Post here all reviews related to Offical RCA/BMG/FTD releases

Writing For The King FTD - Review

Mon Dec 04, 2006 1:19 pm

Although this project has been talked about for some time for me it's sort of come out of left field.I wasn't too sure just what to expect.Sure the heavyweights would be there Leiber & Stoller (credit to these two guys who always seemed to be interviewed together but fall out like cat and dog),Pomus & Shuman,Tepper & Bennett,Don Robertson etc but also those who contributed the odd song (some very odd).Everyone of them obviously has his or her story to tell and some are very interesting indeed.There's 140 seperate chapters and though every song is not covered it's pretty damn close.The book is well laid out between the hardcover making it easy to dip in and out,ideal for coffee break reading.Printed on gorgeous paper stock with lots of photos,sheet music co
vers (some rare and never before seen by these eyes) and a few pics of original acetates though a little on the small side making it difficult to read the labels which is a shame.
Turning to the two cds (adhered to the inside of the front and back cover) it's the Elvis-The Recordings disc that was my main reason for purchase.All live songs 1969-72 and all UNRELEASED though almost half appeared on the bootleg Here I Go Again (wrongly dated 23.8.69 Dinner and should have been 24.8 Midnight).There's four from February 1970,three from August 1970 That's The Way It Is fame (more unreleased please) and four February 1972.All in all a terrific 23 tracker.Disc 2 The Demos-Various Artists is just what Elvis would have listened to and like he said of his own SUN recordings in an interview in Houston in 1970 "Boy they sound funny".This disc is more a curiosity than anything.
To sum up this may not be everyones cup of tea but those who go for it I'm sure will be pleasantly surprised.
Verdict: For the inquisitive and avids amongst us.
Review compiled by Deejay

Thu Dec 28, 2006 7:23 am

This book is quite a pleasant gift for christmas. I have read many bits and pieces, and i must say its quite fascinating to read others opinions about Elvis, and recording their songs was for the majority, soemthing they could not believe, and was one of the huge highlights of their songwriting career

Its also amusing to find out that some people did not even know Elvis recorded one of their songs, such as the writer of 'The impossible dream'. You also hear the history of certain songs, such as John Forgerty wrote the opening line to 'Proud Mary' because he found he had just gotten his discharge from the army

You also hear the opinions of the two living Beatles, which put me off because they only seemed to support the early Evis, and almost completely despised Elvis's Vegas image, and even the band, which was disappointing to hear. The book is extremely interesting to read indeed

The 2cds are a good companion to this book product. I must say, i was very interested in hearing the demo recordings CD first. Except for a few exceptions, all the singers on the recordings are fine singers of their era, but they make the song sound too ordinary and fairly passable. You really can sense how Elvis put his magic touch to the song, and made it EXTRAORDINARY

In some demos, Elvis stays true to the original style quite a lot, including 'Wear my ring around your neck', 'Burning love', and 'Way down'.But in others such as 'Heartbreak hotel', 'Teddy bear', and 'Wearing that loved on look', its almost completely changed

The original Heartbreak hotel demo sounds something close to what Elvis did at Sun, such as 'When it rains it really pours', doen in the key of C when the master was made in to the key of E.

Teddy bear sounds more like 'Don't be cruel', but with a little more energy

And 'Wearing that loved on look' sounds like a 60's Soul cut, with someone with a voice kind of like John Forgerty, completely different from the master

The weirdest one i heard was 'Raised on rock'. It sounds like a disco song, and the singer just sounds so weird!! But the best one to my ears was the late Dennis Linde's version of 'Burning love', a real pleasure to listen to. It sounds liek a Creedence song, and is a little slower and easy going than Elvis's pure rock'nroll version

The live recordings cd i have yet to listen to all the way through as i expect them to be fairly standard versions of that engagement, but of special mention to my ears was 'Polk Salad Annie' and 'Suspicious minds', Elvis really seemed to 'get it on' as Elvis introduced the latter song.

If you really appreciate the history of how Elvis treated a song and all those things, its really good to pick up 'Writing for the King'. A nice, fitting tribute to the King to round out the year.
:D

Sat Dec 30, 2006 3:34 am

Good review Scott. I really like the demo of "Way Down". Awesome stuff.

Sat Dec 30, 2006 4:04 am

Scott Haigh 781990EP wrote:You also hear the opinions of the two living Beatles, which put me off because they only seemed to support the early Evis, and almost completely despised Elvis's Vegas image, and even the band, which was disappointing to hear.

As opposed to the opinions of the the two non-living Beatles.

How in the world could anyone dislike 1970s "Vegas Elvis," when they were inspired to create music by the Elvis of the 1950s?

It just boggles the mind.

Sat Dec 30, 2006 10:52 am

Oh i got confused, one living Beatle and one dead Beatle (That sounds funny, boy! :lol: )

Paul McCartney and George Harrison were the ones featured in the book

Have a little bit of trivia, which really, i thought was'nt true, but coming from the writer Jerry Leiber himself, maybe it is. Jerry was at one of Elvis's MSG concerts, as he apparently been invited by the man himself. He left the concert a little early, thinking there'd be a stampede when Elvis was about to leave

On the desk the next day, was the telegram from Elvis, saying :Why'd you leave?

Out of 20,000 people, Elvis picked him out!! :lol:

Sat Dec 30, 2006 6:59 pm

Scott Haigh 781990EP wrote:Oh i got confused ...

Thanks for the "conufsed" review ...

Thu Jan 04, 2007 4:56 pm

Scott Haigh 781990EP wrote:
Have a little bit of trivia, which really, i thought was'nt true, but coming from the writer Jerry Leiber himself, maybe it is. Jerry was at one of Elvis's MSG concerts, as he apparently been invited by the man himself. He left the concert a little early, thinking there'd be a stampede when Elvis was about to leave

On the desk the next day, was the telegram from Elvis, saying :Why'd you leave?

Out of 20,000 people, Elvis picked him out!! :lol:


Perhaps I'm unduly cynical, but I did raise my eyebrows at that one (and plenty of other stories).

Sat Jan 06, 2007 4:17 pm

Not every opinion uttered by the Beatles is/was gospel. It's interesting because it came from them and helps show where their music comes from but I don't think it's any kind of indictment against the music they don't like. It carries weight but everyone has/had their blind spots including Elvis.

Their dismissal of later Elvis (not even meaning 1970 but often post 1960) shows up that much of the open mindedness of the counter culture was kind of an empty facade. You were free to do your thing but your own thing had better fit into selected guidelines. And you had better have come from a certain background or even if you fit or tried to fit the guidelines you weren't welcome at the party.

The counter culture opened up a lot of avenues in music and movies and was sometimes a springboard for real world positive change. However, it also established an arbitrary, limited, eventually boring and destructive aesthetic. That aesthetic wound up separating rock music from its originators and working class and popular origins. It also wound up denigrating the lives and tastes of anyone who came from a different tradition or preferred a different tradition. For years for instance Bobby Darin was dismissed for years and years simply because he had some talent as a rock and roll singer yet preferred straight pop.

The need to conform to the rigid aesthetic has led to the constant underevaluation of the Four Seasons who dared to make their contribution to popular music through the vehicle of the hit single.

It also established an incredibly arbitrary double standard for betraying your roots and making an artistic statement. For instance hardly anything on Sgt Pepper rocks. Yet we recognize that the Beatles want to go somewhere that the standard rock performance style can't take them. It is very hyprocritical not to extend Elvis that same allowance. If Elvis wants a bigger, perhaps more sophisticated sound on his records using strings and horns to complement his sound why is that not a valid artistic approach. Why is it ok for the Beatles to be eclectic and not for Elvis? When Elvis is singing a track like "My Way" he's trying to break new ground for himself as much as the Beatles were. And that live show in Vegas was breaking the most ground of all by trying to incorporate nearly all of the strands of the American Popular music experience into 60 minutes and sometimes into even one song. That's not Elvis on cruise control or Elvis selling out. That's the height of artistic ambition.

Similarly critics may roll their lives when Merle Haggard or Elvis (or Johnny Cash or any of dozens of others of country rooted singers) trot some sentimental tribute to the virtues of home and motherhood like Elvis' "Mama Liked the Roses". It's something that's important to them and just as legitimate an artistic statement as protest against the Viet Nam war. I would say the same thing about many of the divorce ballads particularly a piece as a carefully and artfully rendered as "Separate Ways". What the late '60s boomer based criticism does is actually try dictate to an artist what he or she should find important.

I understand the Beatles POV. We all have our favorite styles and much prefer a performer to stay in the groove we like. I for one always thought Alex Chilton would have been better off remaining a blue eyeds soulster than a power pop/alternative pioneer. Our personal shortcomings though shouldn't be used to dismiss valuable work simply because an artist refuses to strictly cater to our personal tastes.

Sun Jan 07, 2007 12:18 am

LTB, as usual, brilliantly said!

Mon Jan 08, 2007 1:43 pm

I was pleasently surprised by the FANTASTIC unreleased Vegas-version of A Big Hunk O' Love. What a driving version!
FTD continues to surprise.

Edwin

Sat Jan 20, 2007 11:31 am

Fascinating book.

I was intrigued by Mae Boren Axton's comments about Heartbreak Hotel.

She claims she wrote it for Elvis.

Co-writer Tommy Durden sang it, but she didn't think it was 'Elvisy' enough, so they got Glenn Reeves to do the demo in the Elvis style.

Well, two things:

1] Elvis hadn't sung anything in that style before, so what did Reeves base his version on ?

2] She doesn't explain [or even mention] how come they offered it to the Wilburn Brothers first !

I reckon her memories of it all have been coloured by the events that followed.

We may never know as Mae died in 1997, aged 82.

Image
Elvis with the Wilburn Brothers.
"If only we'd had the hit with that song, maybe we could have bought some proper stage wear !"

Wed Jan 24, 2007 7:02 am

I've got this book and it's nice reading! Pick a chapter or writer and read a little now and then. I think it's an essential book on Elvis!

Thu Jan 25, 2007 9:03 am

Indeed it is, i urge anyone who has'nt got it to get it now. You'll be reading for a good while, very interesting

Sat Jan 27, 2007 12:01 am

Am I the only one who finds this book to be poorly edited? Many things were repeated by the same songwriter and some of the stories they tell go on too long about themselves and less about their Elvis connection...

There are a lot of typos, and one writer's first sentence is even repeated twice in a row! Makes for less than easy reading...

Other than that a lot of stories are very entertaining, and who knew Joy Byers was such a hottie? ;-p

It seems that most of the writers are very very proud of Elvis doing their material, and the job he did on them, except the writers that were also famous for singing ther own songs, i.e. Fogerty, Harrison...

Axe

Mon Jan 29, 2007 10:30 pm

To me, Jimmy Breedlove is doing a hell of a job on "Teddy Bear",
he sang with the Cues and I can only recommend to pick up a CD of this group :smt023

The best song of the whole set is "Clambake", a shame it wasn't recorded by Elvis.

Mon Jan 29, 2007 11:16 pm

Although "Teddy Bear" isn't that good, "Clambake" is pretty nice. :wink:

Tue Jan 30, 2007 2:48 pm

KempoDick wrote:The best song of the whole set is "Clambake", a shame it wasn't recorded by Elvis.


But Elvis did do a song titled 'Clambake' !

It was the title track from a 60's film.............

Tue Jan 30, 2007 2:52 pm

I wrote [earlier] :
I was intrigued by Mae Boren Axton's comments about Heartbreak Hotel.

She claims she wrote it for Elvis.

Co-writer Tommy Durden sang it, but she didn't think it was 'Elvisy' enough, so they got Glenn Reeves to do the demo in the Elvis style.

Well, two things:

1] Elvis hadn't sung anything in that style before, so what did Reeves base his version on ?

2] She doesn't explain [or even mention] how come they offered it to the Wilburn Brothers first !

I reckon her memories of it all have been coloured by the events that followed.

We may never know as Mae died in 1997, aged 82.


Actually, after another few listens, I reckon Glenn Reeves was styling his version after Elvis' Baby, Let's Play House with that mumbly, jerky, hiccuppy, edgily nervous sort of sound on some lines alternating with some all out blues shouting on other lines.

In fact, if the songs are compared line by line, they have a very similar construction, something I never noticed before....

Still leaves the Wilburn Brothers question, though.

Mon Apr 09, 2007 12:44 am

LTB wrote:

... (The) dismissal of later Elvis (not even meaning 1970 but often post 1960) shows up that much of the open mindedness of the counter culture was kind of an empty facade. You were free to do your thing but your own thing had better fit into selected guidelines. And you had better have come from a certain background or even if you fit or tried to fit the guidelines you weren't welcome at the party.

The counter culture opened up a lot of avenues in music and movies and was sometimes a springboard for real world positive change. However, it also established an arbitrary, limited, eventually boring and destructive aesthetic. That aesthetic wound up separating rock music from its originators and working class and popular origins. It also wound up denigrating the lives and tastes of anyone who came from a different tradition or preferred a different tradition. For years for instance Bobby Darin was dismissed for years and years simply because he had some talent as a rock and roll singer yet preferred straight pop.

The need to conform to the rigid aesthetic has led to the constant underevaluation of the Four Seasons who dared to make their contribution to popular music through the vehicle of the hit single.

It also established an incredibly arbitrary double standard for betraying your roots and making an artistic statement. For instance hardly anything on Sgt Pepper rocks. Yet we recognize that the Beatles want to go somewhere that the standard rock performance style can't take them. It is very hyprocritical not to extend Elvis that same allowance. If Elvis wants a bigger, perhaps more sophisticated sound on his records using strings and horns to complement his sound why is that not a valid artistic approach. Why is it ok for the Beatles to be eclectic and not for Elvis? When Elvis is singing a track like "My Way" he's trying to break new ground for himself as much as the Beatles were. And that live show in Vegas was breaking the most ground of all by trying to incorporate nearly all of the strands of the American Popular music experience into 60 minutes and sometimes into even one song. That's not Elvis on cruise control or Elvis selling out. That's the height of artistic ambition.

Similarly critics may roll their lives when Merle Haggard or Elvis (or Johnny Cash or any of dozens of others of country rooted singers) trot some sentimental tribute to the virtues of home and motherhood like Elvis' "Mama Liked the Roses". It's something that's important to them and just as legitimate an artistic statement as protest against the Viet Nam war. I would say the same thing about many of the divorce ballads particularly a piece as a carefully and artfully rendered as "Separate Ways". What the late '60s boomer based criticism does is actually try dictate to an artist what he or she should find important....


It's so good to see that said and said so well!