Parts of it have already been released on several other CD's (The Complete G.I.
Blues Sessions Volumes 1 to 3, with only the April sessions, in less sound
quality, the two Bilko releases G.I. Blues Anniversary Editions 1
and 2 and recently the RCA re-release of G.I. Blues with some outtakes, and
some other import releases), but if you want to have it complete get this one:
it includes almost every take recorded during the sessions.
The CD set was first released in September 1996 in France by Tulsa Records
(Elvis plays G.I. Tulsa McLean in the movie) as a four CD set and one 12" vinyl
LP with the best alternate song takes from the sessions. It came in a deluxe
gatefold package with the size of a double LP (like The Complete Spinout
Session and The Complete Franky & Johnny Session), while the CD's are in
individual sleeves in the package. A selection of photographs from G.I. Blues
is on the cover. Only 500 copies were printed. The first 4 CD's hold about 70
minutes of music each resulting in a total of 5 hours of session music. The
LP lasts 39 minutes.
Soon after the release in France it was copied in Germany under the same label
name, but now the LP replaced by a fifth CD. This five CD set came in a
cardboard box with the size of an ordinary CD box, unfolding it shows all five
CD's and each flap contains a photo showing Elvis in Army uniform and the track
listing of a CD. Small detail: the 'address' of the German label is Goethestr.
14, D-61231 Bad-Nauheim, Germany which was Elvis's former address in Germany.
So far about the set itself.
In august 1959 Hal Wallis came to Germany with a film crew of 40 people to
shoot backgrounds for Elvis first post-Army film to be called Cafe Europa.
Cameras rolled in Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Idstein-Am-Dem-Rhein and Friedberg
(place of Elvis's Army base). The final title of the film became G.I. Blues as
we all know.
G.I. Blues (1960), Elvis' first film after his discharge from the Army, was a
marked departure from his earlier films. It was the beginning of Elvis'
transition from the bad boy rock and roller of the late 1950s to the
wellgroomed balladeer that he would come to be in the 1960s. Fearful that his
fans had forgotten him, Elvis sets out to capture a broader audience. He
miserably agreed to retain his regulation haircut and dug out his khaki uniform
for his role as Tulsa McLean, a G.I. stationed in Frankfurt who becomes
involved with Lili, a night-club dancer. Songs and many misunderstandings
followed, along with the inevitable happy ending.
Recording techniques had improved enormously. Stereo, previously seldom used in
popular music recordings, was now a matter of course, and its greater fidelity
brought a more natural sound and a more creative approach to recording pop and
rock. Besides, during his Army time, Elvis had worked hard on his voice in the
Goethestrasse, leading to a larger range and smoother transitions. The
sound-track for G.I. Blues was recorded end of April and beginning of May,
just a few weeks after the recording sessions for his first post-Army album
'Elvis Is back!'.
The sound-track for G.I. Blues contains a mix of songs, from soft ballads to
more rocky tunes, sprinkled with European influences to the express the 'coleur
locale' of the film. The movie big song was Wooden Heart, a number far removed
from the rabble-rousing rock of pre-army days and he sang not to co-star Juliet
Prowse but to a puppet. Nevertheless, the track sold two million copies in
Germany, where they obviously regarded him as an adopted son, and reached
number one the charts in Britain as well (LP 55 weeks on the charts, 22 weeks
on number 1). Approximately 7.500.000 LP's of the sound-track were sold and
the movie reached number 2 in Variety's Box Office listing of 1960. In 1961 the
movie was a big hit in Europe.
What about the music on this CD set? I will not discuss each take separately
and indept but picked out some of the highlights of the set trying to describe
the mood he and the band were in during the sessions. We get it all here:
laughter, swearing, fooling around with the band and a sore throat. Between
some of the takes we can here Elvis referring to his Army time (with terms like
commanding officer, forward observer) and he uses some German expressions (like
'was?' translated as 'what?' if something goes wrong, or 'achtung', translated
as 'attention'). Not all of the conversations between takes are put on this CD
set. Probably another 5 CD's could have been filled with it (if it was recorded
I also included which takes are false starts, break downs or complete. A false
start: usually wrong count, wrong musical tempo, instrument crack, voice crack,
laughter, etcetera. A break down: sometimes a word/sentence not correct,
sometimes no reason to hear at all and more than about 20 seconds on its way.
Take numbers are listed alphabetically from A to R (I and O not included) and
the second letter denotes 'Orchestra'. Inserts or additional takes get an
additional letter X.
Place yourself in a corner of your room, sit back, close your eyes (well, not
really), imagine you're in the RCA or Radio Recorders sound studio in the early
60's and drift away for the next 5 hours. Relax, if the phone rings, let it.
Just forget it, we're not at home.
"Shoppin' Around" (AO 1-4, instrumental).
The session on Wednesday April 27th at RCA Studios in Hollywood starts with the
instrumental of "Shoppin' Around", where only take 4 is complete. Apparently
take 3 is missing. (false start: take 1; break down: take 2, complete: take 4)
"Shoppin' Around" (BO 1-11).
On takes 1 to 4 the drums are in the foreground and determine the bouncing
rhythm of the song. From take 5 and on the guitar is more prominently present
in the intro and throughout the song (Elvis plays guitar on this one). Between
takes not much is said. The first offensive words on this CD set can be heard
when after 3 false starts the song breaks down again at take 9: 'son of a'.
Nothing more, nothing less. Two complete takes follow so it seemed to have
helped in this case. The song was re-recorded on May 6th at a slower tempo for
the movie sound-track. (false start: 6,7,8; break down: 2,3,4,9; complete:
"Didja Ever" (CO 1).
This is a typical army type song with a tune that is open to any lyrics one
comes up with. We can hear the baritone tuba clearly. When the engineer
mentions 'CO take 1', Elvis repeats 'Commanding Officer'. We get here only take
1. According to Tunzi the second take is the master take. Before the song was
actually recorded on tape they practiced in the studio. Here we can hear
someone say 'Charlie, keep the tempo up' before they actually start the first
take of the song.
"Doin' The Best I Can" (DO 1-13) is a slow ballad, sung in the Ratskeller Club
in the movie. On this song he's in full control of his voice using his wide
range from low to high. After 2 false starts and 2 break downs (after take 7)
somebody announces that its time for one more take before they must have a
lunch break, since it's two o'clock. After a false start they tape a complete
take 9. Take 10 is probably taped after lunch since the man who's announcing
the take numbers is confused about what take he is mentioning. A chair
squeaked. 'Got any oil?'. Tempo of the song is not changed during the session.
(false start: 1,4,6,8; break down: 2,5,7,10,11; complete: 3,9,12,13. Master
take is take 13)
"G.I. Blues" (EO 1-10).
The title song of the movie is a march rhythm. Although he had a great time in
Germany this song comes closest to what he really must have felt about the
film: 'Gimme a muddy old creek in Texas any old time', 'I'd blow my next
month's pay for a slice of Texas cow', 'And if I don't go stateside soon I'm
gonna blow my fuse'. Not much interesting is said between takes. After a messy
ending of take 7, Elvis comments to Hal Wallis, who was in the studio while
this song was recorded 'the ending was messed up anyway, so I didn't bother to
say it'. The master take is take 7 with probably the end of take 6. Takes 8, 9
and 10 are inserts with the end of the song. (false start: 1,8; break down:
2,3,4; complete: 5,6,7,9,10)
"Tonight Is So Right for Love" (FO 1-11).
In the movie Elvis serenades Juliet Prowse with this song in the Bergreller
nightclub, Elvis on guitar complete with accordion in background. The accordion
is clearly present, giving the song a typically German or almost Italian
feeling. The first take is a false start, since Elvis is snapping his fingers
on the intro. 'It was probably me. Most humble forgivings'. Somebody forgives
him an Elvis jokes 'actually it's my teeth'. When take FO 3 is announced, he
remarks 'Forward Observer'. Before take 5 he calls one of the Jordanairs 'Hey,
Gordon Stoker, we're ready to go'. Take 6 breaks down and he apologizes that he
'lost his feeling' on the song. Take 7 however is a complete one. Takes 1 to 7
of "Tonight Is So Right for Love" were started before they taped "Frankfurt
Special", and then back to takes 8 to 11 of this song. On take 8 the
instruments are more present and seem a bit faster than on the earlier takes.
Clearly the musicians were inspired by the fast "Frankfurt Special" song. Half
way of take 10 he starts laughing and comments 'I had a doozy in my throat.
Whatever a doozy is.' Before take 11 we hear Elvis saying 'this is gonna be it
Charlie' and indeed they selected this one as the master take. (false starts:
1; break downs: 5,6,10 complete: 2,3,4,7,8,9,11. Take 11 is the master take.)
The songs "Tonight Is So Right For Love" and "Tonight's All Right For Love"
have caused confusion over the years. The first one ("So") was released solely
in the United States and the second one ("All") was specially done for Europe
since copyrights restricted the song "So" to be released there. Offenbach's
'barcarolle' from his opera Les contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann)
became "Tonight Is So Right For Love", and the song Geschichten aus dem
Wienerwald (Tales from the Vienna Woods) from the king of the waltz Johann
Strauss became "Vienna Woods Rock And Roll"/"Tonight's All Right For Love".
Tempo and some of the lyrics are different, but otherwise the songs are
"What's She Really Like" (GO 1-22) is a drift-away song, sung in an easy way on
a bouncing tempo. On take 1 Elvis starts laughing before he even tries to sing
the first line. On take 3 he sings smoothly 'ha ha ha you meshed up the break'.
Take 4 starts but some strange noise is heard, 'like somebody is singing'. Of
the first 5 takes, only take 5 is a complete one and they probably decided to
halt here since takes 6 to 22 were finished on April 28th. At the beginning of
take 6 the musicians seem to drift around since a few announcements that they
are rolling are necessary before they can start. They don't play the song in
the right tempo immediately, and it breaks down after about 30 seconds, hearing
Elvis saying to Charlie 'the take is a little bit slow'. After this they record
a complete take 7, which was first released on "The E.P. Collection Vol. 2".
Probably they were not satisfied enough because they recorded another 12 takes.
At some point in take 15 we can hear Elvis holding the song saying they are
just wasting tape. During the session the tempo is slightly increased, but not
much. Takes 17 to 19 are uptempo versions with more bouncing drums. Finally
takes 20 to 22 are inserts. The master take is spliced from two takes. Anybody
knows which ones? (false starts: 1,4,9,14,18; break down:
2,3,6,8,10,12,15,16,17; complete: 5,7,11,13,19)
"Frankfurt Special" (HO 1-13), always spelled as "Frankfort Special", is a fast
train number with the Jordanairs as backing (Ja Ja, Nein Nein). The uptempo
version is way too fast after the relatively slow recording of takes 1 to 7 of
"Tonight Is So Right For Love" and he 'runs of the track' a few times. The
instruments sound a bit messy, especially the finger-picking guitar and drums
backing simulating 'round wheels singing on a long flat track'. Between takes 3
and 4 he sings one line of the song 'It's All In The Game', a number one hit of
Tommy Edwards in 1958. Take 4 breaks on the line 'round wheels' singing 'ring
wheels' instead. After take 12 he jokes that 'somebody has lost his false
teeth'. He calls it a 'damned train' and states 'I guess I'll never be right'.
However the last take 13 is a complete one. Tempo during session is kept the
same. They decided to re-record the song in a slower tempo for the movie on May
6th. (false starts: 6,10,11; break down: 1,3,4,5,9,12; complete: 2,7,8,13).
"Tonight Is So Right For Love" (music/chorus, KO 1-4).
Guitar doesn't sound right on take 2 and breaks down. Tempo is much slower than
on takes FO. (false starts: 1,3; break down: 2; complete: 4)
The session of April 28 starts with "Big Boots" (MO 1-4, slow tempo) and is a
lullaby to a dozing child. The song is over before it has got going. (break
down: 2; complete: 1,3,4)
"A Whistling Blues" (JO 1, instrumental).
A slow blues number, not included in the movie.
"Big Boots" (M1O 2-7, fast tempo).
This song ends even faster than the slow tempo version MO. After take 3 he
likes what he just did but they did for 4 more takes. (false start: 6;
complete: 2,3,4,5,7. Take 1 is missing)
"Pocketful Of Rainbows" (NO 1-28)
Sung to Juliet Prowse in a cable car with some of the shots made in Germany in
the background. The first 3 takes have a slower tempo than the ones to follow.
Take 4 breaks down ('let's take it again real quick'), after take 7 he wants
another 'real quick one, Charlie' and jokes 'and possibly after this one
another one'. Well, he was not right on this one. Takes 7, 8 and 9 are
complete ones. On take 12 we can hear Elvis's voice more in the background and
he seems to become less interested. After this take we hear him say 'let's take
one more, kind a quick, and we got it'. The response of the engineer is 'good'.
Take 15 breaks down ('give another quick one'). After a complete take 17
'let's do one more before we stop. And that's it', after he cracked on take 19
'let's start again. Kind a schnell like'. Takes 21 to 24 are all false starts:
on take 21 one of the mikes is off causing some hilarity in the group ('keep it
warm Charlie'), on take 22 he is still laughing, on take 23 the drummer starts
wrong and on take 24 a frog jumped into his throat. Finally on take 27 his
throat is almost completely gone, and here we have the longest dialogue on this
CD: Elvis sings moaning 'I tried so hard, so hard to please'. Response by the
engineer: 'Why don't you sing "I'm Doing The Best I Can"?'. Elvis: 'I tell
you, well, let's try one more time and if she met ... If I crack, well, uh'.
Response by the engineer: 'If you crack you have a new world record, it's 29'.
Elvis: 'I did 60 one time. The record never came out'. Well, they did one more
and wisely decided to stop here. After 28 takes there was still not a
satisfying take. On Collector's Gold the long dialogue is mixed between takes
22 (false start) and 17 giving a wrong turn to history and also some of the
words are missing. Here it's all in the right place. At the May 6th session a
few additional takes were recorded from which the master was chosen. Note that
take 28 was recorded after "Wooden Heart" (according to Tunzi), so there is a
chance they stopped somewhere (before take 12?) and came back again to record
the rest. (false starts: 5,6, 11,13,21,22,23,24,27; break down:
1,4,15,18,19,26; complete: 2,3,7,8,9,10,12,14,16,17,20,25,28)
"Blue Suede Shoes" (PO 1).
Not as raw as the original 50's release but appropriate for the movie. Only one
take was necessary to tape this one.
"Wooden Heart" (QO 1-4).
Sung in a puppet theater to a puppet, entertaining children. A song originally
from the Doppelquartett des Berliner Lehrergesangvereins. Takes 1 and 4 are
complete, take 2 is a false start and take 3 is the famous breakdown on 'Steht
a liny house' instead of 'Zum stadtele hinaus', previously released on 'A
Legendary Performer Vol. 4'. Take 4 is the master take.
The May 6th session at Radio Recorders in Hollywood was used to re-record some
of the songs in a slower tempo ("Shoppin' Around" and "Frankfurt Special") do
some repairs and to record the song "Tonight's All Right for Love" for the
European market. Most notably on some of the takes is the addition of some echo
and is probably caused by the change of recording studio. Also the
winding/rewinding of the tape machine can be heard often. Compared to the
April sessions lesser dialogues are included on the CD. He's in a good mood,
and he pronounces his text more clearly.
First song of the session is a medium tempo version of "Big Boots" (M1OX 1-2).
Both takes are complete and it sure was a good start of the day.
"Shoppin' Around" (BOX 1-7).
A less rocking version and the instruments are moved to the background compared
to the first version BO. Takes 2, 5 and 7 are complete, take 3 is a break down
and takes 1, 4 and 6 are all false start (not even started to play). Before
take 7 the engineer gives some directions to Scotty Moore, he wants DJ to shine
and the base singer is directed closer to the mike by Elvis. Take 7 was
selected as the master.
"Pocketful Of Rainbows" (NOX 1-3).
Here he's in better control of his voice than on takes NO. Also a little echo
is added. Take 1 breaks down while he's 'jumping the rainbow'. Takes 2 (master)
and 3 are complete takes.
"Frankfurt Special" (HOX 1-10).
This train leaves slower than in the first version HO and he sings the song
like he really means it. Some echo can be heard on the vocal backings. After
the first three (mis)takes he complains that 'the tune doesn't allow him to
sing in high voice', although the music raises a semitone with each verse.
Take 6 breaks down on a guitar solo but he 'likes it' what he did so far.
After take 9 he wants to go on 'before the train runs out of juice'. (false
start: 1,7; break down: 2,3,4,6,9; complete: 8,10. Master take is take 10.)
"Tonight's All Right for Love" (R1O 1-17).
One of my favorites on this set: a song with a typically German touch caused by
an accordion and a mandolin dancing around, sounding different on each take and
especially in the intro. First take is a complete one. They 'lost an engine on
take off' and 'that fly up the sky' shocked him causing to break down take 3.
Two takes 5 are mentioned: the first one is a break down ('it's hard for me to
say a mid-summer nights dream'), the second one is a complete take. After the
complete take he complains 'wish we should have never broke for lunch',
repeating this after take 6, since he was in a great spirit before lunch. Take
'lucky' 7 is a false start and the engineer requests more voice in the group.
From take 9 and on the tempo of the song is slightly increased. After the
complete take 10 the engineer says 'I think it's a pretty good take' and Elvis
replies with 'let's do one more and we'll make a better one'. After take 12
we can hear him singing one line of "Loving You" ('I will spend my whole life
through') and saying 'that was back in the good old days'. Probably there was
a lot of fooling around between takes. The master is spliced from two takes.
Anyone knows which ones? (false start: 2,4,7,11,14; break down: 3,9,16; complete:
1,5,6,8,10,12,15,17. Take 13 is missing, probably a false start.)
"Tonight's All Right for Love" (R2O 1-2).
These are two inserts. Nothing special.
"Big Boots" (MOX 1-6, slow tempo).
None of the takes is a complete success and they decided to record some inserts
for this one. The master is spliced from two takes. (false start: 1,3,4; break
"Big Boots" (M2OX 1-4, slow tempo).
Inserts, starting at 'So sleep little soldier ...'. Take 1 is complete
('sounded good El'), takes 2 and 4 are complete and take 3 is a false start.
Some tape hiss can be heard on these takes.
The final takes of the set are the music/chorus of "Tonight's All Right for
Love" (RO 1-5). The tempo is much slower than on the vocal one. The engineer is
getting tired after the first two false starts and complains 'the only way you
get the start of this is how it's said on the paper ... one two three one'.
When take 3 doesn't start correctly he explains that playing and counting at
the same time is needed to start together. Takes 4 and 5 are complete ones.
Also some tape hiss is heard on the quiet parts here.
Note that we are missing the instrumentals of "Tonight's All Right For Love"
and "Tonight Is So Right For Love" and the songs "Didja Ever" and "Blue Suede
Reviewed by Rien van Houten
Sound rate **** 1/2