ALTERNATE TAKE #9

With Steve Barile

ELVIS APPRECIATION 101

In cutting to the chase, I’d like to make my intention for this appeal perfectly clear. I realize that attempting to teach people to think original thoughts is next to impossible, but frustration has gotten the best of me.  So, let me apologize in advance for any hostility you might detect. 

Recently  this most prestigious of Elvis sites had the occasion to remove its chat forum feature due to excessive bickering, complaining, and arguing “ between the fans. ”  Since cyber chat ( thankfully ) is not a necessary priority to my existence, I do not have a clue as to what this cacophony of whining could possibly consist of or what purpose it might serve. It would seem to me that in place of this incessant whining we would be more productive to support each others “ collection endeavors. ”  ( See my alternate take #7 entitled “ Greed, Lies & Videotape. ” )  Rumor has it that most complaints are in regard to the “ repetition ” of soundboard releases and or the tedium of having to listen to multiple takes of studio recordings.  ( What else can be expected? )  Assuming this is correct, the culprits of such bolder dash are a sadder lot than I care to imagine. 

Surely none of us need reminder that we are approaching the 30th Anniversary of Elvis’ death.  Yes, my fantastical thinking friends, Elvis is dead.  Dead people don’t sing.  Elvis hasn’t been able to record anything new in nearly 30 years!  When confronting that unfortunate reality, we must reevaluate exactly what aspect of being an Elvis collector derives the most enjoyment. Is it the collecting of new trinkets sold at the Graceland shops?  Is it the collecting of his image ( photos/videos ) or perhaps collecting the music ( CDs )?  The name of this illustrious website is “ For CD Collectors Only! ”  It is not called “ For Trinket Collectors Only! ”  Nor do I believe trinkets are mentioned anywhere on this site. For this and a few other reasons, I applaud.  With that said, I would imagine that one checks in with this site solely for the audio/video aspect of collecting. That brings me to my favorite part of being an Elvis fanatic…collecting the music and the image. As Elvis squad colleague of mine, the honorable Joe Russo points out in his 30th Fever article, there is ( luckily ) no shortage of new and exciting product available to us addicts with a lot more on the horizon.  If one is not excited by the recent announcement of the April 1st Follow That Dream releases, I must beg the question: short of the resurrection of Elvis’ corpse, what would excite? 

It is known by now that I am a firm advocate of the FTD label and sing the praises of the impeccable effort and thought that goes into these sonically and aesthetically pleasing releases. I shouldn’t have to point out that soundboards and studio outtakes are all that is left in the vaults to appreciate. Let’s not delude ourselves into madness by clinging to unrealistic expectations.  Instead of complaining ad nauseam, we should smile and celebrate each and every “ Good-bye Memphis, ” “ American Way ” and “ So High. ”  The likes of these never fail to exhibit in some way, shape or form, Elvis the artist and musician. 

Allow me to illustrate the genius of Elvis. He was the consummate singer for any number of reasons.  His tonal quality and unique versatility being at the forefront to most educated listeners. However, it was his ability to be musically improvisational that I feel goes largely unnoticed and therefore, unappreciated. 

At this particular juncture, I would like to make a suggestion. The next time you find yourself sitting idly staring or playing with your foot, allow your infatuation with Elvis to motivate you enough to try this potentially gratifying exercise. Listen attentively to your least favorite live show ( soundboard ) and study his vocal inflections.  I promise that somewhere in the performance Elvis will do something vocally ( musically ) that will pleasantly surprise.  Even the “ saddest ” of performances offers a glimpse of the artist. For me, this makes any and all soundboards worth owning. Another of Elvis’ musical attributes attested to by soundboards is the idea that Elvis never sang the same song the same way twice! Embrace the soundboard recordings as an integral part of further education in the area of Elvis appreciation and you will begin to understand the value and overlook the mere pittance of the price tag.   

If one is reluctant to try the above mentioned exercise, we can examine the wonderful world of studio outtakes.  Herein lies the core of the genius in his most creative element practicing his craft.  Listen for yourself to such “ educational ” packages as the “ How Great Thou Art ” sessions, any of the “ classic album ” FTDs or the contemporary series of “ American Way. ”  Musical appreciation for Elvis doesn’t get any better than this!  Listening to him construct, arrange and evolve in song is priceless! 

Provided a gallant effort has been made to heed the above suggestions and one finds his or herself still prone to complaint ( too much $; too many releases; too much repetition, etc. )  I will concede and even accept this as insignificant verbal diarrhea. But do ask yourselves:  How would I feel with the demise of the FTD label?  After all, all things come to an end. Appreciate Now!  ( Also see Mr. Russo’s “To FTD…or Not To FTD” )  On the other hand, if any of the chronic complainers have become miraculously inspired by actually considering my suggestions, may I congratulate you!  Go now and rediscover the enormous body of “ previously unreleased ” material that has been afforded us in the past 30 years. Whether it’s “ imports, ” mainstream boxed sets or FTDs, realize there is no justification for complaint.  Rejoice!  We’ve been able to enjoy fresh Elvis music for 30 years after the fact!  Here endeth the lesson.

Celebrate your graduation! 

Following That Dream,

Steve Barile, Ph.E.D.
 
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