A Squirrel Loose at the Big, Freaky International Hotel (Part 1)

“Welcome to the big, freaky International Hotel, with these little, weirdo dolls on the walls and these little funky angels on the ceiling. You ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen a funky angel, boy. I tell you for sure.”
–Elvis Presley, 1969, on the ornate design of the hotel’s concert showroom

Sony Legacy last year released Elvis Live 1969, a boxed set containing all 11 concerts RCA recorded during Elvis Presley’s August 1969 engagement at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The concert series, which spanned 57 shows from July 31 to August 28, represented the singer’s first appearance on a public stage in nearly 9 years – though he had performed 4 shows in front of small audiences at NBC’s studio in Burbank, California, as part of taping his ELVIS television special the previous summer.

RCA cherry-picked 12 of the strongest performances from 3 of the 1969 shows to form the Elvis In Person portion of the From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis double album, released in November 1969. A year later, RCA re-released Elvis In Person as a stand-alone album with the same content.

As for the rest of the performances, they amazingly remained in the vault until after Elvis’ death. While RCA released several individual songs over the years, including a compilation disc on 1991’s Collectors Gold boxed set, a complete 1969 show did not officially surface until 2001’s Live In Las Vegas boxed set.

By the time of Elvis Live 1969 last year, however, 7 of the 11 shows had already been released in their entireties on CD, with a good portion of songs from 3 of the 4 remaining shows having been released as well – many of them on Sony’s Follow That Dream (FTD) collectors label for Elvis fans.

Elvis Live 1969 stands out among the previous releases because it gathers all of the recordings in one place for the first time, with homogeneous sound quality. The recordings capture the August 21-26 portion of the engagement.

Sony Legacy’s ELVIS LIVE 1969 boxed set (2019, from Tygrrius’ collection)

Mixed by Matt Ross-Spang in what was apparently a marathon session, Elvis Live 1969 features a “slapback” echo effect mimicking the sound of Elvis’ first recordings in 1954 & 1955 at Sun Studio in Memphis. Ross-Spang had applied the same effect to alternate takes on 2016’s Way Down in the Jungle Room, an overview of Elvis’ last formal recordings in 1976 at Graceland.

As it was not representative of the original intent in 1976 or 1969, some fans have been quite critical of Ross-Spang’s slapback effect. As for me, I don’t mind it at all. It breathed some life into the 1976 studio recordings and brought Elvis’ music full-circle, in a sense, with an homage to the Sun sound. Though less effective on the 1969 live recordings, it’s not too distracting. On a few songs, such as “Mystery Train,” which of course originated in the Sun era anyway, the effect can actually be phenomenal.

Where I differ from Ross-Spang on Elvis Live 1969 is on some of his mixing choices, especially as far as which instruments are prominent. For instance, horns overwhelm a portion of James Burton’s lead guitar solo in the middle of the “Blue Suede Shoes” opener on all 11 shows. The horns weren’t even audible at all during Burton’s solo on the original Elvis In Person album and most of the subsequent revisits of this material.

The horns distracting from the lead guitar vaguely reminds me of Elvis’ February 11, 1956, appearance on Stage Show (CBS), the Jackie Gleason-produced television series hosted by Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. In his third of six appearances on the program, Elvis debuts “Heartbreak Hotel” for the national TV audience. At the point where Scotty Moore would normally rip into his now classic electric guitar solo, a trumpeter improvises a jazz-inspired solo instead. While I enjoy jazz, it did not work in the context of this rock ‘n’ roll song. Fortunately, Moore is able to let loose in performances of “Heartbreak Hotel” on two subsequent shows. The 1969 “Blue Suede Shoes” is thankfully not affected to nearly this extent, though, for Burton is at least playing his solo!

Another example is that Larry Muhoberac’s piano is mixed far too loudly on certain shows, especially the August 26 Midnight Show, the last 1969 concert captured. Was Ross-Spang running out of time or is this truly how he felt the show should sound? “Mystery Train/Tiger Man,” which should be a showcase for the guitar and drums, suffers greatly from the distracting and overbearing piano in this particular show.

The August 25 Dinner Show and August 26 Dinner Show versions of “Mystery Train/Tiger Man” are similarly impacted by too much piano in the mix. Five of the remaining shows that include this medley fortunately keep the piano at low or moderate volumes, while the August 25 Midnight Show version, which was the performance used as the master on Elvis In Person, actually strikes a great balance – having the piano quite present but at an appropriate level.

Of course, it is all a matter of taste. For an Elvis live show, I want the lead guitar (Burton), Elvis guitar (when applicable), drums (Ronnie Tutt), and bass (Jerry Scheff) prominent in the mix among the instruments, generally in that order of priority, but certainly varying to some extent per song.

The rock ‘n’ roll numbers, at least, should heavily feature guitar, drums, and bass. That is the core of rock ‘n’ roll, Elvis style. The piano, other guitars, and orchestra should be present as needed, but not so much as to overwhelm that core. The piano is far less annoying on a slow song like “Love Me Tender,” for instance, where it better suits being prominent in the mix.

To be clear, the mixing on the majority of these shows is great. For example, “Mystery Train/Tiger Man” is mixed to perfection on the August 22 Midnight Show and is of course buoyed by a committed and powerful vocal performance by Elvis, as with many of the songs in this boxed set. This version of “Mystery Train” I can’t help but crank up every single time it comes on, much as I do with the 1955 Sun studio master.

Ross-Spang also tends to favor the Sweet Inspirations over the Imperials, as far as the background vocalists – an approach I heartily support. Millie Kirkham notwithstanding, Elvis sounds better with female voices behind him instead of males, and I love the Gospel-infused quality of the Sweet Inspirations. I should note that I intend no disrespect to any of the musicians and singers involved, all of whom are very talented. I am just talking about how I best feel the music when it comes to Elvis.

Before I get too far off track here, I think that covers it for the technical aspects of the set. I actually wasn’t even intending for this to become a review per se, but I just go where the writing leads me.

Next week, we’ll continue our look at Elvis Live 1969 and, possibly, get to the actual reason I started this post.


[Read Part 2]

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”
Proverb 31:8-9

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.)

From sea to shining sea

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” –From The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, July 4, 1776

America The Beautiful: A History of Elvis Presley Releases

  • December 6, 1975, Live, Las Vegas, Midnight Show: Live In Las Vegas
  • December 13, 1975, Live, Las Vegas, Dinner Show: Dinner At Eight
  • December 13, 1975, Live, Las Vegas, Midnight Show: Single, b/w “My Way”
  • December 14, 1975, Live, Las Vegas, Midnight Show: Fashion For A King
  • February 8, 1976, Memphis: The Jungle Room Sessions (incomplete)
  • April 22, 1976, Live, Omaha: America
  • July 3, 1976, Live, Fort Worth: Rocking Across Texas
  • July 30, 1976, Live, New Haven: New Haven 76
  • October 18, 1976, Live, Sioux Falls: A Minnesota Moment

[Information source: Elvis In Norway Session Notes]

Cover of America The Beautiful, 1977 single

Oh beautiful,
For spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountains, majesty,
Above the fruited plains,
America, America,
God shed His grace on thee,
And He crowns thy good,
With brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea

–From “America The Beautiful,” Elvis Presley song, 1975 (written by Katharine Lee Bates & Samuel Ward)

America The Beautiful, 1977 single

UPDATE: Check out today’s entry of The Sheila Variations blog for another look at Elvis Presley’s “America The Beautiful.”

That’s The Way It Is reveals a different side of Elvis

My favorite album released during Elvis Presley’s lifetime is That’s The Way It Is. First hitting record stores in November 1970, it features studio material from his June recordings in Nashville as well as four live cuts from his August Las Vegas engagement. It serves as a soundtrack of sorts for the excellent documentary of the same name, also released that month.

Despite the status I give it, the album is not perfect. Rock ‘n’ roll fans sometimes dismiss it as an easy-listening bore. One of the causes of that issue, I believe, is the sequencing of songs. Many of them should have been presented in a different order. For instance, the album unfortunately begins with a live version of the sleepy B.J. Thomas hit “I Just Can’t Help Believin'” and establishes the wrong tone.

Adding to the trouble, two of the live performances, “Patch It Up” and “I’ve Lost You,” are not as powerful as their studio counterparts, which should have been used instead. The studio recordings had been released as singles prior to the album, so the live versions were likely considered bonuses for fans that already had the 45s. The artistry of the album should have taken priority, though.

Apparently to complete the “feel” of a live album, RCA overdubbed applause on the end of the studio version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which closed out That’s The Way It Is. Elvis’ vocals on the first verse of the song are also very faint in the mix, either on purpose or due to a technical glitch. You can better hear Elvis’ beautiful performance of this song, with his voice louder on the first verse and without the annoying applause overdubs, on Heart & Soul and the Elvis: Walk A Mile In My Shoes-The Essential 70s Masters boxed set.

That's The Way It Is (1970)

Side 1

“I Just Can’t Help Believin'”
Live Master–8/11/1970 Dinner Show (DS): As noted above, the song does not serve well as an album opener. While it is misplaced on the album, the performance is strong. I love the little traces of humor in his voice. He sounds on the verge of laughing a couple of times. Also memorable is his interaction with the Sweet Inspirations throughout (“Sing the song, baby”). Elvis would never be quite as incredible again live as he was in this engagement.

“Twenty Days And Twenty Nights”
Master–Take 9: For me, this song represents the adult Elvis, the recording artist that is too often overlooked. “Twenty Days And Twenty Nights” is about a man who regrets leaving his wife, and Elvis evokes this character through music as well as any actor could on screen. The performance plays through the range of emotions, even striking a hopeful tone (“One day soon I’m going back…”) before falling back into despair as he laments “Oh, how I miss her,” over and over at the end.

“How The Web Was Woven”
Master–Take 3: The highlight of the album, “How The Web Was Woven” is a love song that ranks right up there with the better-known “Can’t Help Falling In Love.” From the acoustic guitar opening to the accompanying piano, the arrangement on this one works very well. “At last, I’m where you want me . . . Don’t you know that’s where, where I wanna be,” he sings with a passion that, for this listener anyway, exceeds even the incredible American Sound sessions in Memphis the year before.

“Patch It Up”
Live Master–8/12/1970 DS: Compared to the excellent studio take, this live version sounds almost like a throwaway. Watching this same energetic performance in the film, though, is an entire other experience.

“Mary In The Morning”
Master–Take 5: This is a pretty, if forgettable, love song. It goes on a bit too long and eventually becomes tiresome.

“You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me”
Master–Take 3: Though it is a fine performance, I would have chosen “How The Web Was Woven” or one of the others as a single over Elvis’ version of the Dusty Springfield hit.

Side 2

“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”
Live Master–8/12/1970 MS: This live performance is the definitive version of this song by anyone. This is Elvis at his best: “It makes me just feel like cryin,’ ’cause baby . . . something beau-ti-ful’s dy-in.'” The Righteous Brothers sound like they are singing a lullaby in the original recording compared to the Elvis version. Even Elvis was never able to equal his own performance again in other concerts.

“I’ve Lost You”
Live Master–8/11/1970 DS: While I love this live performance of “I’ve Lost You,” I prefer the studio version featuring more complicated lyrics and arrangement. That being said, this is still a highlight.

“Just Pretend”
Master–Take 3: Picking up where “Twenty Days And Twenty Nights” left off, this turns the despair of a man who left his lover and turns it back to hope for reconciliation. “Now I know, it was wrong to go, I belong there by your side,” he sings, bordering on the type of apology song that Elvis would perfect a couple of years later with “Always On My Mind.” The impressive “Just Pretend,” with a gospel-inspired arrangement, is another all-time favorite.

“Stranger In The Crowd”
Master–Take 9: This is yet another highlight. The band really cooks on this one. For some, Elvis Presley brings to mind “Hound Dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “All Shook Up,” and similar tunes. While those are all fine, when I think of Elvis, I think of songs like “How The Web Was Woven,” “I’ve Lost You,” and “Stranger In The Crowd.”

“The Next Step Is Love”
Master–Take 11: Here’s one studio song where I actually prefer the live version. “The Next Step Is Love” is a little hokey either way, but the studio arrangement, complete with xylophone(!), does not help matters.

“Bridge Over Trouble Water”
Master–Studio Take 8 (with overdubbed applause): I stopped listening to the original album version of this song once RCA finally released a proper studio track. The one on this album simply does not do justice to his performance. The Heart & Soul version, though, I would contend as the best version of this song by anyone.

Upon its original release, That’s The Way It Is faced stiff competition from none other than Elvis himself. In their infinite wisdom, his record label released the following Elvis music in October and November of 1970:

  • Almost In Love album (an excellent “budget” release)
  • “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me”/”Patch It Up” single
  • Elvis In Person album (re-release of record 1 of the previous year’s From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis double album)
  • Back In Memphis album (re-release of record 2 of From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis)
  • Elvis’ Christmas Album (“budget” repackaging)
  • That’s The Way It Is album
  • “I Really Don’t Want To Know”/”There Goes My Everything” single

Despite the oversaturation, That’s The Way It Is made it to number 21 on the charts and obtained gold record status. It probably would have done even better had fans not been so bombarded with Elvis product in the fall of 1970.

Elvis rehearsing How The Web Was Woven, 1970

Elvis rehearsing How The Web Was Woven, 1970

While a wonderful album, That’s The Way It Is also would have been greatly improved if a couple of different song versions had been used and the album had been sequenced as below in my imaginary version of That’s The Way It Is.

Side 1

  • “Stranger In The Crowd” (studio, as on original)
  • “I’ve Lost You” (substitute studio version)
  • “How The Web Was Woven” (studio, as on original)
  • “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” (studio, as on original)
  • “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (substitute Heart & Soul studio version without overdubbed applause)
  • “I Just Can’t Help Believin'” (live, as on original)

Side 2

  • “Patch It Up” (substitute studio version)
  • “Twenty Days And Twenty Nights” (studio, as on original)
  • “Just Pretend” (studio, as on original)
  • “The Next Step Is Love” (studio, as on original)
  • “Mary In The Morning” (studio, as on original)
  • “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” (live, as on original)

No matter the order you listen, though, That’s The Way It Is represents a true Elvis masterpiece.

Portions of the above review originally appeared on my now defunct pop culture blog on May 21, 2008.

Guest Blog: Elvis 1967 – That Wild Presley Beat (an imaginary press release)

What if the follow-up to the critically-acclaimed and Grammy-nominated Young Man With The Big Beat box set turned out to be something called That Wild Presley Beat, focusing on 1967? You’ve just crossed over into . . . the edge of reality.


1967 saw the beginning of Elvis Presley’s return to the charts with songs that were once again artistically significant. But it didn’t happen overnight. The once “young man with the big beat” from Memphis was still tied to the formula of making movies and recording soundtrack albums. By the end of that fateful year, though, he’d shown the world that he was still a force to be reckoned with.

That Wild Presley Beat

That Wild Presley Beat puts the focus on Elvis during 12 months, from February 1967 to January 1968. The package includes his RCA studio master recordings in Nashville; his soundtrack master recordings in Nashville and Hollywood; alternate masters, outtakes; home recordings, and much more. Taking its name from the poster for his movie Clambake, the super deluxe 5-CD, 12 inch square box set (with an amazing 80-page book with timeline) will be available on April 31.

The five CD’s comprise the following, all material originating from February 1967-January 1968:

CD One, Soundtrack Master Recordings
19 tracks recorded in Nashville and Hollywood, starting with nine songs from Clambake, (February 21-23, 1967) followed by 10 songs from Speedway, including the previously unreleased movie version of “Your Time Hasn’t Come Yet Baby” (June 20-21, 1967).

CD Two, Studio and Soundtrack Master Recordings
17 tracks recorded in Nashville, starting with 10 songs from the “Guitar Man sessions,” including the unedited masters of “Guitar Man” (with a fade-out jam on “What’d I Say”) and “High Heel Sneakers” (September 10-11, 1967), followed by three songs from Stay Away, Joe (October 1, 1967) and four more songs from the combined studio sessions/soundtrack recordings for Stay Away, Joe (January 15-16, 1968).

CD Three, The Outtakes I
Four outtakes from the Clambake soundtrack recordings (“The Girl I Never Loved,” “How Can You Lose What You Never Had,” “You Don’t Know Me,” “A House That Has Everything”), segueing into the complete session of October 1, 1967 (19 takes of “Stay Away, Joe,” three takes of “All I Needed Was The Rain” and five takes of “Dominick”).

CD Four, The Outtakes II
Nine outtakes from the “Guitar Man sessions” plus another 15 outtakes from the combined studio sessions/soundtrack recordings for Stay Away, Joe, including all 12 takes of “Too Much Monkey Business.”

CD Five, Home Recordings and Interview
Eight home recorded tracks done in early 1967, including “Suppose” that Elvis submitted to his producer Felton Jarvis for overdubbing (done on March 20, 1967) by musicians and backup vocalists. The other seven tracks are previously unreleased, among them “It’s Now Or Never” (with Charlie Hodge) and “Elvis Practicing Organ.” The CD ends with a newly discovered interview with Elvis on the set of Stay Away, Joe. The interview was done and taped by reporter Joseph Lewis, doing a story for the Cosmopolitan.

That Wild Presley Beat will feature an extraordinary book, where the focal point, spread across its 80 pages, will be a unique, meticulously-researched, day-by-day chronology of Elvis during 1967, including every recording date, film schedule, personal events in his life, and much more. A dazzling photo array of memorabilia will illustrate each day and entry. Movie posters, RCA memoranda, letters from fans, postcards from Elvis to his family, personal photos, magazine covers and articles, trade charts, fan club relics, RCA publicity photos, candid photos, and more will be a feast for the eyes and the imagination as 1967 unfolds.

That Wild Presley Beat will also include five rare 8×10 photographs, three original-size movie poster replicas, and a replica of the “specially autographed” wedding photo originally included as a special bonus inside the Clambake album.

Pre-order customers will also receive an exclusive “Stay Away, Joe” vinyl 7″. Sharing the same striking cover art as the movie poster, the EP features “Stay Away, Joe,” “Goin’ Home,” “All I Needed Was The Rain,” “Stay Away” and “Dominick.”

This imaginary box set is available only in . . . the edge of reality.

/Thomas, Elvis Today

Throughout 2011, The Mystery Train Blog has commemorated the 44th anniversary of 1967. Find out why here. This concludes our coverage.