The complete spinout session

Famous Groove FG 2331 (Released 1997)

(CD-1)
Smorgasbord (# 1/7)
Stop, look and listen (# 1/7)
Am I ready (# 1/7)
Beach Shack (# 1/4)
Adam and Evil (# 1/13)
(CD-2)
Adam and Evil (# 14/20)
Never say yes (# 1/6)
Spinout (# 1/5)
All that I am (# 1/6)
I'll be back (# 1)
(BONUS SONGS)
Down in the alley (screaming girl version)
I'll remember you (overdub, # 1/3)
Speedway (# 4, extended jam)
Suppose (undubbed piano version)
I'll be back (movie version, from soundtrack)

Another year, another movie soundtrack session for 31 year old Elvis Presley. Deriving from a February 16-17,1966 Radio Recorders visit in Hollywood, this two CD set is excellent stereo and another very nice Famous Groove package, coming in a special 10" color sleeve.

What a peculiar musical place for such an artist to be in. In the past year rock and roll proved its resurgence in 1964 was no fluke. The Beatles conquered the world a second time, Bob Dylan hit number one with the amazing "Like A Rolling Stone" while groups like the Kinks, Animals and Rolling Stones scored with a raw and aggressive rock sound, based on the blues (sound familiar?). In February 1966, the Stones were finishing up 'Aftermath' their first complete album (no filler), the Fab Four were wood-shedding the material that would be recorded in April and become their greatest album, 'Revolver,' while Dylan was taking a break from his legendary 1966 tour to record songs in Nashville for 'Blonde On Blonde.'

In this atmosphere, it seems the idea for "Spinout" was to find Elvis some more rocking numbers to sing; unfortunately, the quality ranges from decent to crap. Elvis himself is in a giddy mood on both nights, with that same thick, throaty laugh, not unlike how he was at his previous recording session for "Paradise, Hawaiian Style" back in August.

With what appears to be a complete session tape, there are naturally any number of neat, fly-on-the-wall experiences throughout. A line of "I Got A Woman" is sung after take 5 of "Smorgasbord." One can hear a phone ringing in Dave Weichman's engineering booth between take 2 and 3 of "Stop, Look And Listen."

Elvis really loses it on "Beach Shack"("What you think I am, dum-de-dum-dum [laughter]")! "It's the silly hour," proclaims Presley. "How 'bout if all the fellows go down to your Beach Shack?" queries musical conductor George Stoll. It's done in four passes, just barely. "I'll Be Back" is almost a remake of "Didja Ever" from 'G.I. Blues,' here with a cocky vocal and Elvis saying "oh yeah" just before the single take launches.

Preceding take 2 of "Adam And Evil" Elvis warbles a few lines of "When The Swallows Come Back To Capistrano," while before take 17 he riffs on something containing the lines "I should cut loose and run ... cotton flowers on the wall, they don't love me anymore." A verse in "Adam And Evil" quotes his 1959 hit "I Need Your Love Tonight"; one wonders if he noticed.

The second CD includes various bonus tunes from the same era. "Down In The Alley" ("screaming version") begs the question: where did it come from? One hears an announcer cue the tune as being from "the King himself, Elvis" with overdubbed faux girl screams; could this be a Colonel Parker radio station promo that never made it out the door? "I'll Remember You" (overdub tks 1-3) mostly revisits the same 1 & 2 found on the now classic "import" CD set 'There's Always Me Volume 2.' For the uninitiated, take one holds just the intro and outro sections of this fine Kui Lee ballad; it isn't clear just what's being overdubbed, beyond El's vocals on top of Red West's fill-in voice demos. Take three covers the last third of the tune; the ending is cut cold, then picked up again out of the silence with Presley's vocal, after backing up the tape to just before the guitar solo! Weird.

"Speedway" is an extended, gas-guzzling version of master take 4. "Suppose," the sad ballad Elvis loved so much he recorded it several different times, is either the '66 home recording or unadorned studio version from '67. "I'll Be Back," lifted directly off the film soundtrack, harbors more drums in the intro and lots of extra clapping and screams throughout; there's a cute extended harmonica solo as well.

Once again, in spite of it all, you hear the artist at work, too. The same musicians and singers that accompanied Elvis on his classic 'Elvis Is Back' sessions in 1960 are here as well. There's a great deal of care given to all seven takes of a ballad called "Am I Ready;" it's vaguely reminiscent of both "Can't Help Falling In Love" and "Don't," just not nearly as strong as either one of those classics. In fact, almost all the numbers are shown some measure of concentration; "Adam And Evil" is bashed around for twenty takes! Fortunately for us, Elvis managed to get all the way back home within a few more years. This set demonstrates just how hard it all was, yet how good-naturedly he usually handled it.

It's a long way from the car wash, indeed.

Reviewed by Johnny Savage, USA

Sound rating *****