'The Best Of The '68 Comeback Special'

A new budget RCA compilation for 2019

- Review by Piers Beagley -

The original NBC TV Special, recorded over several sessions in June 1968, featured Elvis playing the songs that mattered most to him, in his first live performance since 1961.

When it aired on December 3, 1968, the special was the week's highest-viewed television program, re-establishing Elvis as a driving force in popular music.

'The Best of The '68 Comeback Special' comprises the Elvis recordings and performances that inspired the 2019 'All Star Elvis Tribute' and features a new version of the legendary closing number 'If I Can Dream'.

 

EIN's Piers Beagley investigates, can another general '68 ComeBack Special compilation really be worth buying all over again...


The 2019 publicity for 'The Best of The '68 Comeback Special' described this set as..

An ideal set for long time Elvis fans and newcomers, 'The Best of The '68 Comeback Special' comprises the Elvis recordings and performances that inspired the upcoming tribute and showcases a new version of the legendary closing number, "If I Can Dream" as heard in the new special - featuring Elvis' original vocals alongside new performances by Carrie Underwood, Shawn Mendes, Post Malone, Darius Rucker and Blake Shelton. The album features 15 Elvis performances from the "stand-up" and "sit-down" shows filmed for the '68 broadcast, plus three original studio recordings (A Little Less Conversation, Suspicious Minds, Burning Love) to represent other songs that appear in the new special.
The original special, recorded over several sessions in June 1968, featured Elvis playing the songs that mattered most to him, in his first live performance since 1961. When it aired on December 3, 1968, the special was the week's highest-viewed television program, re-establishing Elvis as a driving force in popular music.


Released in conjunction with the recent US TV show “Elvis All-Star Tribute” this new compilation supposedly presents the “best” of the Comeback Special 50 years after its first release.

With the “fake duet” If I Can Dream track featuring Carrie Underwood, Shawn Mendes, Post Malone, Darius Rucker and Blake Shelton this is an obvious marketing ploy to try and inspire new fans that might then go on to explore more of Elvis’ great legacy.

Having heard snatches of Elvis’ original performances in the “Elvis All-Star Tribute” followed by new artists interpretations we can only hope that the mass of Post Malone (2018 'Beerbongs & Bentleys’ album with over 80 million streams / certified platinum) and Ed Sheeran (38 million albums and 100 million singles worldwide) fans will consider Elvis’ amazing musical legacy worth checking out.

Elvis never looked cooler than in the 68 Special and this surely has got to help.

The original ELVIS NBC soundtrack vinyl album was obviously the very first selected ‘Best Of’ while BMG’s marvellous 1998 “Memories” double-album was an expanded version with some new alternate versions as chosen by Ernst Jorgensen.

This new ‘Best Of’ has (presumably) been selected by Rob Santos and John Jackson.
It has to be noted that Ernst Jorgensen’s name is nowhere to be seen on this new release.

It is certain that everyone who visits EIN will own at least one copy of the ‘Comeback Special’ and hopefully ‘The Complete Comeback Special’ box-set.

There are so many ways one can enjoy Elvis’ classic NBC TV release, CD1 of the fantastic FTD 'ELVIS Original Soundtrack Recording' Classic Album with all the extra Bonus Cuts being my favourite (see detailed review here) but then again the BMG ‘Memories’ release includes the complete versions of the “Gospel” and “Road” medleys. 

Elvis was SO DAMN GOOD performing for the NBC TV special that any alternate edit has to be enjoyable so even though I already own every original track I thought it worth giving the new set a spin. With all of Elvis’ USA sales getting a positive bump after the new TV show we know that this new set is being spun in a fair few homes.  

Looking at the track selection of the three main ‘Comeback’ releases

Track and Album Best Of 2019
Original Vinyl - 1968
Memories - 1998
1. Trouble / Guitar Man Studio original
Studio original
Original without spliced applause at end
2. Heartbreak Hotel First "Stand Up" Show but with edited Intro “Might as well get on with it Baby” from Second stand Up show
First 'Stand Up' Show
First 'Stand Up' & full unedited intro
3. Hound Dog Second "Stand Up" Show
First "Stand Up" Show
First "Stand Up" Show
4. All Shook Up Second "Stand Up" Show
First "Stand Up" Show
First "Stand up Show" is the “I’m in love, ah, ugh, ugh.. ” more powerful version. 
5. Can't Help Falling In Love Second "Stand Up" Show includes “If I can get this untangled” intro
First "Stand Up" Show
First "Stand Up" Show – the stronger version
6. Jailhouse Rock Second "Stand Up" Show has the “Ha, all right” ending
Second "Stand Up" Show
First "Stand Up" Show
7. Don't Be Cruel First "Stand Up" Show
NOT on Original
First "Stand Up" Show
8. Blue Suede Shoes Second "Sit Down" Show
NOT on Original
Second "Sit Down" Show
9. Baby, What You Want Me To Do First "Stand Up" Show
First "Sit Down" Show
First "Stand Up" Show includes unedited “That’s dirty” intro

10. Are You Lonesome Tonight?
First RCA 'Master' release - Second "Sit Down" Show on Legendary Performer Vol 1 “Does your hair look a fright?” version

First "Sit Down" Show
NOT on Original
Included on Memories CD2. First "Sit Down" Show.
11. One Night Second "Sit Down" Show – more relaxed version with correct intro lyrics and the classic "The things I did and I saw, would make the earth stand still”
First "Sit Down" Show- “where’s the strap?” version - edited intro
Included on Memories CD2, First "Sit Down" Show- “where’s the strap?” unedited version and intro
12. Love Me Tender First "Stand Up" Show, "Am I being filmed from the waist down?” less rushed version
Second "Stand Up" Show, “you have made my life a wreck” version
First "Stand Up" Show

13. Trying To Get To You
First official release - Second "Sit Down" Show on Legendary Performer Vol 1

Second "Sit Down" Show
NOT on Original
Included on Memories CD2. First "Sit Down" Show.
14. Love Me
First official release - Second "Sit Down" Show on Legendary Performer Vol 1
Second "Sit Down" Show
NOT on Original
Included on Memories CD2. First "Sit Down" Show
15. Memories Studio version with overdubbed applause
Studio version with overdubbed applause
First "Sit Down" Show Vocal Overdub version.

So let’s face it if you are an ELVIS fan the 15 songs selected from The Comeback Special on this new compilation sound magnificent – and presented in a slightly alternate order I truly enjoyed listening to them (as I would any Comeback Special compilation). 36 minutes of Elvis singing with a real passion, how can it disappoint?

From the stunning Trouble / Guitar Man intro via some great rockers, One Night, Trying To Get To You and gorgeous ’68 updates such as Can't Help Falling In Love and Love Me Tender it was such a brilliant concept at the time.

The two oddities here is the inclusion of the rather pedestrian ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ (obviously included due to Little Big Town performing the song in the new TV tribute) and the rather unsatisfying ending. After ‘Memories’ the shows needs to complete the story arc with the "Guitar Man" reprieve taking you back to the start of the story and the moving “If I Can Dream” ending.

I am not sure why but ‘Little Sister’ and ‘Always On My Mind’ were featured in the tribute yet ‘Trying To Get To You’ although included here, was not.  

So why not introduce possible new Elvis fans to some more obscure Elvis songs. A shorter edit of the final “Road” medley with ‘It  Hurts Me’, ‘Let Yourself Go’ and ‘Guitar Man’ would have taken the story full-circle while given listeners two “rare” Elvis songs to consider.

Finally of course ELVIS’ solo ‘If I Can Dream’ should have finished the “Best Of” selection – How could it not?

 

Bonus Single Tracks: 16. A Little Less Conversation 17. Suspicious Minds 18. Burning Love

In the crazy Elvis marketing world I also understand why BONUS SONGS such as the original ‘A Little Less Conversation’ (considered for the NBC TV show and now Elvis’ most well-known hit) should be included - and since Elvis’ creative renaissance at the ‘The Memphis Sessions’ was only a few weeks after the NBC TV special was first broadcast I also have no issue with ‘Suspicious Minds’ also being included.

Both these songs feature Elvis with that late-sixties beautiful-new-depth to his vocal – same as at The Comeback Special where he was singing to save his career.

However by ‘Burning Love’ – truly a seventies “white jump-suit” song – Elvis’ vocal had lost that lovely deep edge and the song seems totally out of place. An absolutely dreadful choice for inclusion. (No wonder Ernst Jorgensen’s name is nowhere to be seen!)   

A far better choice would have been ‘In The Ghetto’ which has an affinity with the Comeback Special. Similarly to 'If I Can Dream', ‘In The Ghetto’ was also written in the era of racial struggles and the unrest of 1968, yet with all the tensions still apparent in the USA half-a-century later this Elvis classic would have not only been appropriate in the “Elvis All-Star Tribute” but also as an inclusion here.

Finally the ‘If I Can Dream’ new “duet”!
19. If I Can Dream - Elvis Presley, Carrie Underwood, Shawn Mendes, Post Malone, Darius Rucker, Blake Shelton - Previously Unreleased

Of course no one is ever going to surpass the passion Elvis imparted to the song’s plea for forgiveness at NBC studios that day, so Elvis fans will no doubt be disappointed.

However the song is not really for “us”, it is for fans of the new performers on the ‘Elvis All-Star Tribute’.

What is extraordinary is that Carrie Underwood (who can belt them out at times) is the first to follow Elvis and it is such a weak performance, plus she even comes in late to her very first line. Why the producers didn’t ask for a retake is beyond me, as she basically lets down all who follow her. To be honest Post Malone and Darius Rucker actually do a fair job but then Blake Shelton also finishes off with a surprisingly weak finale.
It is fascinating (and I have played it multiple times) for the fact it could have been done so much better - maybe they were all too overcome with the thought of duetting with Elvis!

Elvis All-Star Tribute musical director Don Was noted "You never out-Elvis Elvis." And he was absolutely right.
And full marks to Blake Shelton who said, "It's one of the more magical things I've ever, ever been a part of in music." 

Interesting sideline – If you wondered whether Elvis is still alive there is a HUGE clue here in the fact that the sleeve notes clearly states.....
Previous Unreleased “If I Can Dream” by Elvis Presley, Carrie Underwood, Shawn Mendes, Post Malone, Darius Rucker, Blake Shelton - recorded October 2018 at Universal Studios, CA.
There is no mention at all that Elvis’ vocal section was taken from some old 1968 tape. Therefore Elvis must have been there to record his section of the duet back in October last year!

 

Overall Verdict: A necessary compilation to present ‘The Best Of’ Elvis' classic NBC 68 sessions hopefully to a new audience and it was certainly not as poorly produced as this crazy Elvis fan had feared. Elvis was so damn good at the ’68 Comeback how could any selection of his best performances not be thrilling? Certainly it has two major mistakes in the track selection, but nothing I can’t skip through and a few more ‘rare’ inclusions would have made it more interesting for new listeners – it only runs 49 minutes total. However at a budget price I certainly got enough fun out of spinning this disc to feel OK that I added it my collection, even if I own every NBC track multiple times over. Hopefully millennial fans of Post Malone, Shawn Mendes, Ed Sheeran, Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley, John Legend etc will discover the wonder of ELVIS and want to investigate more of Elvis’ amazing legacy.

 

Review by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN February 2019
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.

Click here to comment on this review- and HAVE YOUR SAY!- will this release help Elvis' legacy?

New 'If I Can Dream' mixed by Paul Sandweiss

Mastered by Viv Anesini

Legacy A&R: Rob Santos and John Johnson

Product Director: Tom Burleigh

Art Direction: Roger Semon


'ELVIS - NBC TV Special' FTD CD Review: Elvis’ NBC TV Special was such a high point in his career - his musical renaissance and the sound of him kicking open the door to his prison cell of movie contracts and dreadful scripts - that can there really ever be enough compilations to satisfy us all?
'ELVIS - Original Soundtrack Recording From His NBC TV Special' is finally released as an FTD "Classic Album" with a 16-page booklet and remastered audio.
The first disc includes the original album plus the expected Bonus Cuts, while Disc 2 contains a full 80 minutes of Elvis' studio sessions of June 21-23 with LA session band 'The Wrecking Crew'.
The vast majority of the session outtakes however have been previously released, so can this FTD Classic Album really offer anything new?
EIN's Piers Beagley investigates and discovers that it is one of FTD's best releases of all time!
Go here for our in-depth review
(FTD Reviews, Source;ElvisInformationNetwork)

'Let Yourself Go' FTD CD review: 'Let Yourself Go' is a glimpse into the making of Elvis' sensational 1968 'Comeback' TV Special. While it does feel like a 'work under construction' this is the sound of Elvis kicking open the door to his prison cell of movie contracts and dreadful scripts. With Studio outtakes plus a rehearsal jam, isn't this what the FTD "Collectors" label is all about? (FTD Reviews; Source: EIN, Jan 2007)


'The Complete '68 Comeback Special' CD Review: For the 40th Anniversary BMG/SONY release a 4CD "Complete '68 Comeback Special" to the general public. Hard-core Elvis fans have been overly dismissive, pointing out that we have all bought the same product previously. But is this true? Here we not only get the ORIGINAL Album version (The 'Memories' set was a very different compilation) but also something refreshing about the way this new set has been compiled. The second CD itself cleverly leads us from Elvis jamming with the boys on his very first release 'That's All Right' through a fabulous revitalisation of his classic songs all the way to the stunning 'If I Can Dream' which would be his newest single. EIN's Piers Beagley spends a while with Elvis in his gorgeous leather suit. Click here for the in-depth review. (CD Reviews, Source;EIN)

'Elvis-The King Of The Jungle' In-Depth Book Review: Featuring 546 pages the book includes a detailed look at everything that took place at the historic taping and recording sessions of Elvis' "Comeback Special". It also includes eye-witness reports from lucky fans that were present at the legendary NBC performances.
EIN's Piers Beagley checks out this gorgeous new book about one of the most important weeks of Elvis career.....
.... My expectations were high for this wonderful new production - but I am still absolutely stunned by its massive size and the impact. Yes, there are other candids and photos of Elvis in 1968 within the book but it is basically about ONE WEEK in Elvis' life presented over 500 pages - What a week! If you love Elvis in the 'Singer Presents Elvis' TV special then you will spend hours luxuriating in these glorious photos. Did I mention Elvis looked gorgeous in 1968!"...
Go HERE for the full-indepth review and plenty of magnificent photos. Now with added images, comments & purchase details.

(Book Reviews, Source;ElvisInfoNet)


The '68 Special - 40th Anniversary Celebration: How lucky in life would you be to get to the recording of Elvis' 68 TV Special and also make it to the recent 40th Anniversary screening in L.A? EIN's correspondent Joan Gansky is one of those few very fortunate fans. Joan Gansky not only met Elvis multiple times - but being at the original NBC recording of the 68 Special truly changed her life! Here are her unique recollections of attending the recent 40th Anniversary celebration - as well as her thoughts on being there back in June 1968. This EIN exclusive features comments by Steve Binder, Priscilla, Bones Howe as well as great close-up photos by Paul Gansky.

Click here for the full article.

(Spotlight, Source;EIN/JoanGansky)


The Night Elvis Reclaimed His Crown: In summer 1968, Elvis Presley taped a television special to be broadcast that Christmas. Fifteen years earlier, he had walked into Sun Studios in Memphis to make a record as a present for his mother, or so the story goes, and changed history.The special begins in darkness, to the sound of a whomping, Muddy Waters-ish blues riff, and then a famous face fades in, turning toward the camera, filling the screen, meaning business.... "Singer Presents Elvis" is a great moment in music, in television, and in the narrative of his own life -- a moment of change, when what was lost is found again. He regains his voice -- and in so doing becomes at once who he was and who he'll become. His singing has the lilt of youth but with a mature edge. He is 33 years old, lean and chiselled and -- what he had not seemed in years -- a little dangerous. . . . . .   (Spotlight, Source;LATimes)


Go here for other relevant EIN ELVIS articles;

'ELVIS' FTD Classic Album Review:

'G.I.Blues Vol.1' FTD Soundtrack - CD review:

'Jailhouse Rock' EIN in-depth FTD Soundtrack review:

'Blue Hawaii' FTD Soundtrack in-depth Review:

'Wild In the Country' FTD Soundtrack - review:

'The Complete Elvis Presley Masters' in-depth Review:

 



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