FTD Classic Album
CD review by Piers Beagley
"Hang up that tambourine and Go!"
The quintessential first Elvis Presley album.
The first million-selling Popular Music LP, the world’s first Number One Rock’n’Roll album, the in-your-face front-cover photo showing rebellious youth breaking free.
The album that changed music history forever.
So good that the 12 songs could be split into 6 separate 45rpms.
So good that it was also worthy of 3 separate 4 track EPs.
The quintessential first Elvis Presley album. The first million-selling Popular Music LP, the world’s first Number One Rock’n’Roll album, the in-your-face front-cover photo showing rebellious youth breaking free – the album that changed music history forever. So good that the 12 songs could be split into 6 separate 45rpms. So good that it was also worthy of 3 separate 4 track EPs.
So what could be better? Well, well, well.. the Kevan Budd remastered Deluxe FTD of course! How can music fifty years old sound so goddamn good?
Most Elvis fans will have bought this LP multiple times already, including the Kevan Budd remastered 2005 release, but it doesn’t matter as this unbeatable CD features the complete sessions, all the outtakes & more - along with a pristine sound that will rock you out of your seat.
In fact FTD’s new Deluxe release really needs no review, as an Elvis fan you just have to buy it.
All Elvis’ early recorded musical interests are presented here. Country, Pop, Ballads, delicious Rhythm & Blues, brand new hits (i.e. Blues Suede Shoes) & old classics (i.e. Blue Moon). The interesting thing to note is that with pressure on RCA to produce the first Elvis LP this is actually a rather cobbled-together affair featuring 2 RCA sessions as well as roping in 5 unreleased Sun Studio songs. While it seems inevitable that ‘Tryin’ To Get To You’ would have been Elvis 6th Sun single there is no way that Elvis could have imagined the other Sun recordings ever being released, let alone on his first LP.
So from a 2006 audio restorer’s point of view this must be a nightmare to try and make three different types of studio sounds blend correctly.
The first CD presents Elvis’ first LP, along with the first 3 classic singles – plus another 18 outtakes. It is 70 minutes of sheer bliss. Tracks like ‘I Got A Woman’ (Unknown 2nd take) sounding sensational compared to its previous release on the ‘Platinum’ box-set. Audio restorer Kevan Budd ('Elvis At Sun', 'Loving You') has worked his usual magic throughout and the sound is magnificent.
Listening to this album I discover something new everyday and today ‘One-Sided Love Affair’ reached out & grabbed me. A Steve Sholes rather than an Elvis choice, the band drag it from its plain country roots and blast it with rock’n’roll. Elvis throws in a pile of his (soon to be known) trade-mark vocal mannerisms while pianist Shorty Long plays some mean boogie and an amazing one-note piano solo. Listen to Elvis slide his vocals, imitate a Buddy Holly hiccup, and his whoop of joy @ 01:10 in Shorty Long’s solo. As the song glides to the end you know that Elvis isn’t happy "I ain’t for no one-sided Love Affair" but there’s that bold curl in his voice that let’s you know he’s won her over.
Yesterday I couldn’t get enough of ‘Money Honey’ but, let’s face it, all of the 18 songs here make one feel this way. Everyone 2 minutes of masterful creative rock’n’roll perfection.
The second CD features 34 outtakes, most of them from just three songs but again all essential listening as you eavesdrop on the band and explore the creation of this classic Elvis material.
The sleeve design is excellent and has the correct EP front cover at last (compare it to the incorrect photo cropping on the 2005 version) while the memorabilia, press cuttings & photos (see below) are wonderfully presented.
(Right: The BMG 2005 sleeve. The photo is oddly placed so that Elvis is no longer in the centre.)
The Session information & ‘Behind The Scenes’ details are informative and there is no doubt that the Deluxe FTD production values are getting better & better. The original cover photos are used, as opposed to the poor scans in the 2005 version. Unfortunately there’s no art credit on this one, but I guess Ernst & Roger Semon are the designers once again.
Right: Cover inlay showing rare original HMV singles as well as the different coloured lettering on Italian, Brazilian & Israel EPs.
Do you need to see or know more? At a double CD for a single CD price just buy it!
15 officially unreleased outtakes (plus fragments) are featured here, many of them have been bootlegged before but in audio quality that hardly counts. And the main thing is to once again get all these essential 1956 recordings in context.
CD.1 - On the first CD we get only two unreleased takes but every minor fragment is included down to an 8 second fragment of ‘Money Honey’ – Ahh, if only there was more! Of course the early versions of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ are a delight and it’s fascinating to hear the development as they record of ‘I Was The One’ and head towards the more subtle drum arrangement of the final take.
When I reviewed the ‘Flashback’ FTD I stated that ‘I Was The One’ was never the unedited Master Take 7 as suggested, so I am pleased to see this CD features both Take 7(a) and the original single Take 7(b). I wasn’t dreaming after all!
Another new UnKnown take of ‘I Was The One’ ends the first disc. This is a great addition, unfortunately incomplete, as it has a sparser backing vocal arrangement. Check towards the end where Elvis sings, "I’ll never know, who taught her to lie" where there are no backing-vocals at all, unlike on every other take. I wonder if this was late or early version?
CD. 2 starts with the ‘Dry Reverb’ tape for ‘I’m Counting On You’. Only 2 minutes long but a total fascination as we get to hear the session as it sounded just through Elvis’ lone microphone. Listen to this carefully and then go back to the Sun Session track ‘I’ll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin’)’ as it then helps reveal even more of the history of Sam Phillips’ Slap-Back echo when you hear Elvis’ solo vocal electronically echo’d back onto the tape.
‘Lawdy, Miss Clawdy’ and all twelve takes follow. The all-important Take 1 with its classic studio build-up was featured on ‘Platinum’ but here is has even more of that great pre-take build-up that here has not been edited. Elvis gets a correct feeling for the vocal almost immediately, so the takes are fairly similar, but the band take a little longer to catch up. There is however some delight in hearing the studio banter & interaction as they go along.
'Lawdy, Miss Clawdy' - Unreleased Take 5 is a noteworthy for the delightful messed up Scotty Moore guitar solo and there is also the pure fun of D.J Fontana slip-up on Take 7 with everyone bursting into laughter.
Take 8 soon ends, after less than a minute, but with Elvis announcing, "That’s the best one we’ve done yet!"
It’s also a bonus to hear the pre-take studio build-up "Wait a minute, wait a minute now" just before they record the Single Master, Take 10.
‘Shake, Rattle & Roll’ similarly took twelve takes. This song is much more interesting as Elvis follows the suggestive lyrics of Big Joe Turner’s original over the more famous Bill Haley & The Comet’s version, and the arrangment also changes as they progress. As Elvis states at the start of a rockin' Take 7, "Hang up that tambourine and Go"!
Unfortunately the rather managerial Steve Sholes decided that Elvis should cut out the suggestive lyric, "You wear those dresses, the sun comes shining through" after they recorded Take 8.
Several false starts haven’t been released before. On Take 11 Elvis misses the start sighing, "Always the same, we forget our cue."
Unreleased Take 12 (a) is a true gem. It has a great sound of Elvis clearly clapping along @ 1.20 and a sensational D.J. Fontana middle-break which is so off-the-wall that Elvis gives up saying, "I can’t come in there Steve!"
The final single (Take 12) also featured Elvis & the band overdubbing the backing vocals and a real discovery was that the Master was actually edited, as well as being overdubbed! On the Take 12 Single version the edit is @ 2.10 where it seems a work-part ending has been spliced. It certainly doesn’t sound the same ending of earlier takes.
The rather low-key session of ‘I Want You, I Need You, I Love You’ follows. There is interest hearing Elvis mentioning the problem the band had with the flight the night before, getting lost & with fuel problems. Before Take 14 Elvis says, "We catched that old whippet plane - that glider!" It is surprising that he doesn’t sound more upset as they nearly didn’t make it!
At last the cute Take 15 from ‘A legendary Performer Vol.2’ gets a CD release. A classic cut, this is where Elvis gets the word order wrong but still keeps going.
The final single was also a splice of Take 14 & 17 and it is interesting to hear the unreleased final Take 17 of the session at which point Elvis obviously called it a day.
One final bonus is Elvis’ remarkable & previously unreleased 1956 interview with Radio DJ Don Davis, taken from a syndicated programme from the Gruen Watch company called ‘Time hill Frolic’. Here Elvis talks of his clothing, cars, the Jacksonville riots & more. One highlight is Elvis’ unusual & modest remark that Sam Phillips never recorded his acoustic guitar. "(In the trio) Well, actually there’s only two. I’m just singing. I play the guitar but they don’t record it" he says, when we all know how important Elvis’ guitar playing was to that Sun Sound and the Birth of Rock’n’Roll.
In a perfect understatement Elvis says, "The session was about 3 blocks from my home. I walked in just by accident and, umm, Boom!"
Verdict – Yet another totally essential FTD. The packaging & sleeve design gets better & better and I discover something new every time I listen to it. This is the music that changed the world, that made ELVIS the worldwide superstar. I wish I’d been alive to buy the original album in 1956 but 50 years later, incredibly, this is the next best thing. FTD really give us value for money with all these Deluxe double CDs. If you want to re-live the start of it all - Do not miss out.
Review by Piers Beagley.
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
Cover photos above: As it rightly says, this is a 'Special Edition'
See Kevan Budd's comments about this Deluxe release below.
Click here for FTD Loving You' Special Edition review
A Kevan Budd interview about upcoming FTD & BMG projects coming in a few weeks.
Click here for Kevan Budd's February 2006 interview with EIN.
'Elvis Presley' Special Edition 2 CD SET - LPM-1254
- FTD 2006 July release #8287686160-2
CD-1: The original LP, Singles & outtakes
Blue Suede Shoes
I'm Counting On You
I Got A Woman
One Sided Love Affair
I Love You Because
Trying To Get To You
I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You)
I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin')
- - Bonus singles
I Was The One
Lawdy Miss Clawdy
Shake Rattle And Roll
My Baby Left Me
I Want You, I Need You, I Love You
- First RCA Sessions
I Got A Woman (Unknown - incomplete)
I Got A Woman (Unknown)
Heartbreak Hotel (Tk 4 - incomplete)
Heartbreak Hotel (Tk 5)
Heartbreak Hotel (Tk 6)
Money Honey (Fragments)
Money Honey (Tk 10 - incomplete)
I'm Counting On You (Tk 1)
I'm Counting On You (Unknown - incomplete)
I'm Counting On You (Tk 13)
I'm Counting On You (Tk 14 - incomplete*)
I Was The One (Tk 1)
I Was The One (Tk 2 - fs)
I Was The One (Tk 2)
I Was The One (Tk 3 - fs)
I Was The One (Tk 7A - not master)
I Was The One (Unknown - incomplete*)
* Denotes previously unreleased material
- The Dry Reverb Tape:
I'm Counting On You (Tk 1)
I'm Counting On You (Tk 2 - incomplete)
- Session Outtakes
Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Tk 1)
Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Tk 2*)
Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Tk 3)
Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Tk 4*)
Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Tk 5*)
Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Tk 6*)
Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Tk 7*)
Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Tk 8*)
Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Tk 9*)
Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Tk 10)
Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Tk 11)
Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Tk 12)
Shake, Rattle And Roll (Tk 1)
Shake, Rattle And Roll (Tk 2)
Shake, Rattle And Roll (Tk 3)
Shake, Rattle And Roll (Tk 5)
Shake, Rattle And Roll (Tk 6)
Shake, Rattle And Roll (Tk 7)
Shake, Rattle And Roll (Tk 8)
Shake, Rattle And Roll (Tk 9*)
Shake, Rattle And Roll (Tk 10*)
Shake, Rattle And Roll (Tk 11*)
Shake, Rattle And Roll (Tk 12*)
Shake, Rattle And Roll (Tk 12* - undubbed, unedited master)
I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Tk 1 - slate only*)
I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Tk 3)
I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Tk 4)
I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Tk 5 - fragment*)
I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Tk 13)
I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Tk 14 - incomplete)
I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Tk 15)
I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Tk 16)
I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Tk 17*)
Don Davis Interviews Elvis Presley*
* Denotes previously unreleased material
Kevan Budd comments on aspects of the 'Elvis Presley' Deluxe Release.
The Dry Reverb Tape for 'I’m Counting On You'.
This tape is interesting since it illustrates RCA using in part the same reverb method as Sam Phillips did in Sun Studios, called "slap back". This is where there would be a main machine recording the session along with any added effects to create the Master sound, but to also create a delay echo (slap back) they would send the live signal from the desired microphones, in this case just Elvis' main microphone, to a second tape machine. This signal is recorded on that second machine and then it will playback a fraction of a second later through the same recording machine's playback head. The short distance between the record head and the playback head, along with the tape-speed, determine the length of the delay. This delayed signal is then sent back to main mixing console which when mixed back into the main live signal being recorded on the master tape machine creates the 'slap back' echo effect.
We also know that RCA also added genuine echo (from the stairwell) to the January 10/11 1956 recordings, which of course created an overall effect that was unlike what Sam used on Elvis` Sun recordings.
The 'I’m Counting On You' reverb tape is quite a different sound to the main tape with this one being a direct recording from Elvis’ microphone without echo. It is limited to Elvis' microphone only but also has some room bleed-through from the other instruments. It would be fascinating to hear more of the session in this way but this is all of the dry reverb tape that was discovered.
'Shake, Rattle and Roll' Master overdub & edit.
In the past it was believed that the band's backing vocal overdubs were recorded straight over Take 12 from the session tape so it was interesting to find an edit had been used on the chorus of the overdubbed master version.
All they have done is to cover up Elvis' slight hesitation (@ 02:21) where he sings "uhh, Shake rattle and roll" and have edited in a chorus from earlier in the same take but then used the real Take 12 ending. It is extraordinary that felt the need to use an edit for such a minor vocal hesitation. It was sheer perfectionism.
EIN Note: A Kevan Budd interview about future FTD & BMG projects will be coming in a few weeks.
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