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TODAY, TOMORROW AND FOREVER - BMG 07863 65115 2
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 1. Review by Kevin Walters

 2. Review by Crister Berge
100 tracks all digitally remastered. 99 of these are alternate versions (mostly alternate takes). One has been released before, namely take 8 of 'Anything That's Part Of You'. The live takes from Little Rock have also been out, but only on so-called Semi-official releases.

Features the newly discovered Today, Tomorrow and Forever duet with Ann-Margret, and an outtake of 'Are You Lonesome Tonight' and 'Pieces Of My Life', also lost for ages.

CD-1:
 1. Harbor Lights (2:28) 
      (take 3)
 2. I Got A Woman (1:30) 
      (take N/A)
 3. Shake, Rattle And Roll (3:08) 
      (take 2)
 4. I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (2:42) 
      (take 13)
 5. Heartbreak Hotel (2:33) 
      (Little Rock, May 16 1956)
 6. Long Tall Sally (2:09) 
      (Little Rock, May 16 1956)
 7. I Was The One (3:13) 
      (Little Rock, May 16 1956)
 8. Money Honey (2:20) 
      (Little Rock, May 16 1956)
 9. I Got A Woman (3:28) 
      (Little Rock, May 16 1956)
10. Blue Suede Shoes (4:00) 
      (Little Rock, May 16 1956)
11. Hound Dog (2:45) 
      (Little Rock, May 16 1956)
12. Rip It Up (2:01) 
      (take 14)
13. Don't Forbid Me/You Belong To My Heart (1:52) 
      (Home recording, Dec. 4 1956)
14. I Beg Of You (#1) (1:53) 
      (take 5)
15. Peace In The Valley (3:23) 
      (take 1)
16. Is It So Strange (2:33) 
      (take 10)
17. Got A Lot O' Livin' To Do (1:54) 
      (Movie master take 17)
18. Loving You (1:46) 
      (take 3 - Farm version (#3))
19. Treat Me Nice (2:06) 
      (take 6 - movie version)
20. Young And Beautiful (2:51) 
      (takes 4, 5)
21. I Want To Be Free (2:00) 
      (takes 3, 4)
22. Steadfast, Loyal And True (1:14) 
      (Undubbed master)
23. Doncha' Think It's Time (1:56) 
      (take 48)
24. I Need Your Love Tonight (2:00) 
      (take 4)
25. I Got Stung (1:47) 
      (take 16)
26. The Fool (1:54) 
      (take 1, Nov. 11 1959 - Home)
 
 
CD-2:
 1. Make Me Know It (2:40) 
      (takes 17, 18)
 2. Are You Lonesome Tonight? (3:37) 
      (takes 1, 2)
 3. G.I. Blues (2:49) 
      (take 5)
 4. Pocketful Of Rainbows (#2) (2:59) 
      (take 3)
 5. Flaming Star (3:26) 
      (Main title take 4, End-title take 1)
 6. Swing Down Sweet Chariot (3:13) 
      (takes 2, 3)
 7. Lonely Man (2:02) 
      (take 1)
 8. There's Always Me (2:33) 
      (take 2)
 9. Can't Help Falling In Love (1:49) 
      (take 26)
10. I'm Yours (2:14) 
      (take 5)
11. Follow That Dream (1:40) 
      (take 3)
12. Anything That's Part Of You* (2:08) 
      (take 8)
13. King Of The Whole Wide World (3:42) 
      (take 1 [M1-version])
14. Gonna Get Back Home Somehow (2:43) 
      (take 2)
15. A Boy Like Me, A Girl Like You (2:25) 
      (take 4)
16. They Remind Me Too Much Of You (2:30) 
      (take 4)
17. Mexico (2:00) 
      (take 2)
18. Witchcraft (2:21) 
      (take 2)
19. Today, Tomorrow And Forever (4:11) 
      (take 2. Duet with Ann-Margret)
20. Ask Me (#2) (2:17) 
      (take 2)
21. Roustabout (2:04) 
      (take 8 [Vocal overdub])
22. Puppet On A String (2:39) 
      (take 10)
23. My Desert Serenade (2:08) 
      (take 7)
24. Please Don't Stop Loving Me (2:05) 
      (take 10)
25. This Is My Heaven (2:39) 
      (take 7 [vocal overdub])
26. Never Say Yes (2:36) 
      (takes 1, 2)
27. Hide Thou Me (5:01) 
      (Home recording 1966)
CD-3:
 1. Love Letters (2:51) 
      (take 2)
 2. If The Lord Wasn't Walking By My Side (1:52) 
      (take 1)
 3. Come What May (2:19) 
      (takes 3, 4)
 4. Indescribably Blue (2:47) 
      (take 1)
 5. Long Legged Girl (1:37) 
      (Alternate master)
 6. The Love Machine (2:42) 
      (take 3)
 7. You Don't Know Me (2:14) 
      (Movie version. Take 3)
 8. Big Boss Man (2:53) 
      (take 9)
 9. We Call On Him (2:32) 
      (take 8)
10. Stay Away (2:26) 
      (take 14)
11. U.S. Male (2:58) 
      (take 7)
12. Wonderful World (2:26) 
      (take 15)
13. Trouble/Guitar Man (3:43) 
      (Opening version take 1, 1968 TV Special)
14. Where Could I Go But To The Lord (1:57) 
      (take 4, 1968 TV Special)
15. Memories (3:06) 
      (Stereo master)
16. Almost (1:51) 
      (take 6)
17. In The Ghetto (3:06) 
      (take 19 (labeled as take 20))
18. True Love Travels On A Gravel Road (2:28) 
      (take 2)
19. Let Us Pray (3:06) 
      (Alternate master)
20. Baby What You Want Me To Do (2:28) 
      (Las Vegas, Aug. 22, 1969 MS)
21. Funny How Time Slips Away (2:41) 
      (Las Vegas, Aug. 22, 1969 MS)
22. Runaway (2:07) 
      (Las Vegas, Aug. 22, 1969 MS)
23. My Babe (2:00) 
      (Las Vegas, Aug. 22, 1969 MS)
24. What'd I Say (3:17) 
      (Las Vegas, Aug. 22, 1969 MS)
CD-4:
 1. See See Rider (2:38) 
      (Las Vegas, Feb 19, 1970 DS)
 2. Polk Salad Annie (4:30) 
      (Las Vegas, Feb 17, 1970 MS)
 3. Walk A Mile In My Shoes (2:49) 
      (Las Vegas, Feb 17, 1970 MS)
 4. The Next Step Is Love (3:39) 
      (take 6)
 5. Life (3:15) 
      (take 2)
 6. Snowbird (2:08) 
      (take 2)
 7. (That's What you Get) For Lovin' Me (2:52) 
      (fs, 10)
 8. Until It's Time For You To Go (4:19) 
      (take 5)
 9. Fools Rush In (2:44) 
      (take 9)
10. A Thing Called Love (2:56) 
      (rehearsal #1)
11. I'll Be Home On Christmas Day (#1) (4:21) 
      ([remake] take 9)
12. Where Do I Go From Here (1:54) 
      (take 5)
13. No More (2:32) 
      (take 1. Hawaii, Jan. 14 1973)
14. Take Good Care Of Her (3:33) 
      (take 1)
15. I Miss You (2:13) 
      (take 1)
16. I Got A Feeling In My Body (3:34) 
      (take 4)
17. If You Talk In Your Sleep (2:26) 
      (take 5)
18. Promised Land (2:33) 
      (take 2)
19. Your Love's Been A Long Time Coming (3:51) 
      (take 10)
20. Pieces of My Life (3:46) 
      (take 1)
21. For The Heart (4:02) 
      (take 4)
22. She Thinks I Still Care (4:17) 
      (take 10)
23. Hurt (2:07) 
      (take 5)
 
 



1. Today, Tomorrow & Forever: BMG Milk Cow Blue$
(Review by Kevin Walters)

As we approach the 25th anniversary of Elvis' death, fans will certainly be thankful for the flood of new Elvis product. But we expected this, didn't we? RCA/BMG would be foolish not to piggyback releases on the substantial media coverage, which is anticipated to surround this anniversary year.

First, let me say that I understand BMG's marketing objectives. Obviously, if your cow can no longer produce golden calves, you are going to milk the cow as long as you can--for all the money you can. That's just good business strategy. Or is it?

Press releases and recent promotional interviews suggest Jorgenson began "holding back" songs for this new box set, "Today, Tomorrow & Forever" more than five years ago, while compiling Platinum, the 1997 box set, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of Elvis death. And so it is easy imagine Jorgenson sitting at a conference table with BMG executives plotting a 5-year and perhaps a 10-year BMG CD rollout plan of future Elvis material. Nothing wrong with this, right? It just makes good business sense to catalog your assets and plan a long-term release strategy to maximize profit$. BMG is a business. EPE is a business. Consumer demand is there.

The only major problem I have with the Jorgenson/BMG release strategy over the last couple of years is their ubiquitous "padding" of releases, designed to bilk consumers for a little extra cash with each new release. It's the BMG equivalent of supersizing your fries and milkshake. But of instead of getting more fries and a larger milkshake, you pay more to get less food. We saw this with the TTWII 30th Anniversary CD box set, where consumers had to repurchase the studio material again to hear the unissued live performances. We also saw this marketing strategy with the Vegas box set, where a full 90 minutes of material was previously released; forcing consumers to spend more cash to repurchase previously released material, just to hear the unissued tracks.

In the case of the Feb. 1970 material on the Vegas box, all of it was previously released. However, the new TT&F box contains three alternates from the Feb. 1970 engagement, begging the question: why didn't Jorgenson/BMG give us a disc of unissued Feb. 70 alternates on the Vegas Box? Clearly, this material exists, and will come out in a future package. Bet your bottom dollar that BMG has plans for this unissued material.

But you might say: the new TT&F box doesn't contain ANY previously released material. This is refreshing, isn't it? Yes and no. The box is still well-padded in another, clever way: it has lots of fluff. Lots of irrelevant movie alternates. Lots of alternate takes so close to the original master in execution as to not warrant listening to them more than once. The BMG/Jorgenson method of padding maybe changing, but the primary marketing objective has not: milk the cow as long as you can, for as long as you can.

That said, the new TT&F does have a handful of worthy, important recordings that could have fit nicely on one single disc.

A wonderful version of 'Treat Me Nice', with a very impassioned Elvis and some unique guitar fills.

The duet with Ann Margaret is beautiful and haunting. A true classic.

A gorgeous reading of 'Love Letters', at an even more languid tempo.

The 68 Special 'Guitar Man' outtake is a rough early take, with the band still finding its way-but Elvis gives a superb performance. However, the mix is ruined by Dennis Ferrante, who pulls the drums back so far in the mix, they sound as if they were recorded in another state.

The studio version (Western Sound Recorders) of 'Memories', unedited and in stereo. Why has this taken so long to see the light of day? Why didn't Jorgenson include this on the Memories 1998 CD release? Perhaps he was saving it for this box? That wouldn't surprise me.

Two tracks from American Sound, 1969. It concerns me that Jorgenson gave so much time to movie soundtracks on the box, yet only two outtakes from Elvis' finest recording session appear.

Five tracks from Vegas, during August of 1969. When will Jorgenson give us a complete 1969 live show, unedited, unresequenced, with the piano included in the mix? A guy can dream can't he? When reading the TT&F liner notes of Colin Escott, one gets the impression this critic believes his own shit doesn't smell. Escott claims Elvis refers to himself as during the performance as "The World's oldest Bluesman". I hate to contradict Mr. Escott, but Elvis really says: "The world's oldest blues, man!" He's simply referring to Jimmy Reed's 'Baby What You Want Me To Do,' not himself.

Three tracks from Vegas, Feb. 1970. Beautiful, gorgeous raw, impassioned vocals from Elvis. Why didn't we get alternates like these on the Vegas box?
Sound Note: these tracks are compromised by Dennis Ferrante, who pulls the rhythm section and background vocalists very far down in the mix, so that you have to strain to hear them. It comes across like a bad version of Phil Spector. Elvis' voice sounds inordinately loud in comparison. This mix causes the songs to lose visceral appeal. This is what Elvis would call "A New York mix." Elvis would have hated this wimpy mix, very similar to Ferrante's crappy remix of 1999's On Stage. In my opinion, there is nothing inherently wrong with placing the drums and bass in the center of the stereo image. However, the problems surface when Ferrante diminishes the lead guitar and piano etc. These tracks just confirm my suspicions that Dennis Ferrante MUST be replaced or should step aside.

'The Next Step is Love', a song I always hated, appears here in a much slower version, which almost makes the song sound somewhat appealing, despite banal, painful lyrics such as: "We have yet to taste the icing on the cake that we've been baking with the past."

'I Got A Feeling In My Body,' is a nice version, though I always felt Elvis tackled this in too high of a key. He sounds very strained, and comes across poorly. Great groove though. This outtake version features a wonderful keyboard solo.

So, in the final analysis, the new RCA/BMG products are better than those of the Colonel Parker era, but only because they have to be. Times have changed. Consumers demand better packaging, better sound. And the packaging on this new release is gorgeous and well executed.

Unfortunately, from a content standpoint, BMG Elvis releases are becoming stale, more predictable with each new offering. And the padding, the amount of fluff, seams to be increasing. This begs the question: Is BMG scraping the bottom of the barrel?

Of course not. Expect another multi-CD retrospective box set to mark Elvis' 75th birthday in 2010, and perhaps the 30th anniversary of his passing in 2007. And don't forget a "On Tour 1972" Box set, which will force the consumer to repurchase RCA 1972 studio material and rehearsals. Unreleased material will be bled out for years to come.

The golden cow still has a lot of milk, although it is growing stale and homogenized.

© Kevin Walters, July 7 2002



2. Welcome to "Platinum, vol. 2"
(Review by Crister Berge)

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of Elvis' death, this box set containing 100 unreleased tracks* spread in chronological order over four CD's was released a few weeks ago. The producers have used the exact same concept as on PLATINUM, 'cept this time there are no picture discs. It's lavishly packaged with a beautiful booklet with many color pictures. A few of them cannot be fully appreciated since they are spread over two pages. The cover is great too, though I would have chosen a different color for Elvis' name. There are no new titles, just alternate takes all the way. As usual, Colin Escott is responsible for the liner notes. I don't think the idea of commenting each and every track was the right approach. I can't understand how Mr. Escott can claim that 'Funny How Time Slips Away' is a blues and that 'Patch It Up' was a hit for Elvis? And why is Joe Esposito in the list of musicians?

    * According to Mr. Oven Egeland, 'Anything That's Part Of You' has been previously released by RCA.

DISC 1:
(61:52)























The first disc deals entirely with the fifties. It's amazing that so many alternate takes from this decade survived and can be enjoyed by us after almost half a century! 'Harbor Lights' is hardly a classic song from the Sun era, but certainly much better than the acetates that Elvis cut at Sam Phillips' studio. So, now everything from Sun is finally released...? 'I Got A Woman' is just 1 minute. I cannot understand why Elvis made it a staple in his live repertoire during the seventies - it wasn't even released as a single. Take 2 of 'Shake, Rattle And Roll' has the infamous verse "You wear those dresses, sun come shining through / I can't believe my eyes, all that mess belongs to you." Take 8, released on THE COMPLETE 50's MASTERS also had this "obscene" and "lewd" verse. Funny that it took the RCA people eight takes until they said no-no to this "inappropriate" poetry.

Next up are seven live numbers (shows were short back in those days!) from May, 1956. Ray Green made a historical cultural contribution when he recorded the show, even though the sound is not too hot. I think most of us die-hard fans have heard this before, so I won't make any comments on it. The "Million Dollar Quartet" track is awful. Elvis just stumbles his way through a couple of songs. How can this be on a box set aimed for the mass market? Unbelievable. The "farm version" of 'Loving You' saw its premiere on one of Ernst Jorgensen's first projects, ESSENTIAL ELVIS, vol. 1, back in 1986. This take has a buzz all through it that can drive anyone crazy! 'Is It So Strange' is, of course, lurid and 'Young And Beautiful' is way too slow. Someone imitates Elvis' gargling. 'I Want To Be Free' is listed as "take 3 & 4". How is that possible? There is no false start. Is it a splice? What was it that drove Elvis to do 48 takes of 'Doncha Think It's Time'? Sound quality is terrible. Why, why, why didn't they release another take in good sound?

Disc # 1 has its ups and downs. I think I rate PLATINUM's opener a little higher than this one.

DISC 2:
(73:04)








Thanks to recently obtained session tapes from 1960, we finally get to hear an alternate take of 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?.' Elvis' voice sounds hoarse during the recitation, but other than that it's very good for a first complete take. 'Gonna Get Back Home Somehow' is also a good performance, but Elvis is almost drowned in the "wall of sound." 'Witchcraft' has a better groove to it than the master recording, but the title track duet with Ann-Margret is a real stinker. She's a mediocre singer and on this particular song she sounds like a 13-year-old girl. Furthermore, her backing vocals during Elvis' part is out of key. 'This Is My Heaven' is not a remarkable song, but oh, what feeling and passion Elvis inserts to it. His vocal delivery is simply amazing! I should tell you that there are lots of movie songs on this release: Elvis starred in 31 motion pictures from 1956 'til 1969. You'll find songs from 26 of those pictures here.


DISC 3:
(61:47)













'Love Letters' was a perfect song for Elvis, and he surpasses Ketty Lester's version by a thousand miles. Also, David Briggs' exquisite piano playing is worth mentioning. I've always thought of 'Indescribably Blue' as "Elvis goes Nat King Cole". 'Big Boss Man' is a good song with a poor arrangement; it doesn't go anywhere. And if you listen closely, you'll hear that Bob Moore's bass is slightly out of tune. 'We Call On Him' and 'Let Us Pray' are from the bottom of the barrel of Elvis' gospel recordings. Track 13 is labeled 'Guitar Man.' Actually, it's the 'Trouble' / 'Guitar Man' medley. Sloppy.

Disc three is rounded out with five songs from Elvis' midnight show at the International Hotel, August 22, 1969. James Burton is too far back in the mix, but all of these tracks are great, with the exception of 'Funny How Time Slips Away,' which is played WAY too cautious: The musicians seems to be unsure, there's no proper arrangement and it doesn't even have a rehearsed ending. Also, the editing of 'Runaway' and 'My Babe' is absolutely horrendous. August 22 was NOT Burton's best evening, he seems a bit "off". And 'What'd I Say' clearly displays his inability to play really fast.


DISC 4:
(73:14)















This CD kicks off with three roaring songs from Las Vegas, February 1970. Drummer Ronnie Tutt was replaced by Bob Lanning for Elvis' second stint in Vegas. Listen for Elvis say "You got it right this time" to Lanning during the spoken intro to 'Polk Salad Annie.' But why in God's name did they cut out 'In The Ghetto' from 'Walk A Mile In My Shoes'?? Then it's off to Nashville; 'The Next Step Is Love' is excellent, although Elvis doesn't quite hack the key change. 'Life' is macabre, bizarre. Would you believe that Sweden's greatest Elvis expert Ake Flodin has declared this being his favorite 70's Elvis recording? Different takes of the same songs from 1970 were also included on NASHVILLE MARATHON, released at the same time as this box set. Six tracks are culled from the Stax sessions held in 1973. Pete Hallin's keyboard solo in 'I Got A Feeling In My Body' sucks bigtime. In 'Promised Land,' Elvis sings "There's an Uncle there..." instead of "There are people there..." It's a blessing that we don't have to endure the muffled sound on Elvis' vocal that plagued the master.

I find it hard to comment further on the songs on this disc. Very few songs differ radically from the master takes. Some Elvis fans will flip over anything that's "unreleased." It doesn't matter to them if the performance is poor, sound is awful or the alternate take is a note-for-note copy of the master.


Well, to sum things up: this will NOT appeal to a wide audience. But for the collectors, it's a must-have!

On a scale from 1 to 5, I give it a 3.

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

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