Gold Cuts" – A mixed bag of goodies
the booklet correctly notes, “In the days before collector’s
labels, “import” releases from Bilko/Fort Baxter were
a godsend”. In some ways the success of their CDs, including
the excellent ‘There’s Always Me’ series, helped create
and guide the fabulous FTD label. Containing a packed
78 minutes, featuring rarities from 1960 through to
1976, this CD should be an interesting trip through
the vaults of Bilko.
while presented as a “Joy ride for the novice collectors” something appears to have gone a little awry since a
large number of the tracks have now been officially
released by the FTD label, and in far better quality.
get the bad news out of the way first.
Your Arms’ Tk1 is on FTD ‘Fame & Fortune’ and in far better
quality. ‘Little Sister’ Tk6 is on UK E.P Collection Vol.2
and is extremely close to Tk9 on Such A Night, Essential Elvis
Vol.6. ‘Gonna Get Back Home Somehow’ Tk1 is on FTD ‘Studio
B Nashville outtakes’ and with far better audio.
‘Blue River’ Tk1 is just a 15 second false-start and Take
2 the Master. The edited extended Master, in great quality,
is on the recent FTD ‘Double
Trouble’. ‘U. S. Male’ Tk10 is in disappointing mono
here, yet can be found in glorious stereo on ‘Close Up’. ‘Power
Of My Love’ has an astounding good 1½ minutes of build-up
but Take 1 itself can be found on the excellent BMG release
Day Now‘ Tk2 is at the incorrect speed here, whereas it
can be found on the FTD ‘Memphis Sessions’ in better quality
and with extra studio chat beforehand. ‘Johnny B. Goode’ the remarkable March 1972 rehearsal could have been a
highlight but it has also recently been released on the
essential FTD purchase ‘On
Tour: The Rehearsals’. The audio mix here is mono
with James Burton’s guitar way too low in the mix. The
FTD version is far superior and really captures the excitement
in the room.
these maybe part of Bilko’s legacy, so are my scratched &
worn 45rpms part of mine - and you don’t want a compile of
those believe me! It is hard to understand why these tracks
were chosen for this compile.
previously unreleased ‘Never Been To Spain’ Feb. ’72 has a
lot of tape hiss and drags along, seemingly too slow. Revisit
the 70s box-set for the Feb 16th Master to discover just how
fabulously Elvis could perform this live. ‘Sweet Caroline’
previously unreleased Feb 23 ’70, has similar tape hiss, but
being from the Closing show Elvis is in good humour and it
is a great version. He adds the new lyric “The spring became
the mattress’’ and the song has a punchier feel than the well-known
‘On Stage’ recording of a few days before.
the Elvis classic ‘Suspicion’ unfortunately neither take is
complete. Tk3 soon falls apart while Take 4 has not been released
due to the ending being cut. A nice addition, but the superior
Take 2 is on the BMG release ‘Such A Night’.
the oddity of the ‘The Prisoner’s Song’. It may have been
a tune “for the boys” but with its racist & politically-incorrect
lyrics I am sure that Elvis would not want this released,
and it seems badly out-of-place on this ‘best of’. Don’t play
it at dinner parties!
good news is that the booklet & candid photos as always are
excellent and the remaining 13 tracks are definitely worth
exploring. From 1960, the final “previously unreleased” track
‘Fame And Fortune’ Tk.14 is one of Elvis’ very best and is
fascinating since the spliced section (that was combined with
Take 15 to create the final Master) is actually missing here!
the same year ‘Shoppin' Around’ Tk9,10 is from the initial
RCA studios G.I. Blues session and interestingly features
Elvis playing guitar. ‘You'll Think Of Me’ Tk7 is a similar
to the version on ‘Memphis Sessions’ but the band is still
fine-tuning the arrangement and the sitar is rougher, making
it a delightful version.
I'm Over You’ – While this was always a pretty lame song,
it was truly ruined by the dreadful string & organ overdubs
of the final release. This longer version is definitely preferable
and the best available. I wonder why BMG hasn’t released it
yet since it would have made an interesting bonus track to
CD1 of the TTWII S.E. set.
real gems start at Track 15 with ‘That's All Right’ July 15,
’70 rehearsal. While the recording is distorted it can’t distract
from the excitement and power of Elvis & the band jamming
on a real bluesy version of his first single. Sixteen years
after first recording this milestone and Elvis still finds
something new to impart to the song! Great stuff.
In The Crowd’ July 29, ’70 rehearsal also captures a real
enthusiasm that Elvis had for the song. With just Elvis &
the TCB band, and in great stereo, this is excellent. Interesting
to compare it with the orchestrated TTWII live version. ‘Polk
A Little Sock Salad’ Aug 10, ’70 - another classic taken from
the stage dress-rehearsal for the TTWII shows. Elvis laughs
and whoops his way through this gem, playing with the lyrics
while still rockin’ out. Essential listening.
Just Can't Help Believin' is from the same rehearsal and,
as always, he forgets the lyrics! Interesting as Elvis sings
along with the orchestra and slings extra comments to the
band. Cute. ‘It's Over’ April 10, ’72. Elvis comments at the
start, “This song is a favourite of mine” and this version
is excellent. With a martial drumbeat, this is a very different
arrangement to the Feb ‘Master’ 3 months earlier. The orchestra
is low in the mix and the tempo is faster. Delightful screams
from the crowd add to the impact.
You Talk In Your Sleep’ Aug 30, ‘74 was always a great song
in Elvis’ live repertoire from this extraordinary season and
this version, with its extended intro, doesn’t disappoint.
songs from the Bilko “More Pure Elvis” round out this
CD, and have now been adjusted to play at the correct
speed. Apart from the brief RCA “Memories” series, undubbed
Masters are something that Ernst & BMG haven’t yet explored.
However, there is no doubt that if Elvis’ vocal was the
“best take” then there is real interest in hearing the
original studio recording without unnecessary overdubs.
You Don't Come Back’ & ‘Promised Land’ from the Stax sessions
are fascinating for their pure funk, although the high level
organ mix of ‘Promised Land’ Master makes you realise that
the overdub & remix, with Dennis Linde’s extra guitar and
added piano, did create the perfect single.
Blue’ is fascinating for another reason since it demonstrates
just how tired Elvis sounded at this point in his life. Elvis'
voice waivers as he tries too hard, pushing the song to a
minute longer than the edited single. Elvis seems to run out
of steam which, of course, reflects his life at the time.
It also shows what improvements can be made with editing & overdubs.
Verdict – Some hard-core fans often complain that the FTD label
produces CDs with bad cover designs and that their musical
selection could be improved. This ‘best of Bilko’ truly demonstrates
that finding rare, quality Elvis content is pretty hard nowadays.
It also helps emphasise what a brilliant job Ernst Jorgensen
& Roger Semon really do perform, most of the time.
so many tracks officially released this has to be a disappointment
from a label with as good a reputation as ‘Bilko’. The Fort
Baxter ‘greatest hits’ from their label-mate was so much better.
However the 9 rare gems that are featured are genuinely exciting,
and I am sure several of them will see FTD release in the
- EIN advocates the support of FTD releases since bootlegs
do deprive all the musicians & songwriters of their deserved
Read EIN's review of "Fort Baxter's Greatest Hits"
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