Silver Screen Stereo rounds up twenty-six recordings made in Los Angeles between 1957 and 1968, tracing the up and down pattern of Elvis' Hollywood career. The collector's label first dived into this arena via 1999's Out In Hollywood with so-so results, as the material within was less interesting and somewhat scattershot. Evidently, many "lost" soundtrack tapes have been located in the last few years, to our benefit.
Sequenced chronologically, compilers Ernst Jorgensen and Roger Semon this time around select several peppy alternate takes from Elvis' earlier soundtrack efforts, where the spirit is more evident on the part of the singer, band and material. In other words, this is a fun listen! One might argue that the real crap didn't begin to run off the Presley assembly line until the completion of "Viva Las Vegas" in the fall of 1963. The four post-1963 offerings give such a theory weight.
The first thrill is immediate, with a trio of binaural tunes from "Loving You" and "Jailhouse Rock." Although the channel separation is crude, with voice on one side and band on the other, it allows a listener to hear more than ever before. You are there at Radio Recorders, right alongside our hero! Elvis sounds full of fire, which, of course, he is. Ernst and Roger leave plenty of room for dialogue between the musicians, another nice touch. Elvis can't liven the up tempo version of "Loving You," but on take 5 of "Jailhouse Rock" we hear an awesome, punk rock vocal performance and the full ending, no fade. The next one, take 6, became the master. "Don't Leave Me Now" serves up a few new takes with the Presley gusto, but the song remains average at best.
A quartet of "G.I. Blues" tracks yield a request for Elvis to quit snapping his fingers ("Actually, it was my teeth," jokes Presley), a beautiful third try at "Doin' The Best I Can" and the up tempo take of "Frankfort Special" first pulled into the station on the Legendary Performer, Vol. 3 LP in 1978, but sounds better on this CD. This odd, hyperactive revisiting of the "Mystery Train" sound really moves, from Tiny Timbrell's wild guitar solo right down to Elvis' lazy "woah woah woahs" at the tail. Of course RCA chose a more sedate version for the 1960 LP. "Shoppin' Around," with Elvis playing rhythm guitar, began the initial session for "G.I. Blues" at RCA's Sunset Boulevard studio. Take 1 here lacks the grit of takes 3 and 5, found on 1980's Elvis Aron Presley box set, and both of those shine in comparison to the passive rendition appearing on the original soundtrack album. Is there a pattern here?
Elvis' 1960 soundtrack recordings turned somewhat introspective for "Flaming Star" and "Wild In The Country," not a bad route considering what was to come. "Summer Kisses, Winter Tears" is a beautiful ballad deleted from "Flaming Star" before release. It amply shows Presley's full commitment throughout. "Hawaiian Wedding Song" is a really superb first take, something accomplished in many of Elvis' early sixties sessions. They don't make bands, studios and singers like that anymore.
The following year's outtakes have charm, although the alternate master of "I Got Lucky" is especially interesting for its extra-fancy percussion courtesy of Buddy Harman. After unveiling the movie masters of two songs from 1963's "Fun In Acapulco," FTD delivers a most amazing first take of "Viva Las Vegas." It's surprisingly piano-driven, as opposed to the layers of guitar, percussion and authoritative drumming on the finished master. By the time take 2 is rolling, Elvis and crew have nailed the sound that will launch a thousand "retro" parties in the decades to come.
All of the "Viva Las Vegas" selections possess excellent stereo mixes and the two Ann-Margret duets are practically sexier than the masters issued in 1983 and 1990. Why did this session ever reach the public in such poor audio quality? With "C'mon Everybody" Elvis seeks a workable arrangement for the complicated starts and stops, correcting the drummer ("the drums have still got to be going ... you covered that snap") and letting fly with a blues ending vamp done as joke (though it would later be used for the film master). Listen for a one-liner of Little Peggy March's 1963 hit for RCA, "I Will Follow Him," too.
The final four tracks only exemplify the downside of the Presley movie years. From the "hillbilly vocal" overdub of "Kissin' Cousins" to the outtake of "Clambake," Elvis sounds like a disheartened steel worker trapped in his thankless job. Before cutting the slow reprise for "Clambake" he finds refuge in a blues, singing "Well, I went down New Orleans, I thought I'd found myself a girl there ..." It's great, as is the reprise itself, which Elvis sings with only Chip Young's bluesy acoustic guitar accompaniment. Where did that blues record go, Felton?
Released now is the new CD from Follow That Dream entitled Silver Screen Stereo, a sort of Out In Hollywood volume two if you like. It has a good mixture of songs, and contains, like the title suggests, stereo outtakes, or alternate takes, from Elvis' movies spanning from his second movie Loving You (1957) up to his last starring role in The Trouble With Girls (1968). I thought I would take the opportunity of reviewing this CD, as I personally love alternate takes and recording session's stuff. I actually prefer this sort of thing to live concerts.
The CD starts with Loving You (Fast Version - Take 14). We've actually had all 21 takes of this version and all 12 takes of the slow version for years on the Bootleg Loving You Recording Sessions, but not in this Great quality. Out of the 21 takes it took Elvis to get the song the way he wanted it, there are 15 complete takes. Of these complete takes, 1, 8 and 21, along with false start take 20, were released officially on Essential Elvis Vol. 1 and take 13 (with faded ending) was released on the 50's Masters box The King Of Rock 'n' Roll (Disc 5). Now we have this new take 14 in beautiful Binaural Stereo, and it's been well worth the wait. Now that BMG have re-discovered (or re-purchased) these "lost" session tapes, maybe we'll get more alternate takes from this session. By the way, of the slow version of this song, there are 6 complete takes, and only 3 of these takes have been released officially. Now we might get them again in this great Binaural Stereo quality.
Jailhouse Rock (Take 5) was also first released on Essential Elvis Vol. 1 but again, this time it is in Binaural Stereo. How different this song sounds, now it is released this way with unedited intro and ending. Superb!!! It's like hearing this song again for the first time. Next is Don't Leave Me Now (Hit Record version - Takes 16, 17 and 18). After two false starts, we get complete take 18, and again in Binaural Stereo. With these 50's tracks now released in Binaural Stereo, I wonder if BMG now have all of these "lost" session tapes back in their hands. I hope so as it would be great to hear binaural versions of Treat Me Nice, I Want To Be Free and Baby I Don't Care, which were recorded at the same session as Don't Leave Me Now. I don't know how Ernst Jorgensen can say that the sound quality on these 50's binaural tracks is bad, these sound Fantastic.
The next four songs we've had before on the five disc Bootleg set Café Europa Sessions. They too were in stereo, but not in this sound quality. Firstly we get Takes 1 and 2 of Tonight Is So Right For Love, with Elvis getting told off for "clicking" his fingers during the intro. Then we get Take 13 of Frankfurt Special (Fast Version). This was actually first released on Legendary Performer Vol. 3, but it was wrongly stated as Take 2. Here we get this take complete with studio chat and unfaded ending. The mixing here really brings the bass and guitar into focus, much better in my opinion. Doin' The Best I Can (Take 3) is next, and Elvis sings this slightly slower than the Released version (Take 13). Also the backing music and vocals here are actually quite different. As this was the first complete take of this song, you can see that it needed working on to get it right. This is still a nice take never the less. By the way, Take 9 was released officially on the 1997 CD version of GI Blues. Shoppin' Around (Take 1) is next, and Elvis is just getting the feel of this song. Never the less, this is a great first attempt, but it did need working on to get it to the master (Take 11) stage. Takes 3 (false start) and 5 were released on The Silver Box some years back, but this take just seems much better in sound quality. It's great to get another unreleased take of Summer Kisses Winter Tears. Here we get Takes 8 (false start) and 9. Take 14 was released on Collectors Gold in 1990. The drums on this take are a little over powering, and Elvis' voice doesn't seem as sincere as the released version (Take 20). I actually prefer the master to this take, as it doesn't have those annoying drums up front. In My Way (Take 1) we've had before on the Bootlegs Behind Closed Doors, and Wild In The Country Sessions, but not in stereo as we have here. Take 2 was released in stereo on the Bootleg Elvis Meets Presley, but not in quality like this. Also the left and right channels were crossed on that CD. Hawaiian Wedding Song (Take 1) is great to hear in stereo too. As there are only two takes of this song (Take 2 is the master) this is a welcome addition to this CD. Island Of Love (Takes 7 and 8) were also first released on Behind Closed Doors, but here we get these takes for the first time, in stereo, and it's great to listen to. Elvis seems much more laid back singing this take than the released version (Take 13), and much more relaxed.
Take 2 of Angel is next. This is a beautiful song, which I've always liked, so it didn't matter which take they put on this CD, I love them all. All takes of this song have been released before, in stereo, on Bootlegs, and in sound quality nearly matching this. I Got Lucky (Alternate Master - M5) is sung slower than the released version (Take MX 2) and also Elvis doesn't sing the third verse here making it a lot shorter. Elvis nearly stumbles on the line "I'm afraid the love I've found, just might get lost", and you can hear Elvis almost laugh on the next line "So won't you tell me that you love me …", but he continues and finishes the take. This is also released here for the first time in stereo.
Home Is Where The Heart Is (Takes 13 and 14), with Elvis stumbling on the first line of the song, is also released here for the first time in stereo. This take is sung a little slower than the master (Take 21) but in my opinion, it is just as good, if not better than the master. This is another beautiful song that is welcomed on this CD. Riding The Rainbow (Take 1) is next, and Elvis sings the line "I'm living to love, I'm loving to live" the wrong way round, and realises straight away, but he finishes the take never the less. The backing vocals seem to need polishing up a bit to get this song to the master stage, but again this is another released here for the first time in stereo. The Bullfighter Was A Lady (Alternate Master) is the movie version (I think, but not 100% sure), and has a completely different arrangement and tempo to the released version. I have noticed that all other soundtrack vocals, (except for I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here) are identical to the record version of Fun In Acapulco, but this is completely different. I really like this version and it's released here for the first time.
Also for the first time here, we get the alternate master of I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here, and again it's very different to the released version. Finally we get some new out takes from Viva Las Vegas, and we come to a real Gem. Take 1 of Viva Las Vegas is fantastic. When you listen to the intro, you wouldn't believe it is the same song we all know. With the simplest of backings, just piano, guitar etc … and sung at a much slower pace, it really sounds like a completely different song. I really wish Elvis had finished this take, but he was having trouble with the lyrics singing at this slow pace. Take 2 uses the same arrangement and tempo as the released version. This is what I love about alternate takes, how a song can sound completely different from one take to the next and sound like a completely different song. Take 9 of The Lady Loves Me is next, and is quite similar to the released version (Take 10). This take was released recently on the new Ann Margaret CD. This now means we don't have to buy the Ann Margaret CD to get this version. Another good addition to this CD is You're The Boss (Take 3), also released on the new Ann Margaret CD. This actually sounds quite different to the released version, as it's sung more laid back. What's amazing about You're The Boss, is that, for many years, RCA denied that this song was even recorded. So to get an alternate take of this song is fantastic. I actually wrote to RCA in 1987 regarding this song (and many more), and actually got a reply from Roger Semon. He said that the master tape had recently been located and would be released on a Viva Las Vegas soundtrack album in the near future. It still took them until 1990 to release the song (on Collectors Gold). Until that time it was only released (in very bad sound quality) on the Bootleg Elvis Rocks And The Girls Roll.
Today Tomorrow And Forever (Takes 3 and 4) is next, and what we actually get is the master (Take 4) and a false start. This mix brings the maracas and guitar more to the front, which makes it sound a little different. To be honest, I was expecting to find the Duet version of this song on this CD when I heard that these session tapes had been re-discovered. I mean, on this CD they have put out alternate takes of The Lady Loves Me (matrix no. 2010), You're The Boss (2011) and now Today Tomorrow And Forever (2013), so what's happened to the duet version (2012)? Only time will tell I guess. C'mon Everybody (Takes 1, 2 and 3) sound a little different to the released version (Take 5), as it is sung a little slower, and much more laid back. Elvis has to have the drums in the "whistle a little a little tune like this" part of the song, before he can get it right. It also has a Great bluesy ending to the take. A thrill to hear.
Kissin' Cousins (Hillbilly Overdub) is quite funny to listen to on it's own. This is the vocal that was overdubbed to Kissin' Cousins to make it sound like a duet with two Elvis'. There's So Much World To See (Alternate Master) was first released on the Bootleg Memphis Tennessee, but it was taken from an old acetate. It had been speculated that this alternate master only existed on acetate, and that the actual session tapes weren't handed over to RCA from MGM. It's great that these tapes have now been found (or handed over), and we might now get the Original Master of Could I Fall In Love (without overdubs), which was recorded at the same session. Clambake (Take 11) plus Reprise (Take 1) is great to listen to, as I really do love it when Elvis "cracks up" in the studio, like he does at the end of this take, and starts to sing a different song. In this mix, Elvis' voice is brought much more to the front, and he seems much more relaxed singing this song. Finally BMG realise Elvis was only human, (and we fans have heard Elvis swear before) and release the bits we weren't supposed to hear. At the end of the take Elvis says "Oh shit!!!" TWICE. Last up on this CD is Almost (Take 11), and it doesn't sound much different to the released version (Take 31), but it is still a nice addition to this CD. So there you have it, Silver Screen Stereo is a great addition to anyone's collection. If you like alternate takes or not, I think you'll like this CD. The highlights for me have to be the stereo version of Jailhouse Rock (which is like hearing this song for the first time), also take 1 of Viva Las Vegas (when you listen to the intro, you wouldn't believe it could be the same song), and not forgetting the great bluesy ending to C'mon Everybody. This CD is a must have
I kinda liked OUT IN HOLLYWOOD, the second release from Follow That Dream, so my expectations were high as I put this "Songs from his movies, vol. 2" in my CD player and pressed "play". I was greatly disappointed. As opposed to OUT IN HOLLYWOOD, there are only a handful of good songs here, the best of the lot being 'Summer Kisses, Winter Tears', 'Angel', 'I Got Lucky', 'Riding The Rainbow' and take 1 of 'Viva Las Vegas'. The main focus is on the early sixties, which could have been a good thing, with a different song selection. The CD has a generous playing time of almost 72 minutes and contains 26 songs. Prolific songwriter Ben Weisman has credit on eight of 'em. All the tracks are in chronological order. I like the cover, that was how they looked back in those days.
The album kicks off with three songs from the 50's, the reason for their inclusion is obviously to increase the interest for this release. After all, there are quite a few die-hard fans out there who actually loathe the "film songs" of The King. These recordings are "binaural", artificial stereo where we can only hear Elvis in the left channel. A fast version of 'Loving You' is just awful, almost as bad as Elvis' recording of 'White Christmas'. Listen to Elvis sing "wanter" instead of "winter". 'Don't Leave Me Now' suffers from a buzz, which we can hear Bill Black complain about. Not a favourite song of mine, but okay.
'Tonight Is So Right For Love' is a keeper, though. "I've been asked to have you not snap your fingers" says someone in the control booth. "Am I snapping my fingers?" Elvis asks, not being aware of this. And the count-in is absolutely hilarious! Another alternate take of this song was released on the box set ELVIS ARON PRESLEY ("The Silver Box") back in 1980.
The tempo is way too high in 'Frankfort Special'. 'Doin' The Best I Can' is a little too "greasy" for my taste. I would have preferred a take of 'Lonely Man', a song in the same vein, only much better. 'Shoppin' Around' is hardly top-drawer material.
I really dig the guitar intro to the sad 'Summer Kisses, Winter Tears' and the song is very similar to 'Earth Boy' from the movie GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! Piano player Dudley Brooks is really having a go in 'Riding The Rainbow'. The "Acapulco" songs are of exceptionally low standard.
The first take of 'Viva Las Vegas', with prominent acoustic guitar and piano, is exhilirating, but unfortunately not complete. The second take is rushed with more percussion. The right channel is "dead" for the last few seconds. Take 1 is superb, so what a shame it only lasts for a minute and a half!
What follows are the two duets with Ann-Margret that were recorded for the film VIVA LAS VEGAS. She's a mediocre singer with an impersonal voice. 'The Lady Loves Me' is monotonous with bloody silly lyrics and 'You're The Boss' is even worse - her so-called "sexy" recitation of the words is just plain unbearable. And it's really amazing that her name isn't mentioned in the track list.
'C'mon Everybody' has a slow ending á la 'I Got A Woman' or 'Frankie And Johnny'. I don't think Elvis enjoyed the "hillbilly overdub" to 'Kissin' Cousins'. This is an a cappella performance that I could have lived without.
'There's So Much World To See' is a new version of 'New Orleans', but ten times worse. Elvis sings 'Clambake' in a very restrained way - was he still suffering from that infamous concussion? Rotten song.
Will there be a "OUT IN HOLLYWOOD vol. 3"? I think so. Remember, there are more than 250 songs to choose from!