FTD CD review
FTD's latest soundtrack offering lacks needed audio
The fifth of the 6 extended movie soundtracks issued by FTD. Each one so far has been released with an improved mix of the original LP, plus alternate takes, and a colour booklet full of photos and information.
It seems an odd marketing policy to release these CDs in groups of three, since not everybody can afford the luxury of buying all 3 at once.
Plus many of us would have previously purchased them in RCA's "Double-Feature" series.
Elvis - 'Harum Scarum' (Feb 1965. 25 tracks, 66 mins)
Many Elvis fans deluxe gatefold sleeve packaging contains some excellent photos
and rare publicity stills. It was during this period in his life
that Elvis had considered becoming a monk and started visiting the
spiritual 'Self-Realization Fellowship'. If you had seen the pre-production
script of 'Harum Scarum' you would have probably done the same!
Elvis was tempted by the chance to try the 'Valentino' look and
to wear some exotic costumes. Elvis certainly had a great smouldering
look as Johnny Tyrone and the snaps with The Colonel are very amusing.
fascinating insight is also provided by a list of songs suggested
for the soundtrack but that were rejected. These include 'Please
Don't Stop Loving Me' and amazingly, 'Let Yourself Go'!
Unfortunately, unlike all the previous FTD extended soundtrack CDs, I was shocked to find that all the original Masters have been taken directly from the LP mix.
This is a true disappointment as the original mix sounded so desperately flat, muffled and almost mono. Whereas on all the previous FTD CDs the audio mix had been spatially opened up to create a really wide stereo sound helping you appreciate Elvis' band, this CD shows no improvement on the original LP at all!
A real opportunity was missed out on here
since, surprisingly, this Movie soundtrack was actually recorded
at Nashville's Studio B. Why the laziness on FTD's part when all
the others are so good? Here, without doubt, the 'Double Features'
version really wins out, despite the added echo & occasional different
tracks 'Mirage' & 'Go East, Young Man' were vocal overdubs which
leaves just 9 songs to make up the 41 minutes of outtakes to make
an impression. Luckily FTD have remixed the outtakes and every song
sounds so much better, with a lovely rich bass mix as well as the
clarity to the band that you wanted to hear on every track.
closer at the outtakes ..
Desert Serenade' Tks 2&3,7 - The surprise is that Elvis seems in
such good humour throughout the sessions despite the quality of
the songs. At the end of Take 7 he jokes, "My dessert horse, the
one I rode in on". Elvis starts Take 2 by singing one line of the
Bobby Darin song "More". If only he had recorded that instead! Elvis
is a little unsure of the timing on the earlier takes & sounds a
little reticent. FTD should have been brave enough to also include
Take 1 (available on bootleg) where the songs falls apart halfway
through with Elvis exclaiming amusingly, "Oh Shit, cut it!"
Little Girl' Tk1,2,3 - Take 1 falls apart with Elvis apologising, "Hold it, hold it. Whoops, whoops," while take 2 ends with Elvis
laughing. Despite the slightness of the song on Take 3 you can easily
hear Elvis' feet dancing to the rhythm while at the start Elvis
suggests, "Pick it up just a little bit." It is just amazing that
Elvis sounds so enthusiastic for such a lightweight song. No matter
the material he sure did try his best! The song is fine for a 1962
creation, but for 1965?
My Tambourine' - It is astounding that Elvis worked this song through
to a remarkable 38 takes! In fact on the first night of the session
it was the only song recorded at all. FTD treat us to 8 outtakes
and they are all great to listen to. Elvis is positively enthusiastic
and these are fun & very amusing. On Take 7/8 Elvis laughs, "I can't
feel it - I'm having to read it!" Halfway through he sings, "What
tambourine?" and the ending is just delicious as it falls apart.
It sure isn't the Master but it's fabulous fun. A gem. Take 10 is
another delight as Elvis miss-pronounces 'Tiny feet' as 'teenie
feet' and laughs deliciously at himself, "I can't believe I said
that! Teenie, Queenie!" How interesting to note that the poor man
was yet to record 'Queenie Wahine's Papaya'.
Coins' - A cute song that here really benefits from the lack of
echo that was added to both Elvis and the band in the original.
The earlier versions have a much sparser arrangement compared to
the Master and a very different ending. Take 8 has a beautifully
clear Elvis vocal which has been lifted above the band and is a
'Kismet' also delights with a similar treatment and a fabulous vocal.
Instinct' - Any song that dares to use the lyric. . "I'm like a
Lion who's been caged, And you're the meat I needed" . . . deserves
to have every version released! Elvis is unsure of the melody on
Take 1 and it's fun to hear him practising. It ends with him saying,
"Hold it, hold it. Is that right?" I love the deep bass melody on
this tune and the mix is great. It's hard to believe that the culprits
for this song (Giant/Baum/Kaye) actually wrote the sensational 1969
'Power of My Love'.
Close, Yet So Far' - The key song to the whole soundtrack. It was
the start of the second day and Elvis seems tired as he yawns at
the start of Take 1. He comments, "There's a couple of places I
can't find itů but I'm looking!" With no added echo and with a simpler
arrangement this is totally delicious. The booklet says that this
is the same take as on Collector's Gold but it is incorrect. Take
1 here shows Elvis slightly rushing the lyrics but by Take 4, on
'Collector's Gold', Elvis is sounding smoother & more laid-back.
(The Master was a splice of Take 3 & 4). A brilliant song that deserves
this new audio mix.
Holiday' Tk1&2 - Again another soundtrack classic! Any song that
contains the rhyming couplet "If Romeo had a Harum holiday.. You
can bet that Juliet would have never Been his girl forever" .. deserves
to be celebrated. What a theme song! What a great Elvis 'B side'
it should have been. The perfect tacky flip-side to 'Do The Clam'?
I love this song!
lyrics were updated by the Master which used a vocal overdub. Here
they are "Time for travelling, Time for travelling wild & free"
On the Master they are "Gonna' travel, Gonna' travel wild & free" The audio mix here is tremendous and without the superfluous added
echo. The band is opened up with a great spacial sound, Floyd Cramer's
piano is just right and Elvis' vocal is right there rockin' with
the band. This track unfortunately emphasises just how badly the
Masters needed to be re-mixed properly. On Take 1 Elvis misses the
intro and then fluffs the lyrics but still keeps going. Take 2 has
Elvis again sounding reticent and coming in late to the first verse
but is a funky delight. Did I say that I liked this song?!
Of the Ages' - Another great stereo mix with a fabulously improved
vocal. At the start Elvis suggests, "Maybe a little faster." This
version is at a faster tempo than the Master which has a cooler
- Harum Scarum is a soundtrack you either love or loathe! The
fact that FTD have done nothing to improve the terrible sounding
Masters is a real disappointment and leaving out 'So Close, Yet
So Far' Tk.4 (from C. Gold) was also an oversight. The booklet is
as excellent as ever, and with the outtakes running nearly twice
as long as the original LP, if you like the sound of exotic eastern
Elvis you will enjoy this CD.
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