I suspect that many fans reading this will feel a little nostalgic towards Elvis' Camden albums. As a child these budget LPs were the only way I could afford to buy an Elvis album. It's sad to think of me wavering over whether to buy the full-price 'Elvis In Memphis' and instead going for the 'Separate Ways' LP or, heaven forbid, 'Burning Love & Greatest movie Hits'!
When released The Colonel did the extraordinary move of letting unreleased 1969 'Memphis Session' material be put out on these budget LPs. Tracks like 'I'll Be There' & 'If I'm A Fool (for loving you)' were a genuine motivation for buying these compiles at the time but, of course, all these tracks have been released in their correct contexts by now.
And with Ernst's wonderful work in putting a real strength back into BMG's Elvis catalogue I'd hate to see it diluted by the re-issue of ridiculous compiles many of which should never have seen the light of day in the first place.
But the Camden LPs are back & now being officially released as CDs. But do they really hold anything of interest apart from nostalgia?
Looking back, the tracklist of the 1970 Camden LP 'Almost In Love' looks far stronger now than it did when it came out. Then it contained two low-charting movie singles 'A Little Less Conversation' and 'Rubberneckin'' which have now become two of Elvis' best known tracks of all-time! It also included (the Australian #1) 'Edge Of Reality' and the powerful 'U.S Male' and for once it featured very little of Colonel Parker's movie throw-aways. (Compare with the 1969 Camden release 'Elvis sings Flaming Star' below)
'Almost In Love' is fun and has been spinning on my CD player all week - Just a shame that it runs so short!
Like the original LP, the CD has only the 10 tracks and so runs for a way too short 26 minutes. However the track selection was one of Camden's very best and it took me back to my childhood.
For hard-core fans of the original albums it was fascinating when we later discovered that a lot of these LPs actually contained different versions to later 'official' releases. We found outtakes, sometimes stereo mixes or even longer versions, often due to plain RCA carelessness.
The original 'Almost In Love' LP featured 'Stay Away Joe (Outtake 17)' by mistake instead of 'Stay Away', but this was corrected on later pressings. It also featured early Take 10 of 'A Little Less Conversation' and the original mix of 'My Little Friend'. Some fans say that 'Edge Of Reality' was also a different mix, but I find this hard to pick.
This CD has been mastered from the original Camden LP Master tape and so it does feature the original mixes but at the same time has that rather flat-ish sound of the old Camden LPs. Knowing what great sound we can now get from Elvis' original Masters I do find some of the tracks a little disappointing but let's face it, The Colonel was never going to put quality money behind these budget albums! 'Almost In Love' immediately doesn't have the sparkle of the Double Features version and 'Edge Of Reality' is a muffled mono-ish mix. However to be honest some tracks like 'Long Legged Girl' sound fine, (I guess because it was rough to start with!)
The 'Stay Away' error has been fixed here and we do get the Master of the song 'Stay Away' - although the CD cover still (nostalgically?) carries the incorrect tracklisting indicating 'Stay Away Joe.'
There a few anomalies with 'Almost In Love' having the guitar intro edited down by 4 bars. (The Master runs 3.02 which this "Camden" sleeve indicates, although the track only runs 2.52! ) Similarly 'Edge Of Reality' is shamefully faded out @ 3.13, so it misses that great "Hah!" that Elvis gives towards the end of the full-length Master. The sleeve again incorrectly says 3.27. But what am I doing here? - Picking errors on a Camden LP! The Colonel must be laughing all the way to the bank!
'A Little Less Conversation' is however the "original LP error" and is the earlier Take 10 (Elvis does not start this as on the 45RPM single with "Hey! .. a little less conversation".) However there was also an earlier mistake on the 'Double Features' compile where Take 10 & Take 16 were swapped on that CD! Therefore this Take 10 (outtake) is listed on the Double Features as being the Single version, and it is also the version on the 'Command Performances' Movie box-set. Interestingly the 2002 'A.L.L.C' CD single featured the '68 Comeback Special' take as the "Original version". So strangely it has become the 45RPM original release that is now the rarity!
'My Little Friend' - This is the gem and the only track of genuine rarity since it includes Felton Jarvis' original mix with very different orchestral overdub with sweeping stereo violins! Normally I have problems with these overproduced versions but this is actually a fabulous find & happy memories for me. The version on the later re-issues were much sparser which tended to give a lonelier feel to Elvis' vocal.
The CD cover features a sticker saying 'Original Artwork' but this is nothing more than the photo at the top of this page. It must be the wily Old Colonel up to his usual tricks!
Verdict: If BMG are cutting their Elvis catalogue to make way for these lightweight Camden releases then that is a catastrophe. And unless you are an Elvis completist I can hardly recommend buying the CD for the rarity of one track alone, especially with such a short CD playing time. However it sells at a budget price and, of all the Camden LPs, this tracklisting is particularly enjoyable and the CD will certainly have a particular appeal for fans who bought the originals in their youth.
1 Almost In Love
2 Long Legged Girl (With The Short Dress On)
3 Edge Of Reality
4 My Little Friend
5 A Little Less Conversation
7 Clean Up Your Own Back Yard
8 U.S. Male
10 Stay Away Joe - (is in fact 'Stay Away')
Click here for the Spotlight - 50 Years, 50 Albums: Cutting The Catalogue
Review by Piers Beagley
-Copyright EIN, September 2006
The original 1969 Camden LP 'Elvis Sings Flaming Star' has also be re-issued.
With tracks like 'She's A Machine', 'Do The Vega' & 'Yellow Rose Of Texas' this smelt more of The Colonel's slippery cheapness. However what were pearls like 'Too Much Monkey Business' and the Comeback Special's 'Tiger Man' doing here as their first release?
|Tracklist - 'Elvis Sings Flaming Star'
1. Flaming Star
2. Wonderful World
3. Night Life
4. All I Needed Was the Rain
5. Too Much Monkey Business
6. Yellow Rose of Texas
7. Eyes of Texas
8. She's a Machine
9. Do the Vega
10. Tiger Man
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