Elvis Live Wire: Ernst Jorgensen acquires “I Forgot To Remember To Forget”

Silvertone wire recording of Elvis Presley

Silvertone wire recording of Elvis singing “I Forgot To Remember To Forget”

One of the feel-good Elvis stories of 2012 will have an encore after all. Audio collector amberola1b, who discovered a 1955 live recording of Elvis singing “I Forgot To Remember To Forget” on the Louisiana Hayride radio program, recently remarked that he has sold the recording to Ernst Jorgensen. Jorgensen heads up Sony Music’s Elvis team and helms their Follow That Dream collectors label. This means, at some point, there will undoubtedly be an official release of this incredible find.

Last July, amberola1b caused a sensation among Elvis fans when he briefly posted the recording on YouTube, without being aware that it was so unique. Sourced from a Silvertone wire recording, the performance had never been heard by the public since the original broadcast.

Elvis appeared on the Hayride about fifty times from 1954 to 1956. Though similar to Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, the show was more receptive to new talent – including Elvis’ groundbreaking style. Compared to most of the other Hayride recordings released in the past, the audio quality on “I Forgot To Remember To Forget” was stunning.

The discovery made headlines on the eve of the release of the Elvis masterpiece A Boy From Tupelo: The Complete 1953-1955 Recordings, Ernst Jorgensen’s book and music project covering the SUN years. A Boy From Tupelo included several other recordings from the Louisiana Hayride, but “I Forgot To Remember To Forget” was found too late for consideration. “Wow – it’s unbelievably beautiful. I’m still trying to recover from the shock,” Jorgensen said at the time.

Audio grabs of amberola1b’s YouTube video have appeared on a couple of “gray market” releases, but a professional transfer from the wire, properly mastered, should yield much more impressive sound quality.

On January 12, amberola1b posted the following comments on YouTube about his interaction with Jorgensen:

“I did sell the rights to him but the way it went was that I didn’t even know Ernst and was directed to him thru other utubers that were Elvis fans. I didn’t even know there was a big anniversary album or book being put together about The King, I just merely decided at that moment in time to do the utube video, and just happen to post it during the summer. If luck had been on my side and I had known about what was being planned […] I would have made the video months before, and it would have been included in the album that was included in the book ‘A Boy From Tupelo’. But as it turned out he sent me a copy of the book and it just blew my mind to see all the wonderful pictures that had been compiled of Elvis and the stories written about him.”

[Thank you to Greg1995 on the For Elvis CD Collectors Forum, who first posted about amberola1b’s recent confirmation of the sale.]

I only listened to the live “I Forgot To Remember To Forget” once. It was so incredible, I knew I wanted to wait for an official release. Out of respect for amberola1b, I also never posted links to the multiple copies of this video that showed up after his original post (I made an exception for the copied version in the story linked above, since that is where he chose to post his comments).

I’m thrilled that Jorgensen has acquired this fantastic discovery. So, to amberola1b: Thank you for making a deal that will allow Elvis fans to hear this recording in the best sound quality possible for generations to come.

So, the question is, what should Jorgensen do with this recording now that he has it?

Ideally, this would be a terrific opportunity for Sony to release a mainstream version of A Boy From Tupelo, which was a limited run on the FTD collectors label. Every Elvis and rock ‘n’ roll fan should have the opportunity to own A Boy From Tupelo – one of the most important Elvis releases since his death in 1977. Scooting the two interviews over to the end of Disc 2 would free up enough space for “I Forgot To Remember To Forget” to join the other Hayride performances on Disc 3.

If a full-blown re-release of A Boy From Tupelo is not possible for some reason, I think 2013 or 2014 would be the perfect time for a 2-CD set on the main Sony label covering 1953-1955. After all, 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of Elvis paying to record his first demo (“My Happiness” b/w “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”), while 2014 marks the 60th anniversary of his first professional release (“That’s All Right” b/w “Blue Moon Of Kentucky”).

For fun, here’s how I would approach such a 2-CD set.

Elvis Begins: The 1953-1955 Recordings

Disc 1

  1. That’s All Right (45 RPM SUN single version)
  2. Blue Moon Of Kentucky (45 RPM SUN single version)
  3. Good Rockin’ Tonight
  4. I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine
  5. Milkcow Blues Boogie (78 RPM SUN single version)
  6. You’re A Heartbreaker (78 RPM SUN single version)
  7. Baby, Let’s Play House
  8. I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone
  9. I Forgot To Remember To Forget
  10. Mystery Train
  11. Harbor Lights
  12. I Love You Because
  13. Blue Moon
  14. I’ll Never Let You Go
  15. Just Because
  16. Tryin’ To Get To You
  17. My Happiness (Demo)
  18. That’s When Your Heartaches Begin (Demo)
  19. I’ll Never Stand In Your Way (Demo)
  20. It Wouldn’t Be The Same Without You (Demo)
  21. Harbor Lights (Take 7)
  22. I Love You Because (Take 3)
  23. I Love You Because (Take 5)
  24. That’s All Right (Takes 1, 2)
  25. That’s All Right (Take 3)
  26. Blue Moon Of Kentucky (Take 3)
  27. Blue Moon (Take 4)
  28. Blue Moon (Take 5)
  29. Blue Moon (Take 8)
  30. Tomorrow Night (Undubbed/unedited version)
  31. That’s All Right (Live-Shreveport, LA-October 16, 1954)
  32. Blue Moon Of Kentucky (Live-Shreveport, LA-October 16, 1954)

Disc 2

  1. I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (Slow version, Take 1)
  2. I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (Slow version, Take 2)
  3. I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (Slow version, Take 3)
  4. I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (Slow version, Take 5)
  5. I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (Slow version, Take 6)
  6. Shake, Rattle & Roll (Demo-Lubbock, TX-January 6, 1955)
  7. Fool, Fool, Fool (Demo-Lubbock, TX-January 6, 1955)
  8. Hearts Of Stone (Live-Shreveport, LA-January 15, 1955)
  9. That’s All Right (Live-Shreveport, LA-January 15, 1955)
  10. Tweedlee Dee (Live-Shreveport, LA-January 15, 1955)
  11. Money Honey (Live-Shreveport, LA-January 22, 1955)
  12. Blue Moon Of Kentucky (Live-Shreveport, LA-January 22, 1955)
  13. I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine (Live-Shreveport, LA-January 22, 1955)
  14. That’s All Right (Live-Shreveport, LA-January 22, 1955)
  15. Tweedlee Dee (Live-Shreveport, LA-March 5, 1955)
  16. Money Honey (Live-Shreveport, LA-March 5, 1955)
  17. Hearts Of Stone (Live-Shreveport, LA-March 5, 1955)
  18. Shake, Rattle & Roll (Live-Shreveport, LA-March 5, 1955)
  19. Little Mama (Live-Shreveport, LA-March 5, 1955)
  20. You’re A Heartbreaker (Live-Shreveport, LA-March 5, 1955)
  21. Good Rockin’ Tonight (Live-Houston, TX-March 19, 1955)
  22. Baby, Let’s Play House (Live-Houston, TX-March 19, 1955)
  23. Blue Moon Of Kentucky (Live-Houston, TX-March 19, 1955)
  24. I Got A Woman (Live-Houston, TX-March 19, 1955)
  25. That’s All Right (Live-Houston, TX-March 19, 1955)
  26. How Do You Think I Feel (1955 version, Take 1)
  27. Tweedlee Dee (Live-Gladewater, TX-April 30, 1955)
  28. That’s All Right (Live-Meridian, MS-May 26, 1955)
  29. I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (Live-Shreveport, LA-July 2, 1955)
  30. Baby, Let’s Play House (Live-Shreveport, LA-August 20, 1955)
  31. Maybellene (Live-Shreveport, LA-August 20, 1955)
  32. That’s All Right (Live-Shreveport, LA-August 20, 1955)
  33. I Forgot To Remember To Forget (Live-Shreveport, LA-October 1, 1955)
  34. When It Rains, It Really Pours (1955 version, Take 5)
  35. When It Rains, It Really Pours (1955 version, Take 8)

REVIEW: Elvis – The Complete Masters Collection (Part 5)

This is Part 5 of an ongoing series reviewing Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection. Read Part 4.

I’m planning to significantly scale back this review series. I’m actually up to Volume 17 now in listening, as I gave up trying to review them as I go. This is mostly because I was not patient enough to wait. The process was just going too slow and taking away from the enjoyment. However, since I already had a draft of the below review for weeks now, I figured I might as well share it with you.

CD Vol. 7: Complete 1968 Comeback Special

This volume of The Franklin Mint‘s 36-disc Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection (mastered by Vic Anesini) presents songs recorded for the ELVIS television special in June 1968.

Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection - Volume 7

01. Trouble/Guitar Man: This was the perfect way to open both the ELVIS special and the accompanying soundtrack album. Culled from 1958’s King Creole, “Trouble” has never sounded better than it does in this performance a decade later.

In the setting of the special, “Guitar Man” bares little resemblance to Elvis’ 1967 country recording. This version rocks.

Though true to the original album, I would have preferred that the overdubbed applause at the end of this studio track had been omitted for this release. Exceptions were made for other recordings on this set, including on this very CD, and this is another exception I would have welcomed.

02. Lawdy, Miss Clawdy [Live]: In the live, “sit down” segment of the show, Elvis tears into “Lawdy, Miss Clawdy.” This is a terrific rendition that helps set the tone for the entire album. Elvis is back.

Baby, What You Want Me To Do [Live]: Elvis performs a brief snippet of “Baby, What You Want Me To Do” and then launches into a fun bit of reminiscing.

Heartbreak Hotel/Hound Dog/All Shook Up [Live]: The album then transitions to the “stand up” segment with a rocking “Heartbreak Hotel,” combined with strong versions of “Hound Dog” (I love the Native-American-inspired percussion) and “All Shook Up.”

This is the best live version of “Heartbreak Hotel.” Too bad it is part of a medley and incomplete. Years ago, I made an edit of this recording and the one at his first sit down show in order to create a “complete” version for my own personal use (inspired by a similar edit of “Blue Suede Shoes” on This Is Elvis, except mine began with the stand up show and ended with the sit down show).

Sound quality is so excellent on Complete 1968 Comeback Special that it makes a recording flaw in this medley more obvious – a microphone or amplifier feedback sound is present in the background through much of the medley, beginning with “Hound Dog.” When I went back to check, I was surprised to find that this actually existed on previous release sources as well – though not as obvious.

Can’t Help Falling In Love [Live]:  Hands-down, this is the best live version of “Can’t Help Falling In Love.” Absolutely beautiful. Again, here we have excellent sound quality, but that feedback tone is also present at times in the background. I fear it is one of those things where, now that I have heard it, I will not be able to “un-hear” it.

Jailhouse Rock [Live]: For my money, there are really only two killer versions of “Jailhouse Rock.” The 1957 original and this 1968 live recording. Even just a year later, Elvis had lost the raw edge to this song.

Unfortunately, there is noticeable distortion near the end of “Jailhouse Rock,” almost like garbled tape (not the feedback tone discussed earlier). What a disappointment. Not present on previous releases, this issue was first introduced on 2008’s ELVIS: The Complete ’68 Comeback Special boxed set (Disc 3, Track 21). Also on that set, the same version of “Jailhouse Rock” can be heard without the distortion on Disc 1 – which presents the original ELVIS-TV Special album. However, the overall recording is in much lesser sound quality. I understand that tapes can be damaged, but surely a better effort could be made for one of the pivotal moments of Elvis’ career? As this also affected The Complete Elvis Presley Masters, a pricier incarnation of the complete masters [7], Sony should be embarrassed.

Love Me Tender [Live]: I have to admit, though some may not be able to comprehend this, I am not a big fan of Elvis’ original 1956 recording of “Love Me Tender.” It bores me to tears. I definitely prefer his 1968 live versions. As with “Can’t Help Falling In Love” earlier in the show, I love the velvet sound of his voice on this.

03. Where Could I Go But To The Lord/Up Above My Head/Saved: This track begins with Elvis discussing the gospel and rhythm & blues origins of rock ‘n’ roll at one of the sit down shows. It then segues into a medley of studio-recorded inspirational songs. In the actual television special, the medley is a huge production number with Elvis surrounded by dancers while the Blossoms, including Darlene Love, provide backing vocals. Though the recording is great, I find this one much more interesting to watch than only hear.

04. Blue Christmas [Live]: In both the original broadcast version of the ELVIS special and its accompanying soundtrack, creative editing inspired a myth. “I’d like to do my favorite Christmas song, of all the ones I’ve recorded,” Elvis says. He then launches into “Blue Christmas.” For years, people justifiably believed that “Blue Christmas” was Elvis’ favorite Christmas song.

It was not until the 1998 release of Tiger Man, containing the unedited version of the sit down show from which the recording was taken, that the truth became known to a wider audience. It turned out that Elvis did not sing “Blue Christmas” as his favorite but “Santa Claus Is Back In Town.” In fact, though he could not remember some of the words, he sang a bluesy version that was a highlight of that particular show. Not only that, but when he did finally launch into “Blue Christmas,” it was an extended version compared to the original master. So, not only did the TV special and original album create the “Blue Christmas” as Elvis’ favorite Christmas song myth, they even artificially shortened said song.

True to the original master as released in Elvis’ lifetime, the recording here on Complete 1968 Comeback Special matches that of the original album. Elvis performs a terrific version of “Blue Christmas,” far exceeding his 1957 studio recording. I’ll stick to the real story and full-length version on Tiger Man, though.

One Night [Live]: “I think I’ll put a strap around this and stand up,” Elvis says near the end of the first sit down show, but there is no strap to be found for the electric guitar he has borrowed from Scotty Moore. Drummer DJ Fontana announces the next song as “No Strap” and Charlie Hodge, also on stage, sings “No strap today. . .” which Elvis immediately turns into a brief parody of “One Night” by picking up with “. . . is what I’m now looking for, the things I did and I saw, would make the dream . . . where, where, where, where’s the strap?”

He then launches into the song proper, including some of the original “One Night Of Sin” lyrics that had been too risque for 1957. He soon stands up, placing one foot on his chair to prop the guitar on his knee, while Charlie (and later Lance LeGault) holds the microphone for him. While some of the “ad-libs” earlier in the night were indeed scripted, Elvis wanting to stand up with the guitar during the sit down show is not one of them. For the second sit down show, though the guitar still had no strap, it was obvious they had worked out more of the logic – including how to adjust the microphone stand, allowing Elvis to stand up a few times. It is this off-the-cuff moment in the first show that holds the real magic, though. All the fun aside, it is also a great, raw performance of “One Night.”

05. Tiger Man [Live]: Though it originally appeared neither on the ELVIS-TV Special album nor the broadcast, “Tiger Man” was actually the first recording released from those made for the 1968 ELVIS special, on the album Singer Presents Elvis Singing Flaming Star And Others. “Tiger Man” was originally slated for the special, but was replaced by “Blue Christmas” at the insistence of Elvis’ manager due to the December air date. “Tiger Man” is another wonderful performance that Elvis drives with the electric guitar. The compiler made a good choice placing it back in context with other songs from the special rather than saving it for a separate disc.

[Side note: Elvis only performed “Tiger Man” on the second sit down show. Near the end of the first sit down show, Elvis states, “We’d like to do one more song for you because we have another audience waiting to come in” and then proclaims, “Man, I just work here,” when the audience sounds disappointed. He then starts looking for the guitar strap as described with “One Night” above. While he was apparently not referring to the closer “Memories” as the “one more song,” I wonder if it was actually “Tiger Man” that he was planning to sing before being inspired to do the impromptu reprise of “One Night”? Most of the renditions on the first sit down show are superior to those of the second, so a first show “Tiger Man” might have been quite the performance if the proper guitar strap had been available.]

06. Memories [Stereo Version]: Though Elvis performed two live versions of “Memories” during the special tapings, they were not nearly as good as his studio master. Rather than use the live recording featured on the television broadcast, the ELVIS-TV Special soundtrack album featured a mono version of the studio recording with overdubbed applause. RCA sure did love faking live versions with overdubbed applause in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In this instance, the compiler makes an exception and uses a stereo version of the studio recording, fortunately without the fake audience. Technically, this mix was never released in Elvis’ lifetime, though, for even his 1968 single of the studio version was in mono.

Written by Mac Davis, “Memories” is a beautiful song and this is, by far, my favorite version. 1968’s “Memories” would go on to play over the closing credits of 1972’s Elvis On Tour, as well as posthumous documentaries – including This Is Elvis.

07. Nothingville/Big Boss Man: I have often wondered if “Nothingville” was slamming Nashville or Hollywood (“phony little two-bit town where nothing’s real”). If “Nothingville” is about Hollywood and the movies, that puts an interesting spin on this segment of the special – which is more than a little reminiscent of Elvis’ movies anyway.  In any event, the song fits within the context of one of the show’s production numbers, but it is almost too short to really matter. Next up is a carny barker inviting passers-by to experience an exotic dancer. Elvis launches into an altered version of “Big Boss Man” where the one being worked to death is actually the dancer rather than the singer. The song loses most of its blues roots here, but the arrangement is still effective.

Guitar Man/Little Egypt/Trouble/Guitar Man: To be honest, all of track 7 is really a letdown compared to the quality of the rest of the special.

08. If I Can Dream [Stereo Version]: Always a contender for his greatest performance, “If I Can Dream” caps off the special just right – with Elvis moving forward. As with “Memories,” a stereo mix is used here that was not released during Elvis’ lifetime. The album version was in mono and included overdubbed applause on the studio recording, while the single version of the studio recording was in mono as well.

All-in-all, due to the sound issues on “Jailhouse Rock,” and, to a lesser extent, “Hound Dog,” “All Shook Up,” and “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” Complete 1968 Comeback Special turns out to be the most disappointing volume of this set thus far. A real travesty since this is some of his best material. Does anyone bother to listen to Elvis CDs prior to release?

Though a minor issue, the CD also has a misleading title, for it would take several CDs to truly represent the “complete” 1968 “Comeback Special” recordings. This is but a small sampling. Even a few Comeback recordings released during Elvis’ lifetime, if restricted to that, have been left out.


(7) “Complete Masters compared/contrasted with Franklin Mint” by elvissessions, For Elvis CD Collectors Forum, 2010.

Read Part 6.

REVIEW: Elvis – The Complete Masters Collection (Part 4)

This is Part 4 of an ongoing series reviewing Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection. Read Part 3.

CD Vol. 6: Heartache

Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection - Volume 6This volume of The Franklin Mint‘s 36-disc Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection (mastered by Vic Anesini) presents songs falling under the theme of “Heartache.” The booklet describes this disc as “Twenty haunting melodies that reveal Elvis’ familiarity with the darker side of love.”

Heartache is certainly a theme Elvis revisited often in his recordings over the years. Many of my favorite Elvis songs would probably fit into this category, so I’m excited to give Heartache a spin.

01. That’s When Your Heartaches Begin: Elvis actually first recorded “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin” as a demo at the Memphis Recording Service in 1953. This is his professional version, though, recorded four eventful years later for RCA. He does a masterful job with the song, including the spoken-word recital in the middle – a technique that he would perfect even further a few years later with the similar “Are You Lonesome Tonight.” (Recorded: 1957)

02. Don’t: If you listen too closely to the words to “Don’t,” it can actually sound creepy from a modern perspective:

“Don’t, don’t,” that’s what you say each time that I hold you this way. When I feel like this and I want to kiss you, baby don’t say “don’t.”

This song should be judged within the context of innocence from which it sprang, though. The Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller song features masterful lyrics, indicative of the quality of material Elvis lost out on when his association with that team ended. “Don’t” includes a quite beautiful and sincere love pledge:

I’m your love and yours I will stay. This you can believe, I will never leave you, Heaven knows I won’t.

Oddly, this track has about ten seconds of extra silence at the end once the song concludes – not reflected in the runtime on the CD sleeve, either. (1957)

03. Are You Lonesome Tonight?: “Are You Lonesome Tonight” is an Elvis masterpiece, recorded shortly after the end of his stint in the US Army. Listen to that voice. He was back, better than ever. (1960)

04. Starting Today: “Starting Today” is the first of four songs written by Don Robertson that appear on Heartache. This is a quiet, likable song. (1961)

05. (Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame: “His Latest Flame” is one of three Doc Pomus songs on this disc. “His Latest Flame” is fantastic and includes a much-needed increase in tempo over the opening songs of Heartache. (1961)

06. Anything That’s Part Of You: Another Don Robertson song, “Anything That’s Part Of You” is as relevant to broken relationships today as it was when first recorded. This is a perfect, subtle performance by Elvis. (1961)

07. Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello: It’s hard for me to believe this weak number is from Leiber & Stoller, yet it is. “Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello” sounds like it should be a movie tune. (1962)

08. Suspicion: Doc Pomus delivers the goods again, this time with the fantastic “Suspicion.” I first heard this song on a cassette variant of Elvis Country and have loved it ever since. (1962)

09. She’s Not You: “I’d trade all of someone new for anything that’s part of you,” lamented Elvis in “Anything That’s Part Of You.” On “She’s Not You,” though the writers are different, he continues that theme: “She’s everything a girl should be, but she’s not you.” For this song, Doc Pomus teamed up with Leiber & Stoller, ensuring a sure-fire hit when also combined with another great performance by Elvis. The original pressing of Franklin Mint’s Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection contained an error on this track – the last several seconds were missing. They issued replacement discs and subsequent pressings (including mine) have not had this error [6]. (1962)

10. They Remind Me Too Much Of You: More from the pen of Don Robertson, “They Remind Me Too Much Of You” again continues the theme of “Anything That’s Part Of You” and “She’s Not You,” except now the singer has reached the stage where he wants all reminders of the love gone wrong wiped away. Robertson’s lyrics are masterful at portraying the anguish: “Must I evermore be haunted, day after day my whole life through, by the memory of each moment that I spent alone with you?” (1962)

11. What Now, What Next, Where To: “What Now, What Next, Where To,” while still lamenting a lost love, manages to strike some hopeful tones as well. This is the fourth and final Robertson composition on Heartache, wrapping up this mini-storyline as the singer finally moves on. I have to give the compiler credit for putting all of these songs together, actually making for a coherent album of sorts. (1963)

12. Blue River: I can’t stand this song and hardly ever play it. The sooner “Blue River” ends, the better. (1963)

13. It Ain’t No Big Thing (But It’s Growing): I had to go and say that, didn’t I? As soon as “Blue River” ends, an even worse song begins, “It Ain’t No Big Thing.”  While Elvis’ June 1970 marathon recording session in Nashville produced some of the best songs of his career, it also produced junk like “It’s Ain’t No Big Thing.” Nearly unlistenable. (1970)

14. I’ve Lost You [Live]: After two duds in a row, Elvis’ live version of “I’ve Lost You” is a welcome reprieve. While not as interesting as the studio version, this is still a fine performance in its own right. I love how his voice nearly blends with the Sweet Inspirations as the chorus repeats at the song’s end. (1970)

15. When I’m Over You: Like most songs, “When I’m Over You” is better than “It Ain’t No Big Thing,” but it is still one of the weaker songs from the 1970 Nashville sessions. I do enjoy the gospel sound that the background vocalists bring to the song. (1970)

16. I Will Be True: Accompanying himself on piano, Elvis takes on the Ivory Joe Hunter song “I Will Be True.” A decent performance, with much conviction. (1971)

17. Love Me, Love The Life I Lead: Elvis did not write this song, but it sure sounds like he could have:

If you’re gonna love me, love the life I lead. Need the things I need. Don’t try to change me. If you’re gonna take me, take me for what I am. I can’t be another man. I can’t be free from the life I lead.

Unfortunately, though Elvis must have connected with the lyrics, the song never really develops – a good song that probably could have been better. (1971)

18. Thinking About You: Featured on the Promised Land album and recorded at Stax Studio in Memphis, “Thinking About You” is one of Elvis’ best country songs. Wow, does it sound great on this set. Nice to have the original mix back. (1973)

19. Mr. Songman: “Mr. Songman” is a decent album cut that also served well as the flip-side to 1975’s “T-R-O-U-B-L-E.” (1973)

20. Woman Without Love: “Woman Without Love” is the worst of the songs Elvis recorded at his March 1975 Hollywood session that produced the very solid Today album. Unless I’m listening to the entire album in context, I always skip this dreadful song. (1975)

Though it contains a few duds (this is a complete masters collection, after all), Heartache is overall a stellar collection of songs. The early 1960s tracks in particular are real highlights.


(6) “Complete Masters compared/contrasted with Franklin Mint” by elvissessions, For Elvis CD Collectors Forum, 2010.

Read Part 5.

No particular place to go

All right, this will be one of those off-the-top-of-my-head posts – so who knows what you’re gonna get out of reading this.

I’m just sitting here on a rainy Saturday afternoon listening to Elvis.

Blue HawaiiI’m getting back into vinyl after pretty much being all CDs all the time for the last twenty years. I pulled out my old collection, and the first one I played was Blue Hawaii.

I couldn’t believe how incredible it sounded on record. I sense a new obsession coming on.

The good thing is, I already have about 25 LPs and 25 45s from the old days before I had a CD player, so those should tide me over for awhile.

* * *

So, there were a bunch of great posts around the web for Elvis Week 2012. My favorite was probably Indisposable Johnny’s “When Elvis Moved On” over on The Round Place In The Middle blog. If you haven’t already, be sure to read it.

One post that I didn’t want to read because I knew what was coming was “Treat Me Nice”, a farewell of sorts by Thomas Melin over on his Elvis Today Blog. After five years and 500 posts, he’s taking an indefinite break from blogging about Elvis in order to spend more time with his family. It’s hard to fault him for that. I’m sure gonna miss his posts, though. Best wishes to Thomas.

While Thomas’ absence leaves a huge void, all is not lost. For instance, Sheila O’Malley continues her excellent series of Elvis Essays on The Sheila Variations blog. Meanwhile, artist Joe Petruccio just began a brand new blog called My Elvis Journal. Petruccio’s unique posts are definitely worth checking out.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

* * *

August 28 Update: I’ve just found that there is yet another new Elvis blog, and it’s one I definitely want to mention. Elvis audio expert and frequent For Elvis CD Collectors Forum poster elvissessions recently began elvissessions.net, which will cover “Elvis Presley in the studio — and beyond.”

I love his informative FECC posts, so I’m looking forward to following elvissessions’ blog. Here’s a recent entry about obtaining Ernst Jorgensen’s autograph on his copy of A Boy From Tupelo during Elvis Week 2012.

Speaking of FTD’s mammoth SUN project, my copy will supposedly be in the mail this week. No autographs, though. I guess that’s one of the many perks of being in Memphis during Elvis Week. Either way, I can hardly wait for this release.

REVIEW: Elvis – The Complete Masters Collection (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of an ongoing series reviewing Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection. Read Part 1.

We haven’t finished the summer yet, folks, but why not take a break from the heatwave to enjoy a Christmas-themed review?

CD Vol. 4: Christmas With Elvis

Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection - Volume 4This volume of The Franklin Mint‘s 36-disc Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection (mastered by Vic Anesini) presents nearly all of the Christmas songs that Elvis released during his lifetime (a live version of “Blue Christmas” appears on a later disc).

Christmas With Elvis contains each of the Christmas songs featured on Elvis’ Christmas Album (1957), his 1966 Christmas single, and Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas (1971).

01. Blue Christmas: I think of “Blue Christmas” as the “Hound Dog” of Elvis Christmas songs. It’s the one the general public most associates with him. It is an okay recording and certainly appropriate to kick off this CD. I wish it had less or no backing vocals, though. I much prefer his live versions from 1968. (Recorded: 1957)

02. White Christmas: “Blue Christmas” does not transition very well into “White Christmas,” but the compiler has once again taken the easy way out and confined the song sequencing of this disc to recording order. I’m actually not a huge fan of “White Christmas” by Elvis. For this one, my go-to versions tend to be those by The Drifters (whose 1954 recording inspired the Elvis one) or Burl Ives (1965). Incidentally, this track differs from the one released during Elvis’ lifetime in that a finger-snap near the beginning of the song has been omitted (5). I must admit, I would never have noticed such a small detail on my own. That’s the wonder of the For Elvis CD Collectors Forum. (1957)

03. Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane): You’ll be happy to know that no finger-snapping has been omitted from this terrific version of “Here Comes Santa Claus.” I love how Elvis swings some of the lyrics. (1957)

04. Silent Night: I probably would have saved “Silent Night” for the closer, but what a beautiful recording. For the gentle voice of a 22-year-old to convey this kind of passion and conviction speaks volumes about the faith of Elvis Presley. (1957)

05. O Little Town Of Bethlehem: On the other hand, Elvis’ version of “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” tends to wear on me a bit. Like “White Christmas,” it is an okay performance, but nothing special. Nat King Cole’s 1960 recording tends to be my go-to version of this one. (1957)

06. Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me): It’s more finger-snapping fun on “Santa Bring My Baby Back.” What’s not to love? (1957)

07. Santa Claus Is Back In Town: Here it is, not only Elvis’ best Christmas song, but also one of his best blues numbers – right up there with 1960’s “Reconsider Baby.” When it comes to Elvis performances, they do not get much better than “Santa Claus Is Back In Town.” Incredible. (1957)

08. I’ll Be Home For Christmas: Elvis delivers yet another stunning performance on his classic version of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” This also would have worked as a great album closer. Sound quality is noticeably cleaner here than it was on 1994’s If Every Day Was Like Christmas CD, my previous source. (1957)

09. If Every Day Was Like Christmas: Recorded just a couple of weeks after the session that produced the How Great Thou Art album, the unique “If Every Day Was Like Christmas” makes me wish Elvis had recorded a few more Christmas tunes at this time. This one seems to have slightly more reverb than my previous source on the same 1994 CD. As I’ve not seen any experts make note of this, I assume this reflects the original release. (1966)

10. It Won’t Seem Like Christmas: Flash forward five years now to May 1971 and the sessions that produced Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas, my favorite of his Christmas albums. I used to write off “It Won’t Seem Like Christmas” as too depressing for a Christmas song, but it has definitely grown on me over the years. (1971)

11. If I Get Home On Christmas Day: Though it covers much the same theme as “It Won’t Seem Like Christmas,” “If I Get Home On Christmas Day” sounds much more hopeful. A very enjoyable performance. (1971)

12. Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees: Written by Elvis’ longtime friend Red West, “Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees” takes its place among the best of Elvis’ Christmas recordings. (1971)

13. Merry Christmas Baby [Album Master]: While it does not quite meet the stature of “Santa Claus Is Back In Town,” “Merry Christmas Baby” is another solid blues take on the holiday season by Elvis. This studio jam ran for well over eight minutes, about 5:45 of which appeared on the Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas album. The single version, edited to 3:15, does not appear in The Complete Masters Collection. (1971)

14. Silver Bells: Elvis delivers a fine rendition of “Silver Bells,” a Christmas classic. (1971)

15. I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day: Written by Michael Jarrett (“I’m Leavin'”), “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day” is a perfect Christmas song for Elvis. I put this one just below “Santa Claus Is Back In Town” as his best Christmas recording ever. Really, one of his best-ever songs, period. It is always a highlight of any album on which it appears. (1971)

16. On A Snowy Christmas Night: Though it does not often get mentioned, I love “On A Snowy Christmas Night,” especially the reminder to “Give thanks for all that you’ve been blessed with and hold your loved ones tight.” (1971)

17. Winter Wonderland: For some reason, many Elvis fans criticize this performance of “Winter Wonderland.” Even Thomas over at Elvis Today Blog, with whom I almost always agree, called it “spiritless.” I don’t hear it that way at all. Perhaps some feel this song should remain in the territory of a performer like Johnny Mathis, whose 1958 version is horrible. For me, Elvis owns “Winter Wonderland” – particularly by adding on his signature ending style. This sounds exactly like “Winter Wonderland” as interpreted by Elvis should: Perfect. (1971)

18. O Come All Ye Faithful: “O Come All Ye Faithful” is the “Silent Night” of the second Christmas album and is just as effective. This is a great arrangement, too. I love the percussion leading into “Sing choirs of angels…” (1971)

19. The First Noel: While I would not call it “spiritless,” Elvis does begin to sound a bit tired on “The First Noel.” To continue the comparison, “The First Noel” is the “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” of the 1971 album. Good, but not great. (1971)

20. The Wonderful World Of Christmas: It is strange that “The Wonderful World Of Christmas,” the weakest song of the 1971 Christmas album session, became the title track. It also does not serve very well as the closing track here. (1971)

As I stated last time, since The Franklin Mint has chosen to theme their CDs anyway, I would have preferred the compiler put more thought into the sequencing. It is much easier to intermingle Elvis’ Christmas music from different decades than many of his other recordings (also true of his gospel music), so this is a missed opportunity on this CD.

However, Christmas With Elvis at least gathers his Christmas masters in one place. It’s really hard to go wrong with an Elvis Christmas CD and this one is no exception. With upgraded audio, I’m all set for the Christmas season in a few months.

* * *

In Part 1 of this review, I mentioned that I was planning to frame the reproduction of the 1954 SUN 45 “That’s All Right” b/w “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” that came with this set. Here are the results, and it looks beautiful.

SUN 209 Reproduction - Framed

I’ve just obtained an RCA vintage-1977 edition of “Way Down” b/w “Pledging My Love” to hang beneath it. Just waiting for the frame to arrive.

Well, that’s four CDs down and … wow … thirty-two to go. Continue to look for future installments here on The Mystery Train Blog. I hope to finish within the next eight or nine years.


(5) “Re: Complete Masters compared/contrasted with Franklin Mint” by Claus, For Elvis CD Collectors Forum, 2010.

Read Part 3.

Check out A Boy From Tupelo track listing

A Boy From Tupelo (concept cover art)

This has been another fantastic week of Elvis release news. Today, Follow That Dream Records revealed the track listing for the long-awaited A Boy From Tupelo: The Complete 1953-55 Recordings, FTD’s SUN boxed set that includes a 512-page book and three CDs. FTD, Sony’s collectors label for Elvis fans, will release the set next month.

It appears that Elvis Matters was the first site to break the track listing news, though I first read about it over on a For Elvis CD Collectors Forum thread started by Greg1995. On that thread, FECC member Good Time Charlie took the time to reformat the track listing to make it more palatable. I’ve used his version for the below, with a few very minor tweaks of my own. A big thank you to Charlie for allowing me to use his work.

Elvis Presley: A Boy From Tupelo – The Complete 1953-55 Recordings

Disc 1: MRS Acetates, The SUN Masters & The RCA Masters

01) My Happiness 2:33
02) That’s When Your Heartaches Begin 2:52
03) I’ll Never Stand In Your Way 2:04
04) It Wouldn’t Be The Same (Without You) 2:09
05) Harbor Lights 2:38
06) I Love You Because 2:43
07) That’s All Right [45 RPM SUN Master] 2:00
08) Blue Moon Of Kentucky [45 RPM SUN Master] 2:07
09) Blue Moon 2:44
10) Tomorrow Night 3:01
11) I’ll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin’) 2:27
12) I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine 2:32
13) Just Because 2:34
14) Good Rockin’ Tonight 2:15
15) Milkcow Blues Boogie [78 RPM SUN Master] 2:39
16) You’re A Heartbreaker [78 RPM SUN Master] 2:13
17) I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone [Slow version] 2:43
18) Baby Let’s Play House 2:19
19) I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone 2:38
20) I Forgot To Remember To Forget 2:31
21) Mystery Train 2:30
22) Tryin’ To Get To You 2:36
23) When It Rains It Pours 2:06
24) That’s All Right 1:59 [RCA single version]
25) Blue Moon Of Kentucky 2:05 [78 RPM SUN Master]
26) I Love You Because 2:45 [RCA LP version – spliced from takes 3 & 5]
27) Tomorrow Night 2:56 [RCA LP version – overdubbed and slowed down]

Tracks 1-2: Self-financed demo recorded July, 1953 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
Source for tracks 1-2: Digital transfer of acetate.

Tracks 3-4: Self-financed demo recorded January 4, 1954 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
Source for tracks 3-4: Digital transfer of acetate in very poor condition.

Track 5 possibly recorded July 5, 1954.
Tracks 6-7 recorded July 5, 1954 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
Sources for tracks 5-6: Original SUN tapes.
Source for track 7: 45 rpm SUN single (plastic).

Track 8: Recorded July 7, 1954 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
Source for track 8: 45 rpm SUN single (plastic).

Track 9: Likely recorded between August 15 and 19, 1954 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
Source for track 9: Original SUN tape.

Tracks 10-14 likely recorded between September 12-16, 1954 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
Sources for tracks 10, 11, 13 and 14: RCA reference tapes (30 ips).
Source for track 12: Digital transfer of SUN tape, with repairs from a digital transfer of a tape copy.

Tracks 15-16 recorded either mid-November or mid-December 1954 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
Sources for tracks 15-16: 78 rpm SUN single (shellac).

Track 17 Recorded between mid-November 1954 and mid-April 1955 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
The reel has March 5 written on it, but Elvis was at the Louisiana Hayride that day.
Source for track 17: Original SUN tape.

Track 18 likely recorded between January 30 and February 4, 1955 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
“I Got a Woman” and “Tryin’ to Get to You” were also recorded, but have been lost.
Source for track 18: RCA reference tape (30 ips).

Track 19 likely recorded mid-April 1955 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
Source for track 19: RCA reference tape (30 ips), with first part of ending from RCA tape copy (15 ips) and last part of ending from digital transfer of the RCA EPA-965 production master tape.

Tracks 20-22 recorded mid-July, 1955 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
Source for track 20: SUN tape copy.
Source for track 21: SUN tape copy, with ending from digital transfer of 78 rpm RCA single.
Source for track 22: RCA reference tape (30 ips).

Track 23 recorded November 1-4, 1955 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
Source for track 23: Original SUN (vocal channel) slapback tape.
Elvis’ 1957 re-recording of the song was released under the title “When It Rains, It Really Pours.”

Source for track 24: RCA reference tape (30 ips).

Source for track 25: Elvis at SUN master, derived from digital transfer of 78 RPM SUN single (shellac).

Track 26: Steve Sholes’ original notes have these takes as 2 & 4.
Source for track 26: RCA master tape.

Source for track 27: 1965 RCA work part tape for the Elvis for Everyone LPM-3450 production master tape.

Disc 2: The SUN Studio Sessions

01) Harbor Lights (takes 1-2, level adjustments) 0:33
02) Harbor Lights (take 3/M) 2:53
03) Harbor Lights (take 4) 2:38
04) Harbor Lights (takes 5-6) 1:23
05) Harbor Lights (take 7) 2:25
06) Harbor Lights (take 8) 0:26
07) I Love You Because (take 1) 0:23
08) I Love You Because (take 2) 3:28
09) I Love You Because (take 3) 3:36
10) I Love You Because (take 4) 0:40
11) I Love You Because (take 5) 3:28
12) That’s All Right (takes 1-2) 0:20
13) That’s All Right (take 3) 1:58
14) Dialogue 0:20
15) Blue Moon Of Kentucky [slow tempo outtake] 1:08
16) Blue Moon (takes 1-3) 0:38
17) Blue Moon (take 4) 2:59
18) Blue Moon (take 5) 3:25
19) Blue Moon (takes 6-7) 0:53
20) Blue Moon (take 8) 3:01
21) Blue Moon (take 9/M) 2:44
22) Dialogue fragment [before “Tomorrow Night”] 0:11
23) I’ll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin’) [incomplete take] 0:49
24) Good Rockin’ Tonight [fragment from vocal slapback tape] 0:10
25) I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine (takes 1-2) 1:13
26) I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine (take 3/M) 2:35
27) I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (slow version, take 1) 3:00
28) I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (slow version, take 2) 2:51
29) I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (slow version, take 3) 2:51
30) I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (slow version, take 4) 0:10
31) I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (slow version, take 5/M) 2:40
32) I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (slow version, take 6) 2:40
33) I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (slow version, take 7) 1:35
34) How Do You Think I Feel (guitar slapback tape, rehearsal + take 1) 3:17
35) How Do You Think I Feel (guitar slapback tape, rehearsals) 1:14
36) When It Rains It Pours (vocal slapback tape, take 1) 1:37
37) When It Rains It Pours (vocal slapback tape, take 2 – rehearsal) 2:12
38) When It Rains It Pours (vocal slapback tape, takes 3-4) 2:14
39) When It Rains It Pours (vocal slapback tape, take 5/M) 2:02
40) When It Rains It Pours (vocal slapback tape, take 6-7) 1:40
41) When It Rains It Pours (vocal slapback tape, take 8) 1:40

Tracks 1-6 possibly recorded July 5, 1954 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
Source for tracks 1-6: Original SUN tape.

Tracks 7-13 recorded July 5, 1954 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
Source for tracks 7-13: Original SUN tape.

Tracks 14-15 likely recorded July 7, 1954 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
Source for tracks 14-15: Digital transfer of SUN tape.

Tracks 16-21 likely recorded between August 15 and 19, 1954 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
Source for tracks 16-21: Original SUN tape.

Tracks 22-26 likely recorded between September 12 and 16, 1954 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
Source for track 22: RCA reference tape (30 ips) for “Tomorrow Night”.
Sources for tracks 23-26: Digital transfers of SUN tapes (also see source note for Disc 1, track 12).

Tracks 27-33 recorded between mid-November 1954 and mid-April 1955 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
The reel has March 5 written on it, but Elvis was at the Louisiana Hayride that day.
Source for tracks 27-33: Original SUN tape.

Tracks 34-35 recorded between mid-November 1954 and mid-April 1955 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
Source for tracks 34-35: Digital transfer of SUN (guitar channel) slapback tape.

Tracks 36-41 recorded between November 1-4, 1955 at SUN Studio, Memphis.
Source for tracks 36-41: Original SUN (vocal channel) slapback tape.

Disc 3: Live & Radio Performances

01) That’s All Right 2:52
02) Blue Moon Of Kentucky 2:23
03) Shake, Rattle And Roll 2:24
04) Fool, Fool, Fool 1:59
05) Hearts Of Stone 2:02
06) That’s All Right 1:52
07) Tweedlee Dee 2:51
08) Shake, Rattle And Roll 2:23
09) KSIJ Radio commercial with DJ Tom Perryman 0:16
10) Money Honey 2:43
11) Blue Moon Of Kentucky 2:04
12) I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine 2:33
13) That’s All Right 1:54
14) Tweedlee Dee 2:15
15) Money Honey 2:17
16) Hearts Of Stone 1:37
17) Shake, Rattle And Roll 1:39
18) Little Mama 2:03
19) You’re A Heartbreaker 2:06
20) Good Rockin’ Tonight 2:36
21) Baby Let’s Play House 2:22
22) Blue Moon Of Kentucky 1:47
23) I Got A Woman 3:03
24) That’s All Right 2:17
25) Tweedlee Dee 2:47
26) Interview with Mae Boren Axton 3:19
27) That’s All Right 2:37
28) I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone 3:16
29) Baby Let’s Play House 3:19
30) Maybellene 3:09
31) That’s All Right 2:49
32) Interview with Bob Neal 5:31

Tracks 1-2 recorded at Louisiana Hayride debut, Shreveport, Louisiana, October 16, 1954.
Source for tracks 1-2: RCA reference tape copy.

Tracks 3-4 recorded at KDAV Radio, Lubbock, Texas, January 6, 1955.
Source for tracks 3-4: Digital transfer of acetate.

Tracks 5-7 likely recorded at the Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, Louisiana, January 15, 1955.
Source for tracks 5-7: Digital transfer of acetate in very poor condition.
Some parts duplicated and edited to create near-complete performances.

Track 8 recorded at WJOI Radio, Florence, Alabama January 19, 1955.
Source for track 8: Digital transfer of acetate in poor condition.

Track 9 recorded at KSIJ Radio, Gladewater, Texas, 1955.
Source for track 9: Digital transfer.

Tracks 10-13 likely recorded at the Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, Louisiana, January 22, 1955.
Source for tracks 10-13: Digital transfer of acetate in very poor condition. Some parts duplicated and edited to create near-complete performances.

Tracks 14-19 likely recorded at the Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, Louisiana, March 5, 1955.
Source for tracks 14-19: Digital transfer of fragments of acetate in very poor condition (which was destroyed in the process). Some parts duplicated and edited to create near-complete performances.

Tracks 20-24 likely recorded at the Eagles’ Hall, Houston, Texas, March 19, 1955. Track 21 could be from a different performance the same week.
Source for tracks 20-24: RCA reference tape copy.

Track 25 recorded at Gladewater High School, Gladewater, Texas, April 30, 1955.
Source for tracks 25: RCA reference tape copy.

Track 26 recorded at motel in Jacksonville, Florida on either May 12 or July 28, 1955.
Source for track 26: Digital transfer of 1981 BBC broadcast tape copy.

Track 27 recorded at the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Festival, Meridian, Mississippi, May 26, 1955.
Source for track 27: Broadcast tape.

Track 28 recorded at the Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, Louisiana, July 2, 1955.
Source for track 28: Digital transfer of acetate in very poor condition. Some parts duplicated and edited to create near-complete performance.

Tracks 29-31 recorded at the Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, Louisiana, August 20, 1955.
Source for tracks 29-31: RCA reference tape copies.

Track 32 recorded at WMPS Radio, Memphis Tennessee, between August 29-31, 1955.
Source for track 32: Digital transfer.

* * *

A Boy From Tupelo looks like it will indeed be the definitive SUN set. I’m most looking forward to hearing the original SUN 45 RPM version of “That’s All Right.” I’ve only heard the RCA version, which has added echo.

In Other News…

One of the many reasons I finally pounced on Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection was to obtain the Vic Anesini mastering of Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden, which has been in dire need of an audio upgrade since its original CD release in the early 1990s. As soon as I placed the order, I thought, “Now everyone will have to thank me for finally buying it, as this will guarantee a Sony Legacy Edition release of Madison Square Garden in the near future.” This kind of thing happens to me all the time, you see.

Sure enough, Sony recently announced a Legacy Edition release of As Recorded At Madison Square Garden. So, you’re welcome!

The Legacy Edition, due in October for the US, will contain a remastered version (presumably, Anesini’s) of the original album using the vintage mix of the June 10, 1972, Evening Show. Sony will couple it with the June 10, 1972, Afternoon Show, previously released as An Afternoon In The Garden, to make a nice two-disc set. Since I already have the upgraded As Recorded At Madison Square Garden on The Complete Masters Collection, I’ll be skipping this Legacy Edition.

However, Sony is releasing another Madison Square Garden set at the same time. Prince From Another Planet: As Recorded At Madison Square Garden is a three-disc set consisting of two CDs and one DVD. The CDs will contain new mixes of both of the June 10 shows by Michael Brauer (i.e., this is not the vintage As Recorded At Madison Square Garden mix that will be on the Legacy Edition).

Since the historic mix has been properly preserved, this is a chance to do something different. I’m excited to hear what Brauer has come up with for these shows.

The 40-minute DVD will contain portions of Elvis’ Madison Square Garden press conference (a favorite of mine) and live performance material from the show. To date, no video footage of the Madison Square Garden shows has been officially released, so that alone makes Prince From Another Planet a must-have for fellow fans of this Elvis era.

So, something funny happened when I was Googling for more information on Prince From Another Planet. I found out that I named it!

Well, not really. However, I came across my own comment from July 3, 2011, on this very blog in the search results:

“[C]an you imagine… a 5 CD set, the 1972 equivalent of ‘Young Man With The Big Beat,’ containing the 3 CDs I mentioned above [the remaining April 1972 ‘Elvis On Tour’ shows], plus the two Garden shows to round out the other 2 CDs? Call it ‘A Prince From Another Planet.’ Then, the Garden shows could be a Legacy Edition as a separate release as well (much like the ‘Elvis Presley’ Legacy Edition is to the 1956 boxed set).”

I had forgotten all about this and was literally shocked to read my own words. I’m sure it’s a total coincidence, of course.

(In case it’s not a coincidence, though, and Sony is really reading this little blog – just give me a call, because I have plenty more Elvis ideas. I’ll be waiting by the phone.)

REVIEW: Elvis – The Complete Masters Collection (Part 1)

A day long remembered

The package first arrived here 58 years to the day of Elvis Presley making his first record. However, I was not home to sign for it the afternoon of July 5. That would have been just too cool. Instead, on July 6, the special delivery successfully made its way inside my front door.

For over two years now, I have been living vicariously through reviews and other online postings of fellow fans who obtained either the budget-friendly Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection from The Franklin Mint or its rich cousin, Sony’s The Complete Elvis Presley Masters. Now, I can finally experience these masters for myself.

Background: A tale of two sets

Sony’s The Complete Elvis Presley Masters (2010) is a 30-CD set containing 711 master recordings and 103 “rarities” (alternates, informal recordings, rehearsals, etc.). It also includes a 240-page book and a massive, foldout display case. For the most part, songs are sequenced in the order in which Elvis recorded them. Sony’s premium release is, no doubt, a luxurious and finely packaged collection of Elvis music.

Franklin Mint’s Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection (2009) is a 36-CD set that contains the same 711 master recordings, but none of the rarities. It includes a 24-page booklet, a record-player-inspired display case, and a reproduction of Elvis’ first single, the SUN record “That’s All Right” backed with “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” Each of the CDs has a theme, so songs often appear in a non-standard order.

Perhaps the packaging and sequencing of the Franklin Mint set are chintzy in comparison with the Sony version, but it does check in at about half the price. It also includes individual sleeves for the CDs, while the more expensive Sony version has them inserted into the cardboard of the display case. Both sets are occasionally on sale, so if you are in the market for either one, be patient and avoid paying full price.

Decisions, decisions

Ultimately, once a good deal synched up with my budget, I chose the Franklin Mint set. I bought it well aware that the packaging and presentation would be lesser than that of the Sony set. “Never judge a book by its cover” is an adage I have long heeded. In this case, I decided to take a chance and hope that “Never judge a CD set by its packaging” would hold just as true.

For me, as always, it is all about the music. With this Franklin Mint set, I now have the identical 711 Elvis masters as presented on the Sony set. I have been buying Elvis CDs for over twenty years, so my music library already had nearly all of the masters in some form. Sound quality, mixes, and masterings vary widely in those two decades worth of CDs. My goal was to achieve a more uniform sound quality by upgrading my Elvis masters to Vic Anesini’s remastered versions from 2007.

Sony’s Elvis chief, Ernst Jorgensen, explains:

“In March of 2007 SONY decided to go through all Elvis masters […]. We retransferred everything [and] remastered all tracks including repairing as many clicks, pops, bad edits and dropouts as we could. Vic Anesini spent literally hundreds of hours on the project, as did Sebastian Jeansson, who worked as our audio consultant […] tirelessly pushing Vic and I to try new ways of improving the sound (1).”

Selections from the 2007 remasters have also appeared sporadically on other releases – including Elvis 75: Good Rockin’ Tonight, I Believe: The Gospel Masters, and various Legacy Edition releases. With some exceptions, I have attempted to avoid collecting these individual releases, as I have known I would eventually buy one of the full sets.

Most of the Anesini remasters feature the original mixes from Elvis’ lifetime. The most notable category of exceptions is that stereo mixes were favored over mono mixes for applicable 1960s and 1970s singles. I would love to hear a subsequent compilation with the original mono mixes to those singles. The mono singles released on the Legacy Edition of From Elvis In Memphis are terrific.

As with the masters, I already have all of the so-called “rarities” in my collection from other releases. Most reviews indicate that the sound upgrades on the rarities are negligible compared to that of the masters. Even with Sony’s larger set, the 711 masters are the real stars. [For the purposes of this discussion, I am going to defer to what Sony considers the 711 masters released during Elvis’ lifetime, rather than using my personal list.]

Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection (Booklet Cover)

Now that The Complete Masters Collection is finally here, what am I going to do with it? To quote Elvis, “Just play it, man, play the @!#?@! out of it!”

No doubt, my next mission is to play all 711 tracks, some 31 hours of music. The real question is, in what order should I listen? It would seem that I have at least three options:

  • Recording order (essentially synching with the Sony set)
  • Release order (based on his original albums and singles)
  • Thematic order (based on the Franklin Mint compilations)

Originally, I was leaning towards recording order. However, using my existing library, I have previously explored Elvis’ lifetime releases in both release order and recording order.

Instead, I have decided to “embrace the themes” for my first listen to this set. After all, I bought the Franklin Mint set, not the Sony set, so I want to try it out in the manner they presented before changing it around to suit my tastes. Besides, I think it will be fun to listen to these songs in such a non-standard way.

Originally, I did not plan to write a formal review of the set. First of all, it is nearly three years old. Most people have already made up their minds as to whether to buy this one. Second, properly reviewing a 36-CD set is a massive undertaking. The closest thing I have done to this before is reviewing 2006’s Superman: The Ultimate Collector’s Edition, a 14-DVD set. My eleven-part review took me nine months to complete. That’s right, it takes women the same amount of time to have babies as does for me to review a Superman DVD set.

Forget Superman, though. This is Elvis! Not only that, but the 2007 remastering effort rates among the top three or four most important Presley projects since his death in 1977. How could I not take a moment, or several, to review them on my little blog devoted to Elvis?

So, a couple of years late, but just as enthusiastic as I would have been back then, I now begin my review of Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection.


The Franklin Mint set arrives relatively well-secured in a large white shipping box. The black display case comes bubble-wrapped and also surrounded in the box by four padded envelopes, labeled 1 through 4.

The first envelope contains the SUN record reproduction, the booklet, a needless certificate of authenticity, an equally needless welcome letter, and the first three CDs. Though I think this service is no longer available, Franklin Mint originally provided a subscription option for the set, where you could buy three CDs a month. Of course, the overall cost was more expensive that way. Since the first shipment to subscribers also included the display case and record, the first three discs are more like samplers with extremely short running times.

The subscription option also explains the relatively short running times of most other discs in the set. While the Sony set presents 814 tracks spread over 30 discs, the Mint spreads its 711 tracks over 36 discs. More discs meant the subscription lasted longer. The subscription model probably contributed as well to the decision to arrange the songs in themes rather than simply placing them in recording order. Otherwise, 1950s fans might have canceled out right after the last 1958 song, while 1970s fans may have tired of waiting to get to their favorite decade.

The remaining envelopes contain the other 33 discs. Each disc is housed in a lightweight card stock sleeve – reminiscent of the ones used in the ELVIS: The Complete ’68 Comeback Special CD set, but not as wide.

Each sleeve is individually shrink-wrapped. Unfortunately, two or three of the sleeves arrived with creases in them. I am not truly a “collector” as such, and the damage did not affect the actual CDs, so I was not concerned enough about this to request replacements, which I am sure Franklin Mint would have provided. Plus, I will not be upset when I inevitably damage one of the sleeves myself at some point since the set already has its first dents.

Though I know it has been criticized in some circles, I actually rather like the art design on Franklin Mint’s sleeve covers and disc labels. Incidentally, the back cover of each Franklin Mint CD sleeve includes RCA, Legacy, and Franklin Mint logos. Each disc contains the RCA and Legacy logos and is noted as a product of RCA/JIVE Label Group, a unit of Sony Music Entertainment.

Display case

Where's The Latch?

If only Franklin Mint had invested another few dollars into the display case, it might have been special. At a glance, it appears like a quality item. The “gold”-embossed depiction of a classic Elvis pose on top is perfect. Though it includes a carrying handle, the fatal flaw of the case is that it inexplicably has no latch to lock the top.

The Paper Record PlayerUnderneath the covers, things get worse. First, there is a faux record player illustration. Though I have no plans of leaving it there, the SUN 45 is apparently supposed to reside on it. Underneath this layer are the slotted compartments that house the CDs.

The CDs are difficult to place in the poorly-designed slots. The cheap slot trays also feel as if they could break away from the bottom of the display case at any moment. By the time I made it to disc 36, though, I finally had the hang of it.

CD BinThe display case could have been so much more with just an inexpensive tweak or two. Instead, it is barely functional. Fortunately, I do not plan to remove the original discs very often.


The barebones booklet begins with a one-page, marketing-style introduction (uncredited). The remaining pages note the theme and track listings of each CD. Though this is probably the easiest way to find a specific song on the 36 discs, no one is buying this set in order to obtain this meager booklet. The booklet is noted as a product of Sony Music Entertainment.

45-RPM single

SUN 209 reproductionAs I said before, my interest in this set is about the music. What better way to represent the music of Elvis Presley than to include a wonderful reproduction of the very record that started it all? This is the closest I can come right now to owning SUN 209: “That’s All Right”/”Blue Moon Of Kentucky” by “Elvis Presley, Scotty and Bill.” Given the shortcomings of the rest of this set’s accessories, this incredible record is a welcome surprise. In fact, I like it so much that I have ordered a frame for it. Maybe someday I can swap out this reproduction for the real thing.

A brief note on sources

Before I begin the actual CD reviews, I want to acknowledge the spectacular coverage of Vic Anesini’s remastering efforts on these 711 tracks over on the For Elvis CD Collectors forum. Members elvissessions, luckyjackson1, Matthew, Claus, and others are far more knowledgeable than I am on the particulars of the Elvis masters. While the opinions I present are my own, I have consulted their observations many times over to expand the context of my listening experience. Here are links to some of the relevant threads:

CD Vol. 1: Songs Of The Fifties

Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection - Volume 1This volume gives a brief sampling of songs that Elvis recorded between 1954 and 1958. Appropriately, the image on the cover and CD is derived from his debut album, 1956’s Elvis Presley.

01. That’s All Right: And we’re off! This journey has a perfect beginning, too, with the A-Side of Elvis’ first record. There’s something special about “That’s All Right.” Though this was originally a blues number, you can hear the joy in his voice. (Recorded: 1954)

02. Heartbreak Hotel: Leaving the SUN years behind for now, the set now moves to the A-Side of Elvis’ first new record with RCA. I love Scotty Moore’s guitar solo on “Heartbreak Hotel,” segueing into Floyd Cramer on piano. (1956)

03. I Was The One: Flip “Heartbreak Hotel” over and you get one of my all-time favorites, “I Was The One.” You can definitely hear a new maturity in his voice here versus the raw SUN years. (1956)

04. Don’t Be Cruel: This is the A-Side of what was arguably his most popular single. In July 1956, with “Hound Dog” as the B-Side, Elvis fans must have had a hard time deciding which side of this record to play first. As for me, I’m definitely more of a “Don’t Be Cruel” kinda guy. Scotty Moore’s opening guitar lick sells this one right from the start. (1956)

05. When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again: Is it country? Is it rock ‘n’ roll? Does it matter? Though lesser known, “When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again” is one of those perfect “Elvis blend” songs, and his delivery oozes cool. (1956)

06. (There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me): While in the midst of a public controversy regarding rock ‘n’ roll, Elvis records a gospel EP – naturally. Though the song suffers from overexposure on too many compilations these days, “Peace In The Valley” features another stellar vocal performance from Elvis. (1957)

07. My Wish Came True: Six perfect songs in a row, and the title of this next tune reflects what I’m thinking. Unfortunately, though, the trend does not continue. Elvis receives much criticism for the overblown nature of some of his 1970s song arrangements, including the background vocalists. Overpowering background vocals on Elvis recordings did not begin in that decade, though, as evidenced by the positively obnoxious vocals of the Jordanaires and Millie Kirkham on “My Wish Came True.” I often wish for a “Jordanaires mute button,” but this is one of those times where I would like a “Millie Kirkham mute button,” too. A good song ruined. (1957)

08. Doncha’ Think It’s Time [Single Master]: It took me years to warm up to this song, but now I absolutely love it. This is Elvis at his coolest. Just listen to that laid-back, yet effective vocal. This is a case where a B-Side outshines the A-Side in terms of quality. (1958)

09. Wear My Ring Around Your Neck: What do you get when you take 45-seconds of mediocre song and repeat them three times? The boring “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck,” which was the A-Side of “Doncha’ Think It’s Time.” (1958)

10. I Got Stung: “I Got Stung” is a song that just tries too hard, bordering on parody at times. Notably, this is one of only five songs that Elvis formally recorded while in the Army. (1958)

While a very short CD, Songs Of The Fifties is comparable in length to albums of that time period (e.g., For LP Fans Only and 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong). In the CD era, we have become accustomed to longer albums.

The disc does an effective job of presenting a high-level overview of his 1950s recordings, acting as a teaser for subsequent albums in the collection. It touches on the SUN era, his early RCA records, gospel, and his final professional recordings as he entered the Army. The only songs notably lacking are tunes from his first four movies. Sound quality is stellar throughout.

CD Vol. 2: Songs Of The Sixties

Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection - Volume 2This volume samples 1960 through 1969. The famous cover shot is from the 1968 ELVIS television special, though none of its songs feature in this volume.

01. It’s Now Or Never: Based on the Italian song “O Sole Mio,” “It’s Now Or Never” became one of Elvis’ big hits after he returned from the Army. A good song, though I much prefer “Are You Lonesome Tonight” from the same era. (1960)

02. Blue Hawaii: The set’s first movie song, “Blue Hawaii” features Elvis in fine form. (1961)

03. Good Luck Charm: “Good Luck Charm” is one of those simple but fun songs that would have been right at home in his 1950s repertoire. (1961)

04. (You’re The) Devil In Disguise: Here is a terrific, 40-second song. Rather than fully developing beyond that, however, it just repeats over and over until it is long enough to be a single. I love the clap-filled instrumental break near the end of this hit, though. “Devil In Disguise” is not one of his greatest, but it is definitely a fun song. (1963)

05. What’d I Say: Wow, this song finally sounds as wonderful as I remember it from the vinyl days! My previous CD source, 1993’s Double Features: Viva Las Vegas/Roustabout, sounds abysmal and often makes me avoid this song. This huge sound improvement has me playing this one over and over now. Incredible. Ray Charles owns the definitive version of “What’d I Say,” of course, but there’s still much of interest here in this performance for Elvis fans. They could have toned down the kazoo a touch for my tastes, though. (1963)

06. I’m Yours [Single Master]: The single version of “I’m Yours” is actually new to me. Unlike the version from Pot Luck, the single lacks Elvis’ harmony vocals and recitation overdubs. Background instrumentation ruins both versions of “I’m Yours.” I hardly ever play the album version, and I doubt this single version will get much play, either. Still, it is an interesting variant to finally have in my collection. Maybe it is the sound quality and the relative “newness,” but after repeated plays, this one seemed to grow on me a little. Incidentally, to this point in the collection, all of the tracks within a particular themed CD have been presented in recording order. “I’m Yours” is the first that is out of sequence. I assume the compiler moved it here as a buffer so that the “dirty” “What’d I Say” would not have to transition right into the gospel “How Great Thou Art.” (1961)

07. How Great Thou Art: Elvis creates a true masterpiece with “How Great Thou Art,” one of his most beautiful recordings. The How Great Thou Art album went on to earn Elvis his first Grammy. I consider this session the opening round of the comeback. (1966)

08. I’ll Remember You: I first knew “I’ll Remember You” from the live version on Aloha From Hawaii. In fact, I wrongly thought for years that it was one of the “new” songs for that show. When From Nashville To Memphis came out in 1993, the studio version was a revelation to me. In addition to Elvis’ smooth vocals, I love Buddy Harman’s tympani work on this. (1966)

09. In The Ghetto: Hot off the heels of the ELVIS special, Elvis returned to the studio and the top of the charts. Though I prefer the alternate takes with simpler backgrounds, “In The Ghetto” is a classic not to be missed. (1969)

10. Kentucky Rain: “Kentucky Rain” is country, Elvis style, and another of his best-ever recordings. Listen to that musical “thunder” – reminiscent of “How Great Thou Art,” actually. (1969)

Elvis recorded more songs in the 1960s than any other decade. It is difficult to cover such a broad range of material with only 10 songs. Given that limitation, Songs Of The Sixties is effective. While the first disc started with a bang and ended with a fizzle, this one starts with a fizzle and ends with a bang.

CD Vol. 3: Songs Of The Seventies

Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection - Volume 3You folks are pretty smart, so I bet you have already guessed that Songs Of The Seventies provides a sampling of songs Elvis recorded in the 1970s.

01. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me: What a poor choice of song to begin this CD. Unfortunately, it seems the compiler continues to feel compelled to go in recording order within the confines of each disc. Why not take advantage of the theme concept and be a little more creative? That being said, “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” is a fine performance. It just should not be the leadoff track. (1970)

02. Love Letters [Re-recording]: This is not one of my favorite songs, no matter the version. I usually give this re-recording of “Love Letters” a slight edge over Elvis’ 1966 original, though. (1970)

03. Patch It Up: This is the version of “Patch It Up” that should have been included on the original That’s The Way It Is album, rather than the comparatively weak live performance. Great song. (1970)

04. We Can Make The Morning: This stunning performance is all too often overlooked. “We Can Make The Morning” starts out as a quiet, unassuming song and builds into a powerful vocal showcase. (1971)

05. Where Do I Go From Here: “”Where Do I Go From Here” is a good, but ultimately unremarkable, performance. Using these lyrics, I think Story Without Meaning would make a good album title, though. (1972)

06. Burning Love: How can the compiler include “Burning Love” on this CD and not use it as the leadoff track? Anyway, this is the song that proved to doubters that Elvis could still rock in the 1970s. “Burning Love” is one of those all-time classics that I just have to crank up each time it comes on. The mix on this is awesome, too! (1972)

07. It’s A Matter Of Time: Turn “Burning Love” over and you get its flipside, “It’s A Matter Of Time.” This is an okay song that works well as a B-Side. It offers pleasant enough support without overshadowing the A-Side. Oddly, this 10-song compilation includes a full half of the cuts released during Elvis’ lifetime from this 1972 studio session. Why not space them out a bit? (1972)

08. Raised On Rock: I searched for this song for years when I was growing up. I assumed it would be a rocker in the same vein as “Burning Love.” When I finally found a used 45 of it, I realized, boy, was I wrong. Ironically, “Raised On Rock” sounds more like country than rock ‘n’ roll. It is an all right song, but not one that I play too often. As Elvis once said, “That don’t move me.” (1973)

09. Promised Land: Unfortunately, this track begins with a flaw. The first split-second of “Promised Land” is missing. On FECC, this has been referred to as the “missing initial cowbell strike” (2), though I believe the beginning of the guitar lick is also chopped. I wondered if an absent cowbell strike would really make a difference for someone like me, who is not an audiophile. Now that I can play the track on my own system, yes, it is very obvious that the song starts in progress, and it does ruin the beginning of “Promised Land.” Sony corrected the issue in time for the subsequent pressing of the 4-CD set Elvis 75: Good Rockin’ Tonight. However, unbelievably, Sony issued its premium The Complete Elvis Presley Masters over ten months later with this error again present on “Promised Land” (3). Apparently, the “glass master” used to create the CD had already been finalized for that release well in advance (4). For one of Elvis Presley’s best performances, of any decade, I find this completely unacceptable – particularly on a premium release like the Sony set. In reality, they should have fixed this one on both sets. For what it is worth, the rest of the track sounds terrific. You will want to source it from Good Rockin’ Tonight, though. Can you imagine if the first split-second of “Don’t Be Cruel” had been chopped off? I guarantee, glass master or not, this would have been fixed. For me, “Promised Land” should be treated the same way. In fact, I personally like “Promised Land” more than “Don’t Be Cruel.” A sacrilege, I know. (1973)

10. Bringin’ It Back: “Bringin’ It Back” is one of Elvis’ most modern-sounding recordings. This beautiful song is my absolute favorite of the Hollywood sessions that produced Elvis Today. (1975)

And with that, the disc ends . . . because, as we all know, Elvis did not record anything after 1975. Oh wait! That’s right, the 1976 Graceland sessions and the 1977 live recordings have been snubbed on Songs Of The Seventies.

Out of the three sampler discs, this one seems the most haphazard – as if the compiler really did not “get” Elvis in the 1970s. Overall, it is a disappointing disc – made worse by the error on “Promised Land.”

Speaking of “Promised Land,” why would someone include both “Promised Land” and “Burning Love” on the same disc of a 36-CD collection? Elvis recorded so few rockers in the studio in the 1970s, yet two of them are used up right off the bat here on a 10-song CD. “Promised Land” (complete with the first cowbell strike) should have been saved for a later disc, while a much more representative 10-song sampler for the 1970s should have been compiled.

Though not as cohesive as the first two volumes, Songs Of The Seventies manages to work only because of the strong Elvis performances.

* * *

What is really important here, though, is not the thematic song selections or the sequencing, but the sound, the sound, the sound. Sometimes, I wish I were an audiophile, because I might be able to more effectively communicate to you how incredible it is to hear all of these songs – recorded over a span of some 21 years – in such a uniform and pristine sound quality.

However, I am not going to lie to you. While I could tell at least a slight difference on most songs, on some songs, I could not hear any difference compared to my existing CD versions from 2006 or earlier. To an extent, the point of these masters is to duplicate the sound of the original releases from Elvis’ lifetime. With that in mind, it is probably to be expected that there is not a huge difference on every single track. In addition, I am sure my amateur ears are missing many subtleties.

For me, the most striking upgrade so far is “What’d I Say.” I just keep playing that one. It is like rediscovering an old friend.

“Rediscovering old friends,” maybe that best sums up being on this new journey through Elvis’ complete masters. Look for future installments here on The Mystery Train Blog.


(1) “Re: ISRCs ‘Franklin Mint Set’ (Selected Discs Only)” by Ernst Jørgensen, For Elvis CD Collectors Forum, 2009.
(2) “Re: Complete Masters compared/contrasted with Franklin Mint” by elvissessions, For Elvis CD Collectors Forum, 2010.
(3) “Re: … and the BEST about the SONY BOX is … CONTINUED…” by luckyjackson1, For Elvis CD Collectors Forum, 2010.
(4) “Re: Out of a possible 10 – Rate the Complete Elvis Masters Box?” by Matthew, For Elvis CD Collectors Forum, 2011.

Read Part 2.