Joe Russo's Elvis....Straight Up !

 Elvis Week 2008 - An '' off '' the hook !


"Good things come to those who wait"  is a generations-old expression that I'm sure all of us have heard throughout our lives. Last year, the "30th Anniversary" Elvis "weak" left me concerned about the future (please read the previously posted column to re-live the experience with me). So "wait" I did...a full 365 days until Elvis Week 2008 and boy, did good things come to me ( who waited). Even the CLARION hotel got their s**t together and the COLLECTING THE KING show was back there again . And this year they didn't overcharge my credit card. I told you good things happened. 

Firstly, I must shamelessly, indeed proudly, announce that Elvis Week 2008 included the public debut of the book ELVIS:SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY from That's All Right! Publishing, an enterprise and project  assembled by myself and fellow "Elvis Squad" contributor Steve Barile. 

I won't get into any hype, soapboxing or wild promotions here, but I will suggest that each and every fan check out the official website ( , read the reviews and you should decide the book is a must for your collection. That's the extent of what I plan to say about my own project in this column. Beyond this, I will let the quality and reputation of the book speak for itself. By the the way, this is NOT a one-shot release. No less than two projects are in development from Thats All Right Publishing as we speak, so please stay tuned. 

Attendance was "Way Down" in Memphis this year. But what morphed from the smaller crowds was a nice sized group of "us" ( "us" meaning a number of  EP-friends from across the globe who congregated and "hung out" in various factions throughout the entire week)... and had a blast. As a result, I experienced the most satisfying and "quality time" Elvis Week I can remember. It was great to see friends from Canada,Minneapolis,Chicago,Austraila, Germany etc. (you know who you are) and also meet some "long lost" Elvis-world giants like Rocky "Strictly Elvis" Barra and noted "original" fan Judy Palmer. Great food all week too, except for a miserable visit to a joint called NEELY's...ugh!! 

New Elvis releases were pretty minimal, but excellent. Our "Elvis-Something For Everybody" book, Producer Steve Binder/JAT Publishing's " '68 at 40" (great text as well as photos) and Sue McCasland/Praytome Publishing's "Elvis At Lake Tahoe" book were the three "biggies", along with the three long anticipated FTD CD sets. All of the aforementioned book projects are highly recommended."Inside Love Me Tender" was also floating around town,however I only got to peruse it for a brief moment. It quickly impressed me as the best of the "Inside box" releases from ELVIS UNLIMITED. I look forward to getting it and reporting an appropriately sized review of it's contents in the future. 

The '68 COMEBACK 4-Cd set from BMG was such a non-necessity, I passed it up and put it on my Christmas list instead. 

The LOVE LETTERS (2-Cd FTD) is fantastic! Just fantastic. I read some horrendous comments about these sessions (for instance, one fella claimed these sessions, featuring some of Nashville's hottest and greatest musicians, were "flat as a pancake"...was he serious?)  Honestly, I'm often mortified by some of the comments on these"message boreds" as I cynicaly refer to them . Are these people supposed to be Elvis fans? I'm not suggesting everything EP ever did was perfect and without flaw, but these people just tear up or tear down virtually everything the man did! And don't even mention the 1977 CBS special! That raises major ire. But personally, I  think this LOVE LETTERS release is just a joy! If that's a crime, I plead GUILTY of all charges. 

Yes, I like it all..This Is Our Dance, I'll Never Know, Life...all of it. Great alternate takes and undubbed masters, and overall the set features great mixes (although the piano on the SYLVIA outtakes is mixed absurdly loud)..but NO extensive reason to complain. We must THANK Ernst and Roger for having the tenacity to continue releasing these gems unabated, despite being barraged  by knuckleheads and ungratefuls.And worth special mention is the 9-minute workout of THE SOUND OF YOUR CRY. Elvis absolutely has his "mojo workin'" on these sessions. One of the greatest outtakes ever! Flat as a pancake...NOT! (That writers HEAD maybe) 

Likewise, ELVIS SINGS MEMPHIS,TENNESSEE (2-cd FTD) set gets a hearty thumbs up too...and a special round of applause for one of the best covers EVER on any 60's-themed Elvis release. (Sure beats the previously available CD titled THE LOST ALBUM where the cover sported a brown paper mailing package!) Wow! what an improvement. 

AMERICA, an FTD soundboard recording from April 1976 has gotten quite a raking because of an imbalanced sound mix (basicly, the female background singers are usually up too high, sometimes way,way too high)...but I can defend this release choice because it is one of the ONLY recordings ever from this tour...and Elvis himself is pretty charged-up and sings quite commitedly on a number of songs (in other words, he doesn't sleepwalk through the show as he sometimes did in performances later that summer). Simply put, we have become spoiled (myself included,to a degree). Here, the live mix was on cassette and FTD can't change that. It's better to have the concert than to not,right? Also, another great cover design with a dramatic concert pose courtesy of Sean Shaver. By the way, when someone criticizes Elvis's physical appearance (i.e,his weight) I can't tell you how dissapointed I am that anyone would hold that against Elvis's reputation as a great singer and performer. If nothing else, this disc contains one of the best versions of TRYING TO GET TO YOU ever. The two "bonus" tracks are from Spokane 5 days later, however they are not particularly noteworthy. 

If the AMERICA CD had come out 10 or 15 years ago, we would all have been climbing over each other to get one. Many Elvis fans are just becoming spoiled brats, quite frankly. And PLEASE folks, quit complaining about the concert set lists. Elvis chose what he wanted to perform, you can't blame anyone but him. He's deceased,and the setlists are what they are (as of August 16, 1977). They aren't ever going to change, no matter how much we balk. Elvis hasn't done any more shows or released any new material that I know of. Do you? So let's be thankful for FTD, or someday it might not be there to kick around anymore. 

So the gist of this Elvis Week was that it was low-key...but more fun than a Clambake! 

Joe Russo


Thanks for listening--any fellow Elvis fans with comments or rare-Elvis tips, please e-mail me at

Joe Russo 2008