Double Post: A Trip Down 2012/Top Ten Elvis News Stories of 2012 (So Far…)

Welcome to a special, super-sized edition of The Mystery Train Blog. This double post features a guest piece by Kees of the Elvis Day By Day blog, as well as an entry by me. This is also going out simultaneously on the Elvis Day By Day blog, marking the first formal collaboration between our two sites. Kees, take it away. –Ty

A Trip Down 2012

by Kees, Elvis Day By Day blog

One of the big pros of the world wide web is that it brings people together. Through our blogs, Ty and I met and decided to look back at some of the highlights of the 35th anniversary year. This year, I blogged over 150 posts, often with multiple news items in each one. That means the Elvis world is very much alive. Picking a top 10 wasn’t easy, so I picked ten items that stuck with me as a fan and listed them chronologically.

January 08 – Cool

Elvis Chante CDSome highlights are very simple, on this day the French Elvis My Happiness fan club announced the release of the book Le Jour Ou Elvis Chante A Paris. Although my French isn’t good enough to read the book, I was stunned by the cool image on the promotional CD that came with it. That’s one cool dude.

January 26 – For God And Country

For God And Country set3764 Blvd. Publishing announced the release of the deluxe book, CD, and later vinyl set For God And Country. I really like this ‘last’ concert Elvis Presley performed as a ‘rocker’ and blame the Colonel for not professionally recording it.

The label met stiff competition when the UK-based Memphis Recording Service released the same 1961 Hawaiian concert a few months later. Fan reactions were both positive and negative (beautiful book, mixed on the remastering of the sound). The 3764 Blvd. edition is still set for release this summer, this time facing competition from plans of the official Follow That Dream collectors label.

February 06 – #1

Elvis Presley albumSpeaking of cool covers, the cover of Elvis Presley’s debut album topped Shortlist.com‘s 50 Coolest Albums of All Time list. Besides calling the cover ‘iconic’ and taking note of classic hits such as “Blue Suede Shoes,” the Shortlist refers to John Lennon’s quote, “Before Elvis there was nothing,” and describes “the boy from Tupelo, MS” as a catalyst for rock ‘n’ roll. I can’t agree more with the website. I have this album hanging on my wall, and it never bores me. It is very energetic.

March 27 – Welcome Home Elvis

Welcome Home Elvis bookThe Follow That Dream collectors label has recently branched out with other parties for their releases. The first one with the Behind The Image team didn’t work out, and neither did the Fashion For A King book with the Norwegian Flaming Star fan club, as it was filled with grammatical errors. However, with the Welcome Home Elvis book, the Danish / Norwegian team came back with a bang presenting a really cool King in a very cool book. With these books, I always have to think back on Ger Riff’s book. Wouldn’t it be great if the Follow that Dream label teamed with the master himself?

April 02 – Almost April Fool

Blue Suede FakesI kind of felt like a fool for not noticing that the previous announcement of the auction of a pair of blue suede shoes, said to be signed by Elvis Presley in 1956, were not the right ones. The two pairs of shoes on the images that I posted with the article were not the same type of shoes. It would have been a great April Fools’ Day joke if it had been planned just one day earlier.

April 16 – Bootleg Elvis

Bootleg Elvis bookThe book Bootleg Elvis was first mentioned on the For Elvis CD Collectors forum in 2011. In April of this year, the five collectors behind the book sent out the first official press release. Besides Ernst Jorgensen’s SUN book, this is the #2 book on my really-need-to-buy-this-year list. I know there are a lot of Elvis Presley bootlegs around, for I’ve collected quite a few of them. Being from the younger generation, though, my collection consists mainly of CDs. This book will hopefully give me a look into Elvis bootlegging history on vinyl. I’ll probably find some nice items to look for.

April 23 – Finally FTD Information

FTD World bookOne of the things the Follow That Dream label lacked from day one is information: on releases, planning, ship dates, and, most important of all, background in accompanying booklets. The label bought the official Follow That Dream URL and has the foremost Elvis Presley expert, Ernst Jorgensen, as the producer heading the team, so what is holding them up?

A lot of fans volunteered to step in, and the Japanese Elvis For Sound Fans Only fan club actually did. I don’t have their book on the first 111 FTD releases, but it deserves a spot on this list for their initiative! I’ll have to find a copy to see what the book covers. For now, I can do with the review from The Elvis Information Network.

May 06 – A Trip Down Memory Lane

Graceland bookThe Boxcar release Graceland Through The Years: 1957–1977 was first announced four years ago in an interview on the Elvis Information Network website. On this day, the label showed the result of four years of work.

I must say, I’m really looking forward to this one. I have the official EPE book, and I walked the grounds of Graceland in person over ten years ago. I expect this book to be a well-documented trip down memory lane.

May 16 – The Work Of A Man From Denmark

May 15, 2012 marks the day of the first real glimpse into the actual FTD SUN release. The Official UK Elvis Presley fan club beat the official announcement of the release of A Boy From Tupelo by one day. Speaking of days, I’m counting the days until I hold this five-kilo Holy Grail of the Elvis world in my hands. I’ve always had a real soft spot for the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, and now I can experience it as complete as it will probably ever get.

May 26 – Volume Five

The fifth volume in The Elvis Files book series from the Norwegian Flaming Star fan club was released. The series documents Elvis Presley’s life and achievements in a very informative and well illustrated manner. It is a bit overhyped, has some flaws, and seems to simply collect some of the material from the internet. Still, there is nothing Elvis that compares to this body of work, so it stands out as the “Illustrated Biography” of Elvis Presley. The fifth volume documents the years 1969 and 1970, when Elvis became king of the whole wide world again. Besides the first six years of his public life, these years are the most iconic.

Back to you Ty!

Top Ten Elvis News Stories of 2012 (So Far…)

by Ty, The Mystery Train Blog

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. With almost half of 2012 already in the record books, this seems like a good time to look back at the ten best stories so far this year.

#10 A revitalized dream
In 2012, noted Elvis soundboard expert Ciscoking began consulting with Sony’s Follow That Dream collectors label for Elvis fans. The first result of that collaboration was April’s Another Saturday Night, capturing a previously unreleased 1975 concert in Shreveport, Louisiana. Involving an extremely knowledgeable fan is a huge step forward for FTD’s sometimes dubious soundboard series. Earlier this month, Elvis Presley Enterprises’ official Elvis.com site showed some love for the label by rolling out a rejuvenated FTD section – complete with audio clips, posters, and movie trailers. Ciscoking has hinted that a dedicated FTD site may finally be on the way, but the Elvis.com section at least provides a temporary destination for those wanting to learn more about the various releases.

#09 Celebrating Elvis, the father
Lisa Marie Presley in February launched a new exhibit at Graceland, “Elvis… Through His Daughter’s Eyes.” Nine-years-old when her father passed away, Lisa Marie presents memories of her time with him. The exhibit includes home movies, toys, and even Lisa Marie’s crib. All too often, Elvis today is seen only as an image or trademark – like Mickey Mouse. Lisa Marie’s very personal exhibit instead places a much-needed focus on the real man behind that image.

#08 Tour Graceland without leaving home
In March, Elvis.com rolled out 360-degree, panoramic tours of Graceland’s exterior, foyer, den, and racquetball building/trophy room. What better way to entice fans to visit in person than to allow a virtual preview? The real question is, will the forthcoming virtual Elvis live in virtual Graceland? While I love the virtual Graceland concept, I have to admit, the thought of a virtual Elvis (in 2D “hologram” form) creeps me out. Virtual Graceland Trophy Room

#07 I Am An Elvis By Request Fan
In May, Sony Music solicited online votes from fans on which Elvis songs should appear on a new CD, I Am An Elvis Fan. Unfortunately, Sony restricted the voting choices to less than a hundred of the 700-plus Elvis masters – not to mention thousands of alternate and live cuts released since his death. Sony Music Australia took this concept one step further in June. For Sony Music Australia’s Elvis By Request 2-CD set, fans can vote for any Elvis master, as well as many tracks released since 1977. I’ve pre-ordered both CDs, but I’m most looking forward to the Australian edition.

#06 Sweetening through the ages
The most interesting Elvis releases these days tend to be not from the main Sony label, but from the FTD label. In March, FTD released Our Memories Of Elvis Volumes 1, 2, & 3. The 2-CD set contains the original 1979 and 1980 albums, as well as a third volume and additional tracks prepared but never released. The concept is simple, the recordings have been remixed to remove certain instruments and background vocalists to strip them down to a “pure” sound. While the results may still be artificial compared to truly undubbed versions, it is still an intriguing concept and a welcome release.

#05 Grace through the storm
Lisa Marie Presley released her third album in May, Storm & Grace. Her best release yet, the album is consistent, well-written, well-performed, and well-produced. My favorite songs on the album are “Over Me,” “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” “So Long” and “Un-break.” The other tracks are solid as well.

#04 “Some of y’all never been down South too much”
In its top-notch Classic Album series, FTD released its version of On Stage in March. I consider On Stage second only to That’s The Way It Is as the best album of Elvis’ career. By my count, this marks the fourth different configuration of this album (the original 1970 version, the 1999 special edition, the 2010 Legacy edition, and now the 2012 FTD edition). Why, then, is this latest reissue even worth mentioning? In addition to the original album, this 2-CD set contains additional tracks from his February 1970 Las Vegas engagement, many of them previously unreleased.

#03 Practice, practice, practice
Scheduled for release this month from FTD is From Hawaii To Las Vegas, which presents a January 25, 1973, rehearsal at the Las Vegas Hilton. One song from this rehearsal, “I’m Leavin’ It All Up To You,” was first issued as a bonus track last year on FTD’s uneven Stage Rehearsal CD. Originally recorded on cassette tape, From Hawaii To Las Vegas probably will not be the kind of CD you would want to throw on at a party – but it should provide valuable insight to fellow Elvis historians. Included are two runthroughs of “Separate Ways” – a song that, as far as anyone knows, Elvis never actually performed in concert.

#02 Not a typical compilation
With I Am An Elvis Fan and Elvis By Request on the way, 2012 may be seen as the year of the fan compilation. However, many fans have been making Elvis compilations for their own personal use for years – whether on cassette tape, CD-R, or iPod playlists. In May, one particular Elvis playlist made the news. Lisa Marie’s Favourite Elvis Songs features his daughter’s selections. Her 12 picks range from 1960-1972, with a full two-thirds coming from the 1970s. With selections like “Just Pretend” and “I’m Leavin’,” Lisa Marie’s list proved to be both unique and terrific. Sony should hire her to advise on future Elvis compilations.

#01 From Alabama Street to Union Avenue
After years of rumors and speculation, the announcement of a release date and early details for FTD’s seemingly mythical “SUN project” has to take the number one spot. No contest. One of the most anticipated Elvis Presley releases ever, A Boy From Tupelo: The Complete 1953-1955 Recordings will include a 512-page book detailing the activities of Elvis in that time period as well as three CDs worth of material. The set gathers every known Elvis SUN master and outtake, plus demos and live performances. It includes ten previously unreleased tracks. The SUN project has been FTD chief Ernst Jorgensen’s baby for the past several years. A Boy From Tupelo reportedly tips the scales at 5 kilograms (11 pounds), meaning it weighs more than most newborns! Delivery is currently expected for August 16. A Boy From Tupelo (concept cover art)

What will the rest of 2012 bring to the Elvis world? Will A Boy From Tupelo live up to expectations? What other surprises are in store? Find out by keeping it tuned to the Elvis Day By Day blog.

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!

20 reasons to love Elvis after 1972 (Conductor’s Reflections #10)

Elvis rocks the world, 1973

Elvis rocks the world, 1973

If you believe many accounts, exploring the work of Elvis Presley after 1972 is a fruitless journey through five depressing years best left forgotten. While a downward spiral of personal problems certainly affected his music, I cannot agree with the overall sentiment.

Inspired by a recent Elvis Today Blog post, I want to share 20 reasons to love Elvis after 1972.

#1 Promised Land album (recorded 1973)
Any discussion around the greatest albums of Elvis’ career should include Promised Land. Featuring that perfect Elvis blend of rock ‘n’ roll, country, and gospel, this is one of his strongest efforts. Standouts include “Promised Land” – destroying any doubts that Elvis could still rock, “Thinking About You,” “It’s Midnight,” “You Asked Me To,” and the funky “If You Talk In Your Sleep.”

#2 Aloha From Hawaii event (1973)
The magnitude of performing the first worldwide satellite broadcast by an entertainer at times seemed to overwhelm even Elvis, particularly in the first half of the main show. All too easily dismissed by some fans, the overall Aloha From Hawaii event still remains worthy of praise. Beyond the actual television special, there was also a double album that remains a classic representation of the excitement of his 1970s stage show, with standouts including “An American Trilogy,” “A Big Hunk O’ Love,” “I’ll Remember You,” “Fever,” and “What Now My Love.”

The 1988 release of The Alternate Aloha on CD revealed Elvis was much more at ease during the rehearsal/back-up concert. “Burning Love,” despite the fact that Elvis misses some of the words, and “Suspicious Minds” exceed their counterparts on the real show.

Elvis Presley Enterprise’s definitive 2-DVD set Aloha From Hawaii Deluxe Edition (2004) captures both shows in terrific audio and video quality, as well as other footage shot at that time. Though he did not pass away until over four years later, for the mainstream public, Aloha From Hawaii would prove to be Elvis’ last hurrah.

#3 Moody Blue album (1974, 1976-1977)
Moody Blue is an album recorded at Elvis’ home, Graceland, and at Elvis’ second home, on stage in front of his fans. Of the four live numbers, the strongest is a haunting version of “Unchained Melody,” recorded on April 24, 1977, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Many of the Graceland recordings are also stellar, including “Pledging My Love,” “Way Down,” “Moody Blue,” “She Thinks I Still Care,” and “He’ll Have To Go.” As the final album released before his death, Moody Blue allowed Elvis to finish in style.

#4 “Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming,” Take 10 (1973)
“Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming,” which expresses a father’s love for a newborn, never stood out to me until I heard this alternate take, first released on 2002’s Today, Tomorrow & Forever boxed set.

#5 Bringing It Back/Pieces Of My Life single (1975)
Much like “Always On My Mind” backed with “Separate Ways” from 1972, 1975’s “Bringing It Back” backed with “Pieces Of My Life” evokes a complete story on one record. Though the music may not have been as groundbreaking, Elvis recorded songs of a much more personal nature in the 1970s compared to other times of his career. It’s not flashy jumpsuits that draw people to this time, but the sheer honesty of the music.

#6 My Way/America The Beautiful single (1977/1975)
“My Way” backed with “America The Beautiful” is the first Elvis record I can specifically remember playing. Recorded just weeks before his death for the Elvis In Concert television special at a show in Rapid City, South Dakota, “My Way” worked effectively as a farewell of sorts, while 1975’s “America The Beautiful,” recorded live in Las Vegas, spoke to his love of the United States and God. Though rock ‘n’ roll is not to be found on it, this record sums up Elvis Presley about as well as any other contender.

#7 “Pledging My Love,” Take 3 (1976)
One of the pleasant surprises of 1997’s Platinum: A Life In Music was take 3 of “Pledging My Love,” recorded at Graceland. Devoid of subsequent production overdubs, this works as a kind of “stripped-down” version.

#8 “Way Down,” Take 2A (1976)
Also from Platinum: A Life In Music, take 2A of “Way Down” is strong for the same reasons as “Pledging My Love” – a stripped-down sound reminiscent of earlier times. The extra band riff near the end is a delight and should have been included on the master.

#9 From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee album (1976)
Recorded at Graceland, From Elvis Presley Boulevard is the saddest album released by Elvis. It is also his most honest. This one gives us a view into the man living in the famous mansion on Elvis Presley Boulevard. Overblown production and all, From Elvis Presley Boulevard is a beautiful and moving album. Highlights include “For The Heart,” “Hurt,” “Never Again,” and “Love Coming Down.”

#10 Good Times album (1973)
Unlike Promised Land, Moody Blue, and From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Good Times is unable to take a spot among the best albums of his career due to a few clunkers that weigh it down. However, “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues,” “Lovin’ Arms,” “I’ve Got A Thing About You, Baby,” and “My Boy” are standouts on this worthy album.

#11 “Where No One Stands Alone,” Live Recording (1977)
Whether we are talking 1953, 1977, or anywhere in between, Elvis Presley was always full of surprises. “Where No One Stands Alone,” released on 2007’s Unchained Melody, is one of his most incredible performances. Accompanying himself on piano, he sings the song on stage for what is apparently the only time. This live version from a February 16, 1977, concert in Montgomery, Alabama, exceeds his 1966 original.

#12 “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues,” Take 7 (1973)
Part of appreciating Elvis involves understanding that he never took himself as seriously as many others do. This broken up take and the resulting jokes after the fact highlight some of his behind-the-scenes humor. First released on Follow That Dream’s 2009 edition of Good Times.

#13 “She Thinks I Still Care,” Take 2B (1976)
“She Thinks I Still Care” is another alternate from the Graceland sessions. Released on 1995’s Walk A Mile In My Shoes, Take 2B takes the song at a brisker pace and works even better than the master.

#14 “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” Home Recording (1973)
Though “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” seemed almost like album-filler on Aloha From Hawaii, Elvis sings a superior version with only himself on acoustic guitar several months later in private. Fortunately, someone rolled a tape recorder. This is a particularly poignant performance when you consider that it takes place only weeks after his divorce from Priscilla is finalized. This one can be found on 2005’s Elvis By The Presleys.

#15 Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis album (1974)
Yes, his third live album in three years had some repetitive material, but “How Great Thou Art,” “Lawdy, Miss Clawdy,” and “My Baby Left Me” help to make this one special, not to mention that it was recorded in Memphis. This version of “How Great Thou Art” earned Elvis his third and final Grammy.

#16 Raised On Rock album (1973)
Raised On Rock receives a lot of criticism, yet contains some strong tracks. Two of the best are “For Ol’ Times Sake” and “Sweet Angeline.”

#17 “I Really Don’t Want To Know,” Live Recording (1977)
Like “My Way,” this one was recorded in Rapid City on June 21, 1977, for the Elvis In Concert special, which aired posthumously. This is a great, though all too short, live version of a song he first recorded in 1970 (Elvis Country).

#18 “Reconsider Baby,” Live Recording (1977)
Elvis could always draw inspiration from the blues, even near the end. Recorded February 21, 1977, this is from the Unchained Melody album. Though Elvis formally recorded the song in 1960 for Elvis Is Back, he was playing around with this one at least as far back as 1956.

#19 “Shake A Hand,” Take 2 (1975)
2002’s 6363 Sunset included this stellar alternate of “Shake A Hand,” recorded at RCA’s Hollywood studio.

#20 “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Live Recording (1977)
On April 29, 1977, in Duluth, Minnesotta, Elvis knocked out a great rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” though, like many 1977 recordings, it can be a painful listen. Featured on Spring Tours 77.

* * *

Elvis never claimed to be anything special. It seems, at times, people tear him down for being a flawed man rather than the perfect god they wrongly imagined him to be.

“I’m not a king, I’m just a man,” he sang in 1971’s “Until It’s Time For You To Go,” as if pleading for understanding. No one listened.

It turns out that our hero was only human, just like us. I think that makes his many accomplishments shine that much brighter.


October 23, 2011, Update:
In the comments, Joe mentioned that he decided to try all of the songs mentioned above as a playlist. I liked his idea, so here’s what I came up with.

  • For The Heart (From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee)
  • You Asked Me To (Promised Land)
  • Bringing It Back (Today)
  • Love Coming Down (From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee)
  • Lovin’ Arms (Good Times)
  • Pledging My Love (Moody Blue)
  • I’ve Got A Thing About You, Baby (Good Times)
  • For Ol’ Times Sake (Raised On Rock)
  • She Thinks I Still Care [Alternate] (Walk A Mile In My Shoes)
  • Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues (Good Times)
  • Burning Love [Live] (The Alternate Aloha)
  • What Now My Love [Live] (Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite)
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water [Live] (Spring Tours 77)
  • A Big Hunk O’ Love [Live] (Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite)
  • Unchained Melody [Live] (Moody Blue)
  • An American Trilogy [Live] (Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite)
  • Promised Land (Promised Land)
  • Never Again (From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee)
  • It’s Midnight (Promised Land)
  • Way Down [Alternate] (A Life In Music)
  • He’ll Have To Go (Moody Blue)
  • If You Talk In Your Sleep (Promised Land)
  • Moody Blue (Moody Blue)
  • Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming [Alternate] (Today, Tomorrow & Forever)
  • My Boy (Good Times)
  • I’ll Remember You [Live] (Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite)
  • Fever [Live] (Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite)
  • Lawdy, Miss Clawdy [Live] (Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis)
  • Suspicious Minds [Live] (The Alternate Aloha)
  • America The Beautiful [Live] (Elvis Aron Presley)
  • How Great Thou Art [Live] (Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis)
  • Way Down (Moody Blue)
  • Pieces Of My Life (Today)
  • Hurt (From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee)
  • Sweet Angeline (Raised On Rock)
  • Thinking About You (Promised Land)
  • Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues [Outtake] (Good Times [2009 FTD Edition])
  • I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry [Informal] (Elvis By The Presleys)
  • Pledging My Love [Alternate] (A Life In Music)
  • She Thinks I Still Care (Moody Blue)
  • Shake A Hand [Alternate] (6363 Sunset)
  • Reconsider Baby [Live] (Unchained Melody)
  • My Baby Left Me [Live] (Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis)
  • I Really Don’t Want To Know [Live] (Elvis In Concert)
  • Where No One Stands Alone [Live] (Unchained Melody)
  • My Way [Live] (Elvis Aron Presley)

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.