Friday, September 30, 2011

Queenie Wahine's Papaya

The movie Paradise, Hawaiian Style generally ranks as one of Elvis' worst. But to my five year old niece, it makes for an exciting adventure.

A couple of weeks ago her father borrowed my DVD copies of Paradise, Hawaiian Style and Fun In Acapulco. She's heard me talk a lot about Elvis, of course, and I thought she might enjoy them as they feature child actresses (Donna Butterworth and Larry Domasin).

Fun In Acapulco didn't go down that well – I think she thought it a bit boring and too serious – but Paradise Hawaiian Style she loves.

Having already seen it about five times, she invited me to watch the movie earlier this evening, her father serving us popcorn and peanut butter and banana sandwiches. It was a joy to see her jump up and down in the sofa, telling me in an excited voice what was about to happen, then running to her room to change into a skirt so she could dance just like they did at the Polynesian Welcoming Festival.

She loved the scene where Elvis and Donna Butterworth sang "Quennie Wahine's Papaya" and hummed along with the music. She then went on to explain to me that Elvis had a lot of female acquantances, one at every hotel.

During the helicopter scene where Elvis sings "A Dog's Life" she told me very seriously how sorry she felt for the dogs, and when Elvis found his partner with a broken leg beside his crashed helicopter she had to look away as it was "a bit scary to watch." But the rest of the movie was smooth sailling, and I noticed she thought it pretty cool that Elvis and the dancers actually froze during "Stop Where You Are."

All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening for me as well. I enjoyed Paradise, Hawaiian Style in a way I've never done before, thanks to my niece.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lousiana Hayride: Box Set, iTunes Or MRS?

I've had a hard time deciding if I'm going to order the Young Man With The Big Beat box set. As stunning as it looks, the only previously unreleased material on it (except a couple of extended interviews) is Elvis' final performance on the Louisiana Hayride.

Don't get me wrong, I'm really looking forward to hearing the Hayride show in its entirety. But if the set is made available on iTunes or the like, and the tracks can be bought individually, I might go for just bying the unreleased stuff that way. After all, such a solution will make for a much smaller hole in my wallet.

But now it looks like there will be a third option. Yesterday the UK based label the Memphis Recording Service (MRS) announced that it will release a CD in association with ‘Joseph A Tunzi’ (JAT Productions) featuring the complete live recordings of the Louisiana Hayride performances by Elvis Presley.

According to MRS the CD (titled The Complete Louisiana Hayride Archives 1954-1956) "will also contain the recent discovery of Elvis’ last performance on the Louisiana Hayride in December 1956. This will be a more complete version of the show and for the first time, be speed and pitch corrected, which Sony has failed to master for their upcoming release."

A safe bet is that Ernst Jorgensen can't be too pleased. Especially since MRS also promises that "The 100 page bonus book has many rare and newly discovered photographs that were due to be shown first, in the upcoming FTD Sun book." Is JAT Productions playing both sides?

I talked to my brother about this release today, and according to him the Louisiana Hayride show is public domain material due to the fact that it's a radio broadcast that was released to the public in 1956. He also told me that radio shows featuring Hank Williams have been released this way. If so, the MRS release is a legal one. 

The Memphis Recording Service has always impressed me with their releases, such as Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley and The Rise Of Elvis Presley 1955. Collecting all the Louisiana Hayride recordings on one CD is another creative move. Three and a half years ago I put forward a similar idea, a concept that featured all the available live material from the 50's on an FTD box.

At the same time, it isn't often an Elvis box set comes along these days. Especially not a deluxe edition such as Young Man With The Big Beat. So maybe I should buy them both and make that hole in my wallet a really big one?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Yet another Swedish Connection

Living in Sweden, I'm always on the lookout for new connections between Elvis and my country. There are more of them than one might think, and last week I discovered another one. Or rather, a colleague at work made me aware of it.

It's not the first morning I've found something waiting for me in my post-office box having to do with Elvis. This time it was an article from a daily newspaper (DN) about a Swedish ashtray and a meeting that took place between a freelance journalist from Sweden and Elvis in Hollywood 1963.

The journalist, Bo Hanson, had a tough time getting through the entire wall of agents and studios people, but was finally granted a ten minute interview. After waiting for two hours, the doors were thrown open and there he was: Elvis Presley. Bo Hanson later described the meeting in an article published in the Swedish magazine Allers, on May 3, 1964. 
He' so handsome, so beautiful in his white, tight pants, his bright red shirt and the most adorable little white bolero jacket, that it almost isn't true. 

Elvis understood how disappointed the Swede was that the meeting was so short, so he suggested that they should meet in his dressing room when he was done shooting for the day. That they did, resulting in a two hour long interview.

In it, Elvis talked about his record debut, his military service in Germany and his love for his house in Memphis, Graceland. Bo Hanson also learned that Elvis didn't feel ready to marry yet, but that his co-star Ann-Margret (yet another Swedish connection!) in the movie Viva Las Vegas, is a wonderful girl, although they are just friends. 

At the meeting, Bo Hanson presented Elvis with an ashtray from the famous Boda glass factory. The resulting photograph of Elvis with the ashtray, designed by Erik Höglund, is nowadays used as advertising for the glass factory. But where the ashtray itself is located today, the article doesn't say. On a table in Graceland, perhaps?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Reviews From The Past

It's a safe bet to assume that a lot of fans, me included, can't wait to get their hands on the upcoming FTD release 48 Hours To Memphis, featuring a multi-track recording of Elvis' March 18, 1974, concert at the Richmond Coliseum. Until then, you could do worse that to listen to the show recorded two days later at another Coliseum, this one located in Memphis, to get a taste of things to come.

Released under the name of Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis in July 1974, the album features the majority of the songs from the tour's last concert which took place at the Mid-South Coliseum in Elvis' hometown. As you probably know, it won him his third and final Grammy award, for the performance of "How Great Thou Art."

But how was the album received at the time? In the 10 October, 1974, issue of Rolling Stone magazine, this is what reviewer Paul Gambaccini had to say about it, among other things:
This is the first Elvis Presley album in years from which we get the sense of an individual human being who feels and cares. Presley cares about his God, his late mother and rock & roll, and the themes strike home repeatedly in a varied program. A rock & roll medley running the gamut from "Long Tall Sally" to "Mama Don't Dance" is delivered with the convincing force Presley has recently lacked. A gospel pairing of "Why Me, Lord" and "How Great Thou Art" is so intensely delivered it is genuinely moving, regardless of one's own convictions.
So why don't you give Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis a spin? (Preferably the FTD version from 2004 which contains the entire concert, including great versions of "Steamroller Blues" and "Polk Salad Annie.") It will definitely help you to get in the mood for 48 Hours To Memphis.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

If I Can Dream

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, RCA/BMG released an Elvis Presley single titled America The Beautiful, to raise proceeds to benefit the American Red Cross Liberty Disaster Relief Fund. In addition to the songs "If I Can Dream," "America The Beautiful" and "Amazing Grace," it included a video track of "If I Can Dream" taken from Elvis' '68 Comeback Special.

I remember buying the single, listening to it and then viewing the video clip. It was an emotional moment. Today, on the day marking the 10th anniversary of the attacks, I pulled out the single and played it again. It just felt like the right thing to do. And watching Elvis perform "If I Can Dream," the lyrics took on a whole new meaning, just as they did 10 years ago.

If I Can Dream
(W. Earl Brown)

There must be lights burning brighter somewhere
Got to be birds flying higher in a sky more blue
If I can dream of a better land
Where all my brothers walk hand in hand
Tell me why, oh why, oh why can't my dream come true
Oh why

There must be peace and understanding sometime
Strong winds of promise that will blow away
the doubt and fear
If I can dream of a warmer sun
Where hope keeps shining on everyone
Tell me why, oh why, oh why won't that sun appear

We're lost in a cloud
With too much rain
We're trapped in a world
That's troubled with pain
But as long as a man
Has the strength to dream
He can redeem his soul and fly

Deep in my heart there's a tremblin' question
Still I am sure that the answer, answer's gonna come somehow
Out there in the dark, there's a beckoning candle, yeah
And while I can think, while I can talk
While I can stand, while I can walk
While I can dream, please let my dream
Come true, ohhhhh, right now
Let it come true right now
Oh yeah

Friday, September 9, 2011

Charro! It Just Wasn't Different Enough

Earlier this week I sat down to watch Elvis' 29th film Charro! The reason for this was an article in the latest issue of the Elvis The Man And His Music magazine, titled "Charro! What Went Wrong?"

According to the writer, Gerry McLafferty, this dramatic western didn't work due to the following reasons:
  • The actors Elvis was working with were much better in, for example, Flaming Star.
  • Charro! suffered badly from sloppy editing and continuity goofs.
  • The final script was a very uneven, disjointed piece, full of patchy dialogue.
  • The original script had considerably more violence and nudity that was toned down.
As the end-credits rolled I had to agree. When it came to acting, Solomon Sturges, for example, who played the younger brother of Elvis' antagonist Vince Hackett, gave an exaggerated performance, to say the least.

As for goofs, in one scene I watched a disarmed Elvis riding his horse without his shotgun behind the saddle, in the next the shotgun was there. And during the final shoot-out the canon was falling from the wagon to the ground upside down, then in the next scene it was rolling downhill the correct way up.

And yes, the violence was minimal and the scene having Ina Balin emerge from a bath (filmed from behind) was missing.  Another reflection I made, that Gerry McLafferty didn't mention, was that the film could have used a couple of more extras. When Elvis entered the town of Rio Seco on horseback, it seemed almost empty. Surely more than some ten or twenty people must have lived there.

That said, I have to agree with McLafferty's opinion that Elvis' best moment in the film is the scene following the branding of his neck. He did convey "horrific pain and anguish" and the branding itself was violently realistic. And the music score, composed by Hugo Montenegro, was used effectively throughout the film.

Also, Elvis really looked the part of a tough gunfighter. It was indeed "A Different Kind of Role, A Different Kind of Man," as the promotion of Charro! read. But like Gerry McLafferty points out in his excellent article, "it just wasn't different enough."

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Audio For A King: The Microphone Encyclopedia?

When the 500 page book Fashion For A King was announced in July this summer, I put it on my Christmas wish list. Produced for FTD by Pål Granlund of the Norwegian fan club Flaming Star, it focuses on Elvis' stage suits from 1969 to 1977, and comes with two live CD's from 1974 and 1975. But having read two reviews of the book this week, it's off my wish list.

Both reviewers looked forward to it but ended up equally disappointed. Here's an example of what Bryan Gruzska has to say in his guest blog "Fashion For A King doesn't fit diehard fan" over at The Mystery Train Elvis Blog:
The text was bland and repetitive and followed exactly the same format in each section: Elvis’ tour lasted from this date to this date, he wore XYZ jumpsuits during the tour and he had Y band members with him. While the descriptions of which jumpsuits were worn on what dates were sadly lacking, oddly, the authors saw fit to inject commentary within the descriptions about Elvis’ health, state of mind, girlfriends or spending habits, often in the form of generalizations.
In the latest issue of the Elvis The Man And His Music magazine, reviewer Fr. Conor Stainton-Polland shares the same opinion, pointing out that the book "is weak in detail" and that "the same phraseology is used for each suit description." He's also irritated that the text it full om textual errors, for example that "which" is spelled "witch" throughout the book.

Just as Bryan Gruzska, Fr. Conor Stanton-Polland thinks it's odd that the microphones used on each tour are described in such great detail, in fact in a much more orderly way than the jumpsuits! In his review he gives an example, ironically stating that the mics seemed to be ornamental:
Elvis wore several different types of microphones [...] The microphone used was AKG D-224 E with blue tape (white tape on the microphone on the microphone stand first two songs (page 278).
In the end, the only thing that seems to save Fashion For A King from a complete disaster, are the two accompanying soundboard CD's (July 1, 1974, Omaha Nebraska and December 14, 1975, Las Vegas Hilton). But with a price tag of over $100 US, of course it's not nearly enough. I for one will wait until the two concerts are re-released without the book. After all, that has happened several times before.

Looking back at a summer with three disappointing additions to the FTD catalog (the two others being Stage Rehearsal and Amarillo '77) I'm glad the next couple releases will include He Touched Me and 48 Hours To Memphis.

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

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why No On Tour Shows?

In the letter section - Shout It Out!- of the September issue of the Elvis The Man And His Music magazine that I received this week, a fan from New Zealand asks if anybody knows why FTD has never released any of the concerts from April 1972 that were recorded for Elvis on Tour. Apparently the editor knows how to get in touch with Ernst Jorgensen because he received the following answer:
FTD has been holding back on the three unreleased live shows from Elvis On Tour in order to include them on a release to coincide with whatever Warner Brothers might want to do with the unreleased footage from this project. As you know, Elvis On Tour was released on DVD in its original form, and we felt that this wasn't really the opportunity. I'm sure we will release these performances eventually, but at this time we don't have them scheduled. We have more than enough other great material to work with.
I have to admit I have difficulties understanding Ernst Jorgensen's line of reasoning. It took ages until Warner Brothers decided to release Elvis On Tour on DVD, and when it finally happened, combined with a special presentation of the movie at theaters across the United States, Ernst Jorgensen didn't feel that was "really the opportunity?!" Amazing.

A while back Troy Y. over at The Mystery Train Elvis Blog wrote a post titled "Hey Sony, isn't it about time for an Elvis on Tour boxed set?" In it, he expressed his hopes that the 40th anniversary of Elvis On Tour in 2012 will capture Sony’s imagination, and that it deserves a 3 CD treatment on the main label featuring the three unreleased concerts from the movie, together with an Elvis On Tour: The Rehearsals – Volume II on the FTD label.

I think that's an excellent idea, but admit I would be equally happy if the three shows were released as a box set by FTD. But I don't hold my breath, especially after reading Ernst Jorgensen's answer. If he's waiting for Warner Brothers to release unreleased footage from Elvis On Tour, I think he's in for a long wait. And that means the fans will be too, when it comes to the three concerts (from April 9, 10 and 14, respectively) being released officially on CD, be it on the FTD or the Sony main label. Such a shame.