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Elvis Australia : Official Elvis Presley Fan Club

Review - Close Up 4 CD Box Set

By Bob Stanley
Source: The Times UK
March 20, 2008 - 8:46:00 AM

Close UpElvis Presley: Close Up is so impressive: another excellent essay from Colin Escott, great pictures, and 89 unheard takes of super-fine Elvis.

The premise of Close Up is that we are hearing unguarded moments and snapshots that can bring us closer to the man. This is slightly disingenuous as there are no home recordings, just studio outtakes. Yet in part it works, serving to remind us that pre-army Elvis was full of good humour (I Beg of You), a ball of energy (a fabulous uptempo Loving You) recklessly playing with different vocal styles. It also reminds us that afterwards he was to be wrecked and wracked, endlessly fighting a mass of demons: Colonel Parker; lack of direction; adultery; spiritual emptiness; uppers and downers.

Discs two and three are the most intriguing. The Sixties remain a tangled web of missed opportunities, heart-stopping comebacks, and the odd song about seafood or yoga. Elvis's time was divided between studio recordings with a crack team in Nashville, and reviled film soundtracks - at a rate of three a year.

The Nashville disc begins with It Feels So Right, raw as a Sun recording, before settling into quality country pop from His Latest Flame in 1961 to US Male in 1968. The latter is a tentative run-through without Elvis's usual authority - in fact, the delivery owes so much to Phil Harris that it sounds less like the Southern swamp-pop hit it became and more like Bare Necessities.

Ignored en masse, the soundtracks are always going to have the element of surprise: one highlight is the exquisite Summer Kisses, Winter Tears which here is fuller and more mournful than the regular take. The score for Wild in the Country (a flawed but intriguing stab at a James Dean psychodrama from 1961) supplies the understated centrepiece of this box as Elvis, accompanied by his acoustic guitar, sings beautifully on the windswept In My Way, Lonely Man and Forget Me Never.

He recorded better songs, but rarely sounded this intimate or so alone. The most poignant moment occurs at the front of Tonight's Alright for Love as Elvis starts to sing Loving You and sighs: 'That was back in the good old days'.

The final disc is rather dispiriting, a slurry, tired Elvis on stage in Texas in 1972. The mumbling and throat-clearing are more reminiscent of Iain Duncan Smith than the carefree King of disc one, but there's fun to be had with a slow, almost funky Hound Dog, and a rare Burning Love. This was a song that Elvis apparently loathed and hardly ever sang in concert, yet you'd never guess it from this show.

It's a typical Elvis conundrum, the kind that will keep the myth alive indefinitely. The closer you get, the further away the real Elvis Presley seems.

Buy this set, you won't regret it! (Last few sets available)


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