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Review: 'Studio Sessions '56: The Complete Recordings' 3 CD/172 Page Book Set


By: Toby Richard
Source: Elvis Australia
July 18, 2017 - 1:00:32 PM
Elvis Reviews, Elvis Articles, Elvis CD Reviews, Elvis CD News, Elvis News

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Elvis Presley's studio recordings from 1956 are among the most revered in rock and roll history. It were these recordings, which include eternal classics such as 'Heartbreak Hotel', Don't Be Cruel' and 'Hound Dog', that became the cornerstones of Elvis' legendary career and rock and roll music in general. While the popular notion nowadays is that the musical style of rock and roll was 'born' in July 1954 with the recording of Elvis' rockabilly take on Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup's 'That's All Right' at Sam Phillips' Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, that single was actually not what one would call a hit record upon original release. The four Sun singles that followed until August 1955, which included 'Mystery Train' and 'Baby Let's Play House' (now deemed rock and roll classics), also only had rather small-scale success. Of course we know now, in hindsight, that the Sun sessions had huge historic importance and the mysterious appeal of these seminal recordings has never diminished in over six decades. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that most music fans back in the day got introduced to the force that was Elvis Presley through his 1956 self-titled debut album and especially the hit single 'Heartbreak Hotel'. While Elvis' debut album included five songs that were recorded at Sun but shelved initially, the original Sun singles became more widely heard only years later when they saw their first release in the album format as part of 1959's For LP Fans Only and A Date with Elvis that were released to gap the period of time when Elvis was away in the Army in Germany.

There is no question that the impact of the first recordings Elvis made for RCA Victor in 1956 were of much greater scope than his Sun output. 'Ask most non-fans when Elvis' career started and the popular response would be 1956', the opening lines of the introduction in the book of Memphis Recording Service's 'Elvis Studio Sessions '56: The Complete Recordings' read. It's not far-fetched to say that Elvis would probably agree about that as he said himself during one of the sit-down shows for the '68 Comeback Special that he started out in 1956. After all, this was the year of his meteoric rise to superstardom. Certainly, by 1955, the 'Hillbilly Cat', as Elvis was known then, was already a local phenomenon in the Southern United States, but his music was hardly known outside of the South. That was about to change with Elvis' move away from Sun Records to the major label RCA Victor, who acquired his contract on November 21, 1955 for the unprecedented amount of $35,000. No one had ever payed more for a singer before and the record company had big plans for Elvis. Right after acquiring the rights to his Sun recordings, RCA Victor re-released Elvis' five Sun singles in December 1955. These included 'I Forgot to Remember to Forget', which turned out a big success upon re-release, becoming Elvis' first number one hit on the Billboard country chart on February 25, 1956. Many more would follow.

As 1956 was such a pivotal year in Elvis' career, it has been the focus of many Elvis projects over the years. Among them are the acclaimed documentary film Elvis '56 from 1987, another excellent documentary called 'Classic Albums: Elvis Presley' from 2001, which focuses solely on the making of Elvis' debut album, as well as a multitude of books such as 'Elvis and the Birth of Rock and Roll' (2013), which features pictures taken by photographer Alfred Wertheimer in March 1956 when Elvis was just on the brink of major success. The most important releases are of course the CD and vinyl releases that focus on Elvis in 1956, the most recent of which is RCA's boxed set 'Young Man with the Big Beat' (2011). The most popular single-disc release is probably the 1996 RCA/BMG release 'Elvis 56', which includes 22 tracks and is often named as one of the best Elvis compilations.

'Elvis Studio Sessions '56: The Complete Recordings' 3 CD/172 Page Book Set.
'Elvis Studio Sessions '56: The Complete Recordings' 3 CD/172 Page Book Set.

Now here we have Elvis Studio Sessions '56 from Memphis Recording Service (MRS), a 3CD/172-page book set, subtitled 'The Complete Recordings', that is in many aspects similar to RCA's aforementioned 'Young Man with the Big Beat', which is similarly subtitled 'The Complete '56 Elvis Presley Masters'. The focus of the RCA set is a bit different, though, as they decided to include all the masters that were released in 1956, a couple of which were recorded in 1954 and 1955, and they also included live performances. The idea behind the MRS set, on the other hand, was to include everything that Elvis actually recorded in the studio that year, master takes as well as available alternate takes. It's an interesting concept that has not been realized in this form before. Let's take a look at 'Elvis Studio Sessions '56' and see how it compares to RCA's 'Young Man with the Big Beat' and Follow That Dream Records' releases.

Packaging

All recent MRS releases feature similarly designed packaging that can be instantly recognized as one of the label's releases and this one is no exception. The three CDs and the rather thick book again come in a mediabook-style packaging, just like the label's recent releases, that is nearly identical in size and look to RCA/Legacy's 2014 European reissue of 'Young Man with the Big Beat'. Both releases are essentially small hardcover books about the size of a DVD case with clear DVD trays glued to the inside of the front and the back cover, in the case of 'Elvis Studio Sessions '56' there is one single-disc tray in the front of the book and a double-disc tray in the back. The cover design for 'Elvis Studio Sessions '56' features a high-quality somewhat sepia-toned close-up shot of a still blond Elvis having fun in the studio. The green and pink color scheme of the writing on the cover is apparently based on the cover design of 'Young Man with the Big Beat', which in turn was based on the iconic design of Elvis' first album.

The same colors, green and pink, along with white are also used for the spine and the back cover, which features another picture of Elvis in the studio, smirking mischievously, along with some text that describes the contents of the set. It says that it is a limited edition that focuses on Elvis' 'first year of national stardom' and includes 'the complete archival master and session studio recordings' from 1956 plus some bonus interviews, 90 tracks all in all. The book is said to include 'rare and previously unseen photographs and pieces of documentation' alongside 'full and comprehensive text'. The music is said to 'have been remastered and restored to their original sound quality' but it remains unclear what the last part of that quote actually means. In the book it says: 'All of the sound recordings have been remastered and restored using the most sophisticated technology available to achieve the best possible sound for these original recordings. However, priority has been given to the historical content of the material'. No further explanation is given as to what was remastered and how. The back cover does not include a full track listing with all the alternate takes but only an unnumbered list of the 34 masters that are included on discs one and two. It is not apparent from reading the description on the packaging itself what interviews are included on the CDs. You only get that information from the detailed track listings on pages 168-170 of the book. The interviews are 'The Truth About Me' (4 tracks) and the Don Davis radio interview from March 1956.

The book cover is printed in high quality on matte paper that is glued onto sturdy cardboard. On the inside of the front cover, behind the tray, is what looks like a vintage advertisement that reads 'Elvis Presley - Exclusively on RCA Victor Records' and features the iconic photograph of Elvis on stage at the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa, Florida on July 31, 1955 that was used for his debut album. Right next to it, on the first book page, is the well-known photograph of Elvis in profile playing guitar from the cover of his second album. It's a nice touch to be welcomed by the familiar look of the two albums that make up the largest part of the material included on the CDs of this release. The first disc features an image of a reel-to-reel tape on one half and is printed black on the other and labeled 'The 1956 RCA Studio Masters' in green, pink and white letters.

On the last page of the book we see a lesser-known publicity shot of Elvis in a red jacket and gray pants holding an acoustic guitar and next to it, behind the tray that holds discs two and three, is what looks like another vintage advertisement captioned 'Elvis Presley - Exclusive RCA Victor Recording Artist' that features a photo from the same session that yielded the picture on the Elvis (1956) album cover that has Elvis in a different position, standing straight in front of the camera and looking up. Disc two is light-green and labeled 'Movie Soundtrack Master Recordings / Movie Soundtrack Outtakes / Studio Outtakes & Sessions' and features a faint black and white picture of Elvis, while disc three is light-red and labeled 'Studio Outtakes & Sessions / The Truth About Me (The Interview Outtakes)' and features a similar faint picture of Elvis. The labelings are again in the green-pink-white color scheme.

Book

The 172-page book is in color throughout and is printed on semi-glossy paper, the thick kind that high-quality magazines use, so thumbing through the pages goes nice and smoothly. The text on the pages is sharp and easily legible and the pictures and reproductions of documents, advertisements, album covers, etc. are mostly of great quality. The contents of the book are spread over seven chapters and you can find a 'Recording Session Log' and a detailed 'CD Tracklist' on the last couple of pages. There is also a two-page introduction that points out Colonel Tom Parker's role in setting the stage for Elvis' transition from Sun Records to RCA Victor and the first chapter then presents an in-depth look at what went on behind the scenes during 'Elvis' move to RCA'. The story continues right where the last chapter, 'The Beginning of the End', of MRS' previous CD/book set, Memphis Recording Service: The Complete Works 1953-1955, left off.

From chapter two onward, the chapters each chronicle one specific Elvis recording session, of which six (or more, depending on the way you count them) took place in 1956. The six chapters that delve into the recording sessions, chapters two through seven, are each named after a song that was recorded at the session the respective chapter addresses. Elvis' first RCA recording session, which took place at Studio B in Nashville, Tennessee on January 10 and 11, is the subject of the second chapter and it is appropriately entitled 'Heartbreak Hotel' as this song was recorded at the session and became Elvis' first single on RCA Victor. The first Nashville session yielded another four songs, namely 'I Got a Woman', Money Honey', 'I'm Counting on You', and 'I Was the One'.

Elvis Studio Sessions '56 3 CD Set from MRS.

Chapter three, 'My Baby Left Me', details Elvis' first recording session in New York, which took place on three days at the end of January and the beginning of February. Elvis and his band, the Blue Moon Boys (Scotty Moore, Bill Black and D. J. Fontana), had stayed in New York after their January 28 national television debut on the Dorsey Brothers' Stage Show on CBS where they performed a medley of 'Shake Rattle and Roll' and 'Flip, Flop and Fly' as well as 'I Got a Woman'. The scheduled recording session commenced two days after their TV appearance, on January 30, at RCA Studio 1 with the recording of 'Blue Suede Shoes', My Baby Left Me', 'One-Side Love Affair', and 'So Glad You're Mine'. Another two songs, 'I'm Gonna Sit Right Down (and Cry over You)' and 'Tutti Frutti', were finished the next day, and another two on February 3, namely 'Lawdy, Miss Clawdy' and 'Shake, Rattle and Roll'. RCA Victor now had eleven new tracks - 'Heartbreak Hotel' b/w 'I Was the One' had already been released as a single on January 27 - to compile Elvis' debut album that they wanted to release quickly to capitalize on his television appearances. As some tracks from the first two sessions had hit potential, the label chose to reserve those for singles and include only seven of the eleven recorded songs in the album. The rest of the playing time was filled with the five previously unreleased Sun tracks 'I Love You Because', 'Just Because', 'Tryin' to Get to You', 'I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin')', and 'Blue Moon'. The 12-track album was then released on March 23.

The fourth chapter is about Elvis' second Nashville session, which yielded only one song and is therefore entitled 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You'. When 'Heartbreak Hotel' had sold over a million copies by April, there was clearly demand for a second hit single, so producer Steve Sholes set up a one-day recording session during Elvis' tight touring schedule and had him and his band flown to Nashville on April 14. As the private plane had some turbulence, Elvis and his band mates didn't function a hundred percent when they arrived for the session and Elvis had problems remembering the lyrics. Sholes sent the boys home after multiple takes of 'I Want, You I Need You, I Love You' thinking he would have to re-schedule the session, but later he decided to splice takes 14 and 17 together and created a master take that way. The single was released on May 12 and turned out to be a best-seller going on to become a number one hit on the Billboard sales chart.

'The Final New York Session' is the subject of chapter five, which is called 'Hound Dog'. The session again took place after one of Elvis' television appearances in New York. This time he was on The Steve Allen Show at the Hudson Theatre on July 1 and performed 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You' and 'Hound Dog', the same two songs he had also performed during his appearance on The Milton Berle Show one month before that had caused nationwide discussions for Elvis' body movements during 'Hound Dog'. The song was finally scheduled to be recorded in the studio on July 2, again at RCA Studio 1. This is arguably the most legendary of the 1956 sessions. It's a well-known anecdote that Elvis demanded more than 30 takes takes to get 'Hound Dog' on tape exactly the way he wanted it, the way he heard it in his mind, which was very different from Big Mama Thornton's original recording of the Leiber & Stoller composition. The seven-hour session yielded two more songs, 'Don't Be Cruel', which took almost as many takes as 'Hound Dog', and the ballad 'Any Way You Want Me (That's How I Will Be)'. 'Hound Dog' and 'Don't Be Cruel' would become the next two number one hits for Elvis.

At the end of March, Elvis had already done some screen-tests for film producer Hal Wallis and by the end of April, he had signed a contract for his first motion picture, which turned out to be a western for 20th Century Fox called The Reno Brothers, later re-titled Love Me Tender to capitalize on the successful single. Elvis began work on the film on August 22 and the recording sessions for the soundtrack are chronicled in chapter six of the book, which is of course called 'Love Me Tender'. Elvis recorded the majority of the four songs that would be released on the 'Love Me Tender' extended play in November on August 24 at 20th Century Fox's Stage 1 in Hollywood, California. This session yielded the songs 'We're Gonna Move', 'Poor Boy' and 'Love Me Tender', Elvis' final number one hit of 1956. The fourth song for the soundtrack, 'Let Me', as well as an additional third verse for 'Poor Boy' were recorded during the second Love Me Tender session, which was held on September 4 and 5, again at Fox's Stage 1. The final session for the film soundtrack was on October 1 for the recording of the end title version of ' Love Me Tender' at the same facility.

Between the sessions for the Love Me Tender soundtrack and Elvis' acting work on the film's set, a three-day session for his second album was held at Radio Recorders in Hollywood. Chapter seven, 'Too Much', focuses on this session that lasted from September 1 to September 3 and was rather productive with Elvis and the musicians finishing 13 songs, enough for an album and a single. September 1 produced four songs, namely 'Playing for Keeps', 'Love Me', 'How Do You Think I Feel' and 'How's the World Treating You'. The following day, Elvis recorded the six songs 'When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again', 'Long Tall Sally', 'Old Shep', 'Paralyzed', 'Too Much' and 'Anyplace Is Paradise', and on the last day, 'Ready Teddy', 'First in Line' and 'Rip It Up' were added to the list of completed tracks. Except for Arthur Crudup's 'So Glad You're Mine', which was left over from the January New York session, all tracks on the final album, entitled Elvis, were taken from this September session at Radio Recorders and it makes for a more consistent listening experience than Elvis' first album, which was pieced together from new recordings and ones from the vault. 'Too Much' b/w 'Playing for Keeps' was released as a single and reached number one on the Billboard sales chart.

After the seventh and final chapter in the book, the 'Recording Session Log 1956' follows on page 167, which lists all the songs Elvis recorded in the studio that year. The log contains a few errors. The song 'Paralyzed' is listed as having been recorded on September 1 and a second time on September 2. It was in fact recorded only on the latter date. There is one song listed as having been recorded on September 1 that wasn't recorded at that session at all but only the following year. That song is 'I Need You So', recorded February 23, 1957. The book concludes with detailed track listings for the three CDs on pages 168 through 170. There are some minor inconsistencies in the presentation of the track listings. One is that incomplete takes for which the take number is not known are usually listed as 'incomplete unknown take' but track 16 on disc two, a take of 'I'm Counting on You', is listed as 'unknown incomplete take'. Another inconsistency is that for disc one, the song titles are printed in pink letters while the two interviews contained on this disc (tracks 14 and 32) are printed in green letters. However, this pattern is not continued for the track listing of disc thee that has the three 'The Truth About Me' takes printed in pink letters just as the song outtakes. These are certainly minor errors that do not really matter. Page 170, which contains the track listing for disc three, also states the credits for this release:

Direction, production and compilation by Joseph Pirzada

Audio restoration by Studio D
Liner notes by Joseph Pirzada
Design by Kev Reape

As with previous MRS releases, the text in the 172-page book is informative and well-written albeit with 36 actual text pages, 10 of which contain smaller images, a bit on the short side this time. Nevertheless, the major events in Elvis' career during the year of 1956 are all recounted here. The plethora of photographs and complementing reproductions of documents make up the biggest part of the book, though. There are no less than 81 full-page photographs (50 of Elvis in the studio, one of him on stage in 1955, and 31 publicity shots), six double-page photographs of Elvis in the studio, three pages with seven smaller pictures of Elvis together with the RCA people welcoming him to their label, as well as 37 pages depicting reproductions of documents such as contracts, recording session logs, newspaper clippings, and covers of albums, extended plays and singles. Unlike Memphis Recording Service: The Complete Works 1935-1955, the book contains only pictures with Elvis in the focus and there are no big pictures of Colonel Parker, Scotty Moore or any of the other people that played a part in the development of his career at the time. While the vast majority of the images in the book are of great quality, a a handful of them (some of the reproductions of contracts for instance) apparently suffer from low resolution and are a bit blurry. That is very much the exception, though. All in all the visual presentation is top-notch.

Music

Compact discs usually hold up to 80 minutes of music, and the three CDs contained in 'Elvis Studio Sessions '56' (also abbreviated as 'Studio Sessions' from this point forward) are almost all filled to the brim. Disc one has a playing time of 78 minutes and 26 seconds, disc two plays for 77 minutes and 51 seconds, and disc three clocks in at 71 minutes and 15 seconds. That's a total playing time of close to four hours, which is quite a lot. For comparison, 'Young Man with the Big Beat' (also abbreviated as 'Young Man' from this point forward) has a playing time of about five hours, but it's a five disc set, so it could have fit considerably more.

Disc 1: The 1956 RCA Studio Masters

The first disc of Elvis 'Studio Sessions' '56 contains all master takes Elvis recorded in the studio in 1956. These do not include the few soundtrack recordings that were done that year, which can be found on disc two. This could be the first time that all of Elvis' 30 non-soundtrack masters from 1956 are collected on one disc. The disc additionally includes a radio interview with Elvis from March 1956 and 'The Truth About Me', a kind of monologue done by Elvis for Teen Parade magazine and released on a 45 rpm flexi disc back in the day. The radio interview is placed at track 14 between the sessions for Elvis' first album and the session for 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You', while 'The Truth About Me' closes the disc as track 32. It can be argued that it would have made for a better listening experience if the radio interview had been placed before 'The Truth About Me' at the end of the disc so that the flow of the music wouldn't be interrupted. Better yet, these two talking tracks could have been placed at the end of the third disc together with the outtakes of 'The Truth About Me'. They would have fit nicely on there, but it's ultimately a matter of taste.

The sound quality of the masters is good but don't expect any new sonic revelations of the magnitude of certain tracks on 'Memphis Recording Service: The Complete Works 1953-1955'. MRS certainly did change the sound a bit compared to the RCA and Follow That Dream (FTD) releases these tracks can be found on but all in all, the remastering work they have done is mostly subtle. The overall sound in comparison to RCA's 'Young Man with the Big Beat' can be described as brighter, slightly more 'open' and definitely louder. On a few tracks, namely 'Shake, Rattle and Roll', 'Too Much' and 'Any Place Is Paradise', the bass is a little more prominent on MRS' set. In most cases, the tracks don't really sound better on 'Studio Sessions' but just as good as on RCA's set. There are a few exceptions, though. The MRS remaster of 'I Got a Woman' sounds slightly muffled compared to 'Young Man', which has a brighter, clearer sound in this case. Some songs sound a bit harsh on 'Studio Sessions'. It appears that MRS slightly overdid it with raising the treble on 'Tutti Frutti', 'Money Honey', 'I Was the One', 'Love Me', 'First in Line' and 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You'. These don't sound bad here by any means but RCA's mixes are just more pleasing, more even on these songs. It appears that MRS made extensive use of dynamic range compression and they compressed the dynamics all too much on a couple of tracks, which introduces hiss that wasn't apparent before. In the case of 'My Baby Left Me', the song still sounds a bit better on 'Studio Sessions' despite more prominent hiss. On the other hand, the hiss that is introduced with the dynamic range compression is distracting on the slow-tempo numbers 'First in Line', 'Old Shep', 'How's the World Treating You' and 'Playing for Keeps'. These sound better on RCA's release. All this criticism aside, more than half of the 30 songs on disc one sound virtually the same as on 'Young Man', only louder. 'The Truth About Me', though, sounds better on 'Young Man' as it is much cleaner and fuller and more spatial. There is virtually no background noise. The MRS version, on the other hand, includes very audible background noise and crackle throughout as it is taken from the original 45 rpm flexi disc. MRS says this about the track: 'Also for the first time on CD is the complete ‘The Truth About Me’ from an original US 45rpm flexi-disc. Although this has been claimed complete by FTD and other past official releases, they all had a missing sentence that was on the original disc'. Whether this is accurate or not is anyone's guess. It must be noted, though, that this track cuts of slightly too early when Elvis says his second 'bye', which is unfortunate.

Disc 2: Movie Soundtrack Master Recordings / Movie Soundtrack Outtakes / Studio Outtakes & Sessions

The second disc starts with the four songs that were recorded for the Love Me Tender Soundtrack: 'Love Me Tender', 'Let Me', Poor Boy' and 'We're Gonna Move'. Even though they sound a bit fuller and more open on 'Studio Sessions', there is not much difference overall in comparison with 'Young Man'. Elvis' vocals are more prominent and direct on MRS' 'Love Me Tender' but there is also more hiss. The bass is a bit more pronounced on 'Let Me' and 'Poor Boy', while 'We're Gonna Move' sounds virtually identical on both releases. Track 5 features the end title version of 'Love Me Tender', which is not included on 'Young Man' but FTD's 2014 Love Me Tender soundtrack album. This track again sounds slightly brighter on 'Studio Sessions' and a bit better than on the FTD release, but the recording never sounded particularly good as it is very distorted toward the end when the choir and the full orchestra set in. Stereo takes 4 and 9 of 'We're Gonna Move' come next and these are again not on 'Young Man' but FTD's Love Me Tender. They sound virtually the same here, only a little bit louder.

Next up are the outtakes from the Elvis Presley album sessions. While these can all be found on FTD's 2006 release of the album, only selected outtakes are included on 'Young Man'. The following alternate takes from 'Studio Sessions' are not on 'Young Man':

  • I Got a Woman - incomplete unknown take
  • Heartbreak Hotel - takes 4 and 5
  • Money Honey - take 10
  • I'm Counting on You - takes 1a, 1b, 2, 14, incomplete unknown take
  • I Was the One - takes 1, 3, 7, incomplete unknown take

Because of that fact, the comparison of these alternate takes will be done between 'Studio Sessions' and FTD's 'Elvis Presley'. The alternate takes of 'I Got a Woman' sound brighter on the FTD release while the MRS mix pronounces the lower frequencies. The alternate takes of 'Heartbreak Hotel' and 'Money Honey' sound identical. Interestingly, 'Studio Sessions' does not include the 10-second fragment of 'Money Honey' that is on the FTD disc. The alternate takes of 'I'm Counting on You' sound pretty much the same but there is noticeably more tape hiss on the FTD release. MRS chose to combine the two tracks 'I'm Counting on You (Take 1, Dry Echo Tape)' and 'I'm Counting on You (Take 1)' from the FTD release into one track labeled 'I'm Counting on You (FS take 1a & 1b)'. The 'I Was the One' outtakes sound virtually the same. The bass appears to be a bit more pronounced on 'Studio Sessions'. The alternate takes of 'Lawdy, Miss Clawdy' sound pretty much identical. Besides the unedited undubbed master take 12, there is a track called 'Shake, Rattle and Roll (take 12 edit undubbed master) on 'Studio Sessions', whose only difference appears to be that the 'take 12' announcement at the beginning of the track was cut.

Disc two comes to an end with the stereo masters of the Love Me Tender soundtrack songs. These four tracks sound quite brilliant on 'Studio Sessions'! They are not on 'Young Man' but can be found on FTD's 'Love Me Tender'. It is impressive what they have done with them, particularly 'Love Me Tender' (which has less hiss here) and 'We're Gonna Move'. These sound fuller and more even, just like songs ready for release and not like tracks from the vault. Elvis' vocals are up front and the stereo effect comes across very nicely. The fact that you can 'remaster' these tracks to sound this good even with just a CD as the source makes you wonder what else could be achieved with the actual master tapes.

Disc 3: Studio Outtakes & Sessions / The Truth About Me (The Interview Outtakes)

The final disc features many alternate takes of 'Shake, Rattle and Roll', 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You' and 'Rip It Up', one surviving alternate take of 'Old Shep' as well as the interview outtakes for 'The Truth About Me'. While 'Young Man' includes all the alternate takes of 'Shake, Rattle and Roll', it does include none of 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You' or 'Rip It Up'. It's also missing the alternate take of 'Old Shep'. FTD's Elvis Presley includes all the alternate takes of 'Shake, Rattle and Roll' and 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You'. The alternate takes of 'Old Shep' and 'Rip It Up' are available on FTD's 2014 Elvis album release. There is nothing much to say about the sound quality of all of these tracks. 'Shake, Rattle and Roll' sounds virtually identical compared to the FTD release. The same goes for 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You' except that there is less hiss audible on 'Studio Sessions'. Take 5 of 'Old Shep' sounds virtually identical on FTD's Elvis and the same goes for 'Rip It Up'.

'The Truth About Me'

The disc ends with three outtakes for 'The Truth About Me' that MRS labels takes 3, 2, 1. They are actually sequenced that way, going from take 3 back to take 1, but no explanation is given as to why that is. The track that MRS labels 'Take 1' is what RCA calls 'The Truth About Me Interview', which is a 10 minute interview with Elvis that also features the voice of an interviewer. Regarding content, 'Take 2' appears to be the same as the 'Original US 45rpm Flexidisk' recording on disc one except that it is of much better sound quality. These two 'takes' are included on RCA's 'Young Man' as well as FTD's 'Love Me Tender' but they sound the best on 'Young Man' as they have a full and spatial sound on there. They also sound good on 'Studio Sessions' but much drier. It should be noted that the three 'takes' of 'The Truth About Me' sound like they all come from the same source.

What MRS labels 'Take 3' are about seven minutes worth of actual outtakes from the 'Truth About Me' recording session that are not included on 'Young Man' or the FTD releases. This is a very interesting track that gives us a 'fly on the wall' experience of the 'Truth About Me' session. We can clearly hear Elvis reading from his notes, turning pages, getting instructions from someone in the background. He rephrases some lines multiple times and tells some interesting things that are not included on the other two tracks. This is a great closing track and definitely one of the highlights of this set.

It should be noted that 'Elvis Studio Sessions '56' is not entirely complete as there is some minor studio material, such as the aforementioned 'Money Honey' fragments, as well as some soundtrack outtakes (which are not the focus of this release) that are included on the FTD releases but not on here. These are the missing parts:

  • Money Honey - fragments
  • I Want You, I Need You, I Love You - take 1 (slate only), take 5 (fragment)
  • Poor Boy - take 3 original 2-verse master, remake take 1, 3rd verse vocal overdub take 6
  • Let Me - vocal overdub takes 3 and 4

Conclusion

1956 was the year it all really started happening for Elvis. In the early weeks of the year, he could still travel alone by train and hop off without screaming masses waiting to tear him apart. That was unimaginable after his first couple of appearances on television, starting with his January 28 performance of three songs on the Dorsey Brothers' Stage Show, for which he was not allowed to perform his first RCA Victor single, 'Heartbreak Hotel', that had just come out the day before. It was not until his third appearance on Stage Show that he could perform the song and that was when 'Heartbreak Hotel' finally started to take off after several weeks on the market, entering the Billboard Hot 100 on February 22, becoming a million seller by April and hitting the number one spot on May 5. Just a month later, the Elvis hysteria was in full swing after Elvis' much-talked-about and then controversial first performance of 'Hound Dog' on The Milton Berle Show on June 5, during which he swung his hips, shook his pelvis and moved his legs energetically and in an exaggerated style to enthusiastic reactions of the young female audience members. Over 40 million people saw that broadcast on CBS and the performance generated a nationwide uproar starting the next day. Any publicity is good publicity and after this, his first controversy, Elvis was unstoppable.

He left the 'Hillbilly Cat' behind, became the 'Nation's Only Atomic Powered Singer' and eventually took the whole world by storm as the 'King of Rock and Roll'. His debut album, Elvis Presley, which was released on March 23, became the first rock and roll album to top the Billboard album chart and the first million seller of the new genre. The hit record 'Heartbreak Hotel' eventually went on to become the most successful single of the year. By the end of 1956, Elvis had appeared eleven times on national television, had released over a dozen singles, several extended plays and two eponymous albums that both went to number one on the Billboard 200, had landed five number one hits on the Billboard singles chart, and had already established an acting career in Hollywood with the major motion picture Love Me Tender. Many musicians who would shape the course of popular music in the coming decades have named Elvis in 1956 as one of their major influences. Bruce Springsteen has told numerous times that he took up playing the guitar after seeing Elvis perform on The Ed Sullivan Show, and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, who played acoustic folk guitar in the 1950s, said he decided to go electric after hearing 'Heartbreak Hotel' on the radio. Popular music would certainly never be the same after 1956 and Elvis was on the forefront of the musical revolution.

Memphis Recording Service's Elvis 'Studio Sessions '56: The Complete Recordings' takes us back to that year, the most important one of Elvis' career, and does it in a great way. As is usual for the label, the packaging is excellent and the book is informative and includes a plethora of high-quality images and reproductions of documents. The three included CDs are filled with close to four hours of music and a couple of interviews. The first disc includes all of Elvis' 30 studio masters of 1956, which is probably the first time that these songs are all available together on one disc. Additionally, the disc includes two interview tracks. On disc two we get the handful of soundtrack recordings Elvis did for 'Love Me Tender' in both mono and stereo, with the latter versions sounding excellent here, as well as two alternate takes from those sessions. Moreover, disc two also includes all the surviving alternate takes from the sessions for Elvis' first album, which are continued on disc three. Also included on that disc are the few known alternate takes from the sessions for Elvis' second album along with three takes of 'The Truth About Me', the last of which is a highlight of this set as it is not widely known. Aside from a couple of exceptions, the sound quality of this set is on par with RCA's and FTD's releases, although we don't get any game-changing remastering.

All in all, 'Studio Sessions '56: The Complete Recordings' is another fine release from Memphis Recording Service that can be recommended to anyone who wants all of Elvis' 1956 studio recordings collected in one place and presented in a nice way. It is also a great companion release to RCA's boxed set 'Young Man with The Big Beat: The Complete '56 Elvis Presley Masters' (and especially the 2014 European reissue that has almost the same book format as this release) as it includes material not included on that release. If you already own FTD's 'Elvis Presley' (2006), 'Elvis' (2014) and 'Love Me Tender' (2014), 'Studio Sessions' '56 is certainly not an essential release as it doesn't include anything new except for the aforementioned 'The Truth About Me' outtake. It is still a nice addition to any collection, though, because of the convenient book-style packaging, the 172-page book itself and the nice presentation.

More Reviews by Toby Richard

Elvis Presley CD, Book and DVD Reviews Review : Memphis Recording Service: The Complete Works 1935-1955 CD Set
Elvis Presley CD, Book and DVD Reviews Review : 'Elvis : Way Down In The Jungle Room' 2 CD Set

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Buy Studio Sessions '56: The Complete Recordings

Plus we have the last remaing copies of the following ...

Buy Memphis Recording Service: The Complete Works 1935-1955
Buy Elvis Live In The 50's : The Complete Concert Recordings
Buy Elvis On Television 1956-1960 The Complete Soundtrack Recordings

And also on vinyl ...

Buy Elvis : The Complete Louisiana Hayride Archives 1954-1956 2xLP Vinyl Record (RSD)
Buy Elvis : Such A Night In Pearl Harbor 2xLP Vinyl Record (RSD)
Buy Elvis : Live In The 50's - The Complete Tour Recordings 2xLP Vinyl Record (RSD)

CD 1

The 1956 RCA Studio Masters

I Got a Woman
Heartbreak Hotel
Money Honey
I'm Counting on You
I Was the One
Blue Suede Shoes
My Baby Left Me
One-Sided Love Affair
So Glad Your Mine
I'm Gonna Sit Right Down & Cry
Tutti Frutti
Lawdy, Miss Clawdy
Shake, Rattle & Rol
Don Davis Interview March 1956
I Want You, I Need You, I Love You
Hound Dog
Don't Be Cruel
Anyway You Want Me
Playing For Keeps
Love Me
How Do You Think I Feel
How's The World Treating You
Paralyzed
When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again
Long Tall Sally
Old Shep
Too Much
Anyplace Is Paradise
Ready Teddy
First in Line
Rip It Up
The Truth About Me (Original US 45rpm Interview Flexidisk)

CD 2

Movie Soundtrack Master Recordings

01) Love Me Tender (Matson/Presley)  02:41
02) Let Me (Matson/Presley) 02:07
03) Poor Boy (Matson/Presley) 02:12
04) We're Gonna Move (Matson/Presley) 02:28
05) Love Me Tender (End Title Movie Version) (Matson/Presley) 01:07

Movie Soundtrack Outtakes (Stereo)

06) We're Gonna Move (Take 4) (Matson/Presley) 02:49
07) We're Gonna Move (Take 9) (Matson/Presley) 02:47

Studio Outtakes & Sessions

08) I Got a Woman (Unknown Take)
09) I Got a Woman (Incomplete Unknown Take)
10) Heartbreak Hotel (Incomplete Take 4)
11) Heartbreak Hotel (Take 5)
12) Heartbreak Hotel (Take 6)
13) Money Honey (Incomplete Take 10)
14) I'm Counting on You (FS Take 1a & 1b)
15) I'm Counting on You (Incomplete Take 2 Dry Version)
16) I'm Counting on You (Unknown Incomplete Take)
17) I'm Counting on You (Take 13)
18) I'm Counting on You (Incomplete Take 14)
19) I Was the One (Takes 1 & 2)
20) I Was the One (Take 3)
21) I Was the One (Take 7)
22) I Was the One (Incomplete Unknown Take)
23) Lawdy, Miss Clawdy (Take 1)
24) Lawdy, Miss Clawdy (Take 3)
25) Lawdy, Miss Clawdy (Take 4)
26) Lawdy, Miss Clawdy (Take 5)
27) Lawdy, Miss Clawdy (Take 6)
28) Lawdy, Miss Clawdy (Incomplete Take 7)
29) Lawdy, Miss Clawdy (Incomplete Take 8 & Take 9)
30) Lawdy, Miss Clawdy (Take 10)
31) Lawdy, Miss Clawdy (FS Take 11 & Take 12)

Bonus Tracks:

Movie Soundtrack Master Recordings (Stereo Versions)

32) Love Me Tender
33) Let Me
34) Poor Boy
35) We're Gonna Move

CD 3

Studio Outtakes & Sessions (Continued)

01) Shake Rattle & Roll (FS Take 1, Take 2, FS Take 3)
02) Shake Rattle & Roll (FS Take 5, FS Take 6, Take 7)
03) Shake Rattle & Roll (Take 8)
04) Shake Rattle & Roll (FS Take 9, FS Take 10, FS Take 11)
05) Shake Rattle & Roll (Take 12)
06) Shake Rattle & Roll (Take 12 Unedited Un-dubbed Master)
07) Shake Rattle & Roll (Take 12 Edit Un-dubbed Master)
08) I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Take 3)
09) I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Take 4)
10) I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Take 13)
11) I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Incomplete Take 14)
12) I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Take 15)
13) I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Take 16)
14) I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Take 17)
15) Old Shep (Take 5)
16) Rip It Up (FS on Takes 10, 11, 12, 13, Take 14)
17) Rip It Up (Take 15)
18) Rip It Up (Take 16)
19) Rip It Up (Take 17)
20) Rip It Up (LFS Take 18)

The Truth About Me (Interview Outakes)

21) The Truth About Me (Take 3)
22) The Truth About Me (Take 2)
23) The Truth About Me (Take 1)

Buy Now.


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Elvis Presley Video Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD

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.