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PLATINUM - A LIFE IN MUSIC (4 CD) (07863 67469 2)
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1. Review by Crister Berge
Released in 1997 on 4 Cd's.

100 performances. Of these 77 previously unreleased! None of the unreleased takes are overdubbed.

There are several highlights on this CD, some being;

'I'll Never Stand In Your Way' (released for the first time),
'Suspicious Minds' (take 7),
'See See Rider' (rehearsal version),
'Miracle Of The Rosary' (take 2),
'Steamroller Blues' (live March 20 1974),
'And I Love You So' (take 2),
'For The Heart' (take 1),
'Way Down' (outtake) and finally
'My Way' from Saginaw, April 25 1977.

A must have!!

CD-1
I'll Never Stand In Your Way - That's All Right (alt. take) - Blue Moon (take 2) - Good Rockin' Tonight - Mystery Train - I Got A Woman (alt. take) - Heartbreak Hotel (take 6) - I'm Counting On You (take 13) - Shake, Rattle & Roll/Flip Flop And Fly - Lawdy, Miss Clawdy (take 1) - I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (take 4) - Hound Dog (Milton Berle Show) - Don't Be Cruel - Rip It Up (take 15) - Love Me Tender (Ed Sullivan Show) - When The Saints Go Marching In (private recording) - All Shook Up - Peace In The Valley (take 4) - Blueberry Hill (acetate) - Teddy Bear - Jailhouse Rock - New Orleans - I Need Your Love Tonight (take 7) - A Big Hunk O' Love (take 4) - Bad Nauheim Medley: I Will Be True/I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen/Apron Strings/It's Been So Long Darling/There's No Tomorrow
CD-2
Stuck On You (Frank Sinatra Show) - Fame And Fortune (Frank Sinatra Show) - It's Now Or Never - It Feels So Right (take 3) - A Mess Of Blues (take 1) - Are You Lonesome Tonight? -  Reconsider Baby - Tonight Is So Right For Love (take 3) - His Hand Is Mine (take 1) - Milky White Way (take 3) - I'm Comin' Home (take 3) - I Feel So Bad (take 1) - Can't Help Falling In Love - Something Blue (take 2) - Return To Sender - Bossa Nova Baby (take 2) - How Great Thou Art (take 2) - Guitar Man (take 4) - You'll Never Walk Alone (take 2) - Oh How I Love Jesus - Tennessee Waltz - Blowin' In The Wind - I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You) - I'm Beginning To Forget You - After Loving You
CD-3
I Got A Woman (reh.) - Tiger Man (reh.) - When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again (reh.) - Trying To Get To You (27.06.68) - If I Can Dream (take 1) - In The Ghetto (take 3) - Suspicious Minds (take 7) - Power Of My Love (take 3) - Baby What You Want Me To Do (24.08.69) - Words (24/8/69) - Johnny B. Goode - Release Me (reh.) - See See Rider (reh.) - The Wonder Of You (reh.) - The Sound Of Your Cry - You Don't Have To Say You Love Me - Funny How Time Slips Away - I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water (reh.) - I Was The One (reh.) - Cattle Call (reh.) - Baby Let's Play House (reh.) - Don't (reh.) - Money Honey (reh.) - What'd I Say (reh) - Bridge Over Troubled Water (live master)
CD-4
Miracle Of The Rosary (take 1) - He Touched Me (take 2) - Bosom Of Abraham (take 3) - I'll Be Home On Christmas Day (take 4) - For The Good Times (take 2) - Burning Love (take 4) - Separate Ways (take 25) - Always On My Mind (take 2) - An American Trilogy - Take Good Care Of Her (take 4) - I've Got A Thing About You Baby - Are You Sincere (take 2) - It's Midnight (take 10) - Promised Land (take 5) - Steamroller Blues (20/3/74) - And I Love So (take 2) - T-R-O-U-B-L-E - Danny Boy (take 9) - Moody Blue - Hurt (take 2) - For The Heart (take 1) - Pledging My Love (take 3) - Way Down (alt. take 2) - My Way (25/4/77) - (Excerpts from) The Jaycees Speech


1. Review by Crister Berge


"First there's silver, then there's gold..."

This 4-CD box set was highly anticipated and when finally released, it was praised by every music journalist and reviewer all over the world. I have a more critical approach (surprise!). Even though PLATINUM was aimed at the general public, this compilation can only be appreciated by the hardcore-fans. I have a friend who owns a record shop and in 1997, he had people come in to his store on a daily basis wanting to get rid of this one.

Here's the time to use the word "plethora". Elvis' entire career, from 1954 to 1977, is covered; a total of 99 songs (home recordings, studio, live) and a speech. Only 17 masters are included and no less than 77 tracks (!) are previously unreleased, but please note most of these are alternate takes, all in all there are only six new titles.

DISC 1:
(50's material only)

























"If you find someone new, who means more than me to you,
I値l never stand in your way
If you feel we must part, don稚 let pity rule your heart,
I値l never stand in your way
I love you much too much, to ever lose you
But what is to be will be and I値l obey
I値l be blue when you go, but I値l never let it show,
I値l never stand in your way..."

Well, there you have 'em, the lyrics to 'I'll Never Stand In Your Way,' that legendary second demo record from Sun Studios in Memphis, recorded January 4, 1954. The sound is not too hot, but at least it's a better song than the awful 'My Happiness.' Elvis' ambition seems to have been a career as a ballad singer, in the style of Mario Lanza or Dean Martin, no doubt about that. Thank God that Bill Black started fooling around with 'That's All Right' that summer - who knows what'd happened if he hadn't?

Elvis the piano player
'When The Saints Go Marching In' is a good-humoured, private recording from 1956 that ends on a happy note. The sound is quite decent. In a slow version (acetate) of 'Blueberry Hill,' I strongly suspect that's Elvis playing the piano. In 1959, Elvis was in the army and while in Germany, he made several home recordings. 'Bad Nauheim Medley' comprise of five songs that have been edited together. The sound is not exactly tip-top, there's distortion on the piano and Elvis is not audible all the way. 'I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen' is played very fast and has virtually nothing in common with the studio recording that Elvis made twelve years later in Nashville. 'There's No Tomorrow' was a different translation of what was to be a big hit for Elvis: 'It's Now Or Never.' It fades out after just a few bars.


DISC 2:
(1960-67)



















Pop, blues & gospel
'Stuck On You' and 'Fame And Fortune' are from Elvis' television appearance on the Frank Sinatra Timex Special in 1960. The audio is terrible, which is a shame, since both songs are very good; they were issued as Elvis' first single after returning to the US. Alternate takes of blues variations 'It Feels So Right' and 'A Mess Of Blues' were re-released last year on LONG LONELY HIGHWAY from the Follow That Dream label in far superior sound. 'I Feel So Bad' is very good for a first take. During the saxophone solo you can hear indications of it being a splice. Take 2 of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' is actually better than the master. Listen closely and you'll hear Elvis sigh after the final chord has rung out.

"Informal"
The last six songs on disc two are home recordings from 1961 and 1966. Elvis' interpretation of 'Tennessee Waltz' is nowhere near Alma Coogan's original recording, in fact it's like listening to a completely different song. The tempo is very slow and it's a mesmerizing, devout version. My only complaint is that it fades out after just one minute. An a cappella version of 'I'm Beginning To Forget You' turns out to be a short moment of magic after a humorous start. This was a song that Elvis liked, another private recording of it (with Elvis playing guitar) was released in 1983 on volume 4 of the LEGENDARY PERFORMER series. Elvis obviously had a tendency to play songs at a slow tempo; 'After Loving You' gets the same treatment, it's miles away from the blistering recording he cut at American Sound three years later. Note the lyric change "...by just another turd with a pretty face..."



DISC 3:
(1968-70)


















From Burbank to Memphis to Vegas...
CD 3 starts off with a primitive recording of Elvis jamming on 'I Got A Woman' and 'Tiger Man' in 1968, a tape that "Italian stallion" Joe Esposito provided BMG with. From the "boxing ring" we get an ultra-short 'When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again' and 'Trying To Get To You.' Turning to the Memphis sessions in '69, it's a real treat to hear 'In The Ghetto' with no overdubs, as the song clearly benefits from this. That formula does not work as good for 'Suspicious Minds,' my feeling here is rather that something is missing. From Las Vegas comes a rousing 'Baby What You Want Me To Do,' but as usual, it suffers from a lame solo by James Burton. And don't miss out on Jerry Carrigan's cymbal playing at the start of take 3 of 'The Sound Of Your Cry.'

Rehearsals
A batch of songs from Los Angeles, July 29, 1970 deserves a few comments: 'I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water' is loose and has an almost bluesy feel to it, much better than the studio recording included on ELVIS COUNTRY. They struggle their way through 'I Was The One' and it stayed in the back of Elvis' mind, eventually turning up in one of his shows (Aug. 12). He was fond of it, in a 1956 interview Elvis actually said it was his favourite song. This rehearsal was filmed by MGM for THAT'S THE WAY IT IS and at one point Elvis tells the director Denis Sanders "As you can tell, we don't know these songs, we're just foolin' around..." This is painfully obvious in a terrible stab at 'Money Honey,' Elvis is out of key, he sings the wrong melody, he doesn't know the words... horrible stuff!



DISC 4:
(1971-77)












Mish-mash
Don't have too many comments about this disc. The studio recording of 'For The Good Times' only proves that the live version was about a hundred times better. The only alternate take that was saved of 'Separate Ways' is here. 'American Trilogy' is from THE ALTERNATE ALOHA. On a collection like this, I had expected an unreleased version of this patriotic crowdpleaser. 'Steamroller Blues' was cut from the 1974 album RECORDED LIVE IN MEMPHIS and it's a bit of a disappointment. I definitely prefer the version on ALOHA FROM HAWAII.

From Graceland
First try-out of 'For The Heart' is lacklustre and take 3 of 'Pledging My Love' is a dismal affair, almost amateurish. 'Way Down' is different; a great, rockin' version that ends with a piano chord instead of J.D. Sumner's bass voice. Cool! In 1971, Elvis was a proud recipient of the Jaycees award as one of the ten outstanding young men of America and the disc is rounded off with his acceptance speech.


Conclusion
It's really hard to give this package a fair grading. There are many great songs here and lots of unreleased material. A 48-page booklet cannot be removed, so the box is in the form of a book. It became a trendsetter, as all subsequent box sets from BMG have been victims of the same layout concept. The liner notes, written by Colin Escott, are excellent and extremely ambitious, as he comments on almost every song. On the other hand, there's an enormous discrepency in the volume between certain tracks and with a few exceptions, the alternate takes are VERY similar to the masters, the only difference often being that they are weaker performances. A little more "studio chat" would also have been welcome.

Therefore, on a scale from 1 to 5, I'll settle for a 3.

I know that some of you probably are upset now. Drop me a line and blow off some steam! C'mon everybody!

© Crister Berge, Stockholm, Sweden 2002. (jon.burrows@lycos.com)

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