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1. Review by Crister Berge

Originally released as a 6 LP box in 1984 (1985). Produced by Joan Deary. Re-released in 1998 on 4 CD's.

Originally planned to contain a concert recording from 1976, the duet of 'Today, Tomorrow and Forever', but turned out to be a collection of bad sounding 50's performances and homerecorded material instead.

Not highly recommended!

Harbor Lights - That's All Right (alt. take) - Blue Moon of Kentucky (alt. take) - I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine (alt. take) -I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone (slow version) - I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin') (alt. take) - When It Rains, It Really Pours (alt. take) - Shake, Rattle And Roll/Flip, Flop & Fly - I Got A Woman - Baby, Let's Play House - Tutti Frutti - Blue Suede Shoes - Heartbreak Hotel - Tutti Frutti - I Was The One - Blue Suede Shoes - Heartbreak Hotel - Money Honey - Heartbreak Hotel
Introductions - Heartbreak Hotel - Blue Suede Shoes - Dialogue - Blue Suede Shoes - Hound Dog - Dialogue With Milton Berle - Dialogue - Dialogue With Steve Allen - I Want You, I Need You, I Love You - Dialogue With Steve Allen - Hound Dog - Heartbreak Hotel - Long Tall Sally - Introductions and Presentation - I Was The One - Elvis Talks - I Got A Woman - Don't Be Cruel - Ready Teddy - Love Me Tender - Hound Dog - Vernon and Gladys Presley - Nick Adams - A Fan - Elvis
Love Me Tender - I Was The One - I Got A Woman - Announcement - Don't Be Cruel - Blue Suede Shoes - Announcement - Baby, Let's Play House - Hound Dog - Announcement - Elvis Talks - Love Me Tender - Ready Teddy - Hound Dog - Don't Be Cruel - Ed Sullivan - Love Me Tender - Ed Sullivan Introduces Elvis - Love Me - Hound Dog - Elvis' Closing Remarks - Introduction - Hound Dog - Love Me Tender - Heartbreak Hotel - Don't Be Cruel - Too Much - Elvis Talks - When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again - Ed Sullivan Speaks - (There'll Be) Peace In the Valley (For Me) - Ed Sullivan Speaks
Danny Boy - Soldier Boy - The Fool - Earth Angel - I Asked The Lord (He's Only A Prayer Away) - Excerpt From An Interview For TV Guide - My Heart Cries For - Dark Moon - Write To Me From Naples - Suppose - Blue Suede Shoes - Tiger Man - That's All Right - Lawdy Miss Clawdy - Baby What Do You Want Me To Do - Love Me - Are You Lonesome Tonight? - Baby What Do You Want Me To Do - Blue Christmas - One Night - Trying To Get To You

1. Review by Crister Berge

Originally released on 6 LP's in 1985, this compilation of mostly unreleased material was produced by Joan Deary and definitely NOT fitted for the general public. Reissued on 4 CD's in 1998 with new liner notes by Colin Escott, this is for the 50's fans only, for that decade is in almost total focus, as it would be on the first three albums in the ESSENTIAL series. A downside of this is that we get SEVEN different versions of 'Heartbreak Hotel' and 'Hound Dog,' along with five different versions of 'Blue Suede Shoes' and 'Don't Be Cruel.' We are given a front row seat at two complete live appearances from 1956 and all of Elvis' television appearances from the 50's are here, offering a fascinating insight to Elvis' rise to stardom and a glimpse at American television in its early days. Disc 4 contains unique home recordings and a few songs from the "boxing ring" in Burbank '68 (mostly 50's material!) but the prize of this box set are the outtakes from Sun studios on disc 1. And now here's my review of it:


Sun outtakes
Elvis' work at Sun yielded five singles, but at least eight more titles were recorded. Of the seven songs featured here, the dreary 'Harbor Lights' was previously released back in 1976 and takes c, f, e* of 'When It Rains It Really Pours' in 1983, both in the LEGENDARY PERFORMER series. But the rest were unreleased at the time. During the nineties, two alternate takes of 'Blue Moon' surfaced on the box sets THE COMPLETE 50's MASTERS and PLATINUM, respectively. It's really a miracle that so many outtakes survived: Through the years tapes have been recorded over, destroyed (RCA had a major "clean-out" in 1959) and even lost. Furthermore, Sun owner Sam Phillips didn't keep any session notes and had a habit of recording over old tapes. RCA received two Sun recordings of 'I Got A Woman,' but the tape was lost. Reportedly, Elvis also cut 'Satisfied' while at Sun, but it's "gone with the doggies"... And there's rumors of an instrumental version of goofy 'How Do You Think I Feel?,' a song that Elvis recorded for RCA in 1956.
* That's how they're listed in Ernst Jorgensen's "bible", A LIFE IN MUSIC. Supposedly, it represents take 7, 9 and 10, the last one being the unofficial master.

Disc 1 kicks off with 'Harbor Lights', then two false starts of 'That's All Right.' Elvis is brimming with energy and when he howls out the very first line of the song, the take is interrupted as the balance meter goes berserk! The first complete take is nothing short of a revelation. Scotty has not yet perfected his guitar riffs and his timing is a little off, but it's still fantastic. And the sound is excellent! I cannot understand why Elvis was so derogative to the Sun singles in his later career. He never missed an opportunity to mention how the sound had improved since his hey-day. We're also treated to some banter between songs: After a wonderful slow take of 'Blue Moon Of Kentucky,' (with some alternate lyrics, too!) an elated Phillips comes charging out of his control room: "Fine, man," he quips, "Hell, that's different, that's a pop song now, nearly 'bout!" My only complaint is that it's so short (55 seconds). Sure, it's scratchy, but I just love the slow, sexy version of 'I'm Left You're Right She's Gone.' Great guitar playing by Scotty here. No less than five more alternate takes of the song were issued in 1987 on THE COMPLETE SUN SESSIONS. As they struggle through several failed attempts at 'When It Rains It Really Pours,' Sam seems somewhat agitated as the guys are clowning and fooling around, telling Elvis not to get too close to the mike ("If you do, there's nothing I can do about it") and instructing them: "Try it one more time now... and try not to make it too damned complicated in the middle there." Besides the age difference, Phillips was a veteran in the recording business; the Blue Moon Boys were still learning their trade. He might have been a bit dissatisfied with their lack of committment. Elvis seems to pick up on Sam's irritation and affordingly urges the boys: "Okay, let's hit it" and thus, they manage to finish the song. But seriously: "You really opened up my nose"??

Stage Show
Man, the Dorsey Brothers were out of touch. Their ratings had been plummeting for a long time so they must have seen this young hillbilly-hipshakin'-fast-rising-singing-star Elvis Presley as a golden opportunity to become more *hip* and in tone with the times. He was contracted to perform four Saturdays in a row, starting on January 28. This was Elvis' TV debut. I've seen it many times and it never ceases to amaze me that Elvis is so relaxed, he seems totally unmoved by the moment. DJ Bill Randle introduces Elvis and compares him to exuberant singer Johnnie Ray. "We think tonight that he's going to make television history for you," Randle says. Well, that was a prediction as good as anyone... Elvis performed two songs, both of which had been part of his live repertoire for a long time and both were recorded at his first sessions for RCA: 'Shake, Rattle And Roll' and 'I Got A Woman.' There's an acetate from early 1955 of 'Shake, Rattle And Roll' to be found on THE COMPLETE 50's MASTERS, recorded in Lubbock, Texas while on tour. An amazing version of the Ray Charles number was captured on tape at the very first complete live concert ever recorded with Elvis (at Eagle's Hall in Houston, Texas, March 19, 1955). There it is given a bluesy feel and it really oozes with sexual innuendo. Personally, I've always loathed the stiff, uptight studio version. And the lyrics probably won't appeal to anyone who's into women's lib...

On the second show, he did 'Baby, Let's Play House,' which was his fourth single for Sun Records. Great drumming by D. J. Fontana, but Scotty is too far back in the sound picture. Note the lyric change: "I'd rather see you dead little girl than to wed another man." He closed with 'Tutti Frutti,' where he twists his voice. Have you ever thought about that title, by the way? "Tutti Frutti". That's street slang for "homosexual". Elvis' song selection remains something of a mystery. Inexplicably, he did not sing his current single 'Heartbreak Hotel' until the third show: It is performed with a big band arrangement, complete with a trumpet solo. Towards the end, the band is not in tempo with Elvis. On his fourth show, he once again omits 'Heartbreak Hotel.' The crowd reaction is better, as we can hear them start clapping their hands during 'Tutti Frutti.' Elvis returned to Stage Show in March for two more gigs, and by this time his first LP had just been released. When introduced for his fifth appearance, Jimmy Dorsey says: "Now we'd like to present an entertainer who's provocative style has kicked up a storm all around the country." Finally, he plays 'Heartbreak Hotel' and this time around, Elvis and his rhythm group are left alone. For his sixth and last show, he opened with 'Money Honey,' a great version with stinging guitar work from Scotty Moore and closed with 'Heartbreak Hotel.' Unfortunately, Elvis had forgotten to tune his guitar before going on. Jesus Christ, just listen to it! The following day, Elvis flew to Hollywood for a screen test.


Milton Berle
Two shows. The first one wasn't too exciting: Elvis is billed "America's new singing sensation" and during a sketch, Berle ridicules Elvis' Southern drawl. The second show was more controversial. A month before making a studio recording of it, Elvis premiered 'Hound Dog' at Berle and his gyrations sent shockwaves through America and created a moral panic in the media. I saw a TV interview with Berle where he described the public reactions to the show: "I received pan-mail, not fan mail, pan-mail by the thousands. 'How dare you, Uncle Miltie, put such a vulgar, gyratin' man on your show?,' they raved." Milton's presentation of the controversial song was great fun to see. I laughed my ass off as the old man groaned: "You gonna be a hound dogger, a hound dogger..." Elvis also plugged his new single 'I Want You I Need You I Love You.' Listen for him sing "I need you, I miss you, I want you" at the end. After the performance he receives his first gold record for 'Heartbreak Hotel.'

Steve Allen
Elvis only appeared once at Steve Allen. This is where he was forced to wear the "suit and tails", because of the controversy of his last show at Berle. As he said in 1969, "They had me dress in a tuxedo and sing to a dog." Allen is noticeably nervous as he introduces the star and it's obvious Elvis is not too happy with the arrangement. When you watch the film you can see that he's very uncomfortable with the situation.

Afternoon show
Elvis returned to his birth town Tupelo in 1956 and received a hero's welcome. He gave two shows, and the first one was filmed. The sound is not too hot, and the screaming teenage girls certainly doesn't improve it. But what can you expect from a live recording from 1956? The interview section that finishes out disc two is interesting: Elvis' parents are asked if they have a favourite song? Vernon settles for 'That's All Right,' while Gladys picks 'Baby, Let's Play House' and 'Don't Be Cruel.' Gladys has a wonderful speaking voice: warm, tender, very feminine. Elvis met actor Nick Adams in Hollywood while shooting his first movie LOVE ME TENDER and they became friends. Nick visited Elvis and his parents in Memphis and, as the audio proves, he went to Tupelo as well. A young female fan, steaming with sexual desire, is asked "What do you like about Elvis?" and her instant reply is an obvious "Ev'rything!". Now, she probably didn't went on to win a Nobel prize, but she sure doesn't seem to be frigid and her Southern accent is just sooo sexy - oh, what a time it was!


Evening show
This show is not complete. Elvis repeatedly urges the audience to sit down and not to holler during the songs. 'Baby, Let's Play House' was the only pre-56 song he performed. In some of his guitar solos, Scotty tries to play real fast and we can hear that his technique was deficient. The PA equipment is terribly inadequate. Elvis enquires: "Can you hear us?" and does not receive an answer... You might think the shows are short? Yes, back in those days all entertainer played short sets.

Ed Sullivan
Three shows. Yeah, you know the story: He was filmed from the waist-up and all of that. 'Too Much' is almost transformed into a ballad. Bummer. Elvis does not allow Scotty to play a solo in 'When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again.'


Home recordings
The first five songs were recorded in Bad Nauheim, Germany while Elvis was in the army. 'Danny Boy' was surely a favourite of Elvis, but it was to be more than 16 years until he eventually made a professional recording of it. Since this is a guitar version it is very different from the version recorded at Graceland. Listen to Elvis shout "Yeah!" after finishing 'I Asked The Lord (He's Only A Prayer Away).' Too bad about the distortion. Elvis would record 'Soldier Boy' at his first session upon returning to the States in 1960. We get to be "fly-on-the-wall" as Elvis is interrupted while playing 'The Fool.'* He has to ask his father to help him get some privacy: "Daddy, would you mind getting these kids out of the window? They're yellin' and I can't hear what I'm doin'." What a strange life. Elvis was like a fish in a fish bowl.
* Subsequently recorded in Nashville 1970.

The rest of the lot is now believed to date from 1966. I like the sad 'My Heart Cries For You' (even though the title on the disc is 'My Heart Cries For'...). The first time RCA used home recorded material was in 1983 on vol. 4 in the LEGENDARY PERFORMER series ('I'm Beginning To Forget You' and 'Mona Lisa'). THE HOME RECORDINGS and the FTD release IN A PRIVATE MOMENT, both issued in 1999, were exclusively dedicated to private recordings. To this day, RCA/BMG have released almost 50 different home recorded songs, some of the best were the ones featured here, even though it's a bit tedious to listen to Red West, Charlie Hodge and Elvis harmonize on 'Dark Moon' for more than six minutes. Note the disatrous guitar picking by Elvis after 1 min. 30 seconds.

Paul Wilder's insolent interview is wrongly placed, as it was conducted on Aug. 6, 1956. It's also a victim of some vicious editing: I've seen a transcript of the entire conversation and it was an extensive interrogation. Wilder is quoting from a newspaper article that trashes Elvis completely and asks if the criticism is justified? Then he goes into Elvis' religious background and seems to question that a "rocker" can be religious, and even implying that religion might have influenced his stage act. Says Elvis, "Religion has nothing to do with what I do now... because the type stuff I do now is not religious music."

I've never been a big fan of the recordings from the "boxing ring". Besides Charlie Hodge laughing like a baboon all the time, another setback is Alan "Hog Ears" Fortas slapping the back of a guitar out of tempo - what a dork! Elvis should have named him "Hog Brain"! He could not play an instrument so he had no business there, anyway. And I'm not impressed by Elvis' guitar playing, it would have been better if he'd let Scotty play the electric guitar and stuck to the acoustic (rhythm) one. Had he done so, we could have enjoyed some guitar solos to these classic rock songs.

If you're a sound buff, you won't enjoy this one. But if you like Elvis in the 50's, you'll love it!

On a scale from 1 to 5, I give A GOLDEN CELEBRATION a 3, because of its historical content and significance.

And friends, don't get me wrong on this one, but: I rule the Internet!

© Crister Berge, Stockholm, Sweden 2002. (

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