"This album is like one of those maps to the star's homes that you can still find on some corners in Los Angeles: it's a guide to an era when Elvis was following his dream in Hollywood" (Michael Hill)
Do you know how many of Elvis' 31 narrative films had title songs sung by him? Well one of the latest releases in BMG's "genre" series gives us the answer....24!
Each of the titular songs is presented to fans with audio mastering using DSD technology for optimum sound quality.
What makes this release a treat is twofold. One, it is a fitting collection of each of the titular recordings (with improved sound). Worth mentioning is Elvis’ glorious stereo version of ‘Love Me Tender’, a real rarity from the fifties.
Two, the way it mixes genres draws attention to the very eclectic sound of the too often maligned Elvis movie catalog. As the album shows, there was actually a broad range of musical types covered in the body of Elvis' film work. At times the quality may have been variable, but it was definitely musically diverse.
Classic 50s rock and roll recordings such as Jailhouse Rock and King Creole are followed by the infectious beat of 60s pop tracks in Follow That Dream and G.I. Blues, while seminal ballads such as Blue Hawaii sit nicely beside the melodrama of the hauntingly beautiful recording of Wild In The Country. Mid 60s "go-go" gets a showing with Easy Come, Easy Go while Frankie and Johnny is faithful to previous interpretations of this standard. And there is something intangibly aurally satisfying about the good natured, if now politically incorrect male anthem, Girls! Girls! Girls!
We are also offered a glimpse into Elvis' usually ignored latin phase with Fun In Acapulco. Elvis is in fine form.
A favorite will undoubtedly be Viva Las Vegas as it illicits vivid images of the King's on and off screen liaison with Miss Ann-Margret. The carny atmosphere is well evoked with the carefree and happy sentiment expressed in Roustabout, while the adrenalin fuelled energy of the race track sears to life through the up-tempo Speedway. That Jim Carrey sang the chorus of Clambake in an outtake during the filming of Bruce Almighty says a lot about its catchiness, albeit not classic status.
The sombre warning tones of Charro! juxtapose Elvis' earlier racism lined film, Flaming Star, while Girl Happy and Spinout may not be classics, but they are very easy on the ear.
For 1969, Change of Habit was indeed an attempt at a contemporary change in musical direction for the King, albeit too late, leaving him to find a different direction performing live and finding his soul at the American Studios in Memphis.
There are examples of neo-kitsch in the song line-up but they are excusable in the context of the album's concept to showcase the title tunes from the Elvis film catalog. It's hicksville with Stay Away, Joe and very wobbly with Double Trouble, arguably the two weakest songs on the album. These are a reminder of how insipid Elvis' film soundtracks became in the mid 1960's (thankfully both films did feature much stronger tracks than the title song).
While not Elvis' greatest (ever) movie hits "Elvis movies" balances itself between numerous super hits like Love Me Tender and Loving You and forgotten gems like Follow That Dream.
The album works because it holds up well with its differing beats and shades of light and dark.
The 24 tracks are the film versions. To add some spice and added interest BMG could have added a few bonus outtakes, but regardless this is an enjoyable album.
There is a slim 6 page fold-out booklet with recording information and minimalist, but incisive liner notes by Michael Hill.
The CD itself mirrors the attractive maroon color of its front and back covers. The cover photo of Elvis relaxing in his "star" chair is an appropriate one.
The sticker on the front states "Elvis’ Greatest Movie Hits" which the CD clearly is not, since it misses out on gems such as ‘Return To Sender’, ‘Teddy Bear’ even ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love.’ In fact Elvis’ movie hit collection is better represented on the 2002 release "Can’t Help Falling In Love - The Hollywood Hits" which also had improved DSD sound. Seven of the DSD tracks on this new collection, including the stereo 'Love Me Tender', have been taken directly from that CD. Where available other title tracks have lifted from the excellent FTD extended Soundtrack series of releases. (More info below)
(Right; 2002's, 'Can't Help Falling In Love - The Hollywood Hits')
Verdict: "Elvis movies" is another value for money release in the popular Elvis "genre" series. If you liked watching Elvis' movies (didn't we all?) then this album will transport you back to many happy memories and pleasantly occupy a quiet afternoon listening to a part of Elvis' musical repertoire that is too easily overlooked. As was once said...an album with "Something For Everybody".
Released. August 2006.
BMG - 82876857522.
Love Me Tender
Wild In The Country
Follow That Dream
Girls! Girls! Girls!
Fun In Acapulco
Viva Las Vegas
Frankie and Johnny
Easy Come, Easy Go
Stay Away, Joe
Change of Habit
Review by the EIN team - Nigel Patterson/Piers Beagley
-Copyright EIN, November 2006
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Notes from a keen audio observer's point of view:
On this CD 'Frankie & Johnny' is the rather disappointing, flat-sounding FTD soundtrack version. The 'Double Features' 1995 remaster sounded much better. Similarly 'Speedway' sounds as if Elvis & the band are stuck at the back of an echo chamber! - again the 'Double Features' version was a great improvement. 'Roustabout' is surprisngly not the version from The Hollywood Hits as it has a wider stereo feel and it sounds fine. Of course the majority of Elvis' soundtracks were done at Radio Recorders which tended to produce very sub-standard Masters compared with Nashville's Studio B.
Note that EIN has the only in-depth reviews of every Elvis Extended Soundtrack FTD release.
If you have ever enjoyed the happiness & fun of Elvis' movies then FTD's Special Edition Soundtrack series are well-worth exploring. EIN suggests that you first buy the essential 'Viva Las Vegas' and then continue with your favourite selection of Elvis' movies.
Check out all of our previous Soundtrack reviews
Viva Las Vegas
Fun In Acapulco
Paradise, Hawaiian Style
Frankie & Johnny
It Happened At The World’s Fair
Follow That Dream
Click here for Genre CD review of 'Elvis: R&B'
Click here for Genre CD review of 'Elvis: Live'
Click here for Genre CD review of 'Elvis: Rock'
Click here for Genre CD review of 'Elvis: Country'
Click here for Genre CD review of 'Elvis: Inspirational'