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There's always me, Volume 1

Bilko 1598/1599 (Released 1995)

(CD-1)
Shake rattle and roll (# 2, 3, 5)
Lawdy miss clawdy (# 7-9)
I want you, I need you, I love you (# 3)
I need your love tonight (# 7)
I got stung (# 18, 20)
Ain't that loving you baby (# 9, 10 fast version)
Lawdy miss clawdy (# 12)
Shake rattle and roll (# 7)
Fever (# 1)
Like a baby (# 3, 4)
Stuck on you (alt. take)
I feel so bad (alt. take)
Dirty dirty feeling (alt. take)
Thrill of your love (alt. take)
Such a night (alt. take)
Are you lonesome tonight (alt. take)
Girl next door went a-walkin' (alt. take)
A mess of blues (alt. take)
It feels so right (alt. take)
Fame and fortune (alt. take)
Surrender (alt. take)
Working on the building (# 2)
I'm coming home (alt. take)
It's a sin (# 1, 2)
I want you with me (# 1)
(CD-2)
There's always me (# 2, 6)
Starting today (# 1)
Sentimental me (# 1)
Judy (false start & # 1)
Put the blame on me (false starts & # 1)
For the millionth and the last time (# 2, 6, 10)
Good luck charm (# 1-3)
Anything that's part of you (# 2)
I met her today (# 1, 7)
I feel that I've known you forever (# 1, 2)
Just tell her Jim said hello (# 2, 5, 6)
Suspicion (# 1, 2)
She's not you (# 1, 2)
Echoes of love (# 2, 3)
Please don't drag that string around (# 1, 4, 5)
Devil in disguise (# 1-3)
Never ending (# 1, 2)

Beginning in 1989, the Bilko label began to release some amazing products, such as "Elvis Rocks Little Rock" and "The Request Box Shows." But just as soon as the name Bilko was on every Elvis' fans lips, the label disappeared without a trace and was not heard from for four long years. Their last release, "Hang Loose" a 1970 Las Vegas stage rehearsal from That's the Way It Is left us wanting more. But what did the Bilko label have left? When Bilko finally reemerged in late 1995, Elvis fans around the world were stunned, not just at the sound quality of the first release, but also the contents.

"There's Always Me Volume 1" contains over two hours and twenty minutes worth of great material documenting some of Elvis' first sessions with RCA in the 1950s and most of his Nashville sessions from 19601963. Before I begin talking about the contents track by track, let me say at the outset that the sound quality of these outtakes are amazing; there is a little hissing on some of them, but some of these performances are over 40 years old. Packaged in a deluxe gatefold sleeve, the sleeve contains many glorious pictures from the period covered on the set. For fans of Elvis' early period, this is an invaluable release. Without further delay, let's look at the set track by track!

The set starts out with four versions of "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" from February 3 of 1956, but only one of these versions is complete, take 2. Here we see Elvis' youthful exuberance for the music, and Elvis, Scotty, Bill, and DJ having tons of fun just working on a very familiar song; he had debuted it on national television six days before. Like alternate take 8 from the '50's Masters Box set, these versions include the extra verse and the piano solo not found on the original master. When take 3 breakdowns right after the intro, the culprit Elvis says, "Cut, cut! I was learning the verse." Notice how he changes the lyrics to the first verse between takes 1,2,3, and 5. Take 5 breaks down, when the band cracks up in a fit of laughter.

Next comes three rocking and exciting versions of "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," a Lloyd Price R&B hit from 1952, from the same February 3rd sessions in New York City. Take 7 proceeds smoothly until a huge drumming mistake by DJ causes Elvis to breakup laughing hysterically. During take 8, Scotty misses his guitar solo completely, and Elvis is heard to say, "That's the best we've done yet." Comments like these show that the 21-year-old Elvis was in charge of production and not Steve Sholes. Take 3 of "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" is very similar to take 4 just released on the Platinum box, as the guitar is more prominent and the tempo is a little slower. It is a good performance, but not a master.

Up next are three songs from Elvis' June 10 and 11th 1958 sessions, which not only produced four top ten hits, but also set the stage for his 1960s Nashville recordings. It was his first session without Scotty and Bill, who had quit over money disputes, and DJ had been relegated to second drummer. With musicians like Hank Garland, Bob Moore, and Buddy Harman, Elvis belted out some fantastic rock and roll. One of the best songs from that session, "I Need Your Love Tonight, " is showcased via take 7, which has recently been released on Platinum. This fantastic alternate take is one of the gems on this disc. It is definitely a song that deserved to reach #4 on the Hot 100 during April of 1959 as the B-side to "A Fool Such As I."

The bass is more prominent in the outtakes of "I Got Stung," another great B-side. Take 18 breaks down because Elvis messes up the lyrics and following the goof, he is heard to say "Fuckin' shit;" I bet you RCA will not release this take. False start take 19 contains a snippet of army talk found on Essential Elvis Vol. 3, and take 20 is simply an all out rocker. It certainly deserved to a top ten hit. Takes 9 and 10 of 'Ain't That Loving You Baby," the fast version, show Elvis and the musicians on the track and messing up. Take 10, I believe, is a long false start because the song stops suddenly during the second guitar solo; either the session tape ran out or Bilko cut this. The next two tracks, "Lawdy" take 12 and "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" show Elvis and the band having fun and working on some great material.

Up next are numerous outtakes from Elvis' first post army sessions, which would yield three #1 singles and the album "Elvis Is Back." This was some of his best material and also some of my favorite. These sessions showed the diverse direction with which he wished to take his singing career. Up first is take 1 of "Fever," a song written by Otis Blackwell under the pseudonym John Davenport and a hit for both Little Wille John and Peggy Lee in 1956 and 1958, respectively. Like Lee's version, Elvis' is just bass and drums, although this take has a longer bass introduction. This great song showcases Elvis' sexuality much like "Love Me" from 1956. Before the first take begins, Elvis says to Chet Atkins, "I hit a few bad notes, but we've got plenty of tape!" It is shame that not all of the tapes from these sessions are intact and available; much is missing from March 20 and 21st, 1960, as well as April 3 and 4th, the date which "Fever" was recorded. After the opening of take 3 of "Like a Baby," Atkins is heard to say, "Pretty rough!" Take 4 of this great R&B song is a performance that only Elvis could have turned in. There is great sax support from Boots Randolph working at his first ever session with Elvis.

The alternate of "Stuck on You" is probably an earlier take since the master was take three. The two takes are very similar in style. This song was not one of Elvis' favorites, but it quickly went to #1 for four weeks in April of 1960. "I Feel So Bad, " which is probably take 1 found on Platinum and song not from the 1960 sessions, is a little looser in this take, but still a fantastic cover of Chuck Willis' 1954 R&B hit. "Dirty, Dirty Feeling" was written by the great Jerry Liebler and Mike Stoller for "King Creole," but is was never recorded during those last hectic 1958 sessions. This alternate take is missing the guitar solo and has less prominent background vocals by the Jordanairs. There is a switch in sound quality midway through the song as the track pans out from one to two speakers. "Thrill of Your Love" is a fantastic dramatic ballad, near gospel in style. For the first 35 seconds of this track, we hear Floyd Cramer trying to get the intro right, for he was the reason for delay. Once again, the Jordanairs' backing vocals are less prominent but Elvis turns in a nice performance.

The alternate take of "Such A Night," which is probably take 1, is truly wonderful and the second gem on this set. It is a full and rocking alternate of Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters' 1954 R&B smash, not just some paltry false starts like on "A Legendary Performer Vol. 2." Why this gem did not make Platinum I will never know? "Are You Lonesome Tonight" was the Colonel's wife's favorite song, and it was at his instigation that Elvis recorded it; this outtake is simple and eloquent. The fact that BMG had this take and refused to release it on the Platinum box really bothers me; this is why we need importers like Bilko. Who knows how many unheralded treasures remain buried in the vaults?

"Girl Next Door Went A'Walking" was written by Thomas Wayne, the singer of "Tragedy," a hit in 1959 on the Fernwood record label that had been produced by Scotty Moore. This outtake is another gem; in fact, this song is one of the most overlooked on the "Elvis Is Back" album. At the end of the song, Elvis yells, "Hold It! Hey!" to the guitarist for playing wildly at the end. Take 1 of 'A Mess of Blues, " recently released on Platinum and in better quality, sounds a little hissy on this release. Despite this flaw, this is another magnificent version of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman's first composition for Elvis. Unfortunately, it was the B-side to the #1 "Its Now or Never," reaching only #32 during the summer of 1960. This take becomes especially hilarious when the drummer makes a mistake and Elvis laughs out loud. "It Feels So Right" take 3 had also been recently released on Platinum, and was one of Elvis' favorite songs from the March sessions because it reminded him of "One Night With You." This take is true down and dirty blues, and listen out at 1:10 into the song for an muffled expletive.

On Volume 4 of this series, there are many outtakes of "Fame and Fortune," but few compare to this alternate. It took over 15 takes to get the master, which would eventually reach #17 in the spring of 1960 as the B-side of "Stuck On You." This alternate take sounds like a later take, for the song initially began in a higher key and it is missing the answering guitar phrases in the middle of the song. Also note the cute ad-libbed ending by Floyd Cramer. This is a fabulous vocal performance by Elvis and one of the reasons that I bought this set. During March of 1961, almost a year later, Elvis had a #1 hit for two weeks with "Surrender," another song based on Neapolitan standard. This is a good outtake of the song but the guitar is a little distorted. "Working on the Building" comes from the same October 31st, 1960 session and is the fifth gem on this set. During the first twenty seconds of the song, Elvis and the band decide how they want to approach this song. Then the gospel song is performed with a good feel and some terrific harmony vocals. One of the best on the set!

"I'm Comin' Home" is another good alternate take from the March 12-13, 1961 sessions that produced "Something For Everybody." The guitar solo is a little sloppy in the middle and this is probably what did this song in. On take 1 of "It's a Sin," Elvis and the band breakdown during the bridge of the song. Take 2 is very similar to the master, as it features a beautiful trailing coda by Hank Garland. "I Want You With Me" contains a snatch of a try-out take and then the actual take 1, which has already been released on Collector's Gold. At the end of it, Elvis as producer asks for a playback.

Disc two of the set kicks off with two outtakes of the series' title, "There Always Me," from the March 12th and 13th sessions that made up "Something For Everybody." This song is a fine, dramatic ballad that is laced with a lot of tension added by Elvis. On take two, his voice is a little too high in some spots, ruining an otherwise good take. Take 6 breaks down when his cousin Gene walks in right at the beginning of the take. In a somewhat angry tone, Elvis says to him, "What the hell are you all doin' . . . . we're right in the middle of a take." Take 1 of "Starting Today is a fine take that is very similar to the master. On take 1 of "Sentimental Me," Elvis' voice is a little scratchy in places, probably due to the long sessions. Again it is similar to the original, though, there is a big drum crash at the end.

During the outtakes of "Judy," we actually hear Elvis playing some rhythm guitar, a rarity at a post 1960 Nashville session. He is instructing the band how to play the intro. Take 1 has a little heavier backbeat. These four songs show us that this material was not as strong as the 1960 sessions' material, a major problem for Elvis. Just before two false starts of "Put the Blame on Me," one of the few rockers from the 1961 sessions, we hear Elvis jokingly reciting a few lines from "Starting Today." The first two attempts at the song are aborted because Elvis burps and his voices cracks, respectively, in exactly the same spot. Then, he and the band run though a great outtake of the song, one that is full of vigor and aggressiveness.

The next four songs date from Elvis' October 15th and 16th, 1961 sessions, which produced the #1 hit "Good Luck Charm" and two songs destined for "Elvis for Everyone." One of these was "For the Millionth and the Last Time," and on this release, we are given three outtakes. Take 2 is very similar to the original but Elvis forgets the lyric near the end of the song, rendering this take useless. Take 6 was later released on "Elvis Latino" by BMG Argentina in 1996; on this take, the piano answers the vocal in a higher key, and the tempo is a little sped up. Take 10 is quickly aborted when Elvis loses track of the lyric and becomes immediately apologetic. Take 1 of "Good Luck Charm" was originally released in Europe on the E.P. Collection, Vol.2, in 1982. The song was a #1 hit for Elvis in April of 1962 and was the second of three duets with the Jordanaires' Gordon Stoker. Just before take 1 begins, Elvis is overheard saying to the band, "If you goof up, just keep going." In fact, near the end of the take, Elvis mentions that someone has goofed. Take 2 breaks down because the tempo is too slow for Elvis' liking. Take 3 also breaks down midway through, but for no apparent reason.

Take 2 of "Anything That's Part of You" is another fine, dramatic version of the song. During the ending of the song, you can hear Elvis' passion for the lyric, as if he were remembering his dead mother. Buried as a B-side to "Good Luck Charm," the song only made it to #31 on the Hot 100 during the spring of 1962. Elvis must have heard something in this take he didn't like for this is a magnificent take. "I Met Her Today is another good Don Robertson song which challenges Elvis' vocal ability. Take 1 is very similar to the master. Take 7 is another fantastic version of the song that showcases Elvis going into vocal orbit during the bridge, as if an alligator had him by the foot. This is a must have take!

The next four songs come from the March 19th, 1962 sessions that made up the bulk of "Pot Luck" and his second single release of 1962. Takes 1 and 2 of "I Feel That I've Know You Forever" are very similar to the master of this great and very underrated Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman song. These takes are two very fine versions. "Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello" was Jerry Liebler and Mike Stoller's attempt at writing a country song, and when released as the B-side to "She's Not You" in the summer of 1962, only reached as high as #55. On take 2 of the song, Elvis' voice is not as deep in some parts as it would be on the eventual master, take 6. Take 5, which should really be called 5a, is an attempt by Elvis and the musicians to experiment with different instrumentation for the song, done in a higher key, and with a faster tempo. Take 5b, which is listed as take 6 on the back cover, is quite similar to the released master.

Bilko saved some of the best outtakes for the latter half of the disc, and boy, are the following outtakes great!! "Suspicion" has always been a very underrated song in the Elvis' cannon even by his own record company, RCA. The fact that Elvis vocal clone Terry Stafford had a massive top three hit with the song in the summer of 1964 is hard to swallow, especially given the fact that RCA had released the song as the B-side to "Kiss Me Quick" in April of 1964. What was RCA thinking? Anyway, this great, dramatic song is highlighted by two alternate versions. Take 1 is a little slower than master, and the word enunciation is not as tight, but nevertheless, it is a fantastic alternate. Take 2 has the same tempo as the master, and probably would have been used had not Elvis substituted the word tears for fears during the last verse. "She's Not You" became a #5 hit for Elvis during the summer of 1962, and is one of the few songs written by Pomus, Liebler and Stoller. Take 1 is a little shorter than the master, but still very similar. Following the false start on the following take, which was caused by one of the Jordanaires being too loud, Elvis scolds Lamar Fike, one of his hired hands, for making fun of the singer. Again take 2 is very similar to master, even down to the vocal inflections during the piano solo.

The concluding four songs come from the May 26th, 1963 sessions that were intended for an album later that summer, but instead were scattered among several releases; they would all be gathered together for the "The Lost Album" in 1992. Take 2 of "Echoes of Love" breaks down instantly due to Elvis. Take 3 is close to the master, take 10, but lacks the rich instrumentation. "Please Don't Drag That String Around" was a fantastic Otis Blackwell and Winfield Scott song that unfortunately failed to chart during the summer of 1963 as the B-side of "You're the Devil in Disguise." The following are some of the best outtakes on disc two. Take 1 is a fabulous outtake that is a little less polished. Take 4 falls apart in the middle due to a drummer's mistake, as does take 5, which is almost like the master version of the song, take 6. "You're the Devil in Disguise" went to #3 in the charts in the summer of 1963 in spite of the fact that it was written by Giant, Baum, and Kaye, probably the worst songwriting team under contract to Hill and Range to ever write for Elvis. Take 1 breaks down immediately due to the bass player; to him, Elvis says, "Don't make it so big!" Take 2 also breaks down because Elvis flubs the lyric. Upon aborting the take, Elvis asks, "How did it sound up to there, Freddy," meaning Freddy Beinstock one of the owners of Hill and Range, Elvis' main supplier of original songs until the 1970s. Take 3 is very similar to the master, but the guitar solo isn't as smooth and Elvis laughs midway through the take. These are some of the best outtakes on the entire disc, and well worth getting.

"Never Ending" appeared as the B-side to "Such A Night" in the summer of 1964. Take 1 is complete with Elvis ending the track after two minutes by saying "okay!" Take 2 falls apart because Floyd Cramer goes wild on the piano. Upon hearing this, Elvis says, "Man, I was just up here enjoying the hell out of myself!" In a sense, that is how one can see Volume 1 of "There's Always Me." Bilko did a fabulous job with this release, and left us wanting more. They would not disappoint us with Volume 2! In conclusion, Volume 1 is well worth getting, is real treat for every Elvis fan, and the sound quality is perfect!! Don't let this one pass you by, or as the Colonel would say, "Don't You Dare Miss It!"

Sound quality ****

Review by Mike Cavino