“ Rough Cut Diamonds
” volumes 1 and 2 represent the top-of-the-line as far as boot LPs goes.
Both have fantastic artwork, excellent sound quality and if one didn’t
know otherwise, they look like official releases.
These LPs contain undubbed rough mixes from decent to good quality
acetate sources of Elvis’ well-known June and September 1970 and May 1971
Nashville sessions. Acetates are
obviously not the best source for studio material, some of the songs sound a bit
flat and the cymbals signal is overdriven to distortion.
But with the fact in mind that acetates are reference recordings only,
never meant to be heard by the public, there is no need to complain.
Each LP has fantastic color photos on the front sleeves printed in high gloss.Volume 1 has a black and white photo on the back of the cover and nice liner notes detailing the June Sessions, as well as track-by-track info.Volume 2 has two color photos on the back of the sleeve, one of which is an interior shot of the Nashville Studio along with liner notes detailing the contents track-by-track. The LP labels are the only hint of a bootleg product with the sparse black text on a yellow label and no artist designation. The LPs are good quality pressings with very little surface noise.Volume 1 has no date on it, but volume 2 has 1984 printed on the back of the sleeve. So I am going to guess that the first volume is the same year.
Side 1: “ I’ll Never
Know ” complete with count-in.“ Just Pretend ” is identified as take 3 in
the pre-song banter.“ Life ” complete with count-in.“ When I’m Over You
” has better frequency range than the previous tunes, and has the backing
vocals intact, though no orchestration. “
Make the World Go Away ” has frequency range of the previous track, again with
backing vocals intact, but no orchestration or organ.
James’ acoustic is clearly audible on this track, unlike some other
acetate versions where it is inaudible. “
Funny How Time Slips Away ” is one of my favorite Elvis tunes from the 70’s. Written by Willie Nelson in the early 60’s and recorded by many
artists; this version has backing vocals intact. I like the “ bom bom bom ” parts of the male backup singers
that is much more noticeable on this rough mix, as is some microphone clatter on
Elvis’ part. The frequency range
on this track again is excellent like the prior two tracks.
“ This is our Dance ” sounds a bit more flat than the prior three
tracks, perhaps the acetate is more worn. This
track highlights some very tight harmony between Elvis and Charlie Hodge.
It beckons back to 1960 and “ I Will Be Home Again ” from the “
Elvis Is Back ” LP…one of my favorite tracks from that LP.
Side 2: “ I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water ” is rather unbalanced with drums and bass very up front, harmonica, electric guitar and piano are in the distant background. Also the track runs a bit fast, and the click/pops from the acetate are very noticeable as the track fades. “ Snowbird ” has no orchestration, and I think it sounds better this way. “ Stranger in the Crowd ” sounds a bit flat, but sounds much better without the orchestration in my opinion. James’ electric is barely audible and this track also runs a bit fast. “ Patch It Up ” complete with count is a good mix, but the acetate is well worn as can be heard from the surface noise. This is one of my least favorite songs from these sessions, but the ending is shredding on this tune, and the cut kicks over to some control-room dialogue and someone saying, “ that’s a gas. ” “ It Ain’t No Big Thing, But It’s Growing ” is badly balanced, no harmonica, piano or electric guitar, and there is quite a bit of surface noise. The speed runs fast as well. This is one of the songs I like a lot though. “ Cindy, Cindy ” is also badly balanced, again no electric guitar, but the horns sound good. Once again, this track runs fast, and there is quite a bit of surface noise from the acetate source. “ Where Did They Go Lord? ” wraps up this first volume and is taken from the September sessions. This track seems to drag as it runs too slow, and again there is a lot of surface noise from the acetate.
Side 1: “ If I Were
you ” sounds a bit muffled, and Elvis’ vocal has a strange echo/reverb
reminiscent of the Sun days. But the mix
on this track is good; the piano is a bit in the background, and the acetate has
a bit of surface noise. “ Help Me Make
it Through the Night ” is missing the first few words of the opening line.
This song is obviously from May 1971. The
acetate is well balanced, though noisy and plays quite fast. “ Until It’s
Time For You To Go ”, complete with count-in, is without backing vocals is
very vocal heavy and sounds quite thin. The
organ is noticeable since there are no backing vocals. “ It’s Only Love ” also sounds thin. The liner notes state the backing vocals were cut before Elvis did
the lead and they are slightly noticeable, as they were not put into the mix on
this acetate. Elvis really attacks
this song and belts it out. “ We Can
Make the Morning ” again sounds thin; this acetate has the string section but
no backing vocals. Again Elvis really
belts this song out. I like this mix of
strings and no backing vocals; it seems to highlight Elvis’ voice.
There are a few noticeable acetate pops during this track.
Back to 1970 and “ Heart of Rome ”, no strings or horns, Elvis and
Charlie hit the harmony parts right on. This
acetate plays a bit fast and sounds a little thin, but Elvis belts this tune out
and it has always been one of my favorites.
Side 2: “ It’s You
Baby, You Rock It ” complete with count-in is very unbalanced.
James’ excellent acoustic guitar work is inaudible, as is the
harmonica. Again, this track plays a bit
fast. At least this track isn’t
butchered and spliced like the version on the “ Behind Closed Doors ” LP
set. Complete with count-in, “ Mary in
the Morning ” is somewhat muffled probably because the acetate is worn and
again this track plays a bit fast and sounds thin, but the undubbed version is
nice. James’ acoustic and Charlie
McCoy’s harmonica are for all intents and purposes, inaudible.
The drums are very low in the mix as well, and the signal is weak.
“ Rags to Riches ” is nice!! The
sound quality and mix are very good and Elvis belts this tune out!! I’ve always liked this tune. “
The Sound of Your Cry ” is another favorite of mine.
The mix and sound quality are good, the backing vocals are present but
the strings have not yet been added. Back to 1971, “ The First Time Ever I Saw
Your Face ” is the original duet version with Temple Riser according to the
liner notes. The acetate sounds very thin,
is vocal heavy and plays fast, and there is a small section that becomes muffled
for a few seconds. It is a nice listen
though. Back to 1970 for the final track,
“ You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me ” is very muffled and has no backing
vocals or orchestration.
These LPs are very rare and would appeal to even the casual collector, and more so to the hard-core LP collector. These LPs are highly recommended because of the quality of the packaging and material. Given the fact that these were released in the mid 80’s, these LPs represent the most complete collection of undubbed/alternate mix material released till that time. And again the sound quality is very good considering the sources, and the packaging is top notch. They truly are “ Rough Cut Diamonds ”.
Ernie Boyes Jr.