Category Archives: ALBUMS

MY FTD WISH LIST

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

THE LOST ALBUM

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In the early 60s, Elvis got into a routine of going to Nashville every spring to do recording sessions at RCA’s famed Studio B.  These would be considered non-soundtrack sessions, because almost all other recording Elvis did during those years was for movie soundtracks.  These annual spring recording sessions in Nashville in ’60, ’61, and ’62 produced a cache of songs to be released as singles. 

 

That is also the way it went after the recording sessions at Studio B on May 26-27, 1963.  A new 45 release followed within a month.  “Devil In Disguise” was the A-side, and it went to #3 on the charts.  The B-side was “Don’t Drag That String Around,” written by Otis Blackwell (“Don’t Be Cruel”).  Another good song, “Witchcraft,” was the B-side to “Bossa Nova Baby,” released in October that year.

 

After the spring Nashville sessions in ’60, ’61, and ’62, Elvis released a new non-soundtrack album each year.  Col. Parker decided they would not include any hits.  He was correct in believing the fans would still buy the albums anyway, and then later all the hits could be included in one of many Elvis “Best Of” compilations. 

 

So, the cycle for albums following the spring Nashville sessions was this: 1960 – Elvis Is Back,” 1961 – “Something for Everybody,”  1962 – “Pot Luck.”  However, in 1963 there was no regular non-soundtrack album released.  Pretty strange, considering that they had 13 brand new songs in the vault.  It’s an interesting story.

 

Actually, RCA did have an album using these recordings scheduled to come out in the fall of 1963, but then they decided they had enough songs for Elvis Golden Records 3, so they issued it instead.  Why bother with untested studio material when a greatest-hits record is a sure thing?  Next up was the Fun In Acapulco soundtrack release in November ’63, and two extra songs were needed for filler.  “Love Me Tonight” and “Slowly But Surely” were pulled from the remaining unused spring ’63 Studio B recordings.“

 

By April 1964, it was time for the Kissin’ Cousins soundtrack.  This movie was also short of enough songs for a full album, so again songs from the May ’63 Nashville sessions were used: “Long Lonely Highway” and “Echoes of Love.”  That was the death knell for the concept of an album of all the May ’63 Studio B recordings (less the hits, of course).  Two songs made it into the standard album Elvis for Everyone in 1965.  Four of the remaining songs were used in the soundtrack albums for Double Trouble in 1967 and Speedway in 1968. 

 

Finally, in 1991, RCA decided to right a wrong and finally released a CD of the May ’63 recordings.  It is appropriately titled The Lost Album, and I would rather own it than some of the other more recent CDs containing “Previously Unreleased Recordings.”  Elvis was just 28 in 1963, and he was still rocking pretty good.  The session featured three guitar players (led by Scotty Moore) playing on each song, and it had a double drum kit: DJ Fontana and Buddy Harman.  Elvis also had Floyd Cramer on piano, Boots Randolph on sax, Bob Moore on bass, and the Jordanaires and Millie Kirkham on vocals, bringing the group assembled there up to all-star status.

 

For my money, I think the best song on The Lost Album is “Memphis,” written and first recorded by Chuck Berry.  I also like “Devil In Disguise,” “Witchcraft,” and “Slowly But Surely.”  The rest of the songs are well described by Earnst Jorgenson in Elvis Presley, A Life in Music.  He said they “were all passable, and their flawless, pleasant sound make them records Elvis fans could enjoy.”

 

If you would like to own The Lost Album, it won’t come cheap.  You can find used copies on Amazon for $44 and up.  Ebay has a used copy for $35 and a sealed one for $50.  If you are not a collector, but would just like to hear the music, you can find cassettes and CDs that seem to be later RCA/BMG re-releases.  They are titled For The Asking (The Lost Album).  The song list is the same, and they cost less than $8 on Ebay.

 

So, if the concept of an unreleased Elvis album from 1963 interests you, check out The Lost Album.

 

©  2007   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.elvisblog.net

 

ONE EARLY NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE ON ELVIS DIDN'T SLAM HIM

A few weeks ago we looked at a scathing review of Elvis’ second appearance on the Milton Berle Show by the Times’ TV critic, Jack Gould.  In another Elvisblog article, we noted the disdain shown by the Times’ movie critic for Elvis’ first few movies.  So, it may come as a surprise that the Times music critic, John S. Wilson, actually had some good things to say about Elvis’ second album, Elvis.

 

John S. Wilson had a four-decade career with the New York Times, starting in 1952.  He was the newspaper’s first critic to cover popular music.  He wrote about blues, cabaret, Latin, folk, pop, and his favorite, jazz.  Wilson’s article on January 13, 1957, was a four-column piece about Elvis.  The text framed around and under a good 4×6 photo of him centered on the page.  It was titled, “Elvis Presley: Rocking Blues Shouter.”

 

Mr. Wilson certainly knew his blues, and early in the article, he makes the argument that Elvis was imbued with the spirit and style of Negro country blues singer Big Bill Broonzy.  I have a little Broonzy music, and I can see where Wilson was coming from.  He continued, “His outright rock ‘n’ roll efforts generally are based on an exaggeration of his blues roots.”  OK, I buy that.  However, Wilson totally shot the mood by saying, “essentially, rock ‘n’ roll is a grotesque extension of the blues.”  Uh, oh.  This guy doesn’t like rock ‘n’ roll, I thought, and he’s going to slam Elvis.

 

But, no.  Wilson used great phrases like, “he is tuned to his times with …catalytic precision” and, “He will eventually settle into the mainstream of popular singers.”  I didn’t quite get it when Wilson wrote that Elvis’ music was “all amplified to brain-shattering proportions by doom-filled echo chambers.”   What?  The Sun Records echo sound is now recognized as pure musical genius, so Wilson was just wrong on that one. 

 

More than halfway through the article, Wilson finally got to the business at hand – his review of the new album Elvis.  He called the song “So Glad You’re Mine” an excellent, practically unalloyed, sample of country blues.  He described “Any Place Is Paradise” as another basically strong blues.

 

When Mr. Wilson finished talking about his favorite songs on the album, he started talking about Elvis, the singer.  The next two paragraphs are word-for-word from the article.

 

Mr. Presley is completely at home with the shouts, the whoops, the hoarse zest and the plaintive cry of the country blues singer.  When he is using these devices with artless skill, he is a genuinely exciting performer.

 

And on the artful side, Mr. Presley should not be underestimated.  Between his first disc, Elvis Presley, and his second, Elvis, the improvement in his diction, in the use he makes of his strong natural voice, and in the thoughtfulness of his presentations is very marked.  All these suggest that his horizons are far from limited. 

 

Boy, was John S. Wilson right about that.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed the nearly fifty-year-old article, “Elvis Presley: Rocking Blues Shouter.”  It is probably my favorite in the New York Times Elvis commemorative newspaper called The King.   However, even the articles I don’t like make excellent topics for Elvisblog, so we will return here again.

 

©   2006   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.elvisblog.net 

 

Elvis' Best Album

2006 is the 50th anniversary of many things in Elvis’ history: his first hit song, his first TV appearance, his first album, his first movie.  It’s also the 30th anniversary of his best album, at least in the opinion of most music critics.  Can you name it?

 

Well, the year was 1976, so what came out then?  If you remembered Moody Blue, that’s a good guess, but wrong.  It may be his most unusual because of the blue vinyl, but it’s not his best.

 

Perhaps you are thinking Elvis’ best album should be Blue Hawaii, because it was certainly his best seller (over 5 million copies — and it stayed #1 on the charts for twenty straight weeks).  Or maybe it should be his first LP, Elvis Presley, which was the first rock & roll album to reach #1, and it completely changed the buying habits of America’s teenagers (who previously bought only 45’s, not long-play albums).  No, that’s not it either, according to most print and Internet music critics.

 

They say Elvis’ greatest album is The Sun Sessions.  Now you’re thinking, “You mean Elvis’ recordings at Sun Studios weren’t released on an album until twenty years after they were recorded?”  Strange, but true.  Here’s another strange fact.  The Sun Sessions was not released on CD until 1999, about fifteen years after compact discs took over as the dominant musical format.

 

So, who says The Sun Sessions are Elvis’ greatest album?  The most recent was Rolling Stone magazine in their list of the “500 Greatest Rock & Roll Albums.”  Overall, they treated Elvis’ albums rather poorly, but they did pick The Sun Sessions as #11.  They printed a mini-review after each selection, and this is what they had to say, “Bridging black and white, country and blues, his sound was revolutionary… In a tiny Memphis studio in 1954 and 1955, Sam Phillips and Elvis Presley created rock & roll.”

 

Three years ago, VH1 had a similar poll called “The Top 100 Albums of Rock & Roll,” and they declared The Sun Sessions the 21st best ever.  Elvis Presley had Elvis’ next highest album ranking on the Rolling Stone list, coming in at #55.  However, it did not make the VH1 list at all.  That’s no surprise.  Not one album from the 50’s made the list.  Not Here’s Little Richard.  Not The Buddy Holly Story.  Ridiculous.

 

Here’s one more interesting piece of trivia about The Sun Sessions.  According to Rolling Stone, it reached only #76 on the charts the year it was released, and total sales after 26 years are up to only 346,781.  However, if significant critical reviews keep praising it, The Sun Sessions should continue to sell for many decades into the future.  For my money, it’s not just the historical significance that makes it a must-have.  It’s a fun CD.  With the exception of two wimpy ballads on it (which I program the player to skip), The Sun Sessions is a delightful collection of fun, rockabilly music.  It gets plenty of play at my house.

 

©  2006   Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net

Elvis and the Grammy Awards

Most fans are aware Elvis won only three Grammy Awards, and that they were all for Gospel recordings.  There’s a lot more to the story.

 

How could the King of Rock & Roll not win any Grammys for his rock & roll records?  One big reason is that the Grammy awards did not start until 1958.  In 1956 and 1957, Elvis changed the sound of popular music and had hit after hit.  If there had been Grammy Awards for those years, Elvis surely would have won a cabinet full of trophies.  How could he have been denied the title for Best Vocal Performance, Male, or Best Performance By A Top 40 Artist?

 

An Elvis song would have been a shoo-in for Record Of The Year in 1956 with choices like “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Love Me Tender,” “Hound Dog,” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”  The Album of the Year for 1956 would undoubtedly have gone to Elvis’ first RCA album, Elvis Presley.  In 1957, the choices for Record of The Year would have been “Too Much,” “All Shook Up,” “Teddy Bear,” and “Jailhouse Rock”.  ”  Elvis’ Christmas Album was the definitive rock & roll Christmas album of the period and would have been a strong contender for Album of The Year.

 

Elvis was off in Germany in the Army when the Grammy Awards were created in 1958,and he had no nominations.  However, the next year he received three.  “A Fool Such As I” was a nominee for Record of The Year, but got beat by Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife,” a really huge hit.  “A Big Hunk of Love” received two nominations.  However, Nat King Cole won Best Performance by A Top 40 Artist for “Midnight Flyer” (I can’t say that I even remember the song), and Dinah Washington won Best R&B Performance for “What A Difference A day Makes.”

 

1960 was Elvis’ best year for Grammy nominations with five, but he was up against Ray Charles who was having a huge year.  “Are You Lonesome Tonight” had three nominations:  Record of the Year, Best Vocal Performance, Male, and Best Performance by a Pop Singles Artist.   “Theme From A Summer Place” by Percy Faith won the Record of the Year, and Georgia On My Mind” by Ray Charles took the other two categories.  He won a total of four Grammys in 1960.

 

Elvis had two album nominations in 1960, both for the GI Blues.  However, Ray Charles beat him again.  The Genius of Ray Charles took the award for Best Vocal Performance, Male, Album.  The Best Soundtrack Album award went to Ernest Gold for Exodus.

 

Elvis had another shot at Best Soundtrack Album in 1961 with Blue Hawaii.  Ray Charles didn’t beat him, but Henry Mancini did with Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

 

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For the next five years Elvis was making movies and none of his songs or albums received Grammy nominations.  In 1967, he finally won a Grammy for Best Sacred Performance for the album How Great Thou Art, which sold over a million copies and reached #18 in the Top Albums Chart.  In 1968, he was nominated in the same category for the single “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” but the award went to Jake Hess for “Beautiful Isle Of Somewhere.” 

 

In 1972 Elvis won his second Grammy when his album He Touched Me took the Best Inspirational Performance award.  In 1974 Elvis won this category again for his third and last Grammy.  But instead of winning for a single or an album, Elvis won for the live version of the song “How Great Thou Art” from the album Elvis Recorded Live On Stage in Memphis.

 

It should be noted that the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences partially rectified their earlier snubs of Elvis by granting him their Lifetime Achievement Award in 1971.

 

 


©  2005    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net
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ELVIS JUKEBOX RANKINGS

Guess what is Elvis’ most successful record in terms of jukebox play?

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According to the Amusement & Music Operators Association, it is HoundDog/Don’t Be Cruel from 1956, the 3rd biggest jukebox hit of all time.  This trade association of jukebox owners, operators, and suppliers compiled their list back in 1989 (100th anniversary of the jukebox).  They updated it again in 1996, and there were no changes in the top of the rankings.

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So,Hound Dog/Don’t Be Cruel seems to be permanently locked into the #3 position.  It’s no surprise that this double-sided hit got the most play of all the Elvis records featured on jukeboxes.  Hound Dog stayed at the top of the record charts for twelve weeks, and then Don’t Be Cruel took over the next week.   That’s a long run of popularity during an age when jukeboxes were really big.

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What two songs could possibly beat Elvis?  #2 is the 1979 Bob Seger hit. Old Time Rock & Roll, no doubt helped by Tom Cruise singing it in his underwear in the movie, “Risky Business.”  #1 is Crazy by Patsy Cline.  That song came out in 1962, but I’ll bet you can still find it on some jukeboxes in 2005.  Talk about staying power.  Elvis’ next best finish in the jukebox rankings is All Shook Up at #38.  Seems like it should be higher.

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© 2005  Philip R Arnold