Thursday, October 27, 2011

Promised Land - FTD Light Version

Of course I had to do it - just like I did with He Touched Me and Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas - that is, create my own "FTD light version" of Promised Land. This I did today by collecting all the outtakes that have been released officially so far.

The difference this time was that I had access to the real tracklist that's already been announced for the "full version" of Promised Land a couple of days ago. So I followed that one as closely as possible to see how many unreleased outtakes we can expect from this eagerly awaited FTD album.

THE ORIGINAL ALBUM
01 Promised Land
02 There’s A Honky Tonk Angel (Who Will Take Me Back In)
03 Help Me
04 Mr. Songman
05 Love Song Of The Year
06 It’s Midnight
07 Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming
08 If You Talk In Your Sleep
09 Thinking About You
10 You Asked Me To

SESSION HIGHLIGHTS
11 Promised Land - take 4
12 Your Love's Been A Long Time Coming - take 10
13 If You Talk In Your Sleep - take 5
14 Thinking About You - take 4
15 You Asked Me To - take 2
16 Promised Land - take 5
17 It's Midnight - take 11

SESSIONS - THE MAKING OF
o1 You Asked Me To - take 1
02 Thinking About You - take 3
03 Promised Land - take 2
04 Your Love's Been A Long Time Coming - take 4
05 There's A Honky Tonk Angel - take 1
06 It's Midnight - take 10

Comparing my "light version" with the real one, it's obvious that we're in for a treat when it comes to unreleased material. Counting conservatively (one complete take/track), I make it 19 complete unreleased outtakes, in addition to another 16 incomplete outtakes as well as two unreleased rehearsals and three undubbed masters.

The only question mark I have so far is what I've read on different forums concerning take 1 of "Promised Land" which isn't included (although the tracklist is said to be still under development). Apparently this take contains some rough language, so maybe that's the reason for its absence.

After all, this has happened before, like on From Sunset To Las Vegas, where the first version of "It's Midnight" was omitted, probably because of Elvis cussing. On the other hand, other FTD albums do have Elvis using "bad" language. Just listen to the "Ode To A Robin" poem after the last track on Made In Memphis.

Still, it's a minor point. I've waited a long time for Promised Land getting the FTD classic album treatment, and judging by the tracklist I have to say it was well worth waiting for.

The “FTD light version” of Promised Land was done by using all of the alternate takes that have been officially released so far. They can be found on Platinum: A Life In Music, Today, Tomorrow And Forever, Rhythm And Country: Essential Elvis Volume 5 and Made In Memphis.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Promised Land Among New FTD Releases

I'm happy to report that the Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain got it right this time. Promised Land will be one of the upcoming releases from the Follow That Dream label available early December.

And not only that. Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas is due for release at the same time. This means that three of the four titles I speculated about in January will receive the FTD classic album treatment this year.

In addition to Promised Land and Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas, FTD is also releasing a vinyl version of Elvis Is Back, as well as a 192-page book, A Moment in Time, that promises a stunning look at four days of Elvis’ life in 1956.

It's going to be a Christmas, Elvis style, that's for sure! Just check out the tracklists for Promised Land and Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas below.

TRACKLISTS

“PROMISED LAND” (Tracklist still in development)

DISC 1
THE ORIGINAL ALBUM
01 Promised Land
02 There’s A Honky Tonk Angel (Who Will Take Me Back In)
03 Help Me
04 Mr. Songman
05 Love Song Of The Year
06 It’s Midnight
07 Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming
08 If You Talk In Your Sleep
09 Thinking About You
10 You Asked Me To

SESSION HIGHLIGHTS – THE ALTERNATE ALBUM
11 Promised Land – take 4
12 There’s A Honky Tonk Angel – takes 3,2,7
13 Help Me - take 1 (undubbed master)
14 Mr. Songman – take 2
15 Love Song Of The Year – take 1
16 It’s Midnight – take 9
17 Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming - take 10
18 If You Talk In Your Sleep - take 5
19 Thinking About You – take 4
20 You Asked Me To – ?

MORE SESSION HIGHLIGHTS
21 Promised Land – take 5
22 Love Song Of The Year – take 7
23 It’s Midnight – take 11
24 Thinking About You – takes 5,6
25 You Asked Me To – ?

DISC 2
SESSIONS – THE MAKING OF
01 It’s Midnight – takes 1-4, 8,7
02 You Asked Me To – ?
03 Mr. Songman take 1
04 Thinking About You – rehearsal
05 Thinking About You – take 3
06 Promised Land – take 3,2
07 Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming – takes 2,3
08 Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming – take 4
09 There’s A Honky Tonk Angel – take 1
10 Love Song Of The Year – rehearsal
11 Love Song Of The Year – take 2
12 It’s Midnight – take 10
13 If You Talk In Your Sleep –takes 6,7, 8
14 Mr. Songman – takes 3,6
15 Love Song Of The Year – takes x,y, 8 (undubbed master)
16 You Asked Me To – take 3B (4 ??)
17 There’s A Honky Tonk Angel – takes ?
18 It’s Midnight – takes 15,16
19 Promised Land – take 6 – undubbed master
20 Thinking About You – ?
21 Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming – take 8
22 Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming – take 9

“ELVIS SINGS THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF CHRISTMAS”

DISC 1
THE ORIGINAL ALBUM
01 O Come, All Ye Faithful 2:48
02 The First Noel 2:09
03 On A Snowy Christmas Night 2:49
04 Winter Wonderland 2:17
05 The Wonderful World Of Christmas 1:57
06 It Won’t Seem Like Christmas (Without You) 2:41
07 I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day 3:48
08 If I Get Home On Christmas Day 2:51
09 Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees 2:52
10 Merry Christmas Baby 5:44
11 Silver Bells 2:26

BONUS SONG
12 I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day – remake master 3:43

FIRST TAKES
13 It Won’t Seem Like Christmas (Without You) -takes 1-3 4:36
14 If I Get Home On Christmas Day - take 1 3:37
15 I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day - takes 1-3 7:54
16 Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees - takes 1,2 3:13
17 Silver Bells - takes 1,2 4:41
18 I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day – remake takes 1,2 5:48

DISC 2
01 I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day – take 4 4:58
02 If I Get Home On Christmas Day - takes 2,3 3:51
03 Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees - take 3 2:27
04 I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day – remake take 3 4:24
05 It Won’t Seem Like Christmas (Without You) - takes 4,5 3:03
06 O Come, All Ye Faithful – take 2 4:28
07 If I Get Home On Christmas Day - take 5 3:00
08 The Lord’s Prayer 3:01 (Public Domain)
09 I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day - takes 5,6 4:26
10 Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees - takes 4 2:36
11 It’ Won’t Seem Like Christmas (Without You) - take 6 3:14
12 Merry Christmas Baby – take 1 (unedited version) 8:29
13 I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day – remake takes 4-9 7:24
14 If I Get Home On Christmas Day - take 7 2:57
15 Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees - takes 5-8 3:39
16 Winter Wonderland – takes 7,8 3:53

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Special Moments With FTD 12

This post is dedicated to Michael Jarrett.

”This is a hit for sure,” David Briggs says after the first take and looks up from his piano.

From the other side of the room Terry Blackwood and Joe Moscheo, two of the members of the gospel group the Imperials, nod their heads in agreement.

Elvis, clad in a black, wide-shouldered, V-necked, high-collared jacket trimmed with leather and gold, shares their confidence. The song seems to offer him the challenge he needs, after the assignment of recording his second Christmas album as well as material for a third religious album.

Gone is the Christmas tree with its empty wrapped boxes that has been standing in the center of the room, and with it the drudgery of working on Christmas songs in the midst of spring.

On this the second-to-last night of the session, producer Felton Jarvis is determined to get Elvis to record some contemporary material that can give them a much-needed hit. And the first song of the evening, Michael Jarrett and Sonny Charles’ “I’m Leavin’,” might be just what they are looking for.

But it’s a demanding song. The second take lasts for only about a minute before Elvis stops singing.

“No, me, sorry, I was a little behind on that ‘lonely’, right?” he asks the Imperials that sings harmony with him.

Together they run through, very informally, the unusual structure of the song, starting with the last part of the first short verse and the start of the next, then discussing the la la la refrain and the bridge.

“After that first bridge we did la la la la la la.” Elvis starts singing to demonstrate.

Then Charlie Hodge, easy recognizable in his white and blue patterned shirt, turns to the Imperials to explain.

“We got it. We know what it is. It’s just the ‘la la’s’ done twice, each line twice, Joe Moscheo answers back, a slight note of irritation in his voice.

“Ah, yeah, we’ll try that too in the middle,” Elvis says to smooth things over.

“OK, we’re rolling, count it out,” Felton Jarvis then orders.

What follows is a beautiful third take of the song, to which Elvis and his musicians commit a good deal of hard, sustained effort.

Elvis changes the quality of his voice to emphasize the despairing nature of the lyrics. This, together with the delicate acoustic guitar work by James Burton and Chip Young, as well as the harmony between Elvis and the Imperials, lends the song a haunting quality.

“Phew, man that’s tough,” Elvis declares after the ending. “But this thing is worth working on.”

To listen to the studio outtakes of “I’m Leavin’,” play tracks number 5 and 18 on disc 2 of FTD's Elvis Now released last year. (Take 3 was first made available on FTD’s I Sing All Kinds in 2007.) This post was inspired by the article “The terrible beauty of I’m Leavin’” by Paul Simpson published at the Elvis Australia website.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Meaning Of Elvis

My wife recently bought me a copy of the September/October issue of the Intelligent Life magazine published by The Economist. The reason for this was a big picture of Elvis on the front cover as well as an article inside titled "The King And I" by Ray Connolly.

The article looked promising enough, as Mr. Connolly actually got to go to Las Vegas in 1969 for the London Evening Standard and interview Elvis. Unfortunately I wasn't too impressed after finishing it.

You see, I've read many articles on the same theme through the years. I bet you've seen them too, paying tribute (rightly) to Elvis in the 50's, then pointing out the huge mistake that Elvis did heading for Hollywood ("Elvis, the great inventor, was turning into a plump pudding of banality"), and finally, after admitting that he had a couple of good years around 1968-1972, describing the decline ("He was a drugged-out carricature of himself").

But what about Ray Connolly's meeting with Elvis? Well, after seeing a couple of the shows in August, 1969 ("He didn't [... let us down...] But Elvis did race through several of his biggest hits as though bored with them, and the kung fu moves [...] were plain silly."), he finally got to meet Elvis ("And, in truth, what I got that night was more of an audience at court than an interview.")

In all fairness, reading about the meeting was interesting enough, with Mr. Connolly asking questions about the movie career, praising the Elvis Is Back album (that Elvis liked too) and Elvis talking about doing a world tour.

But Ray Connolly then goes on ventilating his disappointment over the fact that Elvis never did recorded another album like Elvis Is Back, that he never played more serious parts and that he never did a world tour. And then, near the end of the article, he writes something that clearly is a reconstruction that doesn't hold true (but makes for a good ending).

At one of his last concerts in 1977, filmed for TV, he even apologised before singing a song he’d first recorded at 20. His voice, he said, had been a lot higher then. It must have been a bleak moment of self-realisation. That lightness of touch he’d once enjoyed, the way he’d been able to soar and dip effortlessly, often bestowing on a song more mellifluousness or passion than it might have deserved, was gone.

Now, if there was one thing going for Elvis in 1977, it was his voice. Also, he'd used that line about his voice being a lot higher then, since he first started doing "Trying To Get To You" in 1974.

So, what is my conclusion of all this? Troy Y. over at The Mystery Train Elvis Blog pointed me in the direction of a blog penned by Sheila and a post called "I Refuse To Be Sad About Elvis Presley."

It is my personal opinion that focusing on regret when one focuses on Elvis is not the way to go [...]. If one focuses on regret, and the what-might-have-beens, then his entire career starts to look tragic. [...] But change the filter just slightly, move the prism a quarter-inch to the left, and the entire thing seems completely improbable, first of all, as well as totally triumphant, second of all. Who could survive making such a string of bad movies [...] and still come roaring back in 1968, as he did, not only relevant, but dangerous? That 1968 special is dangerous and it wouldn’t have been possible without Presley having been boxed up in a daunting movie contract for the entirety of the 60s.

Maybe if writers like Ray Connolly looked at Elvis in this light instead, their articles would hold much vore value. At least to fans like myself who's interested in more than the 50's and the '68 Comeback Special.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I've Got A Thing About You Baby

Today we celebrated our daughter's first birthday together with family and friends. Though she didn't receive any Elvis gifts like she did a year ago, his music was of course playing in the background.

And speaking of Elvis, I couldn't help looking up how he celebrated Lisa Marie's first birthday. According to Elvis Day By Day the celebration took place in Aspen on a ski-and-snowmobile vacation.

Then, while leafing through the adjacent pages, it hit me how many important and crucial career moves Elvis made during the year following Lisa Marie's birth.
  • He proceeded to make movies in a more adult vein (Live A Little, Love A Little, Charro! and The Trouble With Girls).
  • He did his 1968 Elvis television special, later referred to as the '68 Comeback Special.
  • He (or rather the Colonel) accepted a deal to perform at the yet-to-be-built International Hotel in Las Vegas in July 1969.
  • He choose to record at American Studios in Memphis instead of Nashville, cutting songs such as "In The Ghetto" and "Suspicious Minds," the latter turning out to be his first number-one hit since 1962.
Looking back at my own year since our daughter was born, I'm of course nowhere near an impressive score like that. Still, it's been the greatest time of my life, becoming a father and spending time with my daughter. And Elvis continues to take a part in my life as well.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Got Lucky

At the end of last month a lot of Elvis sites reported that Elvis once again has been rewarded more RIAA Gold and Platinum awards - some of them somewhat unexpected. I was pleased to notice that two of the first Elvis albums I ever listened to were among them.

You see, when I first started to take notice of Elvis I borrowed a couple of his albums from a friend at school. They were Elvis In Concert, A Canadian Tribute, C'mon Everybody, I Got Lucky (now awarded Platinum) and Mahalo From Elvis (now awarded Gold).

I guess every fan gets to know Elvis in a different way. For those who had the privilege to follow his career during his lifetime that way was more chronological than for fans such as myself who discovered him after his death.

To this day I can remember the excitement listening to all those movie songs featured on I Got Lucky and C'mon Everybody. Today I know that the majority of the songs originated from four of Elvis soundtracks (all of them originally released on EP records), but back then I didn't have a clue. But that wasn't important.

What mattered was how happy I felt listening to songs such as "What A Wonderful Life," "Riding The Rainbow," "Fools Fall In Love," and "If You Think I Don't Need You" to name a few.

And although I didn't know a lot about Elvis' career at the time, I quickly realized that he was a versatile singer. A record like Mahalo From Elvis was proof enough. One one side of the LP were songs done in a slow tempo with a Hawaiian feeling (I later learned they were recorded immediately after the Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite show), as opposed to the different sounding movie songs on the other side.

My point is, although far from being Elvis' greatest, albums such as I Got Lucky and Mahalo From Elvis played an important role in me becoming an Elvis fan. That's why I'm glad they were among the new RIAA album awards. I sure got lucky borrowing them from my classmate all those years ago.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Elvis At Fresno Air Terminal Footage



It's always exciting to learn of new footage with Elvis. Today was no exception. Thanks to the Elvis Information Network I found myself watching a clip on YouTube of Elvis at the Fresno Air Terminal as he departs the day after performing his two back-to-back sold-out shows at Fresno's Selland Arena, April 26, 1973.

Lasting about three and a halv minutes,the footage shows the yellow "flying banana" DC-9 aircraft from Hughes Airwest as it arrives at the terminal, then one of the flight attendants looking excited with a camera in her hand, and finally the arrival of two limousines, Elvis exiting the last one, looking cool in one of his Cisco Kid suits, waving in the direction of the camera.

Other familiar faces include Vernon, Red West (wearing a Super Fly hat), Charlie Hodge, Dr. Nick, Joe Esposito and James Caughley a.k.a. "Hamburger James."

Watching the footage I noticed that more than one super 8 camera must have been present as the sequence of Elvis climbing aboard the plane is shown twice, from different angles. Another proof of this is the camera capturing a woman bouncing with happiness, movie camera in hand, as the plane is taxiing away.

I was pleased to see that the closing credits proved me right, stating that the "footage was taken by my mom & aunt¨." Reading this I also understood who the happy boy and girl featured in the footage were, and I smiled to myself as the next line scrolled over the screen: "Of course we missed school that day ;)"

Also check out:
Louisville footage (posted June 1, 2010)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Screaming From Start To Finish

It must've been an incredible experience being in the audience during Elvis' final show for the Louisiana Hayride on December 15, 1956. Thanks to Sony’s RCA/Legacy label and it's release of the 5 CD box set Young Man With The Big Beat it's now possible to join the mass hysteria that took place that night at the Hirsch Youth Center of the Louisiana Fairgrounds.

The third CD of the box set features the show from start to finish (although the first half of "Heartbreak Hotel" is missing) and it's great finally being able to listen to all ten songs from this historical occasion.

From the start it's clear that the audience is going crazy over Elvis. The 9,000 fans that attended are screaming, cheering and yelling constantly during the half hour the show lasts. Lee Cotten describes it as "waves of noise washing across the stage," and that's exactly what it sound like. If it isn't mass hysteria, then I don't know what to call it.

The show kicks off with "Heartbreak Hotel" and already the place is cooking. Elvis then introduces the next number with, "Here's a sad song," and launches himself into a breathtaking version of "Long Tall Sally."

"Hey, are we on radio," he jokes before doing "I Was The One," exaggerating the line "She lived-ahhh, she loved, she laughed, she cried," sending the audience in a frenzy, then changing the line to "I'll never know, I wish it would snow," interestingly enough getting no reaction at all.

"We'd like to do a song from the movie, friends, from which I got blasted... yeah, right here," he kids the audience and then delivers a fine version of "Love Me Tender," extra verse and all. "Now we'd like to do one of my biggest records for you, friends, it's a song called ..." Elvis does "Don't Be Cruel" in a style similar to the one he did eleven days earlier, during the Million Dollar Quartet session, that is, Elvis imitating Jackie Wilson imitating Elvis.

"Love Me" follows, in a version that stays true to the one on his second LP album. The crowd is going absolutely wild. So is D.J. Fontana during the next song, a frantic "I Got A Woman," that drives the audience crazy again. The Jordanaires does a great job on "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again," a version sounding very much like the studio recording as well.

Then it's time for the only known live recording of "Paralyzed." "Nobody move, I think I see Moby Dick," Elvis says before he starts singing, and it's easy to visualize him lifting the microphone stand, just like he would 12 years later right before singing "Don't Be Cruel" during the shooting of his 1968 Comeback Special. Of course, the audience is as far from paralyzed as can be during the song, shouting at the top of their lungs.

Elvis then closes the show with the rousing, extra-long version of "Hound Dog," released in 1984 on the LP titled Elvis: The First Live Recordings. Only this time we get the whole song, including a spoken introduction by Elvis as well: "As a great philosopher once said ... and we quote ... You ain't nothin' but a Hound ..." Awesome!

So, simply put, this is a show you can't afford to miss. And you don't even have to buy the complete Young Man With The Big Beat box set to join the mass hysteria, as the individual tracks are available as downloads on iTunes and Amazon (although the tracks are off limits on Amazon for those of us living in Sweden, while iTunes works just fine).

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Promised Land Next FTD Release?

If one is to believe the Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain one of the November releases from the Follow That Dream label will be Promised Land. In their October/November magazine it's listed as a November 20 release (2 CD 7" Gatefold, track listing to be announced) together with the Four Days In 56 FTD book.

If this is true then it's certainly great news. Promised Land is one of the titles I've been really looking forward to in the classic album series, especially since the top notch Good Times release from FTD in 2009. I actually thought Promised Land would follow shortly after, but apparently the FTD people have been having some difficulty with the tapes, as reported by EIN contributor ElvisSessions from Elvis Week this August.
Ernst discussed “Promised Land” as an example of why it's never a sure thing which FTDs will be coming out in what order. He said he expected that album would have been out more than a year ago, but they were having some trouble with the tapes and had to call in an expert to figure out why the sound wasn't coming out as they expected. Does that mean that project is still in limbo? I wouldn't assume so, just that it is an example of unexpected delays.
Well, maybe the problems have been sorted out and Promised Land has been getting the FTD treatment and is ready for a November release. On the other hand the British fan club has been wrong before, as recently as this summer the June/July magazine reported that G.I. Blues was "understood" to be one of three July releases.

I for one hope the fan club got their facts right this time. He Touched Me and 48 Hours To Memphis followed by Promised Land sounds almost too good to be true.