When all was kool

Mystery Train CD 2001 (Released 1991)

I Want You, I Need You I Love You (take 3) 3:00
I Want You, I Need You I Love You (take 4) 2:57
I Want You, I Need You I Love You (pre-take 5 dialogue)/
Music Time" (CBC Radio program, 4/57) 3:07
"Assignment" (CBC Radio program, 4/57) 9:47
I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone 2:40
Trying To Get To You 2:35
That's All Right, Mama 1:59
Blue Moon Of Kentucky 2:06
I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine 2:32
Good Rockin' Tonight 2:16
Baby, Let's Play House 2:19
Mystery Train 2:29
My Baby's Gone/How Do You Think I Feel 4:09
Radio Promo for Oakland CA 6/3/56 shows 1:51
Milton Berle show 4/3/56 11:51
"Monitor" (NBC Radio program, 3/57) 1:54

Elvis in the fifties, what can one say? Amazing, otherworldly, and unique -- this was the start of something brand new. This disc, pressed in 1991, covers a huge gap in the core Elvis collection, with a heap of excellent quality 50's Elvis material. In the last half decade RCA/BMG have released the 50's box and plan to reissue the 'Golden Celebration' and 'Elvis Aron Presley' sets, which some might say make this disc less-than-essential, but it's not so.

The set begins with "I Want You, I Need You I Love You" takes three and four (now available on 'There's Always Me, Vol. 1' and 'Platinum', respectively) in excellent quality, plus some uncredited pre-take five chatter from Elvis. Although it seems Presley would grow to hate the song (perhaps influenced by his humiliating, tuxedo-clad Steve Allen TV appearance on July 1st, Elvis never sung it again after that date), here he typically gives all of himself to the number.

Next we're transported to what sounds like a 1957 version of the American "National Public Radio" network -- previously unheard Canadian radio shows "Music Time" and "Assignment", featuring various commentators mulling over the impact of Elvis' April 2, 1957 Toronto concert. It almost resembles parody, with "psychological analysis" of Presley's affect on teens described in part by "Assignment" host Maria Barrett as a "calculated psychological binge ... I don't approve of toying with emotions of thousands of adolescent children". They couldn't make the press conference (too packed) but were able to see the show, excerpts of which are heard here as well. The minute or so of opener "Heartbreak Hotel" in front of 13,000 fans at the Maple Leaf Gardens is thrilling beyond belief. This bit and the scraps from the Vancouver show in August are the only audio evidence of Elvis on tour in 1957 to date.

There's lots of great sound bites from Canadian fans ("He's ugly, but he's got a great voice" -- "I think he's a goof") and an unreleased interview with Elvis by CKOY Radio's Mac Lipson in Ottawa on April 3rd. Elvis reveals he made $1.2 million in 1956, has eight cars (half are Cadillacs), and generally conducts himself in the same manner as the July (New Orleans) and August (Florida) 1956 interviews. In a telling aside, he sums up his craft thusly: "I enjoy what I'm doing; I put my heart, soul and body into it".

The six official Sun cuts are attributed to "first generation master tapes" and they do sound exceptionally warm -- far superior to RCA/BMG's 'Complete Sun Sessions' (sic) 1987 release. Now, it seems a bit dubious for a collector's label like Mystery Train to claim they have Sun MASTER tapes. But if so, I hope they gave RCA/BMG DAT copies for their archives. For the uninitiated, RCA took Sun masters and added echo and reverb, most noticeably to "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone", "Good Rockin' Tonight" and "I Forgot To Remember To Forget" (not on this disc), ruining the purity of the original Sun 45's. Only the 1992 50's box fully rectified this sorry situation. The four minutes of "My Baby's Gone/How Do You Think I Feel", from a March 1955 Sun session, is sourced from an 1980's Japanese Sun "Country" reissue which just credited Scotty Moore. It's the secondary tape Sam Phillips used to create the slapback echo effect for Scotty's guitar (which is why it's the most prominent sound heard here) and it's great to have on CD. Listen closely and you can hear banter between Elvis, Bill, Sam and local teen drummer Jimmie Lott (pre- D.J. Fontana, he almost joined the band)!

The formerly "lost" Milton Berle appearance from April, 1956 is here in its entirety, including Elvis' truncated "Shake, Rattle And Roll", sung during the show's introductions (left off the 'Golden Celebration' box). Watching the video is highly recommended -- it's the purest distillation of Elvis, Scotty, Bill and D.J. in concert we'll ever have (Bill Black rides his bass and hollers during "Blue Suede Shoes"!) -- even the twin brother skit (eerie!) with Uncle Miltie is a hoot.

The disc is rounded out with a radio promo for Elvis' two June 3, 1956 Oakland Auditorium shows (the venue still hosts concerts to this day -- I saw the Foo Fighters there in November!) and another unreleased (and uninteresting) interview, for NBC Radio's "Monitor" with Happy (?). It possibly comes from Chicago March 28, 1957, rather than "late 1956", as the cover states and definitely runs too slow (Elvis' voice sounds as thick as molasses).

All in all, there remains a lot of valuable Elvis material here and, as it derives from the period 1954-1957, it is essential for the true fan.

Reviewed by Johnny Savage, USA

Sound rate ****