I am. He's written two guest posts for Elvis Today, this one is about a music cassette he bought on sale titled I Can't Stop Loving You featuring Per 'Elvis' Granberg.

Good Times Never Seemed So Good (January 2, 2010)
The best album from the Follow That Dream label in 2009. In short, that's how I would summarize Good Times. This is another review I'm happy with.

Elvis Today – Behind The Scenes (January 7, 2010)
Some posts take more time to write than others. Looking back on my time with Elvis Today so far I'd say the three posts I've enjoyed the most to write have also been the most difficult ones.

There you have it, 20 posts from the 300 so far. I hope you enjoy reading Elvis Today. I certainly enjoy writing it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Louisville footage

Thanks to the latest issue of The Man And His Music, the best Elvis magazine around, I learned of a rare clip of Elvis leaving his hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, on June 26, 1974.

According to a letter from a guy living in The Netherlands, the local TV station, WHAS 11, filmed and interviewed fans before Elvis' performance at the Freedom Hall. The station also captured Elvis coming out of his hotel as he was leaving for the arena.

I immediately sat down at my computer, goggled for "WHAS 11 Elvis" and found both Vintage Elvis footage as well as Friday Flashback: Elvis plays Louisville on the station's website. The latter is a news feature (running 3:13) that was broadcast on January 8 this year, honoring Elvis' 75th birthday, and the former includes bonus footage (nearly 28 minutes of it).

Both features the clip of Elvis leaving his hotel, wearing the Peacock jumpsuit and looking great as he laughs at some fans and then gets into his limousine. "Quick shot there, but we got it," a smiling news anchor announces afterwards.

And another thing: The news feature also includes footage from Elvis playing in Louisville at the Armory in November 1956. Although silent, it shows the impact of his show and the arena packed with people. Pure magic!