CHRISTMAS TODAY - VENUS PRODUCTIONS (VP 2010-04) (Released 2010)
1. Review by Oven Egeland
|Sort of from out of the blue came this double CD from Venus Productions.
CD-1 features outtakes and mastertakes (from acetate) of the Christmas songs done in Nashville 1971. Takes 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 of 'I'll Be Home On Christmas Day' (first version) are previously unrelased, where take 6 is a complete take. Also takes 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 of 'Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees' are totally new. Take 3 is a complete take, while the others are false starts. In addition take 7 of 'Winter Wonderland' is new.
The acetate versions of mastertakes are of course undubbed and sometimes have longer running time. Also som false starts not heard before are included.
CD-2 focus on the Elvis Today session in Hollywood March 1975. This CD features little new as far takes goes, but songs have longer running time. The CD mainly focus on the master takes, later overdubbed and released officially on Elvis Today album.
The sound quality is generally good throughout the CD's.
Recommended for Elvis fans!
Click for a full review...
|CD-1: Christmas songs 1971
I'll Be Home On Christmas Day (6*)
Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees (3*)
On A Snowy Christmas Night (undubbed master) [#]
The Wonderful World Of Christmas (undubbed master) [#]
Silver Bells (1)
I'll Be Home On Christmas Day (1*, 2*)
The Lord's Prayer
Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees (1*, 2*)
The First Noel (undubbed master) [#]
Winter Wonderland (7*)
I'll Be Home On Christmas Day Takes (5*, 7*, 3)
Merry Christmas Baby (fs*, undubbed master) [#]
If I Get Home On Christmas Day (undubbed master) [#]
Silver Bells (undubbed master) [#]
Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees (5*, 6*, 7*, 4)
Winter Wonderland (undubbed master) [#]
It Won't Seem Like Christmas Without You (undubbed master) [#]
I'll Be Home On Christmas Day (undubbed master) [#]
Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees (undubbed master) [#]
O Come, All Ye Faithful (undubbed master) [#]
I'll Be Home On Christmas Day (4)
Silver Bells (fs*, 2 (original session recording), 3* (fs)
[*] Previously unreleased
[#] from acetate
|CD-2: Elvis Today session
T-R-O-U-B-L-E (4) [undubbed master]
Green Green Grass Of Home (fs*, 1)
Fairytale (3) [undubbed master]
Bringing It Back (2, 3)
Susan When She Tried (6) [undubbed master]
I Can Help (fs*, 2) [undubbed master]
And I Love You So (5) [undubbed master]
Green Green Grass Of Home (2, 3)
Woman Without Love (1) [undubbed master]
Tiger Man (session jam)
Bringing It Back (4) [undubbed master]
And I Love You So (1)
Shake A Hand (3) [undubbed master]
Green Green Grass Of Home (4*, 5)
Pieces Of My Life (4) [undubbed master]
Bringing It Back (1)
[*] Previously unreleased
|1. Christmas Today...
(Review by Oven Egeland)
CD-1 (CD RED):
CD-1 focus on the Christmas song session held in May 1971. It contains several outtakes of 'I'll Be Home On Christmas Day' and 'Holly Leaves And Christmas Threes', and then some master acetates. The sound quality on the outtakes is very good, and mostly good on the acetates.
'I'll Be Home On Christmas Day':
The sound quality is close to official standard; impressive!
Take 1 is only a very short start, but before this Elvis throws in a good natured joke about the drummers weight. Take 2 is a long false start, where Elvis misses the lyrics around 1 and half minute into the song.
Take 3 is a complete version. It comes with the extra verse and is a very good delivery in my point of view! I like it better than take 4 that was released on Platinum. Take 5 is only a short false start, while take 7 is even shorter..:-).
The mentioned take 4 is also included on this bootleg. It has a slightly different mix than on Platinum, some might find it better. I prefer the Platinum mix, but the sonic quality on the bootleg version is actually better than the official release.
Take 6 is new to Elvis fans. Elvis is told by Felton Jarvis to lay off the extra verse since the song anyway is long enough. The version is slightly more laidback and bluesy than previous versions I've heard. Almost a lazy feel, but somehow it works.
The undubbed master (take 8) is stemming from acetate, although it does not sound like it. There is not even a slight noise or any other acetate artifacts to be heard. However, the sound quality is less then the outtakes mentioned above.
Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees:
Again, great sound quality on the outtakes featured!
Take 1 is only a short fs, while take 2 has Elvis stumbling with the timing of the song. However, somehow the song is completed. Take 3 still finds Elvis stumbling with the timing of the song. No wonder neither were chosen for master.
Take 4 has previously been out officially on I Sing All Kinds. It comes here in a different sound, not quite as good as on the official release, but still very good! This take is preceded by takes 5, 6 and 7 which are all false starts and new for Elvis fans.
CD-1 also includes the acetate of the undubbed master take. The sound quality is still very good - surprisingly good for acetate.
'Winter Wonderland' (take 7) is totally new for Elvis fans. It is not a complete version, as it falls apart after 1 1/2 minutes where Elvis misses the lyrics and cracks up. The good part, however, is before take 7 begins. Elvis claims that "reverent Joe Esposito wants to speak a few words of inspiration". Priceless!
All takes of 'Silver Bells' are featured here. Take 1 has been out officially in better sound, while the master take (2) is preceded by a false start not heard before. Take 3 is also a false start, before Elvis simply says; "I can't get into it, I'm sorry. We better go back to what we had...". Also here the undubbed master from a good sounding acetate has been included.
'Merry Christmas Baby' starts of with Elvis telling the musicians to set the rhythm of the song. A sort of a false start or short run-through follows. It all comes in great sound, while the song itself comes in much poorer sound. A disappointment. Even more; it is incomplete as it stops some 20-30 seconds too early.
'The Lord's Prayer' was released on Essential Elvis Vol. 4, but is slightly more complete on this CD.
The other songs on this CD have all been lifted from acetates. Most are good, while 'O Come All, Ye Faithful' almost sounds like recorded through a telephone line.
CD-2 (CD BLUE):
CD-2 focus on the "Today session". This CD has been heavily discussed on the internet already. Some find the sound quality to be vast superior to the official FTD product of the same session, while other only hear minor differences.
As for sound quality, it really is a mixed bag. Some songs actually sound just as good as the official product - some perhaps even better - while others do not. The sound quality, the mix is not consistent throughout. 'T-R-O-U-B-L-E' for instance has more ambience than the official product. First time I heard it I thought about Soundforge or similar computer program that can be used to alter sound quality and even mix. Now, I'm not sure. That specific sound image is not found on the rest of the songs on the CD.
As for 'T-R-O-U-B-L-E' it is slightly more complete than the official master. And this goes for a lot of the songs on this CD, and really should be the focus. This CD brings out more complete versions of master takes, outtakes and does it in great sound!
All takes of 'Green Green Gras Of Home' are featured here. New to Elvis fans are two false starts and some studio banter in between. The sound quality is splendid!
The undubbed master of 'Fairytale' (take 3) runs approx. 50 seconds longer than the official version. However, the sound quality is a little less here. Slightly more ambiance (as found on 'T-R-O-U-B-L-E'), but the bass punch is lacking. Sort of a thin sound image. However, nice to hear the take run all the way to the end!
All takes of 'Bringing It Back' comes in great sound. Similar to the official product, although the channels have been reversed. I don't know why this was done?
The undubbed master of 'Susan When She Tried' sounds better here than on the official product in my point of view. Both instruments and Elvis are more audible on "Christmas Today".
'I Can Help' has some false starts before the actual song. It even includes the line "I'm tired of it, Billy Swan my ass!". Priceless! What follows is not the undubbed master, however. We are taking about a stripped version, more in the line of "Our Memories Of Elvis". The overdubbed guitar is clearly audible.
The undubbed master of 'And I Love You So' comes in glorious sound, while take 1 sound very muffled. I wonder why this was included as the version is available already in far greater sound on Elvis 6363 Sunset by FTD.
'Woman Without Love' sounds "far" better here than the official versions do. GREAT SOUND! The song runs to the very end, and we can hear Felton saying "we need to listen to it one time and then do....". According to session logs there never was another take of the song.
The 'Tiger Man' jam is slightly longer on this CD than we have heard before. Always a plus! Sound quality is again top-notch.
Undubbed master of 'Shake A Hand' runs about half a minute longer than the official version. Elvis is more upfront in the sound picture, perhaps on the expense of the bass punch. Still, the sound quality is very good and it is nice to hear the song to the very end.
'Pieces Of My Life' comes in a very peculiar sound. I wonder if not this could be taken from the quad-mix tapes (Elvis Today was also released as a quad LP). Some channels are certainly lacking, while the backup singers are (partly) too prominent. Even more, the sound image changes throughout the song.
CD-2 is a welcomed addition to our collection. The real plus is the longer run time on several songs and studio banter in between. Forget the discussion on whether the sound is better than on the official Elvis Today from FTD or not. In general it is not, why should it be? The main focus is that the sound quality is very good, just as on an official CD. This is not common for bootlegs covering outtakes from the 1970's. Kudos for that!
The Christmas CD has a somewhat bad timing and most of the interesting material on this CD will probably be featured on a forthcoming FTD product. CD-2 stands out as a even more complete picture of the Elvis Today session and does so in great sound quality. In general this double CD is an item to look out for! It also comes with a nice booklet, as appropriate.
, Norway, May 2010
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