The majority of the tracks feature Elvis singing and playing piano,
sometimes accompanied by friends like Red West, Charlie Hodge,
girlfriend Nancy Sharp and others. Although the quality isn't
anything close to studio perfection, it remains more than palatable,
especially on headphones.
The disc's first three and final seven cuts come from Presley's
fascinating German home recordings, heard in full on the essential
1998 "import" set 'Greetings From Germany.' The audio here is not
quite as up to snuff as on the VIK CD, for some odd reason. In any
case, one hears the artist in exile working through a variety of
numbers for pleasure, edification and an eye towards his escape, ah,
release in 1960. Whether directing the crude recording process or
simply showing off for friends, this is Elvis at his down-home best.
A few seconds of "Loving You" lead into the yearning, solo electric
guitar take of "Danny Boy" originally issued on the "gold" box in
1985. Next up is an uncredited thirty seconds of "Santa Claus Is
Back In Town" with Elvis singing the bass line rather than a verse,
straight into a slightly different version of Jim Reeves' heartbreak
B-side, "I'm Beginning To Forget You." "There's No Tomorrow"
captures Presley's attraction to pop-opera a year before it'd be
translated into his number one smash "It's Now Or Never." In
retrospect, he would have been well-served to choose "There's No
Tomorrow" as the lead-in to "It's Now Or Never" on tour in the
seventies, rather than "O Sole Mio."
The slower variation of "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" echoes
his May'71 arrangement, while a fast take is rendered with Jerry Lee
Lewis-like confidence. Listen also for some uncredited piano riffing
on the Drifters' "Such A Night" prior to "Apron Strings," a
Weiss/Schroeder tune ultimately passed on to Cliff Richard. Elvis'
country roots are in full bloom with Ernest Tubb's sweet lament "It's
Been So Long, Darling," new Army pal Charlie Hodge on percussion in
the background. "Number Eight (On The Jukebox)" is a lovely ballad
with a passionate vocal that presages "The Thrill Of Your Love" from
his initial post-Army sessions and echoes the haunting vocals he will
give "Long Black Limousine" in 1969's Memphis sessions! Either of
these selections taped in Germany would've slotted nicely into 'Elvis
A year removed from the German demos, Elvis is completely back, 1960
being a year of chart-topping records, a TV shot with Frank Sinatra
and a hit movie. Surrounded by friends like gal pal Nancy Sharp,
Presley tackles nine tunes, including "Sweet Leilani" twice. One try
at the Bing Crosby classic is mostly instrumental, the other a real
highlight, as Elvis takes the harmony and allows Nancy a gorgeous
lead vocal. Taped around the same time as Presley's visit to
Nashville to cut 'His Hand In Mine,' his first gospel album, this
informal singalong has the same feel. The stateliness is also
captured on a quiet rendition of "She Wears My Ring," miles away from
the somewhat overblown studio track he lays down in Memphis thirteen
"If I Loved You," a duet with Miss Sharp, reveals a vocal and piano
styling very similar to Presley's amazing, aforementioned '66 demo
issued on 'Home Recordings' in 1999. It's simply a magnificent song,
and Elvis' Roy Hamilton-inspired version should have been preserved
at a proper studio session. He continues to surprise with his recall
of a pop hit from 1947 by Eddy Howard called "I Wonder, I Wonder, I
Wonder." On "He," another Hamilton-like religious ballad, Nancy's
soprano backing resembles Millie Kirkham's work with Elvis on songs
like "Give Me The Right." "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" is delivered in an
arrangement just as jaunty as the one heard on the April '72 tour,
but it barely crosses the sixteen second mark!
Fast forward five years, Presley is in the midst of a creative and
commercial slump, oddly yielding to his management's notion that he
only film musicals and issue soundtracks. Had the music been as
diverse and adventurous as that captured on Red West's tape
recorders, the story would undoubtedly be different. 'In A Private
Moment' adds ten more 1966 performances to the fourteen issued on
'Home Recordings' and a handful on the 'Platinum' box from 1997, and
it runs the gamut from silly to stunning.
"Moonlight Sonata" is bizarre yet remarkable, featuring wordless
chords sung together with Beethoven's famous melody. Who would've
thought it: Elvis plays Beethoven! Sadly, the tape levels overload
at points. "Were you gonna bust something?" jokes Red. "I was,"
laughs Presley. Elvis seemingly remained attached to the piece,
shocking one of the musical directors who found him alone, playing
this selfsame number in a rehearsal room on the set of his NBC TV
Special in June, 1968.
Whether it's "Blue Hawaii" on a lone acoustic guitar or a song Elvis
likely heard Hovie Lister of the Statesmen sing, "Hide Thou Me"
(written in 1899, it's also known as "Rock of Ages"), much of the
1966 recordings have a "sitting around the campfire" mood. Presley
is camp leader and where he goes, everyone follows. At some point,
Elvis opts to sing along to instrumental recordings on LP, in both
group and solo settings.
Presley, the guys and their wives all curl up with the Kingston Trio
album 'Sing A Song With The Kingston Trio' (Capitol SKAO 2005),
"Instrumental Background Re-Creations" of contemporary folk hits with
"complete lyrics and chord symbols included for your sing-along, play
along pleasure." Finally, Elvis and John Stewart, connected at last.
Although musically tepid, it's worth noting that thousands of
similarly-aged people did exactly the same thing with the exact same
record back in the sixties. "Blowing In The Wind" and "500 Miles,"
folk standards penned by Bob Dylan and Hedy West respectively, are
preserved here, with Elvis singing bass style on both. One anxiously
awaits the Presley sing-along versions of "Tom Dooley" or "A Worried
Man," both included in that album.
'In A Private Moment' stuns the listener with "Fools Rush In" and
"It's A Sin To Tell A Lie," both taped with Elvis singing solo to
versions from a gentle, string-laden instrumental record. The
quality here is excellent; they're akin to having new, unreleased
studio cuts! Differing from Ricky Nelson's early sixties uptempo
arrangement, one which he did utilize on a spur of the moment studio
jam in 1971, this "Fools Rush In" is delicate and tender. For some
reason it fades out early (perhaps Presley utters some rude words, a
no-no in BMG circles) segueing into "It's A Sin To Tell A Lie."
Elvis' mid-song recitation, a clear homage to great Ink Spots lead
vocalist Bill Kenny, caps a beautiful performance.
Despite any weird tape glitches, drop outs or edits, this is a
valuable purchase for any Presley scholar. In combination with
1999's 'Home Recordings,' fans have nearly two hours of material to
interpret and relish. One can get inside Elvis' musical mind, a
fertile and diverse area, something only his closest companions were
privy to in his lifetime. It's yet another piece of the puzzle in
solving the mystery of the greatest recording artist of the 20th