Review: Pot Luck With Elvis FTD 2 CD - The End of An Era
Source: EP Gold
January 9, 2008 - 3:18:00 PM
Elvis Reviews, Elvis CD Reviews, FTD
All these figures weren't unnoticed by RCA, the Colonel and Elvis himself.
Besides, at this stage of his career, both Elvis and the Colonel were against pulling singles from Soundtracks, except the odd promotional B-Side. Maybe people at RCA thought otherwise (they where seeing how 'Wooden Heart' was selling and performing in Europe and they will see how Presley will be pipped to the post in the U.S. by Joe Dowell's cover version, which made number one at the end of August 1961).
So, in June 61, quality product was the main goal, and regular recordings where still as important (or even more) as soundtrack recordings. The group that gathered at Nashville's Studio B was the usual one. Hank Garland on lead guitar, with Scotty Moore and Jordanaire Neal Matthews on rhythm guitar. Bob Moore was playing bass. Buddy Harman and DJ Fontana formed the usual tandem on drums; with Fontana keeping the steady rhythm (ta-ta-ta) while Harman played the real complicated rhythm patterns. Boots Randolph was on sax and claves, and Floyd Cramer and Gordon Stoker on piano and organ.
They started with 'Kiss Me Quick', a Latinate inoffensive song that took 12 takes to get recorded, ten of them complete. Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman wrote it. Mort Shuman recalls that it was in his opinion 'probably the worst song I ever wrote for Elvis and I don't know why he did it'. But Elvis liked it!
'Kiss me quick!' called Elvis, warming up his voice while the engineer called for take 1. This first take was complete, driven by a mandolin figure (Scotty?) and a latin drum pattern. The result was good, if a little uncertain. Although there are quite more complete takes of the song, FTD gives us just take 1 and take 4, both already released. Take 4 is naturally more polished than take 1 and wonderfully sung by Elvis.
By take 12, all agreed they had a master in the can.
The second song recorded on that June night was 'That's Someone You Never Forget', a Red West composition, the title suggested by Elvis. Red West had cut the demo himself with a guitar at Gold Star Recording in Hollywood. The lyrics could relate to any girl in the world, but it is consensually accepted that Elvis was thinking about his mother, Gladys. Take one starts with Hank Garland's (or maybe Scotty's) delicate rhythm guitar, a bass line and the Jordanaires. On the second verse the drums join in. On the break Floyd adds touches from his piano. Take 5 features a different arrangement than take 1: an electric guitar line from the beginning, along with the bass and the rhythm guitar, and the piano enters on second verse instead of entering on the bridge. Takes 7 and 8 (the master) were very similar.
Red West was on hand, elated as Elvis called for him to assist on producing the right arrangement.
After the midnight break, the group came back to work with a Blue Hawaii candidate: 'I'm yours', submitted by Don Robertson for the movie final wedding scene. The first take was complete, and the arrangement simple. A piano rhythm, a bass line, a somewhat disturbing organ (it was a wedding song after all!) an electric guitar almost buried in the mix and Elvis. Along with the master, Pot Luck FTD special edition features takes 1, 2, 4, and 5. Take 2 was preceded by 2 false starts and it's very similar to take 1, as are takes 4 and 5.
The master was take 6, but Elvis finished the song by adding a harmony vocal and a recitation.
The undubbed master was featured in the movie 'Tickle Me' and released in 1965 as a single that sold 500,000 copies and reached 11 on the billboard charts.
After recording these 3 songs, they started recording 'His Latest Flame' and 'Little Sister', the songs that were to be the single that the session called for. After recording them and after listening to the playback of 'Little Sister' over and over, the session was finally halted.
Released in August 1961, 'His Latest Flame' / 'Little Sister' was a blockbuster double-sided hit, with both sides charting in the top 5 of the Billboard charts. Sales of 700.000 copies were a little disappointing, but it was a big hit anyway, both commercially and artistically.
The June experience had gone so well, that it seemed natural to all parties involved to give the idea one more try. So, after Elvis completed the movie 'Follow That Dream', a session was arranged once again at the same Studio for the night of October 15th, 1961. Remember that they could as well release a single like 'Follow that Dream' / 'Angel'. It would've been suitable and the material was miles better than the later movie singles from the mid sixties, but still these soundtrack recordings were confined to the EP format or the B side of a single.
There were changes in the band for the October session. Hank Garland had suffered a car accident that left him unable to play guitar forever more, so Scotty Moore had to take the lead for the first time on an Elvis session since 1958, and Jerry Kennedy was hired as an ad-on.
Once again, the goal was a strong single, the material was pre-selected and already cleared by Freddy Bienstock. Work started in a very similar mood to the June session, as the first song, Tepper and Bennett's 'For The Millionth And The Last Time' was a simple, undemanding latin-type of song that took as many takes to be recorded as 'Kiss Me Quick' back in June. Anyway, they were unsettled with the absence of Hank Garland and progressed slowly. Take 1 was complete and it featured an electric mandolin line, a tambourine, piano touches, the usual bass line, Jerry Kennedy's acoustic guitar and a little of drums. By take 7, the arrangement was completely reworked. The mandolin was substituted by an acoustic guitar intro (Scotty) immediately substituted by Gordon Stoker on accordion. 'Damn Gordon, quit breathing so heavy!' joked Elvis. Master take 12 was very similar, but remained unreleased for almost four years, when it was included on 'Elvis For Everyone'. After this first song and before midnight, the band cut the single 'Good luck Charm' / 'Anything That's Part Of You', the centerpiece of the session. (Single and session included on FTD's 'Something For Everybody' special edition).
With the single recorded, Elvis tried two songs submitted by Freddy Bienstock. Don Robertson wrote the first, 'I Met Her Today' and it was a real beauty. Elvis guided himself and the band through twenty takes, never satisfied with the result, and finally abandoning it. Take 1 was complete and good. Takes 4, 8, 9, 16, and master take 18, included on Pot Luck FTD Special Edition retain the charm of the first take, but we can hear clear signs of drying out of inspiration, a subtle frustration in Elvis born by not achieving what he had in mind. On take 8, on the line 'just when the last bit of pride'. that demanded an octave change, he opted for a full operatic voice instead of the previous falsetto, but the idea was soon abandoned.
It got worst as they moved on the next song, 'Night Rider', a Pomus-Shuman song that came to Elvis hands in the form of a Phil Spector produced demo. Three complete takes where recorded. The three takes completed where good, but maybe too fast. And Elvis wasn't satisfied neither, so as they were tired and the main goal (the single) had been achieved, at 4 am, Elvis called it a halt. The session had produced a good single, but a feeling of frustration, unknown maybe since the February 58 session, lingered on
'Good Luck Charm' / 'Anything That's Part Of You' was to be released as the final single of 1961, but RCA started a little 'war' with the Colonel demanding that 'Can't Help Falling In Love' (from the blockbuster movie 'Blue Hawaii') was released as a single. RCA was in awe of the song potential, and also afraid of the idea of someone else recording it and making the hit out of it as it had happened in August with 'Wooden Heart' from 'GI Blues'. Believe it or not, the Colonel was aware that the quality of movie songs was inferior to the 'regular' songs, and neither he or his client contemplated a movie single and in this case the song was already featured on the Soundtrack album, hence losing some of its hit potential. At the end, as always, money solved the problem, and RCA paid for advanced royalties for 1 million copies and the single was released in December 61. And it was a sensation, reaching number 2, selling 1,200,000 copies and proving the Colonel and Elvis wrong. It was a step that in the end killed those Single-recording sessions that had took place in June and October 61, and that contributed to the final defeating of the Regular recording sessions in favor of Hollywood.
But, in March 62, The Colonel's strategy was the same.
Three movies a year, two of them venturing in new directions and with very few songs (the western 'Flaming Star', the drama 'Wild in The Country', the comedy 'Follow that Dream' and the almost serious but appalling 'Kid Galahad'), and one a musical comedy. But even the musical comedies still had some class. Nice settings, good budgets, even good songs, miles away from the 'Kissin Cousins', 'Spinout', 'Harum Scarum' days. An Elvis musical in 1960-1963 was, if not a winning Oscar film, a lavish entertaining film for all the family.
And movie music was relegated to the EP format, the B-side occasional song and a full LP Soundtrack per year. Better still, concerts were still in the picture, first in the form of Charity performances in 1961, and later in the form of a planned USA tour that would have taken place in the fall of 1962 and that reduced the usual quota of 3 movies per year, with just 2 movies planned for 1962 (and maybe even the second one was made because of the ultimate falling out of the tour plan). So, after the release of 'Can't Help Falling In Love', things were back on track. The first single of 1962, the non-Hollywood 'Good Luck Charm', rocketed to number 1 and sold 950,000 copies in the process. And the usual spring Nashville session was set-up for March 18th and 19th.
Songs flooded from the usual sources, and the guitar 'hole' left by Hank was finally addressed and filled with famous guitar players Harold Bradley and Grady Martin. The first song of the session 'Something Blue' was written by Paul Evans ('I Gotta Know') and Al Byron ('Roses are Red'). The demo included an intro recalling the wedding march, and take 1 featured it. The playing and performance (that sax whisper, that guitar.) was exquisite, and the lyrics were original and good. On take 1, just before 'I'm really not the best man in this world' there is a spot where everybody seems to loose their way, but the take isn't aborted. By take 2, 'The Wedding March' is gone, and the band sounds tighter, though Elvis looses himself at the beginning, on the 'this lips my lips knew' line. Take 3 is a false start, take 4 is complete. The master is take 7.
The second song for the night was also a real good one, from the Pomus-Shuman team.
'Gonna Get Back Home Somehow', influenced by a Hank Williams song 'Ramblin' Man'. Take 1 is complete and promising, making difficult to spot any mistakes, except maybe an off beat drum beat just before the second 'never thought that I could miss you so' (That said, I just love Buddy Harman drumming on this song). Before take 2 they ask for the air conditioning to be turned on. Take 2 is quite similar to take 1. Take 5 is more controlled, as is the master take 7.
The third song was another winner, and this time a candidate for a single. Otis Blackwell and Winfield Scott were looking for an unusual title and a lyric about love and girls, and a mellow mood pop song. So they came up with '(Such an) Easy Question' that really had all the ingredients to become an Elvis hit. The arrangement was sexy, slow, and seductive. Takes 2, 3 and 5 were complete, and the later was chosen as the master. The differences between them are very subtle. You can hear both guitar players each on a separate channel. The Jordanaires are right on the spot. Two album filler songs followed. The first, 'Fountain of Love', built over Grady Martin's absolutely wonderful Spanish guitar playing and Elvis incredible vocals, was delightful. Two full takes plus the master are included here. The second, 'Just For Ol' Times Sake' was a pleasant ballad by Tepper and Bennett in the vein of Don Robertson's ballads that took 3 complete takes to be recorded.
After finishing the first five songs, at 2:30 am, Elvis turned his attention to 'Night Rider', the song recorded the previous October. Two more full takes were recorded, but not even the augmented guitar section added more to the previous year's master, and the resulting recording (take 5) was finally rejected in favor of the October 61 original one. During the summer of 61, Elvis had asked Freddy Bienstock, via Charlie Hodge and Tom Diskin, to contact legend Cole Porter in order to ask permission to change lyrics to his perennial classic 'Beguine the Begin', as Elvis and Red had completed a new set of lyrics. Of course Elvis didn't write a single letter (Red wrote it), but to redo a Porter song was something like a crime. We must thank Mr. Porter for denying permission!! Charlie was over there and suggested a 2 chord Spanish melody. So Red did it. Red wrote music and lyrics, but gave a third of the song to Elvis (that only suggested altering the Porter Classic) and another third to Charlie. A generous guy indeed! The song was recorded in 3 complete takes. Take 1 is very sweet and tender. Take 2 is complete and Elvis vocals are more dramatic, filled with passion. Take 4 features a false start ('Slight problem' in the control booth), and take 5 is the master.
The second night was shorter, and just 4 songs were recorded. First, 'I Feel That I've Known You Forever', another album cut by Doc Pomus and Jeffreys that took little time to record. Elvis reading was delicate, reaching for a climate at the end, like on 'There's Always Me'. Indeed with this song and with others ('Just For Old Times Sake') it seems that the writers had taken notice of Elvis love for the Don Robertson type of song, and were submitting similar types of songs. Not having the real thing Elvis opted for these.
A single hit was still in the agenda, and there were 3 candidates for the A side prize, along with the previous day's 'You'll Be Gone' and 'Easy Question'. The first one was Freddy Biensctock's personal bet, 'Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello', certainly a song that had hit potential. Written by the 'forbidden team' (Leiber and Stoller), it was first attempted at a faster tempo than the ultimate master and already featured a triangle, but lower in the mix (right where it belongs, I may add.). Take 2 is taken at the same tempo, but the triangle starts to get annoying, sounding higher in the mix. Take 4 is slower, and take 5 is faster than any previous takes. The master settles on the original take 2 tempo, maybe a little brisker.
The second single candidate, 'Suspicion' was THE real serious contender for single A side. The lyric was perfect, as was Elvis performance, his cry 'why torture me?' a class on its own. I just love the tentativeness of take 1, a previously unreleased take. The masteris a splice take (take 5 and work part take 3) that is the winner.
And the final song for the session was 'She's Not You', a song by Leiber-Stoller-Pomus. A dynamite team and a dynamite song!! Take 1 is short and sweet, as it lacks the repeated verse. The recording was brief, just 2 more takes and a work part recording of the repeated verse, and splice was made to get a master.
The session ended, and it was amazing, as it had produced 5 possible A sides for a single, and they only needed one. 'Easy Question', 'You'll Be Gone' (possibly a B side candidate to be honest), 'Just tell her Jim Said Hello', 'She's Not You' and 'Suspicion' were all sure bets for a hit. And an album had to be made too!!
Freddy voted for 'Just tell her Jim Said Hello', Elvis for 'You'll Be Gone', so lacquers of both songs were made and sent to Elvis, Freddy and the Colonel. But at the end, 'She's Not You' won the course, and it was released with 'Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello' in July, achieving great sales (800.000 copies) and a number 5 position. 'Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello' got as high as 55 on the charts.
With the recording of the 'Girls!, Girls!, Girls!' Soundtrack and the obvious hit potential of 'Return To Sender' there was no place for more singles, so 'Suspicion' and 'Easy Question' were relegated to album tracks on the new June 62 studio album: 'Pot Luck With Elvis'. 'I Met Her Today', 'You'll Be Gone' and 'For The Millionth And The Last Time' were all shelved and the rest of the tracks found their place on the new album.
Instead of leaving it as a 11 track album, or adding one of the shelved tracks, of all chances, a poorly recorded and so out of place 'Blue Hawaii' reject, 'Stepping Out Of Line', was included in the album, and in the middle of side one (not even at the end!). The album did well, selling the usual 300000 copies and charting 4.
The trend initiated with 'Can't Help Falling In Love' the previous December, the upcoming of full LP soundtracks fruit of the new MGM contract, the 20th Century Fox contract ending, the option of Mirisch Films to reduce the 4 picture contract to just two, the falling out of the 62 tour plans and most of all, the incredible success of the soundtracks 'GI Blues', 'Blue Hawaii' and the future 'Girls! Girls! Girls!' ... It all put an end to the promising 1960-1962 era, where serious recordings, stellar singles, adequate musicals, live performance, and exploring Hollywood roles all lived together in apparent harmony.
FTD's special edition of the Pot Luck With Elvis album doesn't include the complete sessions, as there was enough material maybe for a third disc. But they included the best from the sessions, excluding many false starts and aborted takes. The sound is pristine and a real indication of the high level that this label has achieved, finally becoming not only a completists label, but an audiophile label.
CD 1: Original Album
Kiss Me Quick
Just For Old Time Sake
Gonna Get Back Home Somehow
(Such An) Easy Question
Steppin' Out Of Line
I Feel That I've Known You Forever
Fountain Of Love
That's Someone You Never Forget
She's Not You
Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello
You'll Be Gone
For The Millionth And The Last Time
I Met Her Today
Kiss Me Quick (take 1)
Just For Old Time Sake (take 1)
Gonna Get Back Somehow (take 1)
(Such An) Easy Question (take 2)
I'm Yours (take 1)
Something Blue (take 1*)
Suspicion (take 1*)
I Feel That I've Known You Forever (take 1)
Night Rider (take 1)
Fountain Of Love (takes 1, 2)
That's Someone You Never Forget (take 1)
She's Not You (take 1)
Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello (take 1)
You'll Be Gone (take 1)
For The Millionth And The Last Time (take 1)
I Met Her Today (take 1)
CD 2: March 1962 Session
Something Blue (take 2)
Something Blue (takes 3, 4)
Gonna Get Back Home Somehow (take 2)
Gonna Get Back Home Somehow (takes 3*, 5)
(Such An) Easy Question (takes 1, 3)
Fountain Of Love (takes 4*, 9*)
Just For Old Time Sake (takes 2*, 3, 4)
Night Rider (takes 2, 3)
Night Rider (take 5)
You'll Be Gone (take 2)
You'll Be Gone (take 4)
I Feel That I've Know You Forever (takes 4*, 3)
Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello (take 2)
Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello (take 4)
Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello (take 5)
Suspicion (takes 3*, 2)
She's Not You (take 2*, WP take 4)
October 1961 Session
For The Millionth And The last Time (takes 10*, 7*)
I Met Her Today (take 4)
I Met Her Today (takes 8, 9)
I Met Her Today (take 16)
Night Rider (takes 1-FS, 2)
June 1961 Session
Kiss Me Quick (take 4)
I'm Yours (take 2)
I'm Yours (take 4)
I'm Yours (take 5)
That's Someone You Never Forget (take 5)
That's Someone You Never Forget (take 7
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