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Hitstory, 'The Story Continues' sounds crap!

Thu Nov 17, 2005 9:36 am

Hi Gang,
Someone posted a while back that CD3 'The Story Continues' sounded excellent & that Vic Anesini did a great job. Well I want to try whatever drugs they were on!

For the full EIN 2,260 word review with links go here.
Below is the short version about 'The Sory Continues' & the bit that counts.
(PS - David Bendeth will enjoy this!!)


The E.I.N. review -“Please, Tell Me Why?”

With ‘Elvis 30#1s’ BMG, along with producer David Bendeth, resurrected Elvis’ greatest hits giving them the 21st century audio-polishing they truly deserved and blasting Elvis back into the LP charts. Unbelievably, while every family already owned exactly the same songs on previous RCA Hit compilations, it became Elvis’ biggest CD of all-time, selling over 12 million.

The follow-up ‘2nd To None’ also boasted a great newly-polished sound and a good track selection. Although it wasn’t the multi-million selling success that BMG had hoped for, it still sold a lot more than Elvis’ last LP while he was still alive!

Unfortunately the lack of ‘2nd To None’s success meant that any idea of another ‘E.Hits Vol.3’ was cancelled. What's more no real money could be spent recreating a new Hits compilation from the original Studio Master Tapes retrieved from the Indianapolis vaults. So audiophiles with their hopes whetted, “Don’t Believe The Hype”.

Packaging.

The ‘new’ minimalist design continues and at least the front cover does have a nicely subdued shot of Elvis on it (unlike the cup-handle of ‘2nd To None’). The rest of the triple digi-pack packaging however is zilch. Dramatic photos of Elvis under each CD tray would have helped. My copy boasts on a little sticker “PLUS AN EXCLUSIVE BONUS POSTER” which sadly turns out to be the brown (& bland) photo on the backside of the folded-up chart information inside! Yes, The Colonel is still alive & working at RCA!

More sleeve notes & explanation would be nice with such an extensive set of songs. On the chart listings for instance there is absolutely no information as to why ‘Suspicion’ (noted as being recorded in 1962) is sandwiched between 1973’s ‘My Boy’ & 1977’s ‘My Way’. Similarly there is no explanation as to why the 1955 songs come after 1957’s big hit ‘Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do’. I’m sure fans would also be interested in the reason 1957’s ‘Tell Me Why’ sticks out like a sore-thumb being finally released in 1965.

Maybe I’m sounding like a whinger here, as there are some great tracks on CD 3, but something doesn’t feel right. If this is a round-up of Elvis’ Top Thirty hits why is the great ‘What’d I Say’ missed out for the lower-charting show-tune ‘Frankie & Johnny’? Similarly the mid-sixties gets the woeful ‘Kissin’ Cousins’ over ‘Easy Question’ or ‘Love Letters’ (A TOP TEN, #6 in the UK!).

CD 1 & 2.
On the Australian/European edition both the first 2 CDs are exactly as previously released. There is no fix up on the master versions of ‘Wonder Of You’, ‘Fool Such As I’ etc as reported for the US release.
I’m intrigued by the news that the US version has been corrected since the 2005 CD remasterer, Vic Anesini, would have to be extremely careful to match the audio dynamics of these replaced songs with the remixed David Bendeth tracks ‘from the original tapes’. After all, ‘The Wonder Of You’ single could never come from a ‘Studio generation tape’ as it was overdubbed.

CD 3 - ‘The Story Continues’
For the general public the tracklist is an appealing mix of smaller hits along with some sensational Elvis milestones like ‘Such A Night’ & ‘I Just Can’t Help Believing’. Unfortunately the mid-sixties section comes across as incredibly weak and the missing chart hits, mentioned above, could certainly have strengthened Elvis’ 60’s legacy.

On a positive note they have sensibly used Kevan Budd’s great work from ‘Elvis At Sun’ for the early SUN tracks. However even for non-audiophiles the sound quality varies all over the place from song to song.

The sleeve distinctly credits Vic Anesini as the Masterer of this disc (along with Andreas Meyer) and I have raved about their work ('Close Up' etc) in the past. Perhaps BMG has printed the incorrect information as it does seem unbelievable that this talented team was involved but no one else is named. However, whoever did the audio work on this CD, here it is as sloppy as Elvis’ favourite dish, black-eyed peas!

No attempt has been made to match the frequency response of the songs so that they at least sound similar. The effect is as if a few tracks have been grabbed off the “Double Features” compiles, the rest from the 50s, 60s, & 70s box-sets. You can make the sound of the tracks match better by simply using the treble & bass controls on your amplifier, so I’m sure even something as simple as an audio-equaliser in the mastering.

This is where the hype about “remastered with DSD technology” is rubbish if you are still using the same old crappy tapes as the source.

While I realise that audio-matching takes time and money (hence the first 2 CDs sounding so damn good) any sound engineer could have improved these versions by playing with an audio equaliser and with less than ½ an hour spent on each song!

I can also see no reason why the same tracklisting couldn’t have been placed in true chronological order, which would also have improved the journey through Elvis’ chart-legacy.

Digging even deeper …

The good news - The Sun tracks have all been taken from Kevan Budd’s excellent mastering for the ‘Elvis At Sun’ CD. If you don’t own that CD then this rockin’ version of ‘Mystery Train’ alone will be worth the price of admission!

However this does not apply to the other 1950s tracks where they have been lifted off ‘Elvis ‘56’ or the ‘50s box-set’. Unfortunately ‘Party’ and 'Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do’ still have that messy echo over the whole song as opposed to the great (Kevan Budd) versions on the recent BMG 2005 re-release of the ‘Loving You’ CD. This is where I start becoming annoyed as I realise that Elvis fans have already purchased better quality versions of these songs on previous BMG releases!

Whoever supplied the producer (Vic Anesini?) with their working source tapes didn’t try very hard searching for the best quality versions!

Whereas Elvis’ 1957 tracks on the first 2 CDs leap out at you compared to the previous incarnations (try the fabulous ‘All Shook Up’ on the first CD) here Elvis’ 1957 hits are the same quality as the 1992 ‘50s’ box-set’ versions.

The disappointment continues with Elvis’ lame sixties movie songs. These are all taken from the “Double Features” tapes showing no new sparkle at all. If ‘Kissin’ Cousins’ had to be included a quick frequency tweak could have least given it some “audio balls”!

‘One Broken Heart For Sale’ is prime example of these lost opportunities. It is of course the echoey-compressed “Double-Features” mix as opposed to the new version on the FTD ‘It Happened At The World’s Fair’ which had a lovely new sparkle to it. It would have taken very little time to use the FTD version and by adding a little reverb and bass-boost created a great sounding and new version perfect for this CD.

Elvis fans are certainly spoilt with the wonderful FTD CD series as they do demonstrate how good some songs can really sound if taken from the original Studio tapes. ‘Kiss Me Quick’ sounds excellent on the FTD “Studio B Nashville Outtakes” however here it is again the echoey compressed 60’s box set version.

Similarly why not use 1966’s ‘All That I Am’ from the FTD ‘Spinout’ soundtrack CD where the distortion of the single had finally been fixed? The argument that “Original” versions had to be used doesn’t hold water, as the Double Features versions weren’t the original mixes either!

‘Suspicion’
sounds terrible here placed after ‘My Boy’ and yet it sounded so much better on ‘Such A Night – Essential Vol.6’ rather than this echoey ‘60’s box-set’ version. ‘US Male’ was also superior on ‘Today, Tomorrow & Forever’.

The 1970’s tracks are all as from the ‘70s box-set’. There is the genuine excuse that so much of Elvis’ material in the 1970s was overdubbed so re-creating great new versions from Studio Masters becomes more problematic. However ‘Rags To Riches’ for instance sounds so much clearer and more dynamic on ‘Essential Elvis Vol.4’ and there are better versions of most of these songs already released. The ‘Promised Land’ 2000 CD upgrade also proved that the poor sound of Elvis 1970 LPs could be greatly improved upon.

Interestingly ‘I Just Can’t Help Believin’ actually had a little too much hiss removed from it on the more recent ‘TTWII’ SE box-set and it is actually the better ‘70’s box-set’ version used here!

So the track selection is the only reason to buy this CD since the new DSD Mastering offers nothing new. Even worse if you are a real Elvis fan you can compile a better sounding selection from what you already own!

Note - Vic Anesini and Andreas Meyer both worked on the excellent ‘Elvis Ultimate Gospel’ which did state “Mastered from Original Master tapes” and there were genuine audio delights to be discovered since the improvements made on several tracks were outstanding. It sounded great.

Verdict – If you are a hard-core fan you will already own all of these tracks and there is nothing here in improved audio quality. However the track selection is pretty interesting and anything that gives you another reason to hear Elvis’ fabulous ‘Mystery Train’, ‘Such A Night’ and ‘I Just Can’t Help Believin’ again has got to be ok. And let’s face it, Elvis ‘Hitstory’ is great value for money as you can find this 3 CD set for less than $25 at your local supermarket. If you don’t own ‘2nd To None’ I would thoroughly recommend it and why not give it to your Dad as it would be his perfect Christmas present?


For the rest of the review go here,
Hope you enjoyed it.
Cheers
Piers
Last edited by PiersEIN on Sat Nov 19, 2005 12:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

Thu Nov 17, 2005 10:08 am

Great review as always! Thanks Piers!

Although I have to admit that I like the sound of "Hitstory" DISC 3 - really looking forward to the US edition!!!!

Because I begin to ask myself: did BMG Europe not use any remasters!?!?!

Because the american ad mentions the DSD-Remastering I can't really believe that the take the 70s mixes and transfer them!? What sense would that make!?

So: if the european edition is using its own tracklist, maybe they didn't use the DSD-masters neither!?

Thu Nov 17, 2005 1:17 pm

PiersEIN wrote:More sleeve notes & explanation would be nice with such an extensive set of songs. On the chart listings for instance there is absolutely no information as to why ‘Suspicion’ (noted as being recorded in 1962) is sandwiched between 1973’s ‘My Boy’ & 1977’s ‘My Way’. Similarly there is no explanation as to why the 1955 songs come after 1957’s big hit ‘Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do’. I’m sure fans would also be interested in the reason 1957’s ‘Tell Me Why’ sticks out like a sore-thumb being finally released in 1965.


Piers:

I am sure you are already aware that Suspicion was actually a UK Top 10 hit in December 1976, hence its placing in the running order. We fans can sit there and go "oh yes, that's why", but you are right, any casual buyer might think of it as simply a cock-up.

I get the impression of sheer laziness with this new set, particularly when it comes to the third disc. Instead of calling it "Hitstory" (already a crap title), they should have called it "Elv111s: More Money For Old Rope".

Brilliant and thoughtful review as always.

Thu Nov 17, 2005 3:22 pm

Piers -

Thanks for the review !

You wrote:
While I realise that audio-matching takes time and money (hence the first 2 CDs sounding so damn good) any sound engineer could have improved these versions by playing with an audio equaliser and with less than ½ an hour spent on each song!


On each song ?

Have you seen how much these audio engineers get an hour ?

Do you think BMG/Sony are made of money ?

Thu Nov 17, 2005 9:16 pm

Stephen Butler wrote:Instead of calling it "Hitstory" (already a crap title), they should have called it "Elv111s: More Money For Old Rope".
Brilliant and thoughtful review as always.


Too true!

And some "fan" (and you know who you are) is always too
willing to be prey for RCA:
:smt117

Thanks for the review, Piers! I wasn't going to buy it anyway!

Thu Nov 17, 2005 9:27 pm

francesc, Better late than never:-)

I passed the Hitstory CD set in half a dozen shops, and even passed a lovely poster of it, and still came home without it.

Like Brian, I may buy it at Christmas for friends and relatives?
Last edited by MauriceinIreland on Thu Nov 17, 2005 11:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Thu Nov 17, 2005 9:29 pm

[quote="MauriceinIreland"][/quote]


Exactly Maurice.

Thu Nov 17, 2005 11:39 pm

Ahh, found this quote by ETP ...
The 3rd disc ist great! Suspicion sounds fantastic! Mystery Train is the ELVIS AT SUN-version ... Frankie And Johnny never sounded better and Kissin' Cousins haven't sound worse for a long time now

But those gems still doesn't help the fact that the UK version includes not the new DSD version fo E1 and 2nd to none


"Suspicion sounds great"??!!, well not unless the quality of the European edition or US edition is different from the Australian version which I can't believe.

'Frankie & Johnny' & 'Kissin' Cousins' are the double-features tapes & nothing more.

Cheers
Piers

Fri Nov 18, 2005 12:20 am

PiersEIN wrote:While I have raved about remasterer Vic Anesini’s work ('Close Up' etc) in the past, here it is as sloppy as Elvis’ favourite dish, black-eyed peas!


Piers, as discussed on here before, the overseas edition of HitStory did not use the DSD masters prepared for the U.S. edition, as BMG Europe wanted to produce their own version of this set. As a result the mastering of the overseas version was *completely* out of the hands of Sony Studios, New York. To insult some of the great audio engineers that work there is not a very classy thing to do, considering they had nothing to do with the release you are reviewing in the first place. If you don't like the sound of this edition you should shout back at BMG Europe, they are the ones that produced it!

Fri Nov 18, 2005 1:52 am

Does the US version actually mention DSD?

Fri Nov 18, 2005 5:10 am

Piers, as discussed on here before, the overseas edition of HitStory did not use the DSD masters prepared for the U.S. edition, as BMG Europe wanted to produce their own version of this set. As a result the mastering of the overseas version was *completely* out of the hands of Sony Studios, New York. To insult some of the great audio engineers that work there is not a very classy thing to do, considering they had nothing to do with the release you are reviewing in the first place. If you don't like the sound of this edition you should shout back at BMG Europe, they are the ones that produced it!


While I understand your point why does the label on the digipack specifically state CD3 "Remastered by Vic Anesini"?
If this is not true (after all it was one of the clever selling points of the CD) then Vic should be there kicking BMG's butt.
When I first heard the poor quality checking the DSD credit was the very first thing I did.
As you know I have been one of the first to highly praise his work in the past (I even praised 'Love Elvis'because of his work). I definitely wouldn't insult him intentionally but I only reviewed it as presented by BMG. Fans are buying it in Australia for the supposed audio improvements.

So I wonder why the Australian BMG promotion also state "'Hitstory' is digitally remastered using DSD Technology for optimum sound quality." - or maybe they were just copying the US marketing without any genuine thought?
I feel that we have been done-over.
(However, having said that, I still haven't seen that much praise for the audio on the US CD3 either)
So who was responsible for compiling/producing our version & why doesn't it say so?

Now I am also intrigued whether the US label specifies that the newly fixed up tracks on CD1 were not produced/remixed by David Bendeth or does it still have the generic Elvis 30#1s info?

Cheers
Piers

PS I will update the review to change my nasty comments as it seems BMG rather than Vic is to blame!
Last edited by PiersEIN on Fri Nov 18, 2005 5:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

Fri Nov 18, 2005 5:20 am

carolynlm wrote:I was tossing up whether to buy this at the K Mart price, but now I think I will give it a miss....thanks Piers for your input, you have saved me some money......



:!: :?: :!: :?

Fri Nov 18, 2005 6:36 am

You people have a completely different Hitstory than the one I have. Mine only has 19 (not 41). It doesn't say anything about DSD. It says: No. Ones, produced by David; compiled and researched by Ernst and Roger; mixed by David and Ray. The Story Continues: Produced by Ernst and Roger; mastered by Vic.
The 19 songs are: I Beg of You; My Wish Came True; Ain't that Lovin' You Baby; Fame and Fortune; I Gotta Know; Flaming Star; Follow that Dream; One Broken Heart for Sale; Kissin' Cousins; Such a Night; Ask Me; Such an Easy Question; I'm Yours; Puppet on a String; Love Letters; Separate Ways; Steamroller Blues; If You Talk in Your Sleep; My Boy.
sue

Fri Nov 18, 2005 7:16 am

Thank you Silver.

I would wager that the Euro version was compiled directly from the previous USA CD versions of E1 and Second To None. And the third disc directly from other CD's back to the 50's box.

In other words no tape sources involved!


It is so galling that the Kevan Budd 3 classic album tracks were NOT used.

Fri Nov 18, 2005 11:16 pm

The whole thing is galling.

Fri Nov 18, 2005 11:34 pm

KiwiAlan wrote:It is so galling that the Kevan Budd 3 classic album tracks were NOT used.


They can't get their act together, can they ?

Why don't they establish a 'Budd' standard, and ensure all releases meet it ?

Then we could buy with confidence !

As it is, we get Kevan's work sometimes, DSD sometimes, DVD-A sometimes [well once] and tracks taken directly from previous CD's with no audio improvement whatsoever !

We don't know where we stand from one release to the next.