About ten years ago, I decided I wasn’t buying any more Elvis music. I had over fifty albums, around a hundred 45s, nearly twenty EPs, several dozen cassettes, and a handful of CDs. The new compilations didn’t interest me, and I wasn’t buying re-releases of anything just to get a few bonus alternate tracks. Since then, I have accumulated new CDs like 30 #1 Hits and 2ND TO NONE as family members gave them to me for Christmas presents, but I stayed true to my plan and did no buying of my own.
Now I am starting to waver. Right after New Years, I worked on a blog article reviewing the events of Elvisworld in 2006, and I mentioned the five CD releases in the Follow That Dream (FTD) series. I was surprised to learn how many choices there were in the series and made a note to study them in more detail. Now that I have, it’s probably time to change my thinking and order a few that sound pretty good.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Follow That Dream series, here is a little background. Sony/BMG, the company that bought RCA in the mid-80s, started the FTD label in 1999. It was to serve the dedicated Elvis collector, not the public at large. It was also a response to the thriving business in bootleg Elvis records and CDs. As the EPE website, www.elvis.com, states, “The volume of unofficial audio product in the marketplace reached a level which Sony/BMG and EPE could no longer tolerate.” Well, they had access to a huge inventory of Elvis outtake and specialty material, so why not beat the bootleggers at their own game?
The man who made it all happen is Ernst Jorgensen, a Danish Elvis fan who went to work for BMG in 1988. While he assisted in putting together several Elvis Presley albums for the European market, Jorgensen continued his passion to chronicle the details of the many Elvis recording sessions. In 1998, he published the wonderful book, Elvis Presley, A Life in Music. Ernst Jorgensen was uniquely qualified to handle the Follow That Dream project.
There are now 62 FTD releases offered by EPE on www.shopelvis.com. It was quite a job reading the info on each one to see what interested me. Automatically skipping the dozens of 70s concert soundboards helped. I also have no interest in spending $30 for a CD of nothing but outtakes. I would love to listen to them once, just out of curiosity, but that’s all. And finally, I passed on the releases with six or seven alternate takes of the same songs.
So, what are the releases that interest me? The first is Too Much Monkey Business, which is an expansion of the 1981 album release Guitar Man. For the latter, producers Felton Jarvis and Chip Young lifted Elvis’ vocals off original tapes and recorded new backing tracks using a group of session musicians. This was two decades before the same procedure was used for the hugely successful “A Little Less Conversation.” For my money, the best songs on Guitar Man are “Too Much Monkey Business,” “I’m Moving On,” and the title song. The alternate instrumentation gave the songs a more modern sound, and some ended up as distinctly country tunes. In fact, Guitar Man had a 31-week run on the country music charts, going as high as # 6. It also went to # 49 on the Billboard pop album charts.
The FTD release of Too Much Monkey Business includes the ten songs on Guitar Man plus ten more originally redone in 1981 but not included in the album. The most interesting sounding new songs are “Burning Love,” “In The Ghetto,” “Hey Jude,” “Kentucky Rain,” and “Blue Suede Shoes.” So, when you play Too Much Monkey Business, you are hearing a collection of twenty songs that have never before been assembled together, and they all sound different than the versions you know. This is my idea of something different for the Elvis collector who enjoys listening to his collection and not just accumulating oddities.
However, if you like outtakes and studio chatter and the like, the Follow That Dream label has the CDs you want. Next week, we will discuss some of them, including the other favorite on my wish list.
© 2007 Philip R Arnold All Rights Reserved www.elvisblog.net