Reserve your seat now for ELVIS: THAT’S THE WAY IT IS – SPECIAL EDITION, coming to US theaters in August

Elvis in THAT'S THE WAY IT IS: SPECIAL EDITION

Elvis in THAT’S THE WAY IT IS: SPECIAL EDITION

As hoped, Warner Brothers is bringing a newly restored version of Elvis: That’s The Way It Is – Special Edition to theaters across the United States in August. Playing in 40 states, the limited engagement promotes the August 12 release of the documentary on Blu-ray.

Elvis: That’s The Way It Is was a 1970 MGM documentary that captured Elvis on stage and off during his third concert series at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. In 2000, the “Special Edition,” a completely new edit of the film, made its debut in Memphis. It hit stores the following year on VHS and DVD. The Special Edition used elements of the original movie as well as previously unseen footage. In some ways, it was an improvement upon the theatrical version, while in other ways, it was inferior.

For the purposes of this 2014 theatrical screening, Elvis: That’s The Way It Is – Special Edition is admittedly the best choice for sharing with the “general public” and even casual Elvis fans. After the previously announced August 16 premiere at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis, other US theaters will begin showing the film the week of August 17.

This will mark the third time I have seen Elvis in theaters, dating back to an edit of the ELVIS “Comeback Special” in 2004 and Elvis On Tour in 2010. Each of those previous times, I remember thinking, “This is great, but I really wish I could see That’s The Way It Is like this.”

For me, That’s The Way It Is represents Elvis Presley at his very best. I was only two when Elvis passed away, so he was gone before I ever had a chance to see him in concert. This is a dream-come-true, next best thing for me. I can’t wait! Accept no imitations. This is the real deal.

Be sure to check out the brand-new trailer below or over on USAToday.com.

We can solve the mystery if we try

Frequent commenter Ray Faithfull recently emailed me the following mystery:

I watched a clip posted on facebook for the song “We Can Make The Morning”….then it dawned on me that it was longer than the Now album release and the FTD release by almost 30 seconds..I figured you would be the person to go to for some insight as to how many takes of this song were actually done and what and where have they been released??

Was take 1 the master take that went for over 4:30 and was simply faded at 3:48 for the final cut ??

I have included the link to the video i am referring to with the version i had not heard or at least not completely?? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGIMKq-qwOM

Though I did not know the answer right off the top of my head, Ray had obviously placed a lot of faith in me (no pun intended . . . I think), so I felt compelled to research this for him.

First, I checked iTunes, where I have meticulously cataloged every unique Elvis track I own. To my surprise, the only version of “We Can Make The Morning” I have is the master recording, as released on Elvis Now.  My iTunes version of the 1971 track, sourced from the circa-2007 Vic Anesini remastering effort as released on Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection, clocks in at 3:59. However, the last five seconds of that are silence.

"We Can Make The Morning" on iTunes

“We Can Make The Morning” on iTunes

I pulled out my vintage 1972 vinyl edition of the Elvis Now album, and it indicated a run time of 3:54 for “We Can Make The Morning.” So, I had approximately six seconds more song than Ray’s 3:48 source, but nowhere near the 4:44 of the YouTube video. Though I am fairly obsessive about obtaining alternate takes of songs that Elvis formally recorded between 1969 and 1976, I certainly do not own every Elvis release. Perhaps this extended version was on an album I did not have.

Checks of the Elvis Now FTD edition liner notes and Ernst Jorgensen’s essential Elvis Presley: A Life In Music – The Complete Recording Sessions book provided no useful information in this case. Next, I went to my favorite source for alternate take information, the incredible Elvis Recording Data/Session Notes section of the Elvis In Norway site. There, I also found only one entry for “We Can Make The Morning,” the master recording (B-side single), with time listed as 3:54.

I only collect official releases, so my next thought was that the 4:44 version might be from a bootleg. Elvis In Norway’s Session Notes section fortunately does not muddy the water by including those, so I went to another reliable source that does incorporate bootleg information, the Recording Sessions section of Keith Flynn’s Elvis Presley Pages site.

There I found three matches for “We Can Make The Morning”:

A note on the May 20 / 21 page indicates, “Tape reel #2 from this session is missing, and this is the reel that would have included […] the outtakes of We Can Make The Morning,” so that effectively ruled out an alternate take of the song.

The undubbed master has apparently never been released, nor has the May 25 string overdubs version. Only the completed June 21 version, with overdubbed brass and strings, has been released (i.e., the one from Elvis Now).

However, the site lists the track as 4:11. That’s 17 seconds closer to 4:44, but still not enough. The 4:11 version of the song was released on the bootleg Unedited Masters: Nashville 1971 by the Venus label. There, “We Can Make The Morning” is listed as the “unedited, overdubbed master.” I do not have the album to verify whether the track fades at the end but, assuming the Venus information is correct, that leaves at least 33 unaccounted seconds that are in the video.

After all of this, I finally decided to take a listen to the YouTube video, which had been created by a fan. The visual imagery, interspersing photos of Elvis in life with photos of fans at candlelight vigils in the years after his death, was not to my liking, so I stopped paying attention to the video and just listened to the audio. Not only did it go to 4:44, but the song had not even fully faded at that point.

What was going on here? Though I did not detect anything the first time through, my guess was that a portion of the song had been re-looped somewhere (i.e., a part of the recording had been replayed to artificially make the song longer). On my second listen to the 4:44 video, I played the Elvis Now version at the same time. Whatever potential monkey business had occurred within the song was definitely happening near the end.

My third and fourth listens revealed that 3:28 in the video is a repeat of 2:48. For example, listen how Elvis draws out “night” at 3:33, which is an exact duplicate of how he sings it at 2:53 in the video.

Essentially, someone has artificially added at least 40 seconds to the audio track on the “We Can Make The Morning” YouTube video by repeating a portion of the song – most likely to suit the purposes of the photo montage. Other than the abrupt ending, the audio editing is actually quite seamless. However, I will stick with the original version.

Thanks for the great question, Ray, and for inspiring today’s post.

Case closed.

Close-up of ELVIS NOW back cover (1972)

Close-up of ELVIS NOW back cover (1972)

Sayaka having fun with Elvis

I don’t normally post links to videos of other people singing Elvis songs. These Sayaka Alessandra videos are just so much fun, though, that I thought you might want to check them out, too.

“Baby, Let’s Play House” (2009) – Sayaka Alessandra

“Return To Sender” (2008) – Sayaka Alessandra

“Cross My Heart And Hope To Die” (2010) – Sayaka Alessandra

“Blue Moon” (2010) – Sayaka Alessandra

That’s what being an Elvis fan is all about! If you enjoyed the above videos as much as I did, you can also hear Sayaka do formal versions of the Elvis songs “That’s All Right” and “You Don’t Know Me” on her album Love Me Light, available on iTunes and Amazon. For more information on Sayaka, check out her site.

[Thank you to Francesca for making me aware of Sayaka.]

Richmond TV station debuts unseen Elvis photo from 1955

Greg McQuade at CBS 6 News in Richmond, Virginia, has helped unearth a previously unseen photo of Elvis.

“Sylvia Brendle was a high school junior when she snapped a never-before-seen picture of Elvis at the Mosque in May of 1955,” McQuade states (“Elvis fan shares unseen photo as new exhibit opens at VMFA” — wtvr.com).

The photo is significant to Richmond fans in particular because the May 16, 1955, concert at the Mosque was the first time Elvis appeared here in Richmond. The singer was still on the SUN Records label at the time. Just six months later, he would sign with RCA Records and soon go from being a regional star to an international one.

CBS 6: Elvis At The Mosque, Richmond, Virginia, 1955

Also covered in McQuade’s story is the Elvis At 21 exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibition features legendary photos of Elvis snapped by photographer Alfred Wertheimer, including several of Elvis in Richmond in June 1956.

Elvis eventually did 15 shows in Richmond, the last one in 1976.

Check out the ultra-cool trailer for Viva Elvis: The Album

I mentioned a trailer for Viva Elvis: The Album in my review of Elvis On Tour: 75th Anniversary Celebration. I’ve finally had a moment to find that trailer online. It really is something incredible – maybe the best Elvis trailer I’ve ever seen. It shows a lot more creativity and artistic inspiration than most Elvis promos.

Who knows how the actual album content will be, but this trailer is just fun to watch.

Check it out.

Viva Elvis: The Album hits stores in November. The Viva Elvis Cirque du Soleil show, now playing in Vegas, looks awful – but its soundtrack has my attention so far.