Review : Elvis Is Back! 2 CD Legacy Edition
What do 'Elvis Is Back!' and 'Something For Everybody' have in common? Nothing I thought.
But play disc two of this set immediately following the end of Elvis Is Back! on disc one and it is as if the two albums were meant to be a double album release to begin with. That is the best compliment I think one can give to the producers of the set in coupling the two albums for this Legacy Edition. I have never been comfortable with the track format on 'Something For Everybody' (Personal opinion I am sure) with the ballads on side one and the 'rockers' on the other. I would never arrange a track listing like this.
However in this case, There's Always Me [The sound quality is simply sensational] and the rest of what was originally side A of the album compliment and blend with what has just been playing with the 'Elvis Is Back!' selections giving a good break to what has been a powerhouse list of performances and then we start again with I'm Coming Home, and boy is it great to have the bonus tracks of I Feel So Bad, (Marie's The Name Of) His Latest Flame, Little Sister, Good Luck Charm and Anything That's Part Of You follow the original B side tracks.
And the sax used on Give Me The Right and later, I Feel So Bad, helps blend the two albums as unique.
And that is after we have the bonus tracks on disc one of Stuck On You, Fame And Fortune, It's Now Or Never, A Mess Of Blues, Are You Lonesome Tonight?, I Gotta Know and Surrender.
Can there be any doubt that history would record each of these albums in the top selling list (Diamond sales certification) if albums were compiled in 1960/61 as they are now days with the hit singles?
And talk about an album that does not need the help of bonus tracks, 'Elvis Is Back!' is one such classic, even after 50 years. Enough to get Rolling Stone Magazine's attention just recently to issue the following decree;
Rolling Stone  gives the album a whopping 4.5 stars and says 'Recorded when Presley, was 25, fresh off a. two-year military stint and musically fit. to burst, Elvis Is Back! might be the King's greatest non-compilation LP: wildly varied material, revelatory singing, impeccable stereo sound'.
But look at the list of bonus tracks it gets, worldwide No. 1 smash hits.
Elvis Is Back: Legacy Edition follows the template of the recent RCA/Legacy releases, From Elvis In Memphis: Legacy Edition and On Stage: Legacy Edition. With each title, the definitive version of one of Elvis' most essential albums has been expanded to include another historically significant album from the same time period, along with the hit singles associated with both albums. Like the first two releases, the presentation is sensational and if the original 1960 LP pressing of this album had included the hit singles at the time of its original release, this easily would have qualified as the best rock & roll album ever recorded.
Elvis Is Back!
Elvis Is Back! was recorded in two sessions in March and April 1960. The first session itself was clouded in secrecy, to try to throw the fans and media off the track, right up until the point where cars were being parked and instruments unpacked', 'the assembled musicians were under the impression they'd been booked to record with Jim Reeves. This was a half-hearted attempt to thwart the fans gathered outside who knew full well who was coming in. The March 20 session delivered three album tracks and three single sides, with a further 12 songs recorded on April 3. There was a lot of pressure on Elvis to deliver. Of course, Elvis always rose to a challenge and tended to produce his best work under pressure. When the session finished there could be no doubt that from his explosive first recording 'Make Me Know It' to the very last moment, as dawn was breaking, 'Reconsider Baby' this might be the best music that Elvis would ever produce.
In an amazing two nights work Elvis recorded eighteen classic tracks including seven Gold records! When the LP was originally released surprisingly it did not sell as well as expected, and GI Blues would sadly do better.
The warmth of these master recordings is palpable, and as good as anything issued so far in the digital era. 'Elvis Is Back! was a triumph on every level', wrote Ernst Jørgensen in his essential research guide, Elvis Presley: A Life In Music (St. Martin's Press, 1998). 'Elvis had never been heard like this before, except perhaps by himself in his own head. There was new depth to his voice; his interpretations were increasingly sophisticated; the group was probably the best studio band in the business; the song selection was imaginative and varied, the technical quality excellent. Most surprisingly of all, the new album pointed in no one musical direction ... It was as if Elvis had invented his own brand of music, broken down the barriers of genre and prejudice to express everything he heard in all the kinds of music he loved'.
While the Gold singles are well-known, two LP tracks also stand out as some of Elvis' most important recordings of all-time. 'Reconsider Baby', recorded in one magnificent live-take, captures Elvis as he is consumed in the passion of the music and working with such a great band. The wailing sax of Boots Randolph combined with Elvis' intense vocal is hard to beat. Similarly Elvis' growling moan of 'Such A Night' pushed this lightweight Drifters' song into another league all together. Here the new idea of using dual drummers (Buddy Harman & DJ Fontana) never would be bettered, helping urge Elvis an awe-inspiring performance. While Elvis was never recognized as a song-writer, his all-important contribution as an arranger/producer is perfectly demonstrated here. Elvis' whoop of joy at the end really says it all!
Something For Everybody
After spending the rest of 1960 in Hollywood filming and recording the soundtracks for G.I. Blues, Flaming Star, and Wild In the Country, Elvis returned to Studio B on Sunday night, March 12, 1961. With the exception of 'I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell' (imported from the 'Wild In the Country' tapes), the other 11 tracks on Something For Everybody were all finished on that equally legendary overnight session. Among them were Elvis' takes on 'I Feel So Bad' (from Chuck Willis) and 'I'm Comin' Home' (from Charlie Rich). Elvis' next batch of hit singles were recorded at Studio B in June '(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame' b/w 'Little Sister', both sides penned by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman); and October ('Good Luck Charm' b/w 'Anything That's Part Of You').
The Liner Notes : Bringing the Story Together
Adding wit and nuance to Elvis Is Back: Legacy Edition is a new essay by New York-based journalist Stuart Colman, former member of '60s UK pop group the Flying Machine ('Smile A Little Smile For Me'), and former BBC radio host, recording studio owner, and Nashville-based record producer. Colman, a liner notes writer specializing in early roots-rock, R&B and rockabilly, sets the stage giving a very good over view of the period, even referring to Elvis recording Down In The Alley in the not too distant future. It was only five years away.
Colonel Parker may have had ideas of Elvis recording on his own with just piano compliment in Germany but Elvis new the value of team work, in this case the musicians that backed him.
Joining Elvis for his sessions at RCA's Studio B in Nashville were his long-time guitarist Scotty Moore, drummer D.J. Fontana, Floyd Cramer on piano, guitarist Hank Garland (also on bass), bassist Bob Moore, and drummer Buddy Harman, plus the Jordanaires on harmony vocals. When they reconvened two Sunday nights later on April 3rd saxophonist Boots Randolph was added to the lineup. The unprecedented results included Elvis' next two #1 million-selling singles, 'It's Now Or Never' and 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?' plus the nine tunes needed to complete the LP. Elvis Is Back was rush-released days later on April 8th. Any concerns about Elvis' ability in the studio after more than two years away serving his country in Germany were set aside forever.
Listening to this beautifully re-mastered CD, one feels as if they are there in real-time; not 'were there', but ARE THERE-- in the control booth-- as the sessions come to life; the mix, and the instruments, particularly the bass guitar, have never sounded this good on a consumer release. Elvis was in fine voice-- and you can HEAR the maturing of his vocal talent (range, interpretation and emotive achievement) revealing a refined, yet fresh new style. The choice of material also speaks volumes ... country, blues, gospel, doo-wop, rock and wonderfully navigated pop. If you've ever wondered what Elvis is all about ... this is a good place to learn. I can't imagine any singer alive today who could even come close to the capabilities of this guy.
This also represents the first Elvis 3-track recordings ... which means that the (then) new technology has joyously preserved what is truly an amazing collection of music production. Remember, Elvis recorded 'live to tape' with the band backing him in real-time as he made these hits ... no going back later (like producers today can do with 8, 16, 24, 48 and 64-track machines). In this environment, Elvis feeds off the band, and the band feeds off Elvis' performances. To use the 's' word (synergy) here is appropriate---and not a surrender to the lure of the cliché. This is a most compelling package of Elvis' early 60s pop, rock and blues tracks.
Can you imagine how Elvis fans would feel TODAY--if someone had made arrangements back THEN--to film all, or even part, of his return to music making? In the absence of such a visual recording, close your eyes and open your other senses as you experience what all of America learned in the spring of 1960: 'Elvis Is Back'.
Deluxe! A delight! Complete!
On opening you find two as part of a three panel presentation, period authentic black RCA inspired artwork CDs, behind those you find images of the two hit singles, His latest Flame / Little Sister and It's Now Or Never / A Mess Of Blues. The first panel has original advertising of two EPs from the original Something For Everybody LP. Closing the second flap gives you the just mention front cover art, closing gives you the Elvis Is Back! front cover and the well presented back cover for this release. Now perhaps vinyl lovers will understand more, but there is something very special in holding this set, reading the liner notes, appreciating the presentation as part of the overall experience of enjoying two great albums. So while, yes, I already have these tracks on the FTD Collectors label releases (see below) and even have the songs loaded into my iPod noting can better this overall experience (Except maybe vinyl in presentation, but with less convenience and the pops that go with it), so this set is now my preferred method of listening to these albums.
This was a powerful statement that no one could deny - 'Elvis Is Back!'
And on a final note;
There are three Elvis albums that every fan should own. 'Elvis Presley' his essential first LP, 'From Elvis In Memphis' the 1969 comeback LP, and 'Elvis Is Back'. The importance of these 3 LPs cannot be overstated.
CD Review : Elvis Country by David Adams
CD Review : From Elvis in Memphis by David Troedson
CD Review : From Elvis In Memphis by Tygrrius
CD Review : From Elvis in Memphis by Rolling Stone Magazine
CD Review : On Stage: Legacy Edition by David Adams
[Both albums are available as double CD Sets via the Official Elvis Presley Collectors Label Classic Album Series complete with the singles recorded at the sessions and importantly multiple alternate takes where you can hear very strong alternate versions while at the same time listening to Elvis produce the songs.]
Disc 1: Elvis Is Back (1960)
Make Me Know It
The Girl Of My Best Friend
I Will Be Home Again
Dirty, Dirty Feeling
Thrill Of Your Love
Such A Night
It Feels So Right
The Girl Next Door Went A'Walking
Like A Baby
Stuck On You
Fame And Fortune
It's Now Or Never
A Mess Of Blues
Are You Lonesome Tonight?
I Gotta Know
Disc 2: Something For Everybody (1961)
There's Always Me
Give Me The Right
It's A Sin
I'm Coming Home
In Your Arms
Put The Blame On Me
I Want You With Me
I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell
I Feel So Bad
(Marie's The Name Of) His Latest Flame
Good Luck Charm
Anything That's Part Of You
Elvis Is Back! 2 CD Legacy Edition
Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD + 16 page booklet.
Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever.
This is an excellent release no fan should be without it.
The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people. Highly recommended.