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1. Review by Crister Berge
Includes 47 previously unreleased performances. The highlight of this box is definitely the live material from Las Vegas, August 1969, especially 'Reconsider Baby', 'Inherit The Wind' and 'What'd I Say' are magnificent. Also disc 1 and disc 2 contains some treasures, like for instance 'You're The Boss' (CD-1) and 'Like A Baby', 'Give Me The Right' and 'Love Letters' from CD-2.

Available on CD, Cassettes and Long Play Album.

A must have!!

G.I. Blues (1) - Pocketful Of Rainbows (22, 17) - Big Boots (M1O 7) - Black Star (Master) - Summer Kisses, Winter Tears (1, 14) - I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell (18) - Lonely Man (4) - What A Wonderful Life (2, 1) - A Whistling Tune (4) - Beyond The Bend (2) - One Broken Heart For Sale (1) - You're The Boss (Master) - Roustabout (6) - Girl Happy (4) - So Close, Yet So Far (4) - Stop, Look And Listen (3) - Am I Ready (1) - How Can You Lose What You Never Had (1, 3)
Like A Baby (1, 2) - There's Always Me (4) - I Want You With Me (1) - Gently (3) - Give Me The Right (1) - I Met Her Today (1) - Night Rider (1, 2) - Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello (1) - Ask Me (2) - Memphis Tennessee (2) - Love Me Tonight (1) - Witchcraft (1) - Come What May (6) - Love Letters (4, 7) - Going Home (24, 21)
Live In Las Vegas
Blue Suede Shoes - I Got A Woman - Heartbreak Hotel - Love Me Tender - Baby, What You Want Me To Do - Runaway - Surrender/Are You Lonesome Tonight? - Rubberneckin' - Memories - Introductions By Elvis - Jailhouse Rock/Don't Be Cruel - Inherit The Wind - This Is The Story - Mystery Train/Tiger Man - Funny How Time Slips Away - Loving You/Reconsider Baby - What'd I Say

1. Review by Crister Berge

The eighties were a shameful period for RCA. The way they treated Elvis' musical legacy was near criminal, a time of open contempt for the fans and collectors. Thanks to Ernst Jorgensen and Roger Semon, things started looking a little brighter at the end of the decade. First the ESSENTIAL series and then this milestone was issued that left us all grasping for air.

It was a first for RCA; never before had they given the public such an amount of high-quality unreleased material - and in good sound too! It should have been a bigseller, but unfortunately, it didn't go over too well. Why, one might ask? Maybe because the promotion (as always) was non-existent? The lack of success might even have been related to that the Elvis interest in the world was on the slide at that time. Or perhaps it was the recession? Anyhow, the following year, Ernst & Roger struck GOLD (ha-ha) with the release of THE COMPLETE 5O's MASTERS, but that's a different story altogether... Never saw an extensive review of this one on the net, so I thought I'd give it a shot. But I won't comment on each and every song. Here we go, friends:

It's a 3-CD box set with a 60's theme and a stunning cover. The booklet features superb liner notes by Christopher Niccoli. The music is divided into three different recording locations: Hollywood, Nashville and Las Vegas. We are treated to 49 tracks, all of them unreleased, except for 'You're The Boss', a duet with Ann-Margret that premiered on ELVIS SINGS LEIBER & STOLLER just four months prior to this release and 'Are You Lonesome Tonight', that saw its first release on the "Silverbox" back in 1980. This said, I feel inclined to inform you that only one title is entirely new: 'Black Star', the song that later became 'Flaming Star'.

There are a few errors in the track data: the info on 'You're The Boss' reads "July 63 - take unknown". Today we know better, the date was July 11 and it was take #16 with a snippet of take 3 at the end. Furthermore, 'So Close Yet So Far' claims to have been recorded in 1962. The correct year is 1965. Also, bass player Jerry Scheff's surname is misspelled "Sheff", and pianist Dudley Brooks is given a new first name, Budley (!)

18 songs 1960-67

You can tell that it's the very first take of 'G.I. Blues', just listen to those crazy guitar licks - what the Hell is Scotty [Moore] up to? But Elvis is in great voice. An attempt at 'Pocketful Of Rainbows' is interrupted when Elvis starts laughing on the very first word of the song. Engineer Thorne Nogar (?) asks "Want a playback?" to the amusement of the crew. This is listed as take 22, which is peculiar as we can hear Thorne saying "If you crack, you got a new world's record, it's 29". Take 17 is complete and noticeably faster than the master. "Fast" is also the word to apply to the next song. It's 'Big Boots' at rocket speed, folks! Due to the tempo the playing time is a mere 1:19, but it works man, it works!

'Black Star' is a double-header: it's a fast version linked with a short, slow version (from the film). 'Lonely Man' is just Elvis with his guitar. It sucks! Gimme the magical take on OUT IN HOLLYWOOD any ol' day! I've always been fond of 'Rostabout', listen closely and you'll hear Elvis sing "I'll be a raving maniac" at the end. Upon its original release, 'Girl Happy' was speeded up to give it a "more commercial appeal". It sounds sooo much better at normal speed. Take 1 of 'How Can You Lose What You Never Had' is stopped as Elvis cracks. The tempo is all too slow and Elvis sings it as he's half asleep. Oh, and I have a fitting description for 'So Close Yet So Far': puke!

What an amazing opening!

15 songs 1960-68

Much weaker than the Hollywood disc, but there are a few gems to be found here too. 'Like A Baby' displays Elvis' feel for the blues and I also like the dramatic 'There's Always Me'. But Woody Harris' 'I Want You With Me' is just plain stupid, bass singer Ray Walker must have felt like a real arse delivering those silly lines of his. Much more enjoyable is the 1963 version of Chuck Berry's two-chorder 'Memphis, Tennessee' with "jungle drums". For some reason, Elvis was dissatisfied with the song, and it was re-recorded the following year. In all honesty, I have to confess I never really understood Elvis' interpretation of the song, why does he sound so sad?

Elvis uses his falsetto voice in several songs, f.e. the brilliant 'Love Me Tonight' that features beautiful piano by Floyd Cramer. It is obviously a remake of 'Anything That's Part Of You' (same composer: Don Robertson). David Briggs is the piano player on 'Love Letters'. This was his first studio session, but he pulled it off, even though Elvis complains about the tempo being too slow. Lots of glissando here.

When it comes to Nashville material, I would recommend SUCH A NIGHT and the FTD release LONG LONELY HIGHWAY.

International Hotel, August, 1969

On the last disc we get 16 tracks from different dates - the "cream of the crop", a string of unique performances, a.o. three songs from the American sessions in Memphis, before their original release. And as opposed to disc one on the recent box set LIVE IN LAS VEGAS, here we can enjoy Larry Muhoberac's tasteful piano (why on Earth didn't he get to play the solo in 'Heartbreak Hotel'?).

In 'Blue Suede Shoes', the horn section is cut out from the mix, which is good. Elvis is hoarse, the band is hot and really rocks. Elvis says he'd like to get Kirk Kerkorian, the owner of the International, and bizarre multi-millionaire recluse Howard Hughes in a crap game. Elvis played the blues 'Baby What You Want Me To Do' over and over again in the "boxing ring" while taping the Singer Special in Burbank, so no one was surprised when he incorporated it in his Vegas act. Great version, in spite of a boring solo by James Burton. He was no blues guitarist, that's for sure. 'Runaway', complete with "cha-cha-cha" ending, is another strong number, even though the key seems a little high for Elvis. And wouldn't you know, Del Shannon is in the audience: "...If I'm not mistaken, the guy that wrote this song is in the audience tonight. I don't think I've met him, but I really dig the song.- - - You out there, Del? - - - Oh! Hey! Hey! Nice to see you. Over there, Lamar!"

The "laughing version" of 'Are You Lonesome Tonight' is next. Now, let's set the record straight once and for all: Why was Elvis laughing? It was NOT because he changed the lyrics, no, the source of Elvis' enjoyment was Cissy Houston singing her heart out. My God, just listen to her! And the proof is there: "Sing it, baby!" I rest my case.

'Rubberneckin' is noteable for Ronnie Tutt's murderous drumming; it's amazing that the hi-hat didn't break! 'Memories' is introduced as "A song I just did on my recent TV show... which was pretty bad, but... you can't win 'em all". As Elvis is out of breath, the performance suffers. During the band introductions, Elvis sings 'Happy Birthday' to James and introduces him as "one of the finest guitar players I've ever met". But he doesn't get Larry Muhoberac's last name right as he calls him "Muhoverac".

I never liked the studio version of 'Inherit The Wind', but this live rendition is absolutely fantastic! Though a live performance doesn't do the trick for 'This Is The Story'; it simply cannot save it, since it's such a shitty song. A real rockin' version of the medley 'Mystery Train/Tiger Man' is followed by Willie Nelson's 'Funny How Time Slips Away', which inclusion in the '69 repertoire was a big surprise to most of us, since Elvis didn't cut a studio recording of the song until 1970. It's a slow, unrehearsed version that just sort of trods along - not very good, but still interesting. Next is a blues number featured on the 1960 classic album ELVIS IS BACK!, 'Reconsider Baby'. Before starting it, Elvis strums his guitar and trust me on this one, that thing is out of tune! 'What'd I Say' is very different from Ray Charles' original, the tempo is rushed and it's way too long, James has difficulties varying his solos.

Lots of rare songs, Elvis & band is in top form, what more can you ask for?
Disc three is definitely a winner!

On a scale from 1 to 5, I give COLLECTORS GOLD a solid 4.

© Crister Berge, Sweden, December 2001. (

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