Welcome to a special, super-sized edition of The Mystery Train Blog. This double post features a guest piece by Kees of the Elvis Day By Day blog, as well as an entry by me. This is also going out simultaneously on the Elvis Day By Day blog, marking the first formal collaboration between our two sites. Kees, take it away. –Troy
A Trip Down 2012
by Kees, Elvis Day By Day blog
One of the big pros of the world wide web is that it brings people together. Through our blogs, Troy and I met and decided to look back at some of the highlights of the 35th anniversary year. This year, I blogged over 150 posts, often with multiple news items in each one. That means the Elvis world is very much alive. Picking a top 10 wasn’t easy, so I picked ten items that stuck with me as a fan and listed them chronologically.
Some highlights are very simple, on this day the French Elvis My Happiness fan club announced the release of the book Le Jour Ou Elvis Chante A Paris. Although my French isn’t good enough to read the book, I was stunned by the cool image on the promotional CD that came with it. That’s one cool dude.
3764 Blvd. Publishing announced the release of the deluxe book, CD, and later vinyl set For God And Country. I really like this ‘last’ concert Elvis Presley performed as a ‘rocker’ and blame the Colonel for not professionally recording it.
The label met stiff competition when the UK-based Memphis Recording Service released the same 1961 Hawaiian concert a few months later. Fan reactions were both positive and negative (beautiful book, mixed on the remastering of the sound). The 3764 Blvd. edition is still set for release this summer, this time facing competition from plans of the official Follow That Dream collectors label.
Speaking of cool covers, the cover of Elvis Presley’s debut album topped Shortlist.com‘s 50 Coolest Albums of All Time list. Besides calling the cover ‘iconic’ and taking note of classic hits such as “Blue Suede Shoes,” the Shortlist refers to John Lennon’s quote, “Before Elvis there was nothing,” and describes “the boy from Tupelo, MS” as a catalyst for rock ‘n’ roll. I can’t agree more with the website. I have this album hanging on my wall, and it never bores me. It is very energetic.
The Follow That Dream collectors label has recently branched out with other parties for their releases. The first one with the Behind The Image team didn’t work out, and neither did the Fashion For A King book with the Norwegian Flaming Star fan club, as it was filled with grammatical errors. However, with the Welcome Home Elvis book, the Danish / Norwegian team came back with a bang presenting a really cool King in a very cool book. With these books, I always have to think back on Ger Riff’s book. Wouldn’t it be great if the Follow that Dream label teamed with the master himself?
I kind of felt like a fool for not noticing that the previous announcement of the auction of a pair of blue suede shoes, said to be signed by Elvis Presley in 1956, were not the right ones. The two pairs of shoes on the images that I posted with the article were not the same type of shoes. It would have been a great April Fools’ Day joke if it had been planned just one day earlier.
The book Bootleg Elvis was first mentioned on the For Elvis CD Collectors forum in 2011. In April of this year, the five collectors behind the book sent out the first official press release. Besides Ernst Jorgensen’s SUN book, this is the #2 book on my really-need-to-buy-this-year list. I know there are a lot of Elvis Presley bootlegs around, for I’ve collected quite a few of them. Being from the younger generation, though, my collection consists mainly of CDs. This book will hopefully give me a look into Elvis bootlegging history on vinyl. I’ll probably find some nice items to look for.
One of the things the Follow That Dream label lacked from day one is information: on releases, planning, ship dates, and, most important of all, background in accompanying booklets. The label bought the official Follow That Dream URL and has the foremost Elvis Presley expert, Ernst Jorgensen, as the producer heading the team, so what is holding them up?
A lot of fans volunteered to step in, and the Japanese Elvis For Sound Fans Only fan club actually did. I don’t have their book on the first 111 FTD releases, but it deserves a spot on this list for their initiative! I’ll have to find a copy to see what the book covers. For now, I can do with the review from The Elvis Information Network.
The Boxcar release Graceland Through The Years: 1957–1977 was first announced four years ago in an interview on the Elvis Information Network website. On this day, the label showed the result of four years of work.
I must say, I’m really looking forward to this one. I have the official EPE book, and I walked the grounds of Graceland in person over ten years ago. I expect this book to be a well-documented trip down memory lane.
May 15, 2012 marks the day of the first real glimpse into the actual FTD SUN release. The Official UK Elvis Presley fan club beat the official announcement of the release of A Boy From Tupelo by one day. Speaking of days, I’m counting the days until I hold this five-kilo Holy Grail of the Elvis world in my hands. I’ve always had a real soft spot for the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, and now I can experience it as complete as it will probably ever get.
The fifth volume in The Elvis Files book series from the Norwegian Flaming Star fan club was released. The series documents Elvis Presley’s life and achievements in a very informative and well illustrated manner. It is a bit overhyped, has some flaws, and seems to simply collect some of the material from the internet. Still, there is nothing Elvis that compares to this body of work, so it stands out as the “Illustrated Biography” of Elvis Presley. The fifth volume documents the years 1969 and 1970, when Elvis became king of the whole wide world again. Besides the first six years of his public life, these years are the most iconic.
Top Ten Elvis News Stories of 2012 (So Far…)
by Troy Y., The Mystery Train Blog
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. With almost half of 2012 already in the record books, this seems like a good time to look back at the ten best stories so far this year.
#10 A revitalized dream
In 2012, noted Elvis soundboard expert Ciscoking began consulting with Sony’s Follow That Dream collectors label for Elvis fans. The first result of that collaboration was April’s Another Saturday Night, capturing a previously unreleased 1975 concert in Shreveport, Louisiana. Involving an extremely knowledgeable fan is a huge step forward for FTD’s sometimes dubious soundboard series. Earlier this month, Elvis Presley Enterprises’ official Elvis.com site showed some love for the label by rolling out a rejuvenated FTD section – complete with audio clips, posters, and movie trailers. Ciscoking has hinted that a dedicated FTD site may finally be on the way, but the Elvis.com section at least provides a temporary destination for those wanting to learn more about the various releases.
#09 Celebrating Elvis, the father
Lisa Marie Presley in February launched a new exhibit at Graceland, “Elvis… Through His Daughter’s Eyes.” Nine-years-old when her father passed away, Lisa Marie presents memories of her time with him. The exhibit includes home movies, toys, and even Lisa Marie’s crib. All too often, Elvis today is seen only as an image or trademark – like Mickey Mouse. Lisa Marie’s very personal exhibit instead places a much-needed focus on the real man behind that image.
#08 Tour Graceland without leaving home
In March, Elvis.com rolled out 360-degree, panoramic tours of Graceland’s exterior, foyer, den, and racquetball building/trophy room. What better way to entice fans to visit in person than to allow a virtual preview? The real question is, will the forthcoming virtual Elvis live in virtual Graceland? While I love the virtual Graceland concept, I have to admit, the thought of a virtual Elvis (in 2D “hologram” form) creeps me out.
#07 I Am An Elvis By Request Fan
In May, Sony Music solicited online votes from fans on which Elvis songs should appear on a new CD, I Am An Elvis Fan. Unfortunately, Sony restricted the voting choices to less than a hundred of the 700-plus Elvis masters – not to mention thousands of alternate and live cuts released since his death. Sony Music Australia took this concept one step further in June. For Sony Music Australia’s Elvis By Request 2-CD set, fans can vote for any Elvis master, as well as many tracks released since 1977. I’ve pre-ordered both CDs, but I’m most looking forward to the Australian edition.
#06 Sweetening through the ages
The most interesting Elvis releases these days tend to be not from the main Sony label, but from the FTD label. In March, FTD released Our Memories Of Elvis Volumes 1, 2, & 3. The 2-CD set contains the original 1979 and 1980 albums, as well as a third volume and additional tracks prepared but never released. The concept is simple, the recordings have been remixed to remove certain instruments and background vocalists to strip them down to a “pure” sound. While the results may still be artificial compared to truly undubbed versions, it is still an intriguing concept and a welcome release.
#05 Grace through the storm
Lisa Marie Presley released her third album in May, Storm & Grace. Her best release yet, the album is consistent, well-written, well-performed, and well-produced. My favorite songs on the album are “Over Me,” “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” “So Long” and “Un-break.” The other tracks are solid as well.
#04 “Some of y’all never been down South too much”
In its top-notch Classic Album series, FTD released its version of On Stage in March. I consider On Stage second only to That’s The Way It Is as the best album of Elvis’ career. By my count, this marks the fourth different configuration of this album (the original 1970 version, the 1999 special edition, the 2010 Legacy edition, and now the 2012 FTD edition). Why, then, is this latest reissue even worth mentioning? In addition to the original album, this 2-CD set contains additional tracks from his February 1970 Las Vegas engagement, many of them previously unreleased.
#03 Practice, practice, practice
Scheduled for release this month from FTD is From Hawaii To Las Vegas, which presents a January 25, 1973, rehearsal at the Las Vegas Hilton. One song from this rehearsal, “I’m Leavin’ It All Up To You,” was first issued as a bonus track last year on FTD’s uneven Stage Rehearsal CD. Originally recorded on cassette tape, From Hawaii To Las Vegas probably will not be the kind of CD you would want to throw on at a party – but it should provide valuable insight to fellow Elvis historians. Included are two runthroughs of “Separate Ways” – a song that, as far as anyone knows, Elvis never actually performed in concert.
#02 Not a typical compilation
With I Am An Elvis Fan and Elvis By Request on the way, 2012 may be seen as the year of the fan compilation. However, many fans have been making Elvis compilations for their own personal use for years – whether on cassette tape, CD-R, or iPod playlists. In May, one particular Elvis playlist made the news. Lisa Marie’s Favourite Elvis Songs features his daughter’s selections. Her 12 picks range from 1960-1972, with a full two-thirds coming from the 1970s. With selections like “Just Pretend” and “I’m Leavin’,” Lisa Marie’s list proved to be both unique and terrific. Sony should hire her to advise on future Elvis compilations.
#01 From Alabama Street to Union Avenue
After years of rumors and speculation, the announcement of a release date and early details for FTD’s seemingly mythical “SUN project” has to take the number one spot. No contest. One of the most anticipated Elvis Presley releases ever, A Boy From Tupelo: The Complete 1953-1955 Recordings will include a 512-page book detailing the activities of Elvis in that time period as well as three CDs worth of material. The set gathers every known Elvis SUN master and outtake, plus demos and live performances. It includes ten previously unreleased tracks. The SUN project has been FTD chief Ernst Jorgensen’s baby for the past several years. A Boy From Tupelo reportedly tips the scales at 5 kilograms (11 pounds), meaning it weighs more than most newborns! Delivery is currently expected for August 16.
What will the rest of 2012 bring to the Elvis world? Will A Boy From Tupelo live up to expectations? What other surprises are in store? Find out by keeping it tuned to the Elvis Day By Day blog.