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SONGS TO SING (Whitehaven EPB 3764-2) (Released 1997)

1. Review by Oto Meszaros
Homercordings from 1959 to 1976

I'm Beginning To Forget You
Mona Lisa
My Heart Cries For You
Dark Moon
Write To Me From Naples
Are You Sincere
Sweet Angeline
Spanish Eyes (#1)
Baby What You Want Me To Do
I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry Rocky Top (instrumental)
Spanish Eyes (#2)
That's All Right, Mama
See See Rider
Moody Blue
Love Coming Down
Way Down (f. s. take 1 & take 2 )

Content: 3 Sound: 3+ Artwork: 3+

1. Review by Oto Meszaros

As the title suggests this CD contains mostly so-called home recorded material. It isn't definitely known how many Elvis home recordings does exist, however in the last few years we get some very interesting ones on bootlegs and on RCA releases too. These songs aren't essential for casual listeners, because of worse sound quality, but they can be really like diamonds for true Elvis fan you can hear great dose of fun, interaction, comfort and musical joy and naturalness in them.

This CD is compilation of real unprofessional home recordings, mixed together with undubbed studio material from the walls of Graceland and Elvis Palm Springs residence. I've read a review where it all was called rubbish, but it isn't at all. Probably it is not so essential for everyone, but it is good to listen.

It is the second release from Whitehaven label. The first was Elvis Among Friends CD with Graceland February 1976 undubbed material in quite bad sound. Overall sound quality of this CD is far better. Unfortunately all the used cover pictures are of awful quality, too grainy and fuzzy and cover didn't look very well and I think that I am able do it far better. Inside is nice sleeve note with reproduction of the page from Elvis diary with few layouts of the famous TCB logo and line Songs To Sing, hence the CD title.

First two songs aren't with high probability from Graceland 1960 as they stated on back cover, but from Germany, 1959. Both songs were released before on official RCA compilation series called A Legendary Performer. Next three pieces are just out on CD version of 1985 set A Golden Celebration, they were taped likely in 1966 and Dark Moon is standout from them, as Elvis rehearsed it with Charlie Hodge. Too bad that there isn't regular studio recording. Sound of all the above listed songs are as good as you can expect from such a source. Next is an undubbed version of Suppose, this is one of good, tender songs from that period. And we are prepared for the jump into the seventies.

Are You Sincere (alternate take) and Sweet Angeline (Elvis only overdubbed finished instrumental track from July 1973 Stax Studio session) were both recorded in Palm Springs only few days before Elvis divorce and disillusion and a little bit of despair is noticeable, mainly in first one. Both are in very good sounding quality and undubbed.

Next is again true home recording, duet with Sherrill Nielsen Spanish Eyes, with piano accompaniment, recorded probably in Graceland in April 1974? It is very nice; a joyful version released before on The Colonel's Collection (by the way, this CD was rated very high some five years before, however from today's look it isn't so good simply because so many great bootlegs have been released the last years. But in 1994 it was an essential purchase).

Six following tracks was recorded probably again in 1974, but from some reason, Mr. Jorgensen from RCA propagate theory that it was taped in Sam Thompson's home in November 1973. The whole session is just out on another CD A Private Moment With The King (semi-legal) and they state that it was taped in Jimmy Velvet's home, so who is wrong? And to it all, also a third theory exists that it is Graceland recording. Sound quality of all is quite good if you remember that source is unprofessionally made tape. Baby What You Want Me To Do was ideal number for Elvis since his 1968 Comeback Special and this is last known moment when Elvis sung it, he accompanied himself on acoustic guitar and does great, loose version. Ultimate version of I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry is next, again very good and with an unknown verse. Track called Rocky Top is only short instrumental intermezzo. Second Spanish Eyes is different with first one in comparison, and That's All Right sung together with See See Rider in medley is almost excellent, it sounds far better than majority of concert versions to my ears!

As I wrote, all these songs are now out with two more, where Linda Thompson dominate and Elvis sang second vocal, on different release. This fact makes this CD less interesting.

But the real meat come: Moody Blue is great Elvis late piece, in disco rhythm, very different not only with emotional, sad February 76 sessions material, but also in comparison to every other Elvis song. High place in so-called easy listening music and pop charts is understandable. For some reason RCA speeded up this song, for release, but here it is in correct speed, undubbed and a minute longer. James Burton guitar is very clear. Hurt is undubbed too, dramatic, broken song. Love Coming Down is another sad song reflecting Elvis despair, all these recordings have special mood. And final emerald left, Way Down, one of Elvis very last studio songs, along with Burning Love, Promised Land and T.R.O.U.B.L.E. one of his greatest seventies rockers. False start is followed by Elvis apology my fault, my fault and it is good to hear his laugh, especially when you know what some people wrote about this Graceland session that Elvis was unstable and very moody, not productive. Whole master take is undubbed (and unmixed J.D. Sumner's deep voice isn't very noticeable) here and you can hear every word clearly. All 1976 material is in very good sound too, far better than similar ones on Among Friends CD.

So in all, good compilation, degraded a little cause many of songs is now released on different CDs, but I think still worth to have.

Reviewed by Oto Meszaros, Czech Republic.

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