'24 Carat Gold' by Label 2001 is a wonderful document of that period, supplemented with some late sixties movie outtakes. It's a two CD set, the first contains complete and (near-)perfect takes, mainly from the Nashville recording sessions, the second consists of several outtakes of some of the same songs.
Right at the beginning, with the two snare drum hits that start up Fame And Fortune, it becomes clear that this CD set is a special one. The sound quality is abolutely stunning, and although take 5 is quite similar to the released version, it's like hearing Fame And Fortune for the very first time. Next is take 2 of Gently, with Elvis almost singing bass during the verses, desperately looking for that low note. Needless to say, eventually, he gets it. At take 1 of There's Always Me, Elvis is still figuring out this beautiful love song, experimenting with his voice and trying to find out how to handle it. The Jordanaires and Millie Kirkham already know just that, and they steal this take away from Elvis.
The next few songs are quite similar to the released versions, and just when you are used to the sound quality and start to ask for a little more, there's Fountain Of Love. Take 9 of this song is completely different from the official version. It sounds like it's played with a dozen spanish guitars (though it isn't, it's not even overdubbed!) and Elvis' voice almost drowns in it. Halfway through the song he takes over and remains in charge right up to the end. A true gem. Night Rider is one of the weaker songs Elvis recorded in Nashville (but it's not half as bad as Blue River!), and also take 5 of this song never convinces. Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello is a slower version, and here I prefer the original.
Take 1 of Echoes Of Love is an almost perfect take, but Elvis loses his concentration on the second verse -when
one of the musicians
makes a small mistake-, quikly finding it back and ending the song without any flaw. Please Don't Drag That String Around is another highlight of the set, it's somewhat slower than the released take and it has a great beat to it. Take 1 of Ask Me is next, and then, suddenly and unexpected, there's the piece de resistence of the set. I always thought of Western Union as a pleasant, well done, but insignificant song, much like for instance Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers. But here it's almost as good as A Fool Such As I. Elvis clearly has fun doing this song, and everything, from the heavy drumming to the handclapping during the instrumental break makes sense. And all that, again, in a superb sound quality. This song alone makes buying '24 Carat Gold' worth the money. After take two of Love Letters, which Elvis treats very tenderly, there are a few songs Elvis recorded for the movie Clambake. It shows that even at the lowpoint of his career he recorded some beautiful songs. Unfortunately, they were hidden between the likes of Confidence and Queenie Wahini's Papaya, so they never received the credit they deserved.
Take 11 of US Male ends the first CD of the set, that's a must have for every Elvis fan, or even every music collector for that matter. '24 Carat Gold' is Elvis Presley at his best. And we all know how good that is.
Sound rating *****