A Squirrel Loose at the Big, Freaky International Hotel (Part 4: The Epic Conclusion) [Playlist Recipes #7]

This is the finale of a 4-part look at Sony’s 2019 Elvis Live 1969 boxed set, which contains all 11 concerts RCA recorded during Elvis Presley’s August 1969 engagement at the International Hotel in Las Vegas.

[Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3]

To paraphrase Elvis, there ain’t no end to this post, baby! I have committed not to push this review to five parts, however, as to move on to other topics next week.

That said, I still want to delve into some song and show specifics for the 1969 engagement, so today’s post is going to run long, amounting to a double ride. No extra charge. To help with this portion of the discussion, my analytical side provided the following infochart.

Elvis Presley Summer 1969 Setlists Infochart | Click image for larger version | Compiled by Tygrrius

Though not part of the 11-CD Elvis Live 1969 boxed set, which focuses on RCA’s multitrack recordings, I included the informal soundboard recording from the early days of the engagement for reference as well. To date, its only official CD release as a more-or-less “full” show remains FTD’s The Return To Vegas. It would have made a great bonus disc on the Elvis Live 1969 set, as the overall feel of this show is slightly different than a few weeks later, and it even features an extended version of “Mystery Train” and a couple of alternate arrangements. Perhaps it was a cost-saving measure.

Anyway, focusing on the 11 shows that RCA recorded, Elvis performed 13 of the songs every single night – most of which formed the beginning and end of the shows. Of these, the strongest are “Suspicious Minds,” “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” “Runaway,” “In The Ghetto,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” and “All Shook Up.” With the studio version released as a single during this engagement and destined to become Elvis’ last number one hit, “Suspicious Minds” is particularly stunning. The 1969 live version stands as an incredible example of how Elvis reinvented his sound for these shows.

Most disappointing among the core songs are “Jailhouse Rock/Don’t Be Cruel” and “Baby, What You Want Me To Do.” “Jailhouse Rock” pales in comparison to the 1957 studio master as well as the 1968 live master. Both it and “Baby, What You Want Me To Do” notably lack the raw power and punch of the ELVIS television special performances from the previous summer. Understandably, there is a difference between performing 4 shows in 2 nights for a television special versus 57 shows in 29 nights for this Vegas engagement. Elvis no doubt needed to save his voice, but these performances in particular come up short.

Though many others are nearly as good, the one song Elvis improves in 1969 over his 1968 rendition is the “Tiger Man” portion of “Mystery Train/Tiger Man,” fueled by James Burton on lead guitar and Ronnie Tutt on drums. Like “Suspicious Minds,” the powerhouse “Mystery Train/Tiger Man” is a true highlight of this engagement. Unfortunately, Elvis drops it in favor of “Johnny B. Goode” for a couple of the shows. Now, one of those “Johnny B. Goode” performances was quite incredible and made it onto Elvis In Person, but I wish Elvis had dropped something else on those two occasions to make room for it, such as “Runaway.” That is no slam on “Runaway,” which I absolutely love and is among the highlights of the engagement for me.

A better substitution that Elvis provides on four nights is replacing the weak “Memories” with “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” I enjoy the studio versions of “Memories,” as recorded for the 1968 ELVIS special, but it just never worked live.

Additional highlights of the overall 11-concert span include three performances of “My Babe” and several of “Are You Lonesome Tonight.”

Of the one-off songs, the only one that really stands out from a performance perspective is “Reconsider Baby,” the blues song that Elvis returned to time and again over the years. “Rubberneckin’,” “Inherit The Wind,” and the abysmal “This Is The Story” are notable solely because these are the only live versions available. “Rubberneckin'” would have worked better with an arrangement closer to the funky studio master.

Though released as a limited edition 2-record set earlier in 2019, the August 23 Dinner Show makes its CD debut here. Not a single performance had previously been released on CD from this show – the only such concert on the set. The show is also unusual in that the Imperials backing group is not present, leaving full duties to the Sweet Inspirations – my preference, anyway. The show features exceptional versions of “Mystery Train/Tiger Man,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “I Got A Woman,” and “What’d I Say” – the last of which benefits from a shorter rendition than the other shows.


“I had sideburns. Long hair. Fourteen years ago, it was weird. You think it’s weird now? Fourteen years ago, I couldn’t walk around the street: ‘Get him! Get him! […] He’s a squirrel.’ So I was […] shaking. In fact, that’s how I got in this business was shaking. It may be how I get out of it, too.”
–Elvis Presley, 1969

Four weeks ago now, I decided to write a post where I would share what I consider the best version of every song that RCA recorded during the Summer 1969 engagement. “I will kick it off by mentioning the Elvis Live 1969 boxed set from last year,” I thought – not intending to write a review. It would be a couple paragraphs and then the song list. Done. An easy post to warm up the engine of The Mystery Train Blog again.

Well, here we are, 4 weeks, 4 posts, and over 4,500 words later, and I am finally coming to the original intent of that very first post (after, of course, having written a rather haphazard review after all).

Before I backed up these shows to iTunes, I separated out the majority of the talking portions as their own tracks (oh, if only Sony would do this, it would save me so much time). This allows me to create playlists more focused on the music – which improves the 1969 experience to a huge degree. To an extent, you can replicate this by pressing skip at the end of most tracks, as Sony normally places all of the talking at the end of a track (even if that talking introduces the next song, another pet peeve of mine — but that’s why I just save them the way I want them).

Here is my “August 1969 Ultimate Show” playlist recipe for this concert engagement. As we just discussed, Elvis’ setlist varied to some extent each night, so no single show actually contained all of these songs.

Disc references are to the Elvis Live 1969 set, but of course, you could use any available previous release as well. This playlist clocks in at about 71 minutes, keeping in mind my iTunes versions of the tracks have most of the talking trimmed out to separate tracks.

  1. Opening Riff/Blue Suede Shoes (8/25/1969 Dinner Show [DS]) 2:36 (Disc 8)
  2. I Got A Woman (8/23/1969 DS) 3:05 (Disc 4)
  3. All Shook Up (8/26/1969 Midnight Show [MS]) 1:32 (Disc 11)
  4. Love Me Tender (8/26/1969 MS) 2:21 (Disc 11)
  5. Jailhouse Rock/Don’t Be Cruel (8/24/1969 DS) 2:12 (Disc 6)
  6. Heartbreak Hotel (8/24/1969 DS) 1:56 (Disc 6)
  7. Hound Dog (8/22/1969 DS) 1:48 (Disc 2)
  8. Memories (8/25/1969 DS) 2:50 (Disc 8)
  9. I Can’t Stop Loving You (8/25/1969 MS) 2:36 (Disc 9)
  10. My Babe (8/22/1969 MS) 2:00 (Disc 3)
  11. Mystery Train/Tiger Man (8/22/1969 MS) 3:21 (Disc 3)
  12. Johnny B. Goode (8/24/1969 MS) 2:10 (Disc 7)
  13. Baby, What You Want Me To Do (8/25/1969 MS) 1:52 (Disc 9)
  14. Funny How Time Slips Away (8/22/1969 MS) 2:21 (Disc 3)
  15. Surrender (8/21/1969 MS) 0:29 (Disc 1)
  16. Runaway (8/23/1969 MS) 2:16 (Disc 5)
  17. Loving You (8/23/1969 DS) 0:21 (Disc 4)
  18. Are You Laughing Tonight (8/26/1969 MS) 2:53 (Disc 11)
  19. Reconsider Baby (8/23/1969 MS) 3:28 (Disc 5)
  20. Words (8/24/1969 MS) 2:31 (Disc 7)
  21. Yesterday/Hey Jude (8/25/1969 DS) 4:15 (Disc 8)
  22. Inherit The Wind (8/26/1969 DS) 2:52 (Disc 10)
  23. Rubberneckin’ (8/26/1969 MS) 2:21 (Disc 11)
  24. This Is The Story (8/26/1969 MS) 2:46 (Disc 11)
  25. In The Ghetto (8/25/1969 DS) 2:47 (Disc 8)
  26. Suspicious Minds (8/25/1969 MS) 7:14 (Disc 9)
  27. What’d I Say (8/23/1969 DS) 1:57 (Disc 4)
  28. Can’t Help Falling In Love (8/26/1969 DS) 2:10 (Disc 10)

While it was not my intent, nor even a consideration in crafting this list, it turns out that all 11 shows are represented – an indication of Elvis’ strength and consistency during this Vegas engagement (though the August 21 Midnight Show barely squeaks in with a short version of “Surrender”).

For those of you who want to include them (you know who you are), you could slot in the “Monologue” career retrospective from the August 24 Dinner Show before “Baby, What You Want Me To Do” and add “Introductions By Elvis” from the August 21 Midnight Show prior to “In The Ghetto.” This adds less than nine minutes, resulting in a total length of just under 80 minutes for the August 1969 Ultimate Show. That’s right in line with the length of the August 23 Midnight Show, but with nine more songs due to less talking throughout.

After careful analysis, my favorite show of the 1969 engagement is the August 25 Midnight Show, disc 9 of Elvis Live 1969 and previously released on FTD’s excellent Hot August Night. It features top-notch versions of “Mystery Train/Tiger Man,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Runaway,” “My Babe,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “Hound Dog,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “All Shook Up,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” among others. In fact, 7 of the 12 masters that RCA chose for Elvis In Person came from this show. That is probably the only reason it is not better represented in my August 1969 Ultimate Show playlist above, as I was tending to avoid master versions in the event of a tie with another version. Elvis may have put a little extra into this particular show due to the celebrities in attendance, including Tom Jones, Nancy Sinatra, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Buddy Hackett, and Shelley Fabares.


ELVIS LIVE 1969 (Sony, 2019) | Click image for larger, full-color version | Original image credit: Sony

“If I take time out to drink water, just look at me and say, ‘Is that him? I thought he was bigger than that. Squirrelly-looking guy.'”
–Elvis Presley, 1969

If you’re not in for the whole Elvis Live 1969 boxed set, 2010’s On Stage: Legacy Edition (Sony) is probably sufficient for casual or budget-minded fans, as it neatly highlights Elvis’ Summer 1969 and Winter 1970 Vegas engagements on 2 CDs and can still be found for about $12 US. CD 2 features Elvis In Person as well as additional songs recorded live in 1969. Keep in mind that both “Runaway” and “Yesterday” on the On Stage album, featured on CD 1, are from August 1969 as well.

If you are more on the obsessive side like me, but don’t already have most of these shows, I can definitely recommend Elvis Live 1969. Just be sure to shop around, as Elvis Live 1969 can often be found quite reasonably priced – considering the number of included shows. For example, Graceland is charging full list price as of this writing, but you can find it elsewhere for less than 60% of that price.

Among Elvis’ Las Vegas engagements at the International/Hilton Hotel, Summer 1969 ranks second only to Summer 1970 for me. I place Winter 1970 third. While the number of available shows in official releases is significantly less and disallows detailed comparisons, subsequent Vegas seasons in 1971-1976 are nowhere close to the 3 of 1969 & 1970.

To see one of these 1969 shows must have been something really special.

Blessings,
TY


“You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.”
Proverb 19:21

One for Mom, the rock ‘n’ roll rebel (Playlist Recipes #6)

Elvis Aloha Finale

Elvis, 1973

I am a second-generation Elvis fan. My mom first heard Elvis in 1956, during the initial wave of his national success. By the end of that year, after multiple television appearances and a movie role in Love Me Tender, Elvis had earned millions of new fans. Mom was one of them.

Through marriage and kids, good times and bad times, she stuck with Elvis over the years. By the time I came along in the mid-1970s, both my mom and my brother were fans. You could say I was born an Elvis fan.

Many of the first records I ever heard were Mom’s old 45s from the 1950s and 1960s. Though I remember listening to them when I was about two-years-old, I cannot recall specific songs. The earliest ones that I can remember are “My Way” and “America The Beautiful,” two sides of a single that came out in the months after Elvis’ death in 1977.

I have told stories here before about Mom blasting cassette tapes of As Recorded At Madison Square Garden and Elvis In Concert in the car when I was young. Though she has upgraded to CDs and expanded her selection of albums, she still does this.

Though Mom is a first-wave Elvis fan, she does not turn her nose up at his post-Army work like some of her contemporaries. She actually prefers his 1970s music above all.

That being said, she also prefers songs with a beat. This makes my work difficult when trying to buy her a CD, as Elvis had evolved beyond rock ‘n’ roll in her favorite time period.

I will share a couple of recent examples. I was playing a bit of A Boy From Tupelo for her. This is the ultimate boxed set collecting his 1953 to 1955 recordings. I wanted her to hear the “dry” 45-RPM SUN version of “That’s All Right.”

Ty: Listen to this. Isn’t this cool? This is how it sounded back in 1954, before RCA changed it.
Mom: I never did like that song.
Ty: You don’t like “That’s All Right”? That was his first record. The one that started it all!
Mom: I just never liked it.
Ty: You like the 1970s versions, though, right? Like on Madison Square Garden?
Mom: No, not even that one.
Ty: I can’t believe you don’t like it. I never knew that, after all of these years.
Mom: I’m sorry.
Ty: All I can say is… that’s all right, Mom.

I also gave her the FTD compilation Our Memories of Elvis, which contains alternate mixes of various 1970s songs. I had enjoyed the release the first time I heard it, so I thought the unique mixes would be a sure-fire winner.

Ty: What did you think of Our Memories of Elvis?
Mom: Oh, I liked it. I think I played it once.
Ty: Wait. You played it once? Are you sure you liked it?
Mom: It was okay. It just wasn’t fast enough. Too many slow songs.
Ty: I know, it didn’t have “Suspicious Minds” on it. [Any album that has a 1970 or later version of “Suspicious Minds” on it is an instant hit for Mom.]
Mom: I like a beat!
Ty: I know, Mom. I know!

I am actually picking on her a little here, which is not a nice thing to do on Mother’s Day. For one thing, even I did not not enjoy Our Memories of Elvis as much the second time through. I must have been in a fantastic mood the first time I played it. I actually thought it was one of the best releases ever. I am sure glad I did not review it, because then my initial overreaction would be preserved on the Internet for all to see.

For every example like the above, I should point out, there are dozens of examples of Elvis recordings and albums that Mom does love. Her favorite album is Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite. Her favorite song, as you might have guessed, is “Suspicious Minds,” especially the version on The Alternate Aloha, which has the drums more prominent in the mix.

Though she may not enjoy 1950s recordings as much anymore, Mom still has a rebellious streak in her. She likes to do things her way, no matter what anyone says. I have inherited that trait, I must admit.

Another funny thing is, while most moms are after their sons to get haircuts, my mom thinks I get my hair cut too short.

We joke around often. I love talking about Elvis and other topics with her. Elvis music is but one of many gifts she has given me. I am very proud to have such a gentle and loving woman as my mom.

With much love, here is a playlist in her honor.

Elvis: Sweet Rock ‘n’ Roll

  • Burning Love [Burning Love And Hits From His Movies, Volume 2]
  • Johnny B. Goode (Rehearsal) [Elvis On Tour: The Rehearsals]
  • Proud Mary (Live) [Close Up]
  • Suspicious Minds (Live) [Prince From Another Planet (Disc 1)]
  • Polk Salad Annie (Live) [3000 South Paradise Road]
  • One Night (Live) [Memories]
  • Blue Suede Shoes (Live) [Burbank 68]
  • Jailhouse Rock (Live) [Burbank 68]
  • Don’t Be Cruel (Live) [Burbank 68]
  • Stranger In The Crowd (Master, Rough Mix) [That’s The Way It Is (2008 FTD Edition)]
  • Baby, Let’s Play House (Rehearsal) [A Life In Music]
  • A Fool Such As I (Rehearsal) [That’s The Way It Is (2000 Special Edition)]
  • Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On [Walk A Mile In My Shoes]
  • Wearin’ That Loved-On Look (Alternate) [Memphis Sessions]
  • Rubberneckin’ [Almost In Love]
  • Hey Jude [Elvis Now]
  • Power Of My Love (Alternate) [A Life In Music]
  • After Loving You [From Elvis In Memphis]
  • Any Day Now (Alternate) [Memphis Sessions]
  • Runaway (Live) [Elvis: Viva Las Vegas (2007 Limited Edition)]
  • My Babe (Live) [Today, Tomorrow & Forever]
  • Baby, What You Want Me To Do (Live) [Elvis At The International]
  • All Shook Up (Live) [Live In Vegas: August 26, 1969 Dinner Show]
  • Hound Dog (Live) [Live In Vegas: August 26, 1969 Dinner Show]
  • Mystery Train/Tiger Man (Live) [Live In Vegas: August 26, 1969 Dinner Show]
  • A Big Hunk O’ Love (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite]
  • Promised Land [Promised Land]
  • Steamroller Blues (Live) [A Life In Music]

Thank you, Mom.

I Am An Elvis Fan (So Why Can’t I Choose My Own Songs?) [Conductor’s Reflections #12/Playlist Recipes #5]

In case you haven’t noticed, I am an Elvis fan. Maybe you are, too.

Of late, marketing campaigns by Elvis Presley Enterprises and Sony Music Entertainment have centered around the phrase “I Am An Elvis Fan.” You can buy an “I Am An Elvis Fan” t-shirt or even an “I Am An Elvis Fan” poster – an image of Elvis formed by a mosaic of fan photos.

The centerpiece of this campaign, though, is a new CD that Sony will release on July 31. As you have probably guessed, the title of the album is I Am An Elvis Fan.I Am An Elvis Fan

This one is different than most albums because an online vote last month determined the contents. Next week, Sony unveils the winning tracks.

Elvis released over 700 different recordings in his lifetime. Since then, thousands more have escaped the vaults. Rather than being able to vote for any Elvis song, fans were unfortunately constrained to choosing from pre-determined lists of songs in seven different categories. For each category, a fan had to choose three out of thirteen songs. Some of the songs even showed up in multiple categories.

While a few rarities made the process, most songs were of the typical “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog,” and “All Shook Up” variety. I’m sure those will be the types of songs to make the CD as well. In any event, it was still fun to choose songs. For the record, here is how I voted (bold), given the available choices:

’50s
1. That’s All Right
2. Good Rockin’ Tonight
3. Baby Let’s Play House
4. I Got A Woman
5. Hound Dog
6. Don’t Be Cruel
7. Mystery Train [naturally!]
8. Blue Suede Shoes
9. Money Honey
10. Heartbreak Hotel
11. Shake, Rattle & Roll
12. All Shook Up
13. Lawdy, Miss Clawdy

’60s
1. In The Ghetto
2. Suspicious Minds
3. Gentle On My Mind
4. Don’t Cry Daddy
5. Surrender
6. Good Luck Charm
7. Devil In Disguise
8. She’s Not You
9. Suspicion
10. The Girl Of My Best Friend
11. His Latest Flame
12. Love Letters
13. Memories

GOSPEL
1. Peace in the Valley
2. Crying in the Chapel
3. How Great Thou Art
4. If I Can Dream [gospel?]
5. Amazing Grace
6. Swing Down Sweet Chariot
7. Joshua Fit The Battle
8. Take My Hand Precious Lord
9. Lead Me, Guide Me
10. He Touched Me
11. Milky White Way
12. You’ll Never Walk Alone
13. Where Could I Go But To The Lord

LOVE SONGS
1. I Want You, I Need You, I Love You
2. Any Way You Want Me
3. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me
4. One Night
5. Can’t Help Falling In Love
6. Love Me Tender
7. Always On My Mind [actually, a love lost song]
8. Are You Lonesome Tonight?
9. Unchained Melody
10. Loving You
11. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling [again, a love lost song]
12. It’s Now Or Never
13. The Wonder Of You

MOVIES
1. King Creole
2. Jailhouse Rock
3. Trouble
4. Return To Sender
5. A Little Less Conversation
6. Viva Las Vegas
7. G.I Blues
8. Follow That Dream
9. Bossa Nova Baby
10. Rubberneckin’
11. Blue Hawaii
12. Loving You
13. Teddy Bear

COUNTRY
1. I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water
2. Kentucky Rain
3. For The Good Times
4. Guitar Man
5. Blue Moon of Kentucky
6. Just Because
7. Long Black Limousine
8. I’ll Hold You In My Heart (Until I Can Hold You in My Arms)
9. She Thinks I Still Care
10. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
11. Welcome to My World
12. Funny How Time Slips Away
13. There Goes My Everything

IN CONCERT
1. Polk Salad Annie
2. Suspicious Minds
3. Just Pretend
4. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling [to help ease the split vote, since it is in two categories]
5. Bridge Over Troubled Water
6. See See Rider
7. Walk A Mile In My Shoes
8. I Can’t Stop Loving You
9. You Gave Me A Mountain
10. An American Trilogy
11. Burning Love
12. My Way
13. A Big Hunk of Love

You will notice that even I chose some “typical” songs. Certain Elvis songs have personal, sentimental associations for me, and I just couldn’t skip them when they were on the list.

Even if you buy into this whole select by category business, they left out a couple of important categories. Where is the ’70s category for songs like “Promised Land,” “Stranger In The Crowd,” and “I’ve Lost You”? Where is the Blues category for songs like “Reconsider Baby” and “Baby, What You Want Me To Do”?

In a sense, Sony loaded the deck. The opportunity to present a truly unique Elvis CD will probably just devolve into releasing yet another typical compilation. Even casual Elvis fans will already have the majority of the winning songs. Is the intent of this disc to attract new fans, then? If so, maybe they should have called it I Might Be An Elvis Fan instead.

While the rest of us cannot be trusted to choose our own songs, Australian Elvis fans, on the other hand, will get to do an Elvis CD up right. The content for Sony Music Australia’s Elvis By Request album will also be determined by online fan voting (still in progress through July 13). Except this time, there is just one vote, and it is from the full list of recordings released during his lifetime, as well as many tracks released since then.

Australian fans who pre-order the CD by July 13 will even have their names included on a poster. While you have to live in Australia to get your name on the poster, you don’t have to live there to vote or buy the CD. In fact, I’ve already cast my ballot for my favorite song. Elvis By Request is due out on August 16.

Both concepts are reminiscent of the 1976 album Elvis In Demand, a project where members of the Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain mailed in lists of five songs to vote for the content. The resulting record album made it to number 12 on the UK charts.

My main complaint about Elvis compilations tends to be that the same fifty or so songs are used in various combinations over and over. While I Am An Elvis Fan may end up looking like yet another similar compilation, Elvis By Request has the potential to be something special. It may very well turn out to be this generation’s Elvis In Demand.

* * *

While writing this post, I started thinking about what kind of Elvis compilation I would put together if Sony knocked on my door looking for help (someday, right?). Limiting myself to only masters released during his lifetime, it would probably look something like this.

Strangers No More

  • Money Honey
  • Like A Baby
  • For The Heart
  • How The Web Was Woven
  • Indescribably Blue
  • Clean Up Your Own Backyard
  • Early Morning Rain
  • Power Of My Love
  • Blue Moon
  • Stranger In The Crowd
  • Thinking About You
  • Baby, I Don’t Care
  • I Was The One
  • My Babe (Live)
  • Wearin’ That Loved-On Look
  • Witchcraft
  • I’ve Lost You
  • Make The World Go Away
  • Let Yourself Go
  • As Long As I Have You
  • Run On
  • Bringing It Back

Christmas Dreams 2011: An Elvis Playlist for the Holiday Season (Playlist Recipes #4)

Nearly every year since I was about 13, I’ve made some form of an Elvis “Christmas mix” for my own personal use. This started out in the late 1980s on cassette tapes. I eventually graduated to CD-Rs in the late 1990s. The present incarnation of this concept is, of course, in the form of iPod playlists. It sure is much easier to perfect the sequencing on a playlist than it is on a tape, let me tell you.

As you might imagine, in many ways, this is simply a reshuffling of the same couple of dozen songs every year. Why bother when I could just reuse a previous year’s compilation? The main reason is that I have so much fun putting this together. It’s how I kick off the Christmas season.

This year, I thought I would share my Elvis Christmas playlist sequence with you in case you would like to try it out on your own.

Elvis: Christmas Dreams (2011)

Elvis: Christmas Dreams (2011)

  • Santa Claus Is Back In Town/Blue Christmas (Live) [Tiger Man]
  • I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day (Alternate) [Today, Tomorrow & Forever]
  • Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees (Alternate) [If Every Day Was Like Christmas]
  • It Won’t Seem Like Christmas (Alternate) [If Every Day Was Like Christmas]
  • If Every Day Was Like Christmas [Elvis’ Christmas Album (1970 Edition)]
  • Santa Bring My Baby Back [Elvis’ Christmas Album]
  • Here Comes Santa Claus [Elvis’ Christmas Album]
  • Silver Bells [Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas]
  • White Christmas [Elvis’ Christmas Album]
  • Winter Wonderland [Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas]
  • I’ll Be Home For Christmas [Elvis’ Christmas Album]
  • If I Get Home On Christmas Day [Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas]
  • I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day [Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas]
  • Blue Christmas [Elvis’ Christmas Album]
  • It Won’t Seem Like Christmas [Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas]
  • Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees [Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas]
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem [Elvis’ Christmas Album]
  • On A Snowy Christmas Night [Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas]
  • The First Noel [Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas]
  • O Come All Ye Faithful (Alternate) [Memories Of Christmas]
  • Silent Night [Elvis’ Christmas Album]
  • Santa Lucia [Elvis For Everyone]
  • The Wonderful World Of Christmas [Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas]
  • Santa Claus Is Back In Town [Elvis’ Christmas Album]
  • I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day (Alternate) [Memories Of Christmas]
  • Blue Christmas (Rehearsal) [Let Yourself Go! (Track 25, “Blue Christmas” portion only)]
  • Merry Christmas Baby [Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas]

For those in the US, I also published a variant of this playlist on iTunes as Elvis: Christmas Dreams (2011).

Happy holidays, everyone!

Guest Blog #3: Elvis epitomizes everything we love about rock ‘n’ roll (Playlist Recipes #3)

I’ve been an “Elvis guy” since I was a kid. His story was a sad one, but what he gave us was amazing. I’ve always felt like I wanted to defend him, like people were all into his “image” but unschooled as to his recorded work.

Speaking of defending, I was planning to write a book, but maybe now instead a website, devoted to his films. They get such a bad rap but are so fun to watch. My wife and two boys always look forward to Elvis Week in January when we shut it down and watch Elvis movies. We returned to Graceland this summer (we’re just north of Toronto) and had a great trip. When I came home I found The Mystery Train Blog and have enjoyed reading and joining in.

I’ve got an older brother. He and his friends are fans of blues and blues/rock — guys like Buddy Guy, the Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, and other late-Sixties rockers like Pink Floyd and Creedence Clearwater Revivial.

Being the younger guy, I always wanted to turn them on to some “cool” music they weren’t aware of. They all know and respect Elvis Presley, but I always wondered if they really knew him or some of the lesser-known songs and even mini-eras that were cool, recordings that would help prove his place among the iconic “rockers” in history.

And what about the kids of today? Could I show them that yes, Presley had been there first, had done it better than most, and deserved to stand alongside others? Not just in terms of sales and historical significance, but also in that “cool” factor? They put our boy on stage with Celine Dion, trick up his old tunes for remixes, “duets,” and Cirque du Soleil to make him palatable to the masses – but what tracks, taken on their own merits, would prove my point and show the kids of today, or even hippie-type rockers like my brother and his friends, that the man really helped invent “cool”?

It’s like I tell my kids: try to imagine you’ve never heard of “Elvis” before. Try to think of a time when music was not like “Hound Dog,” but more like “Come On-a My House.” Try to imagine that time and then imagine hearing a white Southern boy singing “That’s All Right,” the track that would have to start my Cool Elvis CD. The primitive, raw energy of this recording makes it significant and not just historically – it’s great to hear and great to sing in the car.

“Mystery Train” qualifies for a lot of the same reasons, but this track adds something darker, sort of a Robert Johnson thing.

“My Baby Left Me” is another Arthur Crudup song, which of course ties it to the blues. Another energetic track that must have sounded so different from other offerings in 1956, delivered with sheer joy and exuberance.

“Hound Dog” would be a hard sell because it’s so iconic, but try to focus on his ferocious vocal. Maybe the “coolest” thing about this track is not Presley at all, but Scotty Moore – his two solos on this record are out of this world. More like “hard rock” compared to other recordings of the time. Can we not trace Jimmy Page back to this two minute and sixteen second part of history?

“Mean Woman Blues” – another blues tune with great lyrics and another ballsy vocal.

I’ve always said that “Jailhouse Rock” is maybe his best vocal. I mean, this song “rocks” and his delivery is one of the coolest single things I’ve ever heard.

“Too Much” has that beat, that tempo, that groove. And it has the way he says “take” as in “take me back, baby…”

“Trouble,” particularly the King Creole version, is maybe the best example of Elvis as a danger, as a threat to your physical well-being. On this track, he’s menacing.

I’ve heard a bootleg recording of Led Zeppelin doing “A Mess of Blues” – talk about giving a song cred. The Presley version is solid with some great piano. Again, “blues.”

All movie songs are terrible? Buried in Frankie and Johnny is “Hard Luck.” He sounds so comfortable singing the blues. Again. And the harmonica? That cat is in the pocket.

In the late Sixties, Presley again showed the world how cool he really was. Just look at him in the Comeback Special. The sit-down session should be enough to prove his coolness. “Down in the Alley” and “Guitar Man” from this era are great tunes with a bit of a new sound for him.

Speaking of movie tunes, gotta go with “Spinout.” Fantastic drumming and another great vocal: “prove” in “she’s out to prove.”

The American Sound Studio recordings are like the Comeback Special: proof enough. Specifically: “Suspicious Minds,” a fan favourite. Everybody loves it and it is maybe the first of his recordings to actually be majestic.

“Rubberneckin’” and “A Little Less Conversation.” What can I say? Remixes aside, these recordings stand up in swagger, energy and coolness with ANYTHING in rock history.

“The Power of My Love” is a great one to play for any old blues boy-type guy. This one bumps and grinds.

“I’m Movin’ On” has to be there. This is for the old school C&W fan. But I love this because it may be the song of Presley’s that most exemplifies the blend of country and blues he was famous for. The highway bounce of the verse and the soul-funk work-out of the chorus. “Move on, baby!”

Being a fan of the oldies, when I first heard Elvis sing “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” I couldn’t get into it, but now I can hear that he found the heart and soul of the song and ratcheted it up – big time. Never has “Baby!” sounded so cool.

“Polk Salad Annie” benefits from a visual of Elvis performing it on stage. As a recording, though, it’s got energy to burn and humor as well. You listen with a smile. He’s digging it.

Elvis did for “Never Been to Spain” what he did for “Lovin’ Feelin’.” Punched it up and let it blast through the arena.

“Burning Love” works all these years later, like “Suspicious Minds.” Great guitar intro, great “mature Elvis” vocal with a bit of echo. Another easy sell. It rocks and everyone is down with this one.

“Aw, get on it!” And off we go to the “Promised Land.” Talk about energy. The Seventies juggernaut seems to have started here. The scene in Men in Black is actually perfect: driving really fast with “Promised Land” really loud.

A couple of tracks from this era have a great groove that was perfect for the time: “If You Talk in Your Sleep” and “I’ve Got a Feelin’ in My Body.” “If You Talk in Your Sleep” is down and dirty. “I Got a Feelin’ in My Body” brings the funk. Solid.

“T-R-O-U-B-L-E” is another one you play for the C&W fan. Great vocal and a rollicking track. The lyrics really say “country song,” too.

I close my imaginary Cool Elvis CD the way King closed his chart career: “Way Down.” Contemporary sounding for its time, the vocal catches him at the end, lacking a bit of the old fire. But J.D. Sumner, some great piano playing, and a driving, dramatic performance make this one worthy of inclusion.

So this is the CD I’d take to poker night at my brother’s. You have to have some familiar songs or people feel out of it. So, along with the better known tracks, I’ve thrown in some hidden gems and all together they present a pretty good case.

Don’t let history, his status as an icon, the “Elvis Sightings” and the jokes about his weight take away from the fact that the cat was solid. He is that cool. He really does epitomize everything we love about rock ‘n’ roll. It’s borne out not just in the images but in the recordings. It’s amazing to think that someone so visually stunning and entertaining didn’t need the visual at all, really. Just the music.

/Wellsy


Elvis, The Cool Album

  1. That’s All Right
  2. Mystery Train
  3. My Baby Left Me
  4. Hound Dog
  5. Mean Woman Blues
  6. Jailhouse Rock
  7. Too Much
  8. Trouble
  9. A Mess of Blues
  10. Hard Luck
  11. Down in the Alley
  12. Guitar Man
  13. Spinout
  14. Suspicious Minds
  15. Rubberneckin’
  16. A Little Less Conversation
  17. The Power of My Love
  18. I’m Movin’ On
  19. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
  20. Polk Salad Annie
  21. Never Been to Spain
  22. Burning Love
  23. Promised Land
  24. If You Talk in Your Sleep
  25. I’ve Got a Feelin’ in My Body
  26. T-R-O-U-B-L-E
  27. Way Down

For The Heart: An Elvis New Year Workout Playlist (Playlist Recipes #2)

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope that 2011 is full of health and prosperity for all of you.

This is the time of year when many of us set resolutions to do (or not do) various things. I often resolve to write my first novel. Hasn’t happened yet, but one of these years, I’m gonna get that one done! Maybe this will be the one. A popular resolution for many people is to become more physically fit. To that end, frequent commenter Ray Faithfull recently requested an Elvis playlist for working out.

Ray’s suggestion solved my dilemma of what to post here for New Year’s Day. This playlist is designed to start slow, get really revved up, and then taper off to nothing. Though you should feel like a king at the beginning, you may very well need somebody to lean on by the end of this high octane set.

Exercise, Elvis Style

Exercise, Elvis Style

For The Heart: An Elvis Workout (AKA Elvis Shakes His Excess Off)

  • King Of The Whole Wide World [C’mon Everybody]
  • Any Day Now (Alternate) [Memphis Sessions]
  • For The Heart [From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee]
  • A Little Less Conversation (Remix) [Elvis vs. JXL]
  • Polk Salad Annie (Live) [Close Up]
  • My Baby Left Me [For LP Fans Only]
  • His Latest Flame [Elvis’ Golden Records, Volume 3]
  • Jailhouse Rock [Elvis’ Golden Records]
  • Mystery Train/Tiger Man (Live) [Collectors Gold]
  • Power Of My Love [From Elvis In Memphis]
  • My Babe (Live) [From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis]
  • Hey Little Girl [Harum Scarum]
  • A Big Hunk O’ Love [50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong: Elvis’ Gold Records Volume 2]
  • Big Boss Man [Clambake]
  • Blue Suede Shoes (Remix) [Viva Elvis: The Album]
  • Heartbreak Hotel/Hound Dog/All Shook Up (Live) [ELVIS-TV Special]
  • Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do [Loving You]
  • Little Sister [Elvis’ Golden Records, Volume 3]
  • Good Rockin’ Tonight [A Date With Elvis]
  • Johnny B. Goode (Live) [From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis]
  • Rubberneckin’ [Almost In Love]
  • Bossa Nova Baby [Fun In Acapulco]
  • Hard Headed Woman [King Creole]
  • The Fool [Elvis Country]
  • Suspicious Minds (Live) [All Shook Up]
  • Follow That Dream (Alternate) [Today, Tomorrow & Forever]
  • Funny How Time Slips Away (Rehearsal) [Elvis On Tour: The Rehearsals]
  • I Need Somebody To Lean On [I Got Lucky]

I tried something new and published this playlist on iTunes as For The Heart: An Elvis Workout. If you have iTunes, you should be able to see it there by following the link (I am not sure if this will work for those outside of the US). Not all of the same versions were available, so I had to do a few substitutions.

Thanks to Ray for the idea. Good luck with your fitness goals, buddy. I’ll be right in there fighting, too.

Keep those suggestions coming, everyone. Have a fantastic 2011!

“The silence of a falling star” (Playlist Recipes #1)

Any of you that have made your way to The Mystery Train Elvis Blog via my old sci fi blog know that school (night classes) always takes up a lot of my time during this part of the year. On top of that, I’ve had a couple of challenging projects going on at work as well.

Though I may not be posting here as often as I’d like at the moment, Elvis is never far from my thoughts. I’m usually able to listen to my iPod a bit at work, especially when I’m handling a writing-related assignment. It helps to block out the distractions of whatever else is going on around me and allow me to focus.

Just for fun, I made up a couple of standard playlists to use at work yesterday.

Elvis 1972: The Unreachable Star

  • Burning Love [Burning Love And Hits From His Movies, Volume 2]
  • For The Good Times[Walk A Mile In My Shoes]
  • Always On My Mind [Separate Ways]
  • Fool [Elvis (Fool)]
  • Where Do I Go From Here [Elvis (Fool)]
  • Separate Ways [Separate Ways]
  • Also Sprach Zarathustra/Opening Riff/That’s All Right (Live) [An Afternoon In The Garden]
  • Proud Mary (Live) [Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden]
  • Never Been To Spain (Live) [Walk A Mile In My Shoes]
  • You Gave Me A Mountain (Live) [Walk A Mile In My Shoes]
  • Polk Salad Annie (Live) [Close Up]
  • A Big Hunk O’ Love (Live) [Walk A Mile In My Shoes]
  • The Impossible Dream (Live) [He Walks Beside Me]
  • Burning Love (Live) [Close Up]
  • Until It’s Time For You To Go (Live) [An Afternoon In The Garden]
  • Suspicious Minds (Live) [An Afternoon In The Garden]
  • It’s Impossible (Live) [Elvis (Fool)]
  • I Can’t Stop Loving You (Live) [Welcome To My World]
  • An American Trilogy (Live) [This Is Elvis]
  • Can’t Help Falling In Love/Closing Riff (Live) [Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden]
  • Elvis Talks About His Father (“Make up your mind…”) [Eye Of The Hurricane]
  • Johnny B. Goode (Rehearsal) [Elvis On Tour: The Rehearsals]
  • The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Rehearsal) [Elvis On Tour: The Rehearsals]
  • Young And Beautiful (Rehearsal) [Elvis On Tour: The Rehearsals]
  • Lawdy, Miss Clawdy (Rehearsal) [Elvis On Tour: The Rehearsals]
  • Funny How Time Slips Aways (Rehearsal) [Elvis On Tour: The Rehearsals]
  • Always On My Mind (Rehearsal)[This Is Elvis]

Elvis 1973: Part I – The Midnight Train

  • Also Sprach Zarathustra/Opening Riff/See See Rider (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • Burning Love (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • You Gave Me A Mountain (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • Steamroller Blues (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • Love Me (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • Johnny B. Goode (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • It’s Over (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • What Now My Love (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • Fever (Live)[The Alternate Aloha]
  • Welcome To My World (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • Suspicious Minds (Live)[The Alternate Aloha]
  • I’ll Remember You (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • An American Trilogy (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • A Big Hunk O’ Love (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • Can’t Help Falling In Love/Closing Riff (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • Blue Hawaii (Remake) [A Legendary Performer, Volume 2]
  • Hawaiian Wedding Song (Remake) [Mahalo From Elvis]
  • No More (Remake) [Mahalo From Elvis]
  • Early Morning Rain (Remake) [Mahalo From Elvis]
  • Baby, What You Want Me To Do (Informal) [Elvis By The Presleys]
  • Just A Little Bit [Raised On Rock]
  • For Ol’ Times Sake [Raised On Rock]
  • Sweet Angeline [Raised On Rock]
  • If You Don’t Come Back [Raised On Rock]
  • I Miss You [Raised On Rock]
  • Are You Sincere [Raised On Rock]
  • It’s Different Now (Rehearsal) [Walk A Mile In My Shoes]
  • I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (Informal) [Elvis By The Presleys]

I made it through the 1972 playlist, which was fantastic – a real testament to the power of Elvis during that year. For 1973, I only made it as far as “See See Rider” before it was time to go. Aloha sounded like so much fun, though, that I decided to watch the 2004 edition when I got home last night.

One of the things I love about Aloha, as well as a number of other Elvis events, actually, is watching his eyes. Particularly evident on the 2004 cut, you can see a “We’re all in on the same joke/Isn’t it crazy that this is going on?” expression of bemusement. Even in this concert, where he is sometimes criticized as being too serious, Elvis never really takes himself too seriously.

After a quick run-through of the obligatory “Hound Dog,” he says, “I was just a baby when I did that song. I was about 12-years-old, had sideburns. I’m lying like a rug, too.” Too bad this line was cut from the 1973 album and subsequent NBC broadcast.

The ability to laugh at himself was one of Elvis’ most endearing qualities, and that’s no lie.