There's a great moment on CD-2 of the new FTD 'Moody Blue' release - two fabulous rehearsals of the funky 'Way Down' start the disc - with Elvis and his band joking amid jamming and a throbbing bass guitar. Take 1 is reminiscent in feel to the funky jam intro to, 'I Got A Feeling In My Body' (Elvis At Stax 3-CD). After the first breakdown, Elvis say's: 'When Briggs fingers start bleeding' see, we know we've got it!' Ronnie Tutt's thumping drums herald take 2A, followed by David Briggs electric piano, and Norbert Putnam's supercool bass - fabulous!
By the summer of 1977 the train was coming off the tracks and drugs and excess had sadly taken there toll - but 'Moody Blue' sourced in main from the King's 1976 Jungle Room home recordings extravaganza - is quite possibly the V8 engine of his late 1970s albums. Anchored by the fabulous hit singles 'Moody Blue', and Elvis' posthumous, back on form 1977 single release - 'Way Down' the albums breadth and infinite wealth of musical treasures remain undiminished.
Its enduring appeal lies in a pool of selections from the cream of country's songbook. Besides a sprinkling of additional live tracks sourced from live concert recordings from 1977. What's more there's HOT R&B with the Johnny Ace cover 'Pledging My Love'
Now expanded - Follow That Dream release 'Moody Blue' 2-CD in their classic album series, complete with 16 unreleased outtakes and a few interesting surprises.
Mastered by Jean-Marc Juilland the original album sounds fabulous. However, let's take a closer look at the Alternate Album:
An undubbed 'Unchained Melody' (live 1977) starts with new additional dialogue as Elvis and band ready themselves. Elvis say's: 'I love you too honey' - in response to an excited crowd member, and it's warmly received by the audience... Olivia Newton John's Grammy winning 'If You Love Me (Let Me Know') gets the live treatment ( Kalamazoo, 1977). Why were the live tracks included? Presumably Felton Jarvis formed the 'Moody Blue' album from all the available resources, and in need of additional tracks to flesh out the release, choose the tracks from a pool of additional live recordings.
More standouts: A fabulous, bluesy, honky-tonk version of 'She Thinks I still care' -take 28 which positively swings. Elvis ad libs: 'Poor old son-of-bitch thinks...' A fine version. Next a surprise: 'My Way' -- and wow! A superb version. Some may question its inclusion but the song from Sanginaw (1977) is a perfect fit among the eclectic mix and emotional flavour of the album. Elvis connects on a superb version which is never overblown.
Adding a rockin' flavour, 'Way Down' and 'Little Darlin' are the undubbed master versions (Only a few days after Elvis' passing, 'Way Down' reached #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, staying there for one week). The Jim Reeves classic, 'He'll Have To Go' ( rough mix) -- and the composite of R&B blaster, 'Pledging My Love' follow (according to the excellent presented booklet - Elvis first performed the song on stage as early as 1955. Additionally, the song was among a roster of his favourite R&B songs from the said era. Note: Rhythm & blues was a major influence on Elvis in his formative years. He performed songs by The Clovers ('Fool, Fool, Fool'), the Drifters ('Money Honey') - and in the 1960s - 'Little Egypt' by the Coasters. (Check FTDs excellent, 'A Boy From Tupelo' for more R&B song info).
The beautiful take 1 of 'It's 'Easy For You', and take 1,2A of 'She Thinks I Still Care', with delectable intro, add more intimate flavour and are Jungle Room duplicates - both are to die for. Elvis sings on the latter: 'Just because, I asked a friend about her. Just because, I spoke her name somewhere'. Listening on headphones the songs despair and gentle arrangement floor the listener. He's trying to fool everyone he's over her. No such luck! Left high and dry he's shattered ...
Patriotic fervour on 'America' - and the initial surprise inclusion - 'Softly As I Leave You' close side one. With only three selections from the popular Jungle Room sessions, Follow That Dream have also included various selections from: Platinum - Elvis Aron Presley - Essential 70s Masters - Spring Tours FTD '77 - and, 'Made In Memphis' FTD to form the classic FTD 'Moody Blue' album.
Disc two : (mastered by Vic Anesini)
Stripped of overdubs, the outtakes on disc two offer a fresh look at songs which run a rich gamut of feeling and emotion - and display an infectious sense of fun:
The aforementioned 'Way Down' is followed by the familiar 'She Thinks I still Care' (takes 3,4) first included on the, Made In Memphis FTD release.
'Moody Blue' first heard on the (Platinum) collection follows. More: Elvis said he was an emotional son-of-a bitch during 'It's Easy For You' (disc 1) - and there's simply no doubt Elvis' unabashed heart-on-his sleeve musings deliver huge wallop. Case in point: Summoning all his powers, 'It's Easy For You' (undubbed) defies belief. Almost autobiographic his passionate storytelling is staggering… Elvis sings: 'I had a wife. I had children. I threw them all away!' ( There's no denying he was drawn to the emotional with DIVORCE looming ever large in his life! Love, and lost love, IS the theme throughout the Jungle Room sessions - and maybe the albums strength is its sincerity?) That said, there's a huge sense of fun throughout with many examples of Elvis' humour - the two previous laughter filled, fruity unreleased takes (3,4) are a highlight!
Willie Nelson's classic 'Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain', and the towering ballad, 'Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall' are included here. Surprising yes! Out of place - no! Fascinatingly there's 14 unreleased takes spread across the sparkling sounding disc, and only one duplicate from the Jungle Room Session ('Moody Blue' - Italian mother****** version 7,5). One wonders if Ernst and CO have anymore in the can from the Jungle Room sessions?
More standouts: the thrilling stop start, feel of 'Pledging My Love' (takes 4,5) - Elvis says after the take-5 breakdown: 'Woah! Woah! Wait for me. The ships sinking!' There's more joking with comments after the penultimate breakdown before the undubbed master kicks in: 'By the time it gets to the truck, you fellas - It'll be 'Amazing Grace!' And more laughter ensues... Elvis then hums along during James Burton's stinging lead breaks on the undubbed master.
There's more unreleased 'Way Down' thrills with Elvis singing a snatch of 'Steamroller Blues' during take 2B, and he's sounding like it's 1973-74 - Listen@11 secs: 'I'm a napalm bomb!' The rough mix follows. These versions are taken at a slight faster pace than the rehearsals and form a definite highlight. 'She Thinks I Still Care' (take 15/ George Jones), is a poignant gem full of bluesy heart and soul. Country music's rich legacy is well served here in particular by the Jones cover. Finally there's a live / studio spliced version of 'America' to finish which fits fine. A fine ending to a stunning disc, which greatly benefits from Vic Anesini's sensitive mastering.
Crammed with info and unseen photos it's well anointed. There's a photo of Elvis wearing what looks like a denim style jacket and wearing glasses (a familiar Graceland image from February 1976). To the right there's three different 45rpm single sleeves for 'Moody Blue - one from Germany, US, and Canada. Also included is the original artwork for the cover of the album which is of interest. More interestingly, single and album covers from Japan, Holland, Columbia, and Spain. Also a green US 45rpm single test pressing for 'Moody Blue'. The CDs are black with the RCA logo in white outline. 'Moody Blue' is written in grey, very cool! Furthermore, it's chock full of artefacts and interesting photos, there's also Joan Deary's memos regarding the recording sessions and artwork. A highlight is the double page photo spread - 1976 captured poignantly, which includes various Elvis shots riding his motorcycle with passengers. Elvis and Ginger Alden; and a radiant looking Elvis with fans at the LA hotel Shreveport, July 1. The booklet finishes with photos of Elvis in concert wearing an assortment of jumpsuits from 1976 - 77. A neat touch on the back cover: the blue vinyl 'Moody Blue' LP.
Again Ernst Jorgensen and the Follow That Dream team deserve credit for this magnum opus - 'Moody Blue' is the sound of the mature Elvis. This is the music he loved. He sings with a seasoned voice carrying all the weight and timbre of his extraordinary 41 plus years. All things considered Elvis was in great shape vocally despite his reluctance to leave Graceland to record as these captivating recordings testify. And he was still in control! It was one last throw of the dice - sadly it didn't last. Most highly recommended FTD release.
Moody Blue (2CD) FTD 123 (506020-975052)
Disc 1 : The Album
- Unchained Melody
- If You Love Me (Let me know)
- Little Darlin'
- He'll Have To Go
- Let Me Be There
- Way Down
- Pledging My Love
- Moody Blue
- She Thinks I Still Care
- It's Easy For You
The Alternate Album
- Unchained Melody - undubbed master
- If You Love Me (Let Me Know) - undubbed master
- Moody Blue - take 6
- She Thinks I Still Care - take 2B
- My Way (live)
- Way Down - undubbed master
- Little Darlin' - undubbed master
- He'll Have To Go - rough mix
- Pledging My Love - composite of rehearsal and take 3
- It's Easy For You - take 1
- She Thinks I Still Care - takes 1, 2A
- America The Beautiful
- Softly As I Leave You
- Way Down - rehearsal, take 1
- Way Down - take 2A
- She Thinks I Still Care - takes 3,4
- Moody Blue - take 1
- Pledging My Love - takes 1,2
- Pledging My Love - take 3
- It's Easy For You - takes 3,4
- It's Easy For You - undubbed master
- She Thinks I Still Care - takes 7,9
- She Thinks I Still Care - take 10
- Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain - unedited rough mix of master
- Moody Blue - takes 7,5
- Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall - rough mix of master
- Pledging My Love - takes 4-5
- Pledging My Love - undubbed, unedited master
- Way Down - take 2B
- Way Down - rough mix of master
- Moody Blue - takes 8,9
- Moody Blue - master unedited rough mix
- She Thinks I Still Care - take 15
- America - composite of single master and the surviving ending of the erased studio version.
Compiled by Jean-Marc Juilland.
Mastered by Jean-Marc Juilland & Vic Anesini.