THE JUNGLE ROOM SESSIONS - BMG 74321 74931 2
1. Review by Oven Egeland
2. Review by Michael Cheah
3. Review by Sergio Biston
|Finally BMG decided to release a systematic CD with outtakes from the sessions Elvis held home in his "Jungle Room", first in February 1976, and then in October the same year.
BMG decided not to release this material in their "Essential series". I have criticized Ernst Jorgensen for that decision. However, I understand now that it might be a correct choice. Elvis is below par on most of the songs on this album, except for 'Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall', 'It's Easy For You' and 'Danny Boy'. Do I think that this is a "bad" album, then? No, not at all! In fact I really love this CD. More than other albums this one proves Elvis' ability to learn and watermark a song fast!
In late 70's Elvis didn't prepare his recording sessions like he did before. He more or less listened briefly through demos, and started recording without much rehearsal. That's why you in the 70's can discover huge differences between different takes of the same song. In the 50's, 60's and early 70's each take sounded more or less the same, with some exceptions.
While most of the takes on this album are of "low" quality (in Elvis terms, at least), the finished masters released on "Elvis Boulevard" and "Moody Blue" are of high quality. Again; this album proves that it didn't take Elvis long time to get there, after all!
The sound on this album is amazingly good. Was it a good idea to record in the Jungle Room after all? Compared to the recordings from Stax Studio in Memphis, these featured here from the "Jungle Room" are much better!
The artwork on this CD is really pathetic...Again! It almost makes me feel sorry for the "designers" at BMG. What about having Peacock to do the artwork on Follow That Dream releases too?
In 2009 FTD also released this album on 180gr vinyl. A 2 LP version containing the original CD release, with additional bonus tracks all taken from another FTD release; Made In Memphis.
1. BITTER THEY ARE, HARDER THEY FALL - Take (3, 4) 5 [Master = Take 7]
2. SHE THINKS I STILL CARE - Take 1A and 2A [Master = Take 17]
This is of the better deliveries from Elvis on this album. We get the complete take 5,
and I find this take just as good as the master take (7). First we have some false starts,
including an abrupt take 3 caused by a ringing telephone! Elvis the professional at work...
3. THE LAST FAREWELL - Take 2 [Master = Take 5/3]
Only take 2A are listed on the cover, but included too is a false start (take 1). This version is
a mixture between the master (take 17) and the released 2B take. The song starts with
something reminding of a college fraternity "thing" (by both female and male backup vocalist), before
Elvis starts a shaky version. It sounds like Elvis is unable to decide what path the song should take.
You can feel his uncertainty all the way through the song, although it gets better along the way.
4. SOLITAIRE - Take 3 [Master = Take 11]
A bloody relief to have this song without the severe overdubs that appear on the released master.
This version is somewhat lazy, however. In fact it reminds a bit of a try-out version, more than a real attempt to
create a final master. Due to this, the song gets a bit tedious. Not among my favorite Elvis song anyway.
5. I'LL NEVER FALL IN LOVE AGAIN - Take 5 [Master = Take 9]
This is really an insecure version. Elvis almost whisper the lyrics in parts. The master take definitely
has more guts to it.
6. MOODY BLUE Take 5 [Master = Take 10]
Starts with a false start (take 4). Also this take lacks the "punch" that the master take 9 has.
Elvis is insecure on several occasions during this take, but the ending is splendid. Two splendid endings, in fact!
I get a bit tired of the "boogie woogie" piano in the background, though!
7. FOR THE HEART Take 3 [Master = Take n/a]
Starts with a long false start (take 7). Right along you can hear that this will not be on par
with the magnificent master take. Luckily, Elvis forgets the lyrics and ends the attempt with the
words "mattafucker". Italian for "motherfucker"...:-)
Take 5 is better right from the start, and also lasts several minutes. Again, far from the high
standard take 10 (master) has, but enjoying to hear all the same. This is one of the best
examples on how short time Elvis needed from an insecure run-through take
to a full-blooded master!
8. HURT Take 3 [Master = Take 7]
I really wondered what this version would be like. Take 1 was released on Platinum, and was
a positive surprise. The master take is one of my all time favorites, even though this must be
one of the poorest mixed Elvis songs... Take 3 (take 2 is just one *stroke* on the guitar) is, however
a big disappointment. Elvis' voice is not on touch with the song at all. While take 1 is good
to be a first take, take 3 is really lousy. Listening to this, you might wonder how many more takes
it took Elvis to create the faultless master (unknown take)...?
9. DANNY BOY Take 8 [Master = Take 10)
Start with an attempt to sing "I'm so hurt", but Elvis needs to clear his throat. Take 3 is very
similar to take 2 released on Platinum. This is a good version, but far from a master take.
10. NEVER AGAIN - Take 11 [Master = Take 14]
Is this the best version of Danny Boy? Not far from it! Listen out for Elvis' gentle "plea" before
this take, as he express he would like to sing the song in C. "That's what I like to do better".
Elvis starts singing the song from "scratch", then the piano tag along just after. This is really a
good version. Now we have three good "C" - versions. I would like to hear this
song in another key too! (Elvis sings 'Danny Boy' in D in Tucson on June 1 1976. This show is released on the CD Tucson'76.
11. LOVE COMING DOWN Take 3 [Master = Take 5]
A good version! Start with a somewhat irritated Elvis saying "Lamar just walked in and
disrupted the whole room". Elvis is stronger in his voice than on the master take on this one.
Except from that, this song does not leave any everlasting impression, put it that way...
12. BLUE EYES CRYING IN THE RAIN Take 2 [Master = Take 5]
This take is similar to the final master (take 5). Elvis is a bit insecure in parts,
but except from that a good attempt! Wongly listed as take 2.
13. IT'S EASY FOR YOU Take 1 [Master = Take 2]
A classic early take, this is. A good version, but it lacks the smoothness needed for a master.
Some "strange" guitar playing in parts, and even some "stupid" piano
playing ruins every hope for "master in the can".
14. WAY DOWN Take 2* [Master = Take 2]
Again, what a relief to have a "clean" version! This is one of those overlooked gems
recorded by Elvis. The master was heavily overdubbed, but this take appears pure as
maiden's water. Elvis is much stronger in his voice on this session than in February
the same year. Written by Lloyd Webber and Rice with Elvis in their mind, Elvis
finds the melody right on first take. Impressive all the way!
15. PLEDGING MY LOVE Take 6 [Master = Take 6]
Just as on Platinum. The song even starts with the ending of "Pledging My Love"
(take 3) proving that they mastered this track from Platinum, rather than from the
original tapes. This is also very evident on the mixing. The "Jungle Room"
songs were obviously mixed different on Platinum, than on this release.
16. HE'LL HAVE TO GO Take T-2/V-N/A [Master = Take T-2/V-N/A]
This is the complete master take. This is a beautiful song, perfectly fitted for jamming,
like Elvis does here. This song proves the good mixing works done on this CD.
Take 3 on Platinum is muddy, while this sound clean and fresh.
17. THERE'S A FIRE DOWN BELOW - Take T-N/A [Master = none]
Now... what is this? In fact it sounds like the original master mix with some homemade
computer "doctoring". There are overdubbed some synthetic (pathetic) strings on
this so-called "rough mix master". I had hoped that BMG would mix this song so
that it would appear even bluesier than the master does.
The opposite happened! A major disappointment!
18. AMERICA - Take N/A [Master = none]
If Elvis had recorded this song written by Jerry Scheff, it really would have been
something different and refreshing. It is hard to get a total picture of what a
song would be like if recorded, but this soundtrack suggests a hit.
A shame it never happened. According to Jerry Scheff Elvis told Jerry he was
sorry that he did not record 'There's A Fire Down Below' on this session,
and promised to do it later...
, Norway, 2000
This is "Jungle Room Sessions" hidden surprise... First several seconds after
'There's A Fire Down Below', the ending seconds of America appear. Nothing special, but nice
to have all the same!
|2. Review by Michael Cheah
I was in a record store recently trying to impress a friend about an Elvis album. He shrugged and turned away uninterested. It's easy to understand why. The picture of Elvis, whichever way you look, is of a balladeering crooner or a bloated privileged King of Rock. Where's the rebel? Where indeed, if you don't dig deep into music history! The best way to convince anyone about Elvis is the A-B test. Sit them down and play them pre-Elvis music. Most like to dust off that pop hit 'How Much Is That Doggie In The Window'? All sweet and fairy-tale like. Imagine, no youth culture yet, and adults who had the buying power were listening to this children's lullaby like it was ... what?
Then Elvis came along. He offered them One Night Of Sin, a stay at the Heartbreak Hotel, to be their hip-wriggling Teddy Bear and... so much more. So that's why, older music fans are so faithful to this long dead King. Without him [and the black blues men from whom he learnt] it would have been a slower, crawl up to adulthood. Follow That Dream is an inspired idea of
BMG/RCA to collect outtakes and rare live material and put them out in ultra limited editions. The label is located in Denmark, conspicuously the same country from which Elvis compiler and keeper of the sacred vault Mikael Jorgensen hails from.
The Jungle Room Sessions is Vol 4 in the series and is the most interesting to date. Seventeen songs, all unreleased anywhere before, and recorded just a year before Elvis died, and as mentioned many times before, truly sad songs. Aside from some studio chatter on the first track, this is pretty much a solemn occasion. The surprise is the inclusion of Take 3 of Moody
Blue, where a dazed Elvis utters the mutha****a word while struggling to keep time to the song's fast tempo. To date, Elvis' studio cursing have been confined to bootlegs. For late night listening till pain-stained mornings. This is Elvis but do you want to remember him this way?
© M. C. March 10 2001
|3. "A Myth Shatter"
(Review by Sergio Luiz Fiša Biston)
1975 ended for Elvis with a gigantic show in Pontiac, Michigan, in front of 60.500 fans, The King's biggest audience ever. It was a year that saw an Elvis that, despite health problems, gave his best almost 100 percent of the time. Some of his best tours ever occurred in June and July of that year, and the Vegas appearances in March and December also showcased the singer at the peak of his form.
But 1976 would be ratter different in some aspects. Elvis dependency of medicaments was once again a serious issue and started to affect his behavior like it did in the fall tour of 1974. The loneliness, the weight gain and the fact that his long time friendship with Red and Sonny was about to break apart, did even more to contribute to Elvis depression at the beginning of the year. Also, it contributed to keep Elvis in reclusion. Despite a vacation in Vail, Colorado Elvis would hide in Graceland for almost all the time, to the point that RCA had to brought a mobile studio to his house in order to get some new songs for future albums. Is exactly at this point that FTD's The Jungle Room Sessions, put the listener.
The songs recorded at this session and the October one, held later, resulted in two albums: From Elvis Presley Boulevard and Moody Blue. The first comprised of the February sessions and the later of the October one, plus live records. What strikes every listener, both casual and aficionado, are the heavy and tasteless overdubs that producer Felton Jarvis did in the final mix of the songs. According to history, it was done so, to cover Elvis weak voice and vocal flaws. Elvis was in such bad shape that he no longer had the magic going thru his voice.
"The jungle room sessions", is the proof that "history" was wrong and that Felton Jarvis was a very bad producer. What a myth shatter it is! The clean, full sound and the naked performances of this disc destroyed any doubts of Elvis power and voice conditions of that time. It almost screams: "Listen, that was the way it was!" True, almost all the performances are below par if compared with the master takes, but Elvis emotional performance on the songs more than make up for this. Such is the case with 'It's Easy For You', one of the songs recorded in October, in which Elvis whipping a tear, softly says before it begins. "I get carried way very easily... Emotional son of a bitch" and follows with a superb version of this underrated gem.
Although Elvis life was no longer the happy affair it once has been, and that his health was at his all time worse, it did not affected his voice and, if anything, this disc is the final proof of that.
The songs, however, reflected every bit of Elvis life, with a couple of exceptions. They are songs of loss, despair and loneliness, songs that mirrored his personal life. Those songs, although not everybody favorites, are much a peak in Elvis mind than anything, and the most revealing document of what, at the end, ceased his existence. You got to first comprehend Elvis sentiments at that time, in order to really appreciate the music, a repertoire that produced many gems.
Another point in which the producers of this disc succeeded, is in creating a "fly on the wall" feeling. This really adds to the whole listening experience. The studio banter, the countdown to the song, the friendly chat, which magnificently creates the ambience and contributes to insert the listener in the event, are present in every track. The dog barking that interrupts the second attempt of "Bitter they are, Harder they fall", is priceless. Even in here, this disc destroys another myth: The one that Elvis was in bad mood. If so, he changed it during the progression of the sessions, something that can be heard in the infectious laugh at the beginning of "The Last Farewell".
Elvis is full of emotion on pieces like 'Never Again', 'Love Coming Down' and 'He'll Have To Go', and his performances are spine chill in such numbers. 'It's Easy For You' is very much a declaration, a statement, and an open book to his fans. It summarizes perfectly all the pain Elvis felt after his estrangement from Priscilla.
'Loving Coming Down' is an apology and a plea to a second chance. He sings: "...cant you see how everything I learned would be wasted if you leave me? If you just give me one more try I swear, I always be here, when you need me". It drips sincerity in every word and you can cut the feeling with a knife.
Elvis fantastic voice is magnificently showed in the powerhouse tune 'Hurt'. It shows how Elvis voice developed thru the years and how strong his voice really was when he wanted to display it. In the take (number 3) on this disc however, Elvis has a thin start when he shouts the first line. He stops and cleans his throat, but even so it still not perfect. The incredible final note however is perfectly done, and he will nail the piece perfectly in the master take. Dave marsh in his biography about the king said about this tune: " It was the last genuinely majestic piece of music he recorded". Case closed.
He also shows that he has lost none of his timing in up-tempo songs like 'Moody Blue' and 'For the Heart' and shows sparks of the old rock'n' roll in 'Way Down'. The 'Way Down' take present in this compilation is superb and the piano part, sadly lost in the final product, fits perfectly in the song's musical concept.
Elvis joyful interpretation of the old classic 'Pledging my Love' lights up the song and his refusing to let it go shows how much fun he is having with the song. A delight to any sensible ear.
The bold step of recording Danny Boy with just a piano transforms an otherwise boring song in a simply, yet emotional and sincere, piece. Another showcase of Elvis warm and strong voice used to effectiveness.
The last two surprises in the disc are 'There's a Fire Down Below' -a instrumental track only, that most fans should know the history behind it -and the very last part of 'America, The Beautiful', that starts a few seconds after the last track and it's not listed in the track list. It suggests that the tape containing the song was erased and that this segment was the only thing left. A nice "Easter egg ", anyway!
The music recorded in the den of his house would be released in the two albums already mentioned. From Elvis Presley Boulevard peaked at #41 in US and #29 in UK. Moody blue did better and peaked at #3 both in UK and US. Three singles where released from those sessions: Hurt/ For The Heart #28 in US and #37 in UK, Moody Blue/She thinks I still care # 31 and # 6 in US and UK respectively, and 'Way Down' gave Elvis his last number one in UK, but only #18 in US.
Towards the end, Elvis was seeing his best chart places in country, and his last singles topped the country charts. 'Hurt' was #6, and both 'Moody Blue' and 'Way Down' nailed the number one spot.
1976 was surely a grueling year for Elvis. Apart from his personal and physical problems, he traveled the country almost without stop for nine months in a row. His debilitating health affected many of his shows during the summer tour. Things started to improve in September and October. His colon, the cause of many pain, started to work again, he lost quite some weight and seemed to find comfort and love in a young girl name Ginger. This was just the spark that he needed to ignite his motor and In November and December Elvis was in better physical form than he has been in quite some time. The December tour showed Elvis at his best and culminated with the legendary Pittsburgh New Years Eve concert, one of his best shows ever.
The songs recorded in February and October of that year, represent Elvis final labor of love. His heart and mind are on those songs that speak about love and loneliness. This last document of a true artist at work assumes even more relevance, due to historical contexts and due to the fact that Elvis never revealed himself to the public in the way he did here. And in this sense, Jungle Room Sessions, is just as historically important and revealing as Elvis performances, because it showed that Elvis was a magic artist right up until the end.
" He was a not a great artist for one or two isolated years but for two decades almost continuously. Doubters are advised to listen to the evidence. Defense rests."- Dave Marsh
© Sergio Luiz Fiša Biston, October 2003
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