Saturday, November 26, 2011

No Christmas From Elvis In Hollywood

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent, but I cheated and started celebrating the Christmas season today, listening to my favorite Elvis Christmas compilation album If Every Day Was Like Christmas. Elvis' Christmas songs play an important role in helping me get in the "Christmas mode," and while listening to them it struck me that the same certainly can't be said about his movies.

Come to think about it, isn't it a bit strange that no Elvis movie ever took place around Christmas? After all, a lot of pictures do. But in the case of Elvis, sand was a lot more common property than snow.

At the top of my head, I can only recall two Elvis films where it's snowing, and in one of them the snow isn't even the real thing. In Live A Little, Love A Little, Elvis charachter and fashion photographer Greg Nolan has a busy time working two full-time jobs for separate magazines.


One of them is called Classic Cat Magazine, and in one scene Elvis is shooting studio photos of a lightly dressed model standing on a stump in a landscape covered in snow. Fake snowflakes are whirling around the model, thanks to a giant fan. (When Elvis orders the model's skirt raised, the guy handling the fan gets a little too excited and unintentionally sets it at full blast, leading to the destruction of the whole set.)

In Girl Happy, made four years earlier, real snow is falling down in Chicago. Rusty Wells (aka Elvis Presley) and his combo is playing at the nightclub 77 Club, and the snow is clearly visible outside the big windows as they perform the title track at the beginning of the movie.


Not that it's Christmas, though. No, it's Easter, and Elvis will soon have changed the snow for–yes, you guessed it–sand, and sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida. There he and his three band members have to secretly chaperon the daughter of their employer, the nightclub's owner. About as far from a Christmas story as it gets.

No, if you want to get in the Christmas spirit with the help of Elvis, you'd better stick to his Christmas recordings. And while you're at it, why don't you try out Christmas Dreams 2011: An Elvis Playlist for the Holiday Season, by Troy Y. over at his The Mystery Train Blog.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

He Touched Me - A Review

Unlike Elvis' first two religious albums, His Hand In Mine and How Great Thou Art, his third and last one, He Touched Me, was a mix of traditional gospel and more contemporary Christian music. Recorded in Nashville in March, May and June 1971, the recently released FTD treatment of the album opens the door to RCA's Studio B to let us experience these recording sessions first hand. It makes for a fascinating visit.

Listening to Elvis and his musicians at work, one gets the feeling that it was the modern Christian material that demanded their attention the most. (With the exception of the rocking "I've Got Confidence" that Elvis nailed in two takes.) Maybe not that big a surprise, as Elvis was probably already familiar with the traditional gospel songs selected for the album, such as "Bosom Of Abraham" and "I, John."

One example of a song that stretched the bounds of the strictly sacred is "Seeing Is Believing," written by Red West. Elvis runs through 14 takes with his players and singers to record a master to his satisfaction, and ten of the outtakes (four of them complete) are included. This really gets you an idea of how Elvis worked with a song, from discussing the intro, ("No man, the drummer was right ... yeah, I like that bass thing") to working out how the female backup singers should sing with him. ("I think if you do it straight ... seeing, seeing, seeing is believing ... yeah right!) and deciding on a new ending ("We just fade this thing out, let's not do that stop ending"). Of the complete outtakes (two of them previously released), my favorite remains take 7, more funky than the master, and released by FTD on I Sing All Kinds in 2007.

"Reach Out To Jesus" is another treat. Here we get to hear no less than seven abandoned starts of the song. Not that Elvis minds, he is in a laughing mood, throwing in an "Oh happy day" now and then after a failed introduction, evoking laughter from him as well as the musicians. When they finally get past the piano introduction, what follows is a beautiful gospel performance (take 9, the one before the master).

A third chance to study Elvis craft is offered through the seven takes of Jerry Reed's "A Thing Called Love" as well as the rehearsal, where producer Felton Jarvis decides to let bass singer Armond Morales of the Imperials have his own mike. The reason for this is that he's singing in unison with Elvis throughout the song. Elvis is in good spirits here as well, throwing in a verse of "Listen To The Bells" before the forth take. It's also interesting listening to Felton Jarvis blaming Joe Moscheo of the Imperials ("A bad chord on the piano") after a take falls to pieces. "I didn't make that mistake," Joe answers back, and as far as I can tell he's right.

Many of the takes included on the two CD's have been released before, but not with as much studio banter. The second take of "He Touched Me" illustrates this, as we for the first time get to hear the Imperials and Elvis working out the introduction together. Elvis exclaiming "god damn" after the ending because his voice gave out was a new listening experience as well.

Another example is the banter before the second take of "Amazing Grace" (following the first abandoned one) which has Elvis saying "I hit the wrong words, I was singing 'Love Me Tender'," and one of the musicians answering, "You was singing the hell out of it, whatever it was." I think he's right. I actually prefer the bluesy take 2 over the more conservative master.

A third song that offers some interesting studio banter not heard before is "Bosom Of Abraham." "You're the rhythm section," one of the Imperials says after take two falters and comes to a sudden stop. "You're supposed to get it right. We're the singers."

In one instance, the opposite is true as well. When originally released on FTD's Easter Special (2001), the first take of "He Is My Everything" had Elvis singing a bit of "Mean Woman Blues" before trying out the beginning of the song. Here that part is gone.

FTD's He Touched Me follows the formula for the classic album series with the outtakes evenly spread out among each other, that is, not all the outtakes from one song placed after one another. "Makes for more listening pleasure," I think Ernst Jorgensen's explanation was when asked about it sometime. In this case I'm glad for that line of reasoning, as it would have been a bit demanding to listen to five complete, very similar outtakes of "An Evening Prayer" in a row, no matter how sincere Elvis sounds.

The informal performance "The Lord's Prayer" is also included, as is the incomplete "Johnny B. Goode" jam, after which Elvis fools around with a couple of lines from "The First Noel." It would have been nice to get this jam in its continuity, that is, together with the religious song that then followed. Maybe the jam was just found as a snipet on a tape in the way it's presented and that just wasn't possible. Neither the CD's, nor the cover or booklet offers any leads.

Speaking of the cover and booklet, here I have to lodge my only complaint. The track list mentions that "He Touched Me" (take 3) and "He Is My Everything" (take 4) are incomplete, but fails to do so with "I, John" (take 1) as well as "A Thing Called Love" (take 7). I also have a hard time understanding why stage photos of Elvis not wearing the same jumpsuit as on the cover of He Touched Me are featured so prominently.

These are minor details, however. If you're interested in Elvis' religious songs and how he recorded the album that won him his second Grammy, He Touched Me in the classic album series is for you.

One final note. In his book Careless Love, Peter Guralnick writes that Elvis' "attention continued to wander" during the sessions when the songs for He Touched Me was recorded. Maybe that was the case, but it's not something I found evidence of while listening to the outtakes provided by FTD's treatment of He Touched Me.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Reviews From The Past 2

Reading the other day that Elvis Country will be the next Elvis legacy release from Sony (coupled with Love Letters From Elvis) made me remember my brother telling me of the high praise the album received in a review by Rolling Stone's Peter Guralnick when it was originally released.

My brother had read the review after bying a box set called Rolling Stone Cover To Cover, featuring a searchable digital archive on DVD, from the first issue in 1967 through 2007. He recently gave me the box set as a gift, which enabled me to study the review first hand. I'd like to quote one of the passages Peter Guralnick wrote in issue 77, published on March 4, 1971:
It's the singing, the passion and engagement most of all which mark this album as something truly exceptional, not just an exercise in nostalgia but an ongoing chapter in a history which Elvis' music set in motion. All the familiar virtues are there. The intensity. The throbbing voice. The sense of dynamics. That peculiar combination of hypertension and soul. There is even, for those who care to recall, a frenzied recollection of what the rock era once was, as Elvis takes on Jerry Lee Lewis' masterful "Whole Lotta Shakin'" and comes out relatively unscathed. He has never sung better.
While reading this, I imagined how exciting it must have been being an Elvis fan back then, reading the review and then buying the record and listening to songs such as "Tomorrow Never Comes," "Funny How Time Slips Away," "I Really Don't Wan't To Know" and last but not least, the hard-driving "I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water."

Four months later, though, I bet it wasn't as fun to read what reviewer Jon Landau had to say about Love Letters From Elvis in Rolling Stone issue 87, from July 22, 1971:
The first cut is "Love Letters" and it's a beautiful song. Presley's voice is all there and then in comes the schizoid background, half funk and half muzak. And thus it goes for two sides of Presley's latest. The voice is there, some of the material is OK, James Burton is picking away, the rhythm sounds passable, but oh those strings, horns, background voices, and what not. It's enough to drown a grown man - precisely what it does to Elvis on this album. Love Letters is the most discouraging event of the last three years of Presley's career.
So, do you agree with these reviews from the past? After reading the one by Peter Guralnick I gave Elvis Country a spin, and have to concur with what he wrote: Elvis has never sung better.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

From Sweden To Richmond/From Richmond To Sweden: A Little More Conversation

Welcome to the first ever simultaneous post of Elvis Today Blog and The Mystery Train Blog. We're going to try something a little different and present a discussion of Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis: Recorded Live On Stage In Richmond, Virginia – March 18, 1974, one of the latest CDs from Sony's Follow That Dream Records collectors label for Elvis fans.

The Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis title reflects that Elvis closed out his tour two days after the Richmond concert with a show in Memphis - portions of which became the 1974 album Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis.

Troy [The Mystery Train Blog]
I'm glad you thought of this idea, Thomas. I've probably lost all sense of objectivity on this particular release, since it was recorded in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia.

Thomas
[Elvis Today Blog]
Yeah, well, it must have been exciting when you heard of this release. What was your first impression when you listened to it?

Troy

That this was obviously the best Elvis Presley release in history, as I'm sure you'll agree! Just kidding... The first time I played it, I just tried to imagine being there, in the Richmond Coliseum that night.

Thomas
I would've loved to be there, that's for sure. The atmosphere during that particular tour in the southern states obviously was an indescribably electric one, and the shows were of high quality. Have you noticed the joyful laughter from one person in the audience when "Also Sprach Zarathustra" begins? A safe bet is he's one excited man.

Troy
That almost nervous laughter was the first thing I noticed. My other first impression, I was really happy to hear Elvis make Richmond-related references not once, not twice, but three times during the show. I think you've heard more Elvis concerts than I have, Thomas, but I believe it is rare for him to mention what city he is in - outside of Las Vegas, that is.

Thomas
And multiple times at that! Also, I was pleased that he mentioned Sweden as well!

Troy
This is probably the only concert where he mentions both Richmond and Sweden. That's another reason for us to do this post as a joint effort. Now that I think about it, I suppose he very well could have mentioned both during the March 12 show in Richmond, too. This March 18 Richmond show was added because the March 12 one sold out so quickly. So there might be two concerts where he mentions both Richmond and Sweden

Thomas
The reason Elvis mentioned my country is because Sweden's Per-Erik "Pete" Hallin was playing piano for the group Voice at the time. I actually interviewed him once, but that's another story.

Troy
He was a second piano player on the stage at the same time as Glen Hardin? Or just when Voice was opening?

Thomas
I think he was just playing the piano when Voice was opening, and then sang together with them on stage while Elvis was on. Elvis actually mentions Pete at the end of this concert, during "Can't Help Falling In Love," when he sings "... some things, you know, Pete, are meant to be..." He did this two days later in Memphis as well, where he also introduced Pete and the other members of Voice individually.

Troy
I had always wondered who "Pete" was on the Memphis show, so that clears it up. Funny that he gets the exact same mention here on the Richmond concert. As far as I could tell, it is just Elvis doing the same joke, not an audio repair or anything where they pulled it from the Memphis show.

Thomas
I agree, it's the same joke. Elvis obviously liked to recycle his jokes, like the "I saw J.D., with baldheaded Sally" that was used both in Richmond and in Memphis during the "Rock Medley."

Troy

I'm also pretty sure, outside of Vegas, I've never heard Elvis reference the hotel where he stayed. After the introductions on Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis, he thanks Richmond's John Marshall Hotel.

Thomas
Yes, I was actually surprised to hear him mention the hotel. That is unusual.

Troy
So, that first time through, I was really happy with this CD. I was all kinds of worried that I would be disappointed with either the sound or the show itself.

Thomas
Glad you liked the show as well as the sound. Now there's been a lot written about the sound, this being a newly discovered 2-track copy of a 16-track tape.

Troy
Right, we should address the sound controversy. I was already excited about this release when it was first announced. This represents the first official release of an Elvis concert in Richmond, after all. However, when the news later came out that the source of this concert was a 16-track professional recording, rather than the expected soundboard, I think that brought the rest of the Elvis World to where I already was in anticipating this CD.

Thomas

Yes, I was excited when I heard of this, also. A newly discovered 16-track professional recording, where did that one come from?
Troy
That's right. All the fans were excited until FTD essentially said, "Oops, did we mention this was mono?" Then, I think FTD took a lot of heat for that. Some of it deserved, for poor communication. At the same time, I think the reaction by some fans was way overblown. But, hey, I guess that's what Elvis fans do. How did you feel when you found out Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis would actually be in mono?

Thomas
At first, a little disappointed, maybe, but I was looking forward to the album anyway, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised when I listened to the show for the first time. I think the sound is great!

Troy

I agree, the sound is incredible, especially considering that it is from a mono tape. I was glad to be able to put that concern to rest. I'm not someone who hates mono recordings, though. After all, Elvis has quite a few more mono songs that maybe a few of the complainers should try hearing someday. Such "unknowns" as "Mystery Train," "Jailhouse Rock," "One Night," "Baby, Let's Play House," "Love Me," "Santa Claus Is Back In Town," and "Don't Be Cruel" - to name but a few. There are also some 1960s movie soundtrack songs that I think sound better in mono than their stereo counterparts. "Viva Las Vegas" is one that immediately comes to mind. You can never please everyone, though.

Thomas
Yes, they should give them a spin. I remember when RCA made "electronically created stereo" out of a lot of the mono albums - they sounded terrible!

Troy

I'm glad they didn't try that here.

Thomas
Yeah, me too. Thinking about it, it's really incredible that a show in this sound quality surfaces so many years after it was recorded.

Troy
That is the real mystery here, and the liner notes really do nothing to clear that one up. Just the same kinds of speculation all of us were doing when we first heard.

Thomas
Anyway, I bet you're happy it was Richmond they choose.

Troy
37 years late, but yeah!

Thomas
So, what about the actual show, Troy? No doubt Elvis is in good spirits and enjoying his work, wouldn't you agree? He sounds happy and close to laughter on many occasions. "Fever" is probably as close to a laughing version as it gets. "That's a fun song to do!" he says. At the same time, he delivers good, solid renditions of many of the songs. "Steamroller Blues" is one of the highlights to me, as is "Polk Salad Annie" and "An American Trilogy." Not to mention "Trying To Get To You," where he really uses his voice to the fullest.

Troy
Well, jumping right into "Fever," I've never been a big fan of the "I light up when you call my name... ELVIS!" versions of this song, for some reason. So, that is my least favorite track on the album.

Thomas
In a way I agree, but I think the version two days later in Memphis is even worse.

Troy
I agree that the Richmond Fever is better than the Memphis Fever, but it's a bad bug, either way. At times, "Let Me Be There" also grates on my nerves, and don't even get me started on J.D. Sumner's "Amen" dive-bomb routine. However, those are just about the only negatives I ultimately found about this show.

Thomas
Maybe that was a song that was more fun to watch than only hear.

Troy
I was also worried about "Suspicious Minds" - a favorite of mine. I was really disappointed by the Memphis live version of that one when it finally came out a few years ago. So, I was worried that I wouldn't like the Richmond version, either. But it's great, very energetic. It would've been great to see.

Thomas
Yes, by this time he'd performed "Suspicious Minds" for five years or something, and I always thought he was tired of it, when I heard the version from Memphis. But in Richmond he does sound happier with it, that's true, Troy!

Troy
The other highlights for me were "Also Sprach Zarathustra"/"See See Rider," for the excitement of imagining Elvis taking the Richmond Coliseum stage by storm. "Steamroller Blues," which I might like even better than Memphis version, my favorite rendition until this point.

Thomas
I just love the way he shouts "Aargh!" at the intro of "Steamroller Blues," and what then follows really lives up to the song's name.

Troy
Let's see, I also enjoyed the "Rock Medley" - what a great idea for Elvis to link together all those songs. Rather than just do the typical "Hound Dog" throwaway, I think it worked somewhat better like this, at the tail end of the medley. It's still too fast, but not as disappointing as most of the other post-1970 Hound Dogs.

Thomas
For some reason I thought the "Rock Medley" rocked even more than it did in Memphis, and I love the tail end too!

Troy
Yes, the "Rock Medley" was another one that Elvis performed better than its Memphis counterpart. No doubt due to the incredible crowd of Richmonders there to inspire him!
"Polk Salad Annie" was one I didn't care for on Memphis, but loved it in Richmond.

Thomas
I always enjoy hearing Elvis saying things I've never heard in songs before, like during the guitar solo in "Polk Salad Annie" by James Burton where he says something like "Sneak up on him, Ronnie!" I can just imagine him casting a glance in Tutt's direction while saying this.

Troy
Yeah! I guess because we've heard so many of his shows, that's the kind of stuff that stands out to us. While the general public would say, "Why do I need another 'Polk Salad Annie'?"

Thomas
The two songs that got the most serious renditions were the gospel songs, "Why Me, Lord" and "Help Me."

Troy

I was relieved that "Why Me" wasn't a laughing/joking version. Not that I mind some joking, but it seems ill-suited for a gospel song. I think I like the Memphis version of "Why Me" better, though.


Troy

You know, that's one of the terrific things about his show, especially from this time period, the way it brings together so many kinds of music - gospel, country, blues, rock 'n' roll. What other so-called "rock star" could do that?

Thomas
That's true, Troy, Elvis sang "Something for Everybody." Speaking of the gospel stuff, I did miss "How Great Thou Art." But hey, that's a minor complaint.

Troy

Funny, I was just about to say the same thing about "How Great Thou Art," which of course featured prominently on the Memphis concert album. I had a slight twinge of disappointment when I saw the Richmond track listing and it wasn't there.

Thomas
I just love it when he sings the ending one more time in Memphis. And his voice, so powerful, it gives me goose bumps!

Troy
At least the Grammys got that one right. So, what did you think about the bonus songs, recorded in Tulsa and Memphis? I thought it was cool to hear "Sweet Caroline" in 1974. I don't remember hearing that one outside of 1970 before. Also, "Johnny B. Goode" is always welcome.

Thomas
I think the most important thing was that they showed what a difference there is in sound quality between a soundboard and the professionally recorded Richmond concert. And once again I was reminded how very similar "My Baby Left Me" and "That's All Right" sound.

Troy
It was really awesome to hear a 1974 version of "That's All Right" in Memphis. That live performance was just a few months shy of the 20th anniversary of Elvis first recording it at Sun Studio there - the record that started it all.

Thomas
I hadn't thought of that. That is indeed awesome!
Troy
What do you think about Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis being presented in the oversized, 7-inch digipack format usually reserved for FTD's Classic Albums series?

Thomas
I thought it was great that it was presented this way. I'm a bit tired of the live material not getting treated as serious as the classic album series.

Troy
Agreed. If I remember correctly, they originally planned this treatment for As Recorded At Boston Garden last year, but a production issue or something caused them to put it in the standard, smaller format.

Thomas

Or was it the latest 1969 concert, I don't remember.
Troy
That's right, it was actually the Live In Vegas release they originally planned for the larger format. Maybe, FTD now intends to use that format more often? Perhaps, at least on "special" releases of live material where the sound and/or show is of a high quality.

Thomas

Here's hoping the last couple of August 1969 and 1970 concerts will get this treatment.

Troy
That would be great. I hope that's the case as well.

Thomas

Hopefully the 1972 concert in Richmond will also get an official release soon, together with the other shows recorded for Elvis On Tour.

Troy
Yes, that is the Richmond show that has the best chance of also getting an official release in my lifetime. I just hope it's sooner, rather than later. Until Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis came out, I always assumed the Elvis On Tour show would be the first Elvis in Richmond concert I would be able to hear. Do you think the release of this 1974 show will mean that there will be less of a chance of the 1972 Richmond show coming soon?

Thomas
I hope not, Troy. I've heard that Ernst Jorgensen is waiting for Turner/Warner Home Video to make a move with the unreleased footage, to do a combo of sorts, but that won't happen anytime soon, I'm afraid. I just hope he realizes this and releases the shows from Elvis On Tour anyway. For now I'm really pleased with FTD for releasing this Richmond show, it's not an album that's going to collect a lot of dust on the shelf for a long time yet.

Troy
I'm definitely happy about this release as well. This is a special CD that I'll be playing often for the rest of my life. What are your final thoughts on this CD? What are you going to remember most about it?

Thomas
You know what I thought halfway into listening to it the first time? It hit me how happy I am being an Elvis fan, and what a pleasure it gives me to listen to a great concert like the one from Richmond. Also, that Elvis was in great shape during the March 1974 tour, delivering the goods in style! But I guess, I'm gonna remember the most how incredible it is that a professionally Elvis concert like this can suddenly make an appearance out of the blue. It was almost as exciting waiting for it as listening to it. Well, not really, but hopefully you see my point.

Troy
Yes . . . it shows hope that there is still more out there, waiting to be discovered. Things not even rumored to exist.
For me, it was really something to finally hear an Elvis concert recorded here in Richmond. This is something I have dreamed of since I was a little boy, reading over the lists of cities that he visited, wishing that there was a Richmond album to go alongside As Recorded At Madison Square Garden, Aloha From Hawaii, and all the others. It's still hard to believe I now hold that album in my hands.
He appeared here 15 times
. This is number 14, yet he still sounds engaged, like he's having a great time. Obviously, everyone here was, too. It was a fantastic show. Though he came back here once more in 1976, my understanding is that this 1974 concert was his last great show in Richmond. The only thing that could potentially top this feeling for me would be Warner releasing Elvis On Tour: Richmond 1972 on Blu-ray.

Thomas
In that way, I envy you, Troy. As he never came to Europe and Sweden, I can't begin to imagine how great that must feel.

Troy
Thanks again, Thomas. This has been a fun little experiment, but I wonder if people will enjoy reading this kind of post?

Thomas
I sure hope so. At least it was enjoyable to write, so thank you, Troy!

Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis

Live At The Richmond Coliseum, March 18, 1974
01) Also Sprach Zarathustra/
02) See See Rider
03) I Got A Woman/Amen [edited with Memphis, March 20, 1974]
04) Love Me
05) Tryin' To Get To You
06) All Shook Up
07) Steamroller Blues
08) Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel
09) Love Me Tender
10) Long Tall Sally/Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On/Your Mama Don't Dance/Flip, Flop & Fly/Jailhouse Rock/Hound Dog
11) Fever
12) Polk Salad Annie
13) Why Me
14) Suspicious Minds
15) Introductions By Elvis
16) I Can’t Stop Loving You
17) Help Me
18) An American Trilogy
19) Let Me Be There
20) Funny How Time Slips Away
21) Can’t Help Falling In Love/
22) Closing Vamp

Bonus Songs
23) Sweet Caroline [Tulsa, March 1, 1974]
24) Johnny B. Goode [Memphis, March 17, 1974]
25) That’s All Right [Memphis, March 17, 1974]

Friday, November 11, 2011

King Creole - The Music

This evening I sat down and listened to the CD included with the King Creole - the Music book/CD combo while at the same time leafing through the book. This FTD release from 2010 was a birthday gift this year from my wife, but for some reason I haven't taken the time to fully study it until today.

The book is divided in two more or less equally large parts including more than 200 photos, the majority of them never before published, from the recording session and the filming of the song scenes for the movie.

The highlight for me is the first part, showing Elvis at work at Radio Recorders on January 16, 1958, the second day of the sessions (when he recorded "Dixieland Rock," "Lover Doll," "Don't Ask Me Why," "As Long As I Have You," Steadfast, Loyal And True" (first version) and "As Long As I Have You" (movie version). The "audiovisual documentary" concept works well here, studying the photos while listening to the accompanying CD puts you right there in the studio. Or as Piers Beagle writes in his review on the Elvis Information Network website:
There are 92 pages of Elvis recording, playing the piano, talking with the band, Charles O’Curran [Choreographer Paramount] and Hal Wallis [Producer, Paramount] etc. Some of them are truly fascinating. You can feel the music being created – it is almost a movie with plenty of images obviously taken seconds apart.
Speaking of Piers Beagley, I found myself agreeing 100 per cent with his thorough review. And not only about the positive things, such as the brilliant photos in the second part of the book of Elvis giving "King Creole" his all, the sweat stains on his shirt clearly visible.

Just like him I can't understand the decision not to include the extended version of "Crawfish" as well as the instrumental version of "King Creole" (both were released on Hits Like Never Before, Essential Elvis Volume 3 in 1990). It's not like there's any lack of space on the CD - it runs for only about 36 minutes. According to the text on the back of the cover it "includes all known surviving Elvis recordings from the session," but obviously this isn't the case.

And what's more, other tracks could also have been included, such as the song "Bananas" sung by Liliane Montevecchi (like FTD did with "The Climb" by George McFadden on the Viva Las Vegas classic album). After all, five pictures of her performing this song are included in the book. Not to mention the overdubbed movie versions of "King Creole" (with drum roll on the line "he holds his guitar like a tommy gun") and "New Orleans" (with extra Jordanaires vocal backing and finger clicking).

That said, I enjoyed listening to the unique soundtrack from what is probably Elvis' best movie, simultaneously studying him at work during the recording sessions. After all, photos of Elvis in the studio are extremely rarel, and in this quality even more so (only Alfred Wertheimer's famous photographs from 1956 comes to mind). And it's certainly not everyday you get a chance to see Elvis singing his heart out in striped socks!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Poster For The Original Elvis Tribute 2012


Just a short post to tell you that I have received the poster for "The Original Elvis Tribute" show that's playing in Vara, Sweden, on April 7, next year. Arjan Deelen, who's putting the show together, e-mailed it to me today.

I like the way it's retro styled and inspired by the artwork for the 1968 NBC TV Special.

Read more about "The Original Elvis Tribute"

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Thing Called Love

One of the topics I try to cover here on my blog are personal memories I've had through the years having to do with Elvis. After more than four years of blogging I thought I'd exhausted that particular subject, but yesterday another Elvis memory came to me.

While listening to "A Thing Called Love" from the He Touched Me album I suddenly remembered the first time I heard that song. In my mind I was transported back in time and place, to a summer evening at my grandparents cottage in Denmark, where I spent all my summer vacations.

Like a lot of my Elvis memories some parts are still clear while others are more blurred. I do remember sitting in the sofa with my grandparents' old transistor radio in front of me on the table, turning the tuner knob on the AM band, trying to find some Elvis music. I think the reason for this was that the it was August 16, 1982, five years after Elvis death, but I'm not 100 percent sure.

But this I remember vividly: suddenly the radio noise transforming itself to an Elvis song sounding from the speaker that I'd never heard before. Yes, you guessed right, it was "A Thing Called Love." With the help of the tuner knob I tried to make the sound as clear as possibly, and was rewarded with even more Elvis music.

As it turned out, I'd stumbled over some kind of Elvis radio special. Here my memory fails me again, but I think it was a broadcast from West Germany, playing from 9 PM to midnight. I do recall my grandparents going to bed (my grandpa after smoking his pipe in his rocking chair), leaving me with the radio and Elvis. I also remember hearing other Elvis songs for the first time, I think "It's Midnight" was one of them.

I'm glad this particular Elvis memory returned to me yesterday. It made me think of, not only the first time I heard "A Thing Called Love," but also of all the happy vacations I spent with my grandparents at their summer house.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Original Elvis Tribute Is Coming To Sweden

A couple of months ago I wrote that “The Original Elvis Tribute” will return for another tour in Europe in April 2012. This week Arjan Deelen, who produces the show, sent me an e-mail where he let me know that he was adding Sweden to the tour schedule.

The news thrilled me as I missed the show the last time it visitied my country, back in 2009. Now it looks like I'm getting a second chance. So I asked Arjan if he could write something about the show that I could post on my blog to share with you. And here it is:
I’m very pleased to announce that ‘The Original Elvis Tribute’ will be back in Sweden next year. The show will take place at Vara Konserthus on Saturday, April 7th, 2012. This show promises to be very special and will include five people who have worked with Elvis:

* Bobby Wood on keyboard - A true music industry giant who has worked with artists like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Neil Diamond. Mr. Wood’s work with Elvis includes playing on the comeback album FROM ELVIS IN MEMPHIS (1969), as well as on classics like “Suspicious Minds” and “In The Ghetto”;

* Duke Bardwell on bass – A phenomenal singer / songwriter who did more than 180 shows with Elvis as his bassplayer, and who also worked in the studio with him in 1975;

* Mary & Ginger Holladay on backing vocals – a widely respected backing group who sang on numerous hits, in Elvis’ case on a.o. “Suspicious Minds”, “In The Ghetto”, “The Wonder Of You” and “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me”. Elvis loved their voices, and they sang on 14 of his original albums! Ginger Holliday is one of the very few people who actually got to sing a duet with Elvis in the studio. The Holladay Sisters have never been in Europe before for an Elvis tribute tour, so this is a real scoop;

* Jerome ‘Stump’ Monroe on drums – Mr. Monroe was a part of the Elvis Presley show from 1969 – ’77, primarily to play drums for all the warming up acts. However, on those occasions where Elvis’ regular drummer was unable to do the show, Monroe played drums for Elvis, which he did in ’71, ’75 and ’77. He was the last drummer to play “Love Me Tender” and “One Night” with Elvis.

Leadsinger is the charismatic Robert Washington, who has dazzled audiences in the US, Europe and Japan with his fantastic voice and showmanship. Mr. Washington’s singing voice is remarkably close to Elvis’. Both Elvis’ friends and family have praised him, and he won the title “The World’s Best Elvis” in Memphis on several occasions.

Here’s a few clips from the shows in May ’11:
http://youtu.be/alqy2JOKaHk (How Great Thou Art)
http://youtu.be/qqYut7QBFx8 (Young & Beautiful + Mystery Train / Tiger Man)
http://youtu.be/pjGclv8672g (Always On My Mind)
http://youtu.be/f2kaSgKJ-6U (Walk A Mile In My Shoes)

This show will be an exclusive for Sweden, and Vara Konserthus only has a capacity of 500, so order your tickets today if you want to avoid disappointment. The price is 395 kr. per ticket and they can be ordered from the venue: www.varakonserthus.se

After the show, there will be a meet and greet with plenty of opportunity for everybody to talk to these legendary musicians or have your photo taken with them. ‘The Original Elvis Tribute’ has played for ecstatic audiences everywhere it went, so don’t miss this remarkable show. Let’s commemorate the 35th anniversary of Elvis’ passing in style and join us for a one-of-a-kind celebration of the man and his music at Vara Konserthus on April 7th, 2012. Additional info on www.elvisnews.dk