ELVIS COUNTRY - BMG 88697 40723 2
1. Review Michael Sander
|A 2-CD edition of Elvis Country, in the classic album series. It comes in a 7" deluxe package like others in this series and in the soundtrack series.
40 tracks, including 11 new "takes" and some undubbed masters takes.
Updated sound quality and in some places a totally different mix of versions previously relased.
|CD-1: Original release and outtakes
2. Tomorrow Never Comes
3. Little Cabin On The Hill
4. Whole Lot-ta Shakin' Goin' On
5. Funny How Time Slips Away
6. I Really Don’t Want To Know
7. There Goes My Everything
8. It's Your Baby, You Rock It
9. The Fool
10. Faded Love
11. I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water
12. Make The World Go Away
13. I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago
14. Where Did They Go, Lord
15. Faded Love (country version) [Ess. Elvis Vol. 4]
16. The Fool (1) [Ess. Elvis Vol. 4]
17. A Hundred Years From Now (1, 2) [Ess. Elvis Vol. 4]
18. Little Cabin On The Hill (1) [Ess. Elvis Vol. 4]
19. It's Your Baby, You Rock It (3) [The Nashville Marathon]
20. Faded Love (3) [Ess. Elvis Vol. 4]
21. Tomorrow Never Comes (1*)
22. Tomorrow Never Comes (2) [The Nashville Marathon]
23. Snowbird (reh*, 1) [The Nashville Marathon]
24. Where Did They Go, Lord (1*) [There's A Whole Lot...]
|CD-2: Outtakes and undubbed masters
1. I Really Don't Want To Know [undubbed master]
2. Faded Love (2*, 1) [undubbed master]
3. Tomorrow Never Comes (12*, 13) [undubbed master]
4. Make The World Go Away (1*, 3) [undubbed master]
5. Funny How Time Slips Away [undubbed master]
6. I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water [undubbed master]
7. I Didn't Make It On Playing Guitar
8. Tomorrow Never Comes (3*, 11*)
9. There Goes My Everything (1) [Great Country Songs]
10. September Warm Up (instrumental*)
11. Snowbird (4*, 5*, 2) [Time Life - Country]
12. Where Did They Go, Lord (2*, 3) [The Nashville Marathon]
13. Whole Lot-ta Shakin' Goin On (w/horns) [There's A Whole Lot...]
14. When I'm Over You [undubbed, complete]
15. The Next Step Is Love [undubbed]
16. Love Letters [undubbed]
* previously unreleased take
|1. "I was born only 40 years ago..."
(Review by Michael Sander)
.. still allow me, to share some thoughts with you. The 1970 session is surely one of my favorites, as you can see on my comment of the FTD 'Love Letters' release. I expected a perfect conclusion of this "Trilogy", but it turns out a little bit differently.
So far the Japanese CD releases of this album sounded the best, the first one released in 1988 on R25P-1009, followed in 2000 by the 24 bit re-mastered paper sleeve edition. The FTD release ranks somewhere in between, it's one of the best so far ... just a matter of personal taste, but FTD did a sloppy job about the track-settings, cutting the first notes of track 8, 11 and especially 12 (there's some noise, too). Yes, the '10.000 years fadings' between the songs are still there, nothing has changed. On one hand it is welcomed, that an original album series doesn't change the old LP concept, but on the other hand the chance, that we might ever hear the original 1970 album versions without fadings, seems to be gone, or hopefully just postponed. Of course most of the songs have already been released without fadings in some kind of way, starting with Joan Deary's mixes of 'I Really Don't Want To Know', 'Make The World Go Away' and 'There Goes My Everything' in 1977 and 1982. Then in 1995 Ernst Jørgensen released all the songs from this album - newly remixed - on the 'Essential 70's Masters'. In terms of sound these versions are the best so far, but still two of them are unedited and 'Tomorrow Never Comes' includes a false start. The 2006 début of 'Tomorrow Never Comes' was quite unnoticed, since it was released on a low budget CD 'Elvis Country' (Elvis Rock, Elvis Inspirational...a series of six compilations). It was the first time, that a song from 'Elvis Country' was released in outstanding sound quality in the original mix and without fadings. So there was some hope, that FTD would follow this strategy of high quality masters by releasing the exact original mixes of the 1970 album without any overdubbed fadings.
Unfortunately ... not right now. Well, two CDs aren't just enough space, to release two versions of the album and all the outtakes. But I still hope, since many Elvis-fans would be happy about it, that FTD will pick up this request for a single CD release in the future.
The Bonus Songs
The 'Essential 70's Masters' version of 'I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago' was taken from a different source, it runs longer, but misses some part of the drum intro. Now FTD releases this song, as it appeared on the original 'Elvis Now' album. It sounds like a compromise between the German Club Edition and the K2 re-mastered Japanese release BVCM-35032 of 'Elvis Now', but again – personal taste. 'Where Did They Go, Lord' was first released in stereo by Joan Deary on the '78 vinyl-release 'He Walks Beside Me'. It was improved on the 'Essential 70's Masters', but here comes a big surprise: This new version is special. It's the ultimate stereo version, newly remixed, improving the backround voices and the drum-rolls, but still in 70's style. Definitely one of the highlights on this release!
The Seven Outtakes Chapters
I've never seen a FTD-CD with so many sub-topics. Usually it would have been quite simple. There are the June outtakes, the September outtakes and the undubbed Felton Jarvis mixes. But exactly these undubbed mixes are spread all over this release, starting with 'Faded Love – take 3' (although not mentioned). I think, this isn't such a good idea, 'cause they have a sound of their own. They are mixed in the old 70's style (drums on the left) and Elvis' voice is differently balanced. 'Faded Love – take 3' has already been released in a new style on 'A Hundred Years From Now', why not feature this version together with take 2, and save the Felton remix for later. The same goes for 'Tomorrow Never Comes' take 13, and why splitting the takes of this song three times? It would have been quite of a session, including take 1, 2, 3, 12 and 11. In the same way 'Snowbird' could have been released as take 1 (+rehearsal), 4, 5 and 2 and 'Where Did They Go, Lord' as take 1, 2 and 3. Sometimes it makes sense to split the session, if it includes too many complete takes, but in these cases it doesn't seem particularly necessary. Take 3 of 'It's Your Baby, You Rock It' has been previously released on Nashville Marathon. Why not making it part of the June session, where it belongs to, instead of creating a 2-track chapter "Alternate Masters", that on the other hand doesn't include the version of 'Whole Lot-ta Shakin' Goin on' with horn dubbings, which definitely is an alternate master. By the way .. it's the last missing track of the Whole Lot-ta Shakin' Goin' On' bootleg, so the collectors can close this chapter now.
Same as on bootleg, we get a ~4.36 min version, although the overdubs end before 1 min is left of running time, which gives us a hint that it was never meant to be as long as released here. It should've been faded out earlier, having in mind the original LP release. As I already mentioned, it sounds rather misplaced with the September outtakes. A shorter version with the horn overdubs should have been included in the bonus songs (or alternate masters) section, whereas the complete unedited version, as released on 'A Hundred Years From Now' should have been part of the September outtakes.
Finally let's take a look into the "Country Jam" part of this release. We get the most complete versions, although they have sounded better on 'A Hundred Years From Now'. But as far as I understand a jam session, there shouldn't be too many interruptions. Why putting some 2-3 sec pauses between the songs, and not mixing them like a real session? Why not including 'I Didn't Make It On Playing Guitar', that sounds more like a jam to me than an outtake.
Anyway, just having all of them included in the June outtakes section, would have been enough. Please don't misunderstand. I'm happy about every new take on this album, and there are really fantastic new outtakes of 'Where Did They Go, Lord?' and 'Tomorrow Never Comes'. But the way that they are put in sequence, isn't satisfying. The same goes for the sound; all bonus tracks are newly remixed and it's interesting, listening to these new variations. But in opposite to the two previous 1970 FTD releases, this time a lot of them sound rather worse, than the already released ones.
The Felton Jarvis Mixes
On the FTD 'Love Letters' release we got some unrepaired versions, including mistakes, that had to be edited later. The most outstanding example is 'Heart of Rome'. It's surely fascinating, 'cause we've been giving a glimpse of the original session. Looking into the session files, lots of outtakes of the "Country album", like 'Whole Lot-ta Shakin...' take 1, are still missing, but we have to rely on Mr. Jørgensens judgement, wether they are worth releasing or not. But at least I was expecting the release of take 13 of 'Tomorrow Never Comes' and take 2 of 'Make The World Go Away, including the work parts and coming directly from the session tape! Sure, the work parts weren't too much about Elvis' voice, they just tried to repair some mistakes coming from the drum section at the very end of the songs. Nevertheless, they could have been released on this definitive "Elvis Country" album, since they are concerning master takes, and includes some new Elvis' singing as well. Unfortunately they are replaced by the so-called Felton Jarvis' rough mixes. One might assume, that if Felton really made these mixes, having the work parts at hand, he would have used them. So why do we get an unrepaired take 3 of 'Make The World Go Away' and an unrepaired take 13 of 'Tomorrow Never Comes'? I don't want to be too critical here, but I think, as great as these mixes are, they nevertheless disturb this release quite a bit. I’m not really sure, where they come from. Have they just been discovered and in the last minute added to this project? Well that's rather impossible, although it would explain, why 'Love Letters', 'When I'm Over You' or 'The Next Step Is Love' ends up on this release, since they certainly don't belong here. Is it just a coincidence, that all these rough mixes have already been released on the Captain Marvel bootleg 'Make The World Go Away' from acetate source (including some work part)? At that time they weren't improved in any way, lots of hiss and scratches, but exactly the same mixes. Since FTD surely has better technical devices, than some bootleggers, could it be that these versions are just perfectly repaired acetates? I’m not quite sure, since listening carefully to the first seconds of 'When I’m Over You', it sounds, as if they possibly were taken from some tape. Unfortunately the liner notes don't comment about the source of these songs at all. It would have been nice if we were given a bit more information. Although, or let's better say, just because they sound really incredible, they really should have been separated from the session outtakes.
It's possible, that FTD just used them to make this release more interesting, since the numbers of new outtakes are limited. So maybe there is a commercial reason behind all this, who knows. I hope, they'll be released again with a lot more of their kind on some future FTD release, maybe called "Rough Cut Mixes" ... whatever, but I also hope that the missing parts of the "Elvis Country" session - if available (I hope so, since Mr. Jørgensen has been writing about them in his book) - will not be forgotten by the FTD-crew. They could be a perfect bonus for the alternate "Elvis Country" single CD release, neglecting the "Ten thousand years" overdubs, maybe for a 40th anniversary edition..:-)
Final Last Words
There are some discussions lately on the internet, concerning FTD releases and announcements of future releases, sometimes including very insulting comments. This review is only about love for the original album, interest about this new release and sharing details with some fans, who care. FTD releases might not always be perfect, but they're the most perfect ones, we got in a long time. So despite some compromises now and then, FTD is an enrichment for my life, and I'm very grateful for it!
© Michael Sander, Germany November 2008
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