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EASTER SPECIAL - BMG 74321 84215 2
Easter Special

Easter Special CD

 1. Review by Oven Egeland
 2. Review by Crister Berge
...smashing content.

 1: March Of Dimes 57
 2: It Is No Secret (Take 5) [Incorrectly listed as Take 12]
 3: He Knows Just What I Need (Take 1)
 4: Mansion Over The Hilltop (Take 1)
 5: Joshua Fit The Battle (Take 1)
 6: I'm Gonna Walk Dem Golden Stairs (Takes 2, 3)
 7: Known Only To Him (Takes 1, 2)
 8: Run On (Take 2)
 9: Stand By Me (Takes 6, 7) [Incorrectly listed as Take 2]
10: So High (Takes 2, 3) [Incorrectly listed as Take 2]
11: Somebody Bigger Than You And I (Take 12)
12: We Call On Him (Takes 4, 5)
13: Saved (Take 1)
14: An Evening Prayer (Take 2)
15: Seeing Is Believing (Take 4)
16: There Is No God But God (Takes 1, 2)
17: He Is My Everything (Take 1)
18: Bosom Of Abraham (Take 7)
19: I Got A Feeling In My Body (Take 7)
20: If That Isn't Love (Takes 2, 6, 7)

From Essential Vol. 5

The last seconds of 'I Got A Feeling In My Body' from Essential Elvis Vol. 5

From Easter Special

The last seconds of 'I Got A Feeling In My Body' from Easter Special
This CD is so poorly produced that you really have to be in a good mood to review it!

Clicks and noise in form of hiss and solid "buzz" noise are prominent on several tracks. How anyone can produce this bad is surely a mystery! However, it is not the first example of left-hand work from FTD (BMG).

In addition to obvious errors, the mixing of the 1960's outtakes is lifeless, punchless.... less of everything that is good!

Most of the problems with these new FTD CD's is the output volume! It is TOO HIGH. If you copy a CD track from this CD and look at the wave sample, you will notice how destroyed the sound has become after been through Lene Reidel's mastering techniques. The output "needles" are desperately trying to get out of the meter. Too high recording volume is one of the first things a producer has to take care of.... it is a basic knowledge... Not so in the FTD department...

A definite loser production wise!


  • Elvis urges people to contribute to the work against polio disease. A nice introduction to this CD.
2. IT IS NO SECRET - Take 5 (Binaural) [Master = Take 13]

  • Like several versions on Essential Elvis Vol. 2, this outtake is presented in binaural shape. Listed as take 12, but it is actually take 5. Very similar to the master take. Duration is not 1:58 as listed on the digi-pack, rather 3:58. One gets quite used to errors on these FTD releases...!
3. HE KNOWS JUST WHAT I NEED - Take 1 [Master = Take 10]

  • This is the first attempt on what would be considered perfect 9 takes later. This particular take was released on the bootleg Stand By Me Vol. 2 in similar sound quality in 1997.
4. MANSION OVER THE HILLTOP - Take 1 [Master = Take 3]

  • Nice to have an outtake of this song, which has not been bootlegged to my knowledge.
5. JOSHUA FIT THE BATTLE - Take 1 [Master = Take 4]

  • One of my all time favorite Gospel songs. The master take is brilliant in every meaning of the word. This track is not so together, but as a first take it is good. I really wish FTD had mixed these 1960-songs differently. They appear in a flat, lifeless mix...
6. I'M GONNA WALK DEM GOLDEN STAIRS Take (2) 3 [Master = Take 1]

  • A post-master take. Always special! However, listening to this take, one would assume that it was recorded before the released master take. It is less together, just like with Joshua above (I got a way with words...:-)). Extra interesting that this song has never been bootlegged!
7. KNOWN ONLY TO HIM - TAKE (1) 2 [Master = Take 5]

  • False start 1 and complete take 2, that has been released in similar sound quality on the bootleg Stand By Me.
8. RUN ON - TAKE 2 [Master = Take 7]

  • Finally we get some outtakes from 1966 in stereo. ('By and By' was a bit misplaced on the CD Long Lonely Highway). This outtake was also released on Stand By Me Vol. 2 but then in mono. A nice version, but less "driving" than the master take 7 became.
9. STAND BY ME - TAKE 7 [Master = Take 11]

  • Labeled as take 2, but actually take 7, this particular take was released on....yes, Stand By Me. However, this time it is in stereo as all 1966 takes. Although the sound is better than on the mentioned bootleg for obvious reasons, this take suffers from "clicks" that is caused by sloppy producing...also a more and more common phenomena as with written errors on the digi-packs. I wonder what the right hand is used for during production...?
10. SO HIGH - TAKE 3 [Master = Take 4]

  • Again: This is not take 2 as listed, rather take 3. Previously released on Stand By Me.
11. SOMEBODY BIGGER THAN YOU AND I - TAKE 12 [Master = Take 16/WP-6]

  • I have always liked this song for some reason. Nice to have this version in stereo too. It has been released on bootleg before. (Stand By Me.)
12. WE CALL ON HIM - TAKE (4) 5 [Master = Take 9]

  • This marks the last track on this CD that has been a subject of bootlegging. However, these particular takes have never been bootlegged anywhere. Take 4 is just the opening lines with Elvis stating "No good!". Take 5 is complete and a good version, much better than take 2 that was used by Time Life several years ago.
13. SAVED - TAKE 1 [Master = Take 6/5]

  • Take 1 of this smasher is really a treat! Obviously less together than the spliced master version, but not lacking any of the spark as found on the master.
14. AN EVENING PRAYER - Take 2 [Master = Take N/A]

  • Outtakes from May and June 1971 have been quite scarce for Elvis fans for a long time. This CD offers 5 tracks, of which 4 are brand new. Take 2 of 'An Evening Prayer' is a nice version, and the lack of overdubbing place Elvis way up front in the sound picture, almost too much.
15. SEEING IS BELIEVING - TAKE 4 [Master = Take 12]

  • Previously released on a Time Life CD several years ago, we this time also get some banter and "try outs" before take 4. I have always liked this take better than the released master, which to me is a bit "messy". Take 4 is loose as no tomorrow and really a treat!
16. THERE IS NO GOD BUT GOD - TAKE (1) 2 [Master = Take 5]

  • This song replaced 'A Thing Called Love' at the last minute. A loss for the common Elvis fans I assume. 'There Is No God But God' is the kind of song that makes you hum along, but in reality it is a worthless piece of music (IMO). Take 1 finds Elvis mixing up the lyrics, while take 2 is complete and not of any less standard than the final master. Several "clicks" can be found on this track, again due to lousy producing.
17. HE IS MY EVERYTHING - TAKE 1 [Master = Take 5]

  • This track is running for 4:37, but most of it is banter before take 1. Elvis sings bits and pieces of other songs, quite typically 'Farther Along' and 'Oh, Happy Day'. More surprising is the few seconds of 'Mean Woman Blues'. While Elvis does his things, you can hear The Sweet Inspirations fussing and cackling at the same time. Quite interesting; this was the session where Elvis aborted 'My Way' due to his annoyance over these girls "absence" while creating music. Elvis is supposed to have shouted "Can't you follow a damn thing" or something like that to the backup singers during this session.

    Back to 'He Is My Everything': Same melody as 'There Goes My Everything', so this song couldn't have challenged Elvis a lot. All together good to have an outtake of this song too, but unfortunately it suffers more than any other takes from this session because of poor producing...
18. BOSOM OF ABRAHAM - Take 7 [Master = 6]

  • Again a post-master take. I think this one is better than any takes we have had before (take 2 and 6).
19. I GOT A FEELING IN MY BODY - TAKE 7 [Master = 3]

  • Talking about post-master takes. The two last tracks represents takes well after the final master. Before writing any words about this particular take, I must complain a bit over the mixing of these two last tracks.

    Ernst Jørgensen has said many times that the sessions at Stax were badly produced. Not only the one in July 1973 (which at best could be described as a disaster), but also the December session. This makes it difficult to create any good and full mixes, with very little margins to do anything different. However, when Dennis Ferrante mixed the CD Essential Elvis Vol. 5 he did a very good job! Also the re-mixed version of Promised Land proved successful. The two tracks on this CD, however, are miserable. And by this strong word, one should take into consideration that we are talking about one of the largest persons in music (the largest, of course...:-)), combined with one of the biggest record companies in the world. Of course the result could have been much better than what we get here! I can't think of any other explanations - why these two tracks are less in fidelity - than lack of skills from the person who is responsible for the mix on this disc. This combined with a portion of left-hand attitude from BMG/FTD towards their products, actually positions die-hard Elvis fans in something of a "trap". "We're caught in a trap" as Elvis sang in 'Suspicious Minds'. Our everlasting loyalty and crave for new material, gives us bad cards to play with. BMG/FTD obviously knows which cards we have on our hands, and continue playing without any fear of losing.

    Back to 'I Got A Feeling In My Body'. Besides being full of hiss, and in general poorly mixed, this is one of the weakest outtakes I have ever heard. Already after 30 seconds this take could be considered as a "throwaway", as Elvis' voice is totally worn out. I guess that the only reason why Elvis completed the take after all, was that he really liked this song, something that is evident also on take 1 (as released on Essential Elvis Vol. 5).
20. IF THAT ISN'T LOVE - TAKE (2, 6) 7 [Master = 4]

  • This track REALLY suffers from bad producing. I have never heard an official outtake with so much noise in my life! It is not hiss, rather strong electronic noise, which of course can be removed with proper work, as Dennis Ferrante and BMG have released outtakes of this song before in great sound!

    When I reviewed Essential Elvis Vol. 5 some years ago, I questioned the inclusion of 'If That Isn't Love' take 1, instead of take 7. Straight logic told me then that take 7 could be better than take 1. I was wrong! Take 7 is in fact not any better than take 1, though it is more similar to this take than the final master (take 4).

    We now have all takes of this song, except take 5 (which isn't complete). Being one of my favorite songs, I like the idea of having the "whole" lot, but as said above, the listening pleasure is noticeable reduced due to bad sound quality on the track featured here!

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    © , Norway, April 2001

2. Review by Crister Berge

An atheist's view
I'm gonna tell it to you straight.
I'm not a big fan of gospel music.
Now I've said it.

To be truthful, it's probably the one area of Elvis' career I have least knowledge of. By now I have reviewed well over a hundred Elvis albums, but never a gospel record. As a rule, Presley's religious songs are excluded from regular releases, so to hear Elvis sing gospel, you have to buy a record with that theme. I used to find Elvis' gospel music too syrupy and all that falsetto singing is simply not "my cup o' tea", to coin a phrase. Just listen to 'Mansion Over The Hilltop' and you'll understand what I'm talking about.

Background information
Elvis recorded a gospel EP in 1957 and three gospel albums: HIS HAND IN MINE (1960), HOW GREAT THOU ART (1967) and HE TOUCHED ME (1972). I think the first LP is overrated and I loathe the third one. The second one gave him a Grammy and that's the one I like best. When it comes to Elvis' spiritual music, I prefer the up-tempo songs, f.e. 'Working On The Building', 'Swing Down Sweet Chariot' and 'Put Your Hand In The Hand', unfortunately none of those titles are included here. 'Milky White Way' is another great song, also not featured on this CD. An alternate take found its way onto the box set PLATINUM in 1997, so I guess that's why it's not in the track list. Now to the content of EASTER SPECIAL:

An alternate gospel odyssey
19 alternate takes leaves us with 60 minutes worth of previously unreleased music. The songs are edited together in a good way, but the sound on the 1960 recordings is a little strange. On a more postive note, we get to hear lots of studio banter and a few false starts. The cover features an erect Elvis that represents the capital letter of "I" in his name. Great photo on the back that I've never seen before. The first track is Elvis endorsing the 1957 "March of dimes", a charity project whose goal was to raise money for polio victims. With the inclusion of this track, a more appropriate title could've been, let's say "An Alternate March Of Gospels"? Nah, forget it.

The song list spans 16 years, starting out with one of those binaural recordings from 1957. 'It Is No Secret' is the name of it and I can't even find the words to express my disgust for it. But let me tell you this: I heard a Salvation Army version of the song by accident a couple of weeks ago and I liked it better! Nuff said. "Binaural"? Abnormal! Note: The song's playing time is listed at 1:58, when it's actually 3:55!!! No playing time is listed on 'Stand By Me' and 'So High', so for your information, they're 2:53 and 2:12, respectively. And if you study the track list further, you'll see that Stuart Hamblen is only given half a bracket ('Known Only To Him').

A dream come true
As a young kid growing up in Memphis, Elvis dreamt of being a member of a gospel quartet. Well, the dream came true: the spiritual material from the Nashville sessions in 1960 & '66 is really Elvis singing with the Jordanaires, instead of them backing him. This was the closest Elvis came to singing in a group, and it was all held together by the superb piano playing of Floyd Cramer. The songs from 1966 are far superior, in my opinion. The highlight of the CD is a wonderful take of 'Stand By Me', a touching version that is pure magic. And who can resist the playful charm of 'So High'? Another terrific song is 'Run On'. Listen closely to the drums; they could've used the backing track for 'We're Coming In Loaded' (From the movie GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!) - it's the exact same rhythm!

Track 13 is the first take of a composition from the songwriting team of Leiber & Stoller. The song, 'Saved', was used as the last segment of the gospel medley from Elvis TV Special 1968. Elvis' vocal performance is passionate, but I never did like the NBC band and furthermore, most numbers from that TV show were overly orchestrated. And I haven't even mentioned the awful vocal backing, courtesy of the Blossoms. It's also hard to take the song serious. I mean, come on, it's the story of a guy who used to "cuss, fuss, lie, cheat, dance the hootchee-coo" and God knows what else, but who finds Jesus and starts "beating on that big bass drum"... Oh, lawdy!

Rockin' Abraham
Over to the heralded (that's sarcasm, everybody!) 1971 sessions. Question: What do you need while singing stuff like 'There Is No God But God'? That's right, a bucket to get sick in! In 1970, Elvis recorded Dallas Frazier's beautiful song 'There Goes My Everything' and here's the religious version: 'He Is My Everything', first take. It sucks big time! Listen for Elvis to sing a few lines on 'Mean Woman Blues'. And then we have 'Rock-A My Soul', ooops!... oh yeah, it's the 'Bosom' song, you know the song about that fat guy Abraham and his melons (?)

The last two songs are from the Stax sessions in 1973. An alternate take of 'I Got A Feeling In My Body' starts off way too cautiously. Elvis desperately tries to breathe life into it, but as it is played in a very restrained manner throughout, the song is deprived of its groove. And my fellow Swede Per-Erik Hallin fucks up his solo completely. Take 1 on RHYTHM & COUNTRY is much better. I'm having trouble understanding the inclusion of [Voice member] Dottie Rambo's 'If That Isn't Love' in this collection, besides being a rotten song, there's no way that I would classify it "gospel"! The track info incorrectly claims it was recorded in October.

Talking about music with a religious message or "feel", regardless of artist, my favourite songs are Paul Simon's bouncy 'Gone At Last' (from the excellent album STILL CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, released in 1975) or John Fogerty's ripping '98 live version of 'Working On A Building' (and the "A" is not a typo, it's a different song!).

I really enjoyed EASTER SPECIAL. If you're a gospel fan, you'll love it. Go get it while you can!

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

© Crister Berge, Sweden 2002 (

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