Fun in Acapulco (Follow That Dream/BMG)

Thanks to another clever move from BMG's Roger Semon and Ernst Jorgensen, Elvis Presley's collector's label is now expanding its normal release schedule to include deluxe reissues of Elvis' deleted soundtrack recordings. Although this music can no longer be justified as viable product at normal retail outlets, through Follow That Dream anyone can obtain the material on CD.

Housed in handsome, double fold out, 7" sleeves with full color information booklets, a "retro" design and more than a dozen outtakes each, these gorgeous packages are a real treat for the hardcore Elvis fanatic. The fidelity throughout is also remarkably clean. There's an old song about finding "where the sands turnin' into gold" - and that is exactly what these "bonus" Follow That Dream discs achieve.

"Fun In Acapulco" was Presley's Christmas holiday picture at the end of 1963 and continued the "filmed travelogue" with soundtrack album, assembly-line aspect of his career. The world was changing at a rapid pace. Less than a week prior to the film's debut, US president John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas, Texas. Two months later the Beatles would lift the country out of its depression with their landmark appearances on the Ed Sullivan television program. A huge upheaval in pop music, dominated by the Fab Four, consumed the remainder of 1964. But somehow Presley's management failed to notice.

The Latin-themed picture brought with it a slew of attempts to blend Elvis with similarly-themed musical motifs. There is a certain charm to the performances as a whole, and, as usual, both singer and musicians did all they could to bring the material to life. A recent assessment by Presley reissue producer Ernst Jorgensen deemed the soundtrack a "triumph of sound and atmosphere" and considered Elvis "motivated" for these sessions.

However, an honest listener has to question why a 28 year-old Elvis Presley, in the prime of his career, was cutting tracks like "Vino, Dinero y Amor" or "(There's) No Room To Rhumba In A Sports Car." One tends to agree with what Jorgensen stated back in 1984, that these songs were "RCA's idea of Mexican material," and "a far cry not only from rock'n'roll, but also from pop music as it was developing at that time on the other side of the Atlantic."

On the bright side, 2003's Fun In Acapulco is probably the best digital release of this material to date, adhering much more closely to what the1963 LP sounded like than BMG's mid-nineties Double Features CD. As with the others in this deluxe FTD series, there are 14 bonus tracks, more than half previously unissued. The highlights, as expected, are the alternates of Leiber and Stoller's "Bossa Nova Baby" and Don Robertson and Hal Blair's impossibly catchy "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here." On the former, one can hear how Elvis and the band gradually changed the Latin-esque arrangement of the Tippy and the Clovers 1962 original into Presley's neo-rock hit single. With the latter, it is perplexing to wonder why the more uptempo remake was deemed good enough for the film, but not the Presley soundtrack album, where a slower example was slotted instead. In any event, a listen to this FTD release makes it clear that the remade versions of "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" and "The Bullfighter Was A Lady" were indeed the actual movie performances.

This is hardly the best work of Elvis Presley's career, but providing unavailable material is what "Follow That Dream" is all about. That these particular recordings are wrapped in a delightful, unique package is a brilliant idea -- even a Presley soundtrack cynic will find good reason to pick up a copy.

[Johnny Savage, USA]