I was not intending to revisit the FTD collectors label subject for awhile, having discussed it quite thoroughly in my first two columns. However this latest batch of releases has created the need...no, demand...for commentary.
If you note my previous STRAIGHT UP column titled IT'S ALL IN THE MIX , you will recall how I feel Elvis' voice should be mixed and presented in these posthumous releases.When Elvis was alive, he may have insisted to Felton Jarvis that his voice be mixed further back with the instruments and other voices, but that ( unfortunate ) edict should no longer be observed.
This month's two classic album releases ELVIS PRESLEY and CLAMBAKE are, in a word, supurb. CLAMBAKE? Supurb? you may ask incredulously.Yes...indeed!
The sucess of an FTD CD reissue must be judged on how it sounds, what outtakes it includes and how the mixes are presented...not the musical credibility of the songwriting . On this level, CLAMBAKE suceeds because the previously released LP tracks sound marvelous, the best they ever have, and the outtakes are great in both selection and ( eureka! ) in their mix balances.
Many of you may think listening to outtakes of HEY HEY HEY over and over again is a pastime reserved for idiot chimpanzees, but I can't tell you how much enjoyment these tracks can bring to a hardcore Elvis music fan like myself! A HOUSE THAT HAS EVERYTHING and THE GIRL I NEVER LOVED are both fine, well sung ballads, as is the classic YOU DON'T KNOW ME.The title song,CLAMBAKE is a fun track, admit it, and it's a joy to hear Elvis cut up during the sessions. I must also note that the in-between studio banter is well chosen and neatly trimmed to only the most interesting bits.
Including such chatter is fine as long as it "says" something and is not just 60 or 90 seconds of dead air and instruments being tuned.Some past releases,including the CLOSE UP box set, had minutes and minutes and minutes worth of dull nonsense that didn't even feature Elvis' voice. It's nice to see the in-between stuff utilized as entertainment instead of just filler.
ELVIS PRESLEY, a two disc set, is simply stunning. How can these tracks sound this remarkably improved? It can't be my imagination. These recordings are as old as the hills, yet they sound fresh, urgent and crackle with energy as if they were recorded yesterday. I guess Elvis and the boys were just half a century ahead of their time! The bonus interview is great as well.FTD, whatever you're doing, do it again.
These are surely the " ultimate " versions of these albums. Previous titles in the series have not been as consistant.I hope the remainder of the " classic album " FTD's are as listenable.
I also hope FTD considers ( has considered? ) my mixing suggestions and that future releases sound as good, or dare I say, possibly even better than these do!
On the flip side, I FOUND MY THRILL, the live Vegas soundboard offering from January/February 1974 is one of the few outright lackluster FTD releases.Why choose a recording that is so consistantly distorted and over recorded? Surely there are better quality soundboards in RCA's archive to cull from .The bonus tracks actually sound better and feature better performances. Worth owning, yes,but I doubt many of you will be relistening to this one very often.
I know some of you frown upon " bootleg " releases, and that is your justified perogative.Yes, I understand that bootlegs are " illegal " and I'm well versed with all the pros and cons that go along with that argument, so please...no e-mails to remind me of that fact. I am simply a commentator on all things Elvis, especially his music, and this column discusses all Elvis recordings, and that includes any that may be released unofficially.
LET IT ROLL is probably the Madison labels greatest release so far. It consists of 46 minutes of studio outtakes 1969-1973 in perfect quality,plus a live 1977 cut. Some of the takes have appeared on official releases, but these versions sound better and some either run longer or have mix variations which makes them essential. I wish it ran longer of course, but you remember the old " quality vs. quantity " bit.Pretty please, Madison label...about 20 or 30 more volumes of this type of stuff....please?
By the way, does anyone have any photos,video or audio from Elvis' February 1977 Florida shows, please let me know?
Thanks for listening--any fellow Elvis fans with comments or rare-Elvis tips, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Joe Russo © 2006