Elvis worked hard for his triumphant return in 1960, and the successful
formula concocted by his management was, for better or worse, to be
revisited in 1961. Like March of the previous year, Elvis hit Nashville to
record an album and single. This double disc set captures the entire two
day event (actually the evening of March 12 and early morning of March 13),
a fly-on-the-wall perspective of an established professional at work. His
voice is pure genius, sometimes using that sweet, high register he only
employed for the first few years of the decade on a couple of Don Robertson
ballads like "Starting Today" (there are three beautiful complete takes)
while handling blues and rock tracks such as "I Feel So Bad" and "I Want
You With Me" with aplomb. The powerhouse band was pretty much the same as
the year previous, with Scotty and D.J. augmented by guitar god Hank
"Sugarfoot" Garland, Floyd Cramer on piano (even he'd hit the top of the
charts in 1960 with "Last Date" -- Floyd just recently passed away at 64),
saxophonist Boots Randolph and drummer Buddy Harman.
Besides the long time official album and single, much of this alternate
material has dotted the "private" release landscape in the past few years
(on 'There's Always Me', 'Presley Meets Presley', etc.) and even RCA/BMG
has slipped a few our way, on 1991's 'Collector's Gold' and last year's
'Platinum', but this is the only place to find it all, uh, complete. The
sound quality is a little below the best releases from the Famous Groove
label, but remains quite listenable. Disc one begins with Charlie Rich's
jaunty "I'm Coming Home" -- Elvis must have brought in the Carl Mann Sun
single to allow Hank Garland to learn the distinctive guitar solo
(reminiscent of the cascading run of Billy Swan's "I Can Help", which EP
covered in 1975), and it takes a while until he gets it. "Give Me The
Right", a decent rewrite of 1957's "Don't Leave Me Now", and the cool-ass
Chuck Willis cover of "I Feel So Bad" are enjoyable workouts -- it only
took two takes to nail down Willis' song!
Sadly, the weak material dominates -- "Gently" and "Sentimental Me" are
incredibly wimpy tunes, while "Judy" and "In Your Arms" are merely
nondescript. Songs like "In Your Arms" and "Put The Blame On Me", though
competent, lack inspiration or depth. It boggles the mind to consider how
wasteful of talent this studio session was, only eleven months after 'Elvis
Is Back'! It should be noted here that Elvis always seems to be asking for
the tempo to be picked up, especially on the slower numbers. This wouldn't
be the last time he would request such a thing.
"There's Always Me" shows Presley feeling his way through the first take,
his cousin Gene Smith strolling through take 6 ("What the hell y'all doing?
Hey Gene? We're right in the middle of take fellas!" yells Elvis,
embarrassed), and achieving perfection with take 10. This could've been
the "Hurt" of his live performances, had he toured in the early sixties.
Prior to take one of "I Want You With Me" is a previously-unknown rehearsal
run-through which is wild! It cuts off with Elvis' heavily echoed voice
saying "let's just hear that much back". His voice cracks when running
down "Put The Blame On Me" so it's moved to a lower key for the fifth take
-- not surprisingly, it sounded more dangerous played in the higher key.
It is difficult to witness the number of sub-standard songs cut in studio B
this night. A comparison of material from the previous March leaves this
evening in the dust -- here is a moment when Elvis should have drawn the
line of quality wide enough for the Colonel and his publishing cohorts to
see -- he didn't and we all know how things slid as the decade progressed.
The ridiculous "Blue Hawaii" session was just two weeks away, and the true
fan wouldn't get anything consistently great from Elvis in the studio again
But it's a privilege to have this two CD set, an essential purchase for the
Reviewed by Johnny Savage, USA
Well, here is the newest release from the Famous Groove label.
"Something Complete" contains the complete recording sessions from the
March 12 + 13 1961 which were released on the "Something for Everybody"
This double CD is packaged in a nice "single width" CD jewel case, those
"double width" cases are annoying. The pictures for the sleeves are of
average good quality, with the single fold-out sleeve containing two
black and white photos of Elvis from the early to mid '60's.
The material on these CDs is great. CD#1 starts off with "I'm Coming
Home" which is one of my favorite rockers from the early 1960's. In
take 1, Elvis blows the lyrics because he doesn't know them very well.
And after the mess up, Elvis can be heard rehearsing the lyrics. Take 2
has a false start before they get going. Takes 3 and 4 are tight, but
Scotty has trouble at the beginning of the guitar solos. Take 3 was
released on RCA's "Platinum" set. After painstaking comparison by
playing both CDs simultaneously on two separate CD players, I have
determined that the "alternate take" on "There's Always Me" Vol. 2 CD #1
is take 4. They line up exactly, vocals, piano and guitar solos,
everything. So for those of you who are like me, who are annoyed when a
song is listed as an "alternate take" because you want to know exactly
what take number it is, I have solved the mystery for one of these :>)
In take 5, Elvis blows the lyric "it's so very" after the piano and
guitar solos. Take 6 is messed up right away, followed by a false
start, and never does get started properly so there is no real take 6.
Take 7 is the familiar master take.
"Gently" is a great ballad. On take 1, the guitar part gets messed up
at the beginning. Take 2 is clean, however takes 1 and 2 are in a lower
key. At the beginning of take 3 Elvis says "that didn't sound too low
at first" possibly referring to rehearsing the song a time or two in the
higher key that allows Elvis to not have to sing so low in the beginning
of the song. This take was released on RCA's 1991 "Collectors Gold"
set. Take 4 is clean followed by the master take 5. Also, there is a
false start before master take 5 that begins way too slow. Also, takes
1, 2, and 4 were released on the double CD "24 Carat Gold" on the 2001
"In Your Arms" is not one of my favorites. Poor Millie Kirkham sounds
so flat singing in the chorus because she is singing low in her vocal
range. But she makes up for it in the next song. Take 1 is solid, and
take 2 is the master take. After some comparison, the "try out" take
listed on "There's Always Me" Vol. 2 CD #1 is the take 1 heard here.
They sound exactly the same right down to the sax solo.
"Give me the Right" has become a new favorite Elvis song. Hearing these
takes has given me a new appreciation for this song. Millie makes up
for her unfortunately "too low/flat" vocal on the previous song by
launching into vocal orbit on takes 1 and 2. Take 1 had been released
also on RCA's "Collectors Gold" set. Before take 3 Elvis says "lets get
this son-of-a-bitch". Take 3 gets messed up though to the amusement of
everyone, and there is some laughing. Take 4, the master take, is a
little faster tempo and does not have Millie's cool real high vocals
like in takes 1 and 2. Takes 2 and 3 can be heard on "There's Always Me"
Vol. 3 CD#1 in better quality.
Take 1 of "I Feel So Bad" is no different than take 2, the master take.
Take 1 was also just released on RCA's "Platinum" set. Interestingly,
while listening to these takes though head phones for the first time, I
noticed that in both takes the sax solo moves from the left channel to
both left and right channels right in the middle of the solo!
"It's A Sin" is a much underrated ballad in my opinion, and I like this
song more now then I did before hearing these takes. Before take 1
begins, we can hear the Jordanaires, Millie and Elvis working out the
backing vocals. Take 1 gets messed up. There is a slight false start
before a very solid take 2. Before take 3, we can hear the backing
vocals being worked on again. Take 3 is messed up, and the tempo is
picked up for the master take 4. Takes 1 and 2 can be heard on "There's
Always Me" Vol. 1 CD#1.
CD#2 starts off with "I Want You With Me". Before take 1, there is a
portion of the rehearsal that had been recorded, some laughing can be
heard during the rehearsal. Take 1 is solid, after which Elvis says
"lets just hear that much". Take 1 was also released on RCA's
"Collectors Gold" set, without the dialogue at the end. Before the
master take 2, Elvis can be heard making funny voices. Take 1 with the
rehearsal can be heard on "There's Always Me" Vol. 1 CD#1 in better
quality. Take 1 without the rehearsal was released on RCA's "Collectors
"There's Always Me" is perhaps one of Elvis' best ballads ever! None of
the takes is any different than the master, but it is hard to get tired
of hearing this great song! There is a small false start before a clean
Take 1. There is small false start before take 2 also where Elvis
starts laughing. In take 3 Elvis stops the song and tells the backing
vocalists "you all came in a little too soon". Before take 4 gets
under way, Elvis starts talking in a funny high voice! It is fun to
hear him goofing off. Take 4 is clean, and can also be heard on RCA's
1991 "Collectors Gold" set. Before take 5, backing vocals are being
practiced. Take 5 is messed up, not all the instruments come in and
Elvis says "that was the best opening I had". Two false starts follow,
then as take 6 begins Elvis says "what the hell you all doing? Hey
Gene, we're in the middle of a take man! We're in the middle of a take
fellas if you don't hurry the hell up!". Pretty amusing stuff!!! Take
7 begins with a false start, then take 7 falls apart. As take 8 begins,
someone makes a squeaking noise. After two more false starts, take 8
gets interrupted just as it gets started. Then about half way through
take 8, a bad bass note stops it in the chorus! They're having some
trouble! Finally take 9 is complete, though Elvis has a little trouble
with some high notes about half way through the song. Take 10 is the
"Starting Today" is a great ballad. Takes 1 and 2 are good. Take 2 was
also released on the "24 Carat Gold" set. There is a false start and
some laughter before the master take 3.
"Sentimental Me" is another great ballad. Take 1 ends with an unusually
heavy drum beat which sounds very out-of-place. That is probably why
this take was not the master take, though otherwise it was good enough.
Master take 2 begins with a false start.
"Judy" has a lot of good dialogue. The familiar dialogue is dispersed
throughout the takes. Take 1 has Elvis showing the band how part of the
song goes, "it's twice...in D". Take 2 falls apart, and at the end of
take 3 Elvis breaks into laughter and says "...you guys have already had
it...you throw and A and a D". Take 4 is complete. In the beginning of
take 5, Elvis can be heard reciting lyrics from "Starting Today". Elvis
voice cracks a little and says "hold it". Half way through take 6,
Elvis busts up laughing and says "bullshit". Take 7 starts with Elvis
laughing and commenting on how much trouble they have had with the song.
In take 7, the piano solo is messed up at the end and an extra measure
is added, Elvis starts laughing and says "oh no man!" and the take is
stopped. Floyd has had trouble with the piano solo in all the takes up
to this point. Before the master take 8, Elvis says "let's pick up the
beat a little", and then they cut the take that became the one for
release, and Floyd hits the piano solo perfectly!
"Put the Blame On Me" has a different sound than all of the previous
songs as there is an organ in this song. Elvis's voice cracks in take
1. They try it again and his voice cracks again and Elvis makes the
comment "it's not high at all, it's just I've had it, let's face it."
Take 2 is a complete run through, though Elvis's vocal is obviously
strained in the high parts. Elvis is still struggling with the high
parts in take 3, and the take stops. In take 4 Elvis' voice blows out
again, he laughs and asks "what is that I am hitting there Floyd?" to
which Floyd answers "G". The key is lowered quite a bit for take 5.
Elvis has no trouble with vocal and this becomes the master take.
The sound quality on this set is very good, though it is definitely
taken from second generation tapes. The sound is not as clear and "big"
as the sound on the first generation live stereo master tapes, but it is
very easy to listen to. If you like Elvis' early 1960's music and you
like the "Something For Everybody" LP, then this CD set is highly
recommended. There is a lot of fun dialogue throughout these sessions.
It would be fun to hear more studio chatter, but the engineers weren't
getting paid to record dialogue. As a follow up to "Surrender" vol. 1,
it is great to hear the complete session and to hear all of the takes
and how the songs developed into the familiar versions that we have come
to know. So, if you like to hear Elvis working hard in the studio with
a great set of musicians doing some excellent music, as has been said,
your collection is not complete without "Something Complete!"
Sound rate **** -