Now 30 years later ‘A Legendary Performer Vol.5’ is released and knowing that many of the tracks had been previously issued elsewhere I was, once again, a little wary.
However, Madison have done their usual great work and the CD is a delight. With a fabulous quality 16 page “bonus booklet” - just as RCA’s LPs were! - and great liner notes it is a real homage to old RCA producer Joan Deary.
It is clever, very stylish and cheeky, all at the same time! I also like the fact that Madison do own up to the majority of the songs have been previously available to hard-core collectors, and even detail where some have been released.
They also steer clear of tracks that are already available on the BMG or FTD label, unlike other unscrupulous bootleggers! While the packaging itself must be the highlight (check the clever juxtaposition of the front & back photos, both of Elvis in a one-piece jump suit & belt!) there is plenty on the CD to enjoy especially Elvis’ studio banter & asides.
These are a few of the musical highlights definitely worth pointing out.. .
‘Have I Told You Lately That I Love You’ Tk 14 - again in binaural sound - compares favourably with recent Take 6 on ‘Flashback’, but has a lighter feel and less intrusive piano. The ending charmingly falls apart when bassist Bill Black stops and Elvis comments, “I told you I was going to repeat the last line, Bill !” Very cute.
A fabulously raw ‘I Need Your Love Tonight’ (Tk. 14) (from Madison’s own ‘Totally Stung’ CD) balances nicely against the cool ‘Loving You’ and a heartfelt ‘No More’ (Tk 9) which begins with a lovely burp from Elvis! Hey, he was human!
‘Please Don’t Drag That String Around’ features an odd false start with Elvis saying, “Hold it!” He appears to be playing with his teeth as he says, “Hold it a second, I’m performing an operation gentlemen. Excuse me!”
While the sixties material is similar to what we already have officially released, ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ is a fabulously sincere song and Take 12 (which didn’t make it to the packed Kid Galahad FTD) is another treat. It is however in mono & with added echo. We also get a few tracks that didn’t make FTD’s Viva Las Vegas their best extended soundtrack release.
‘Yellow Rose of Texas’ is the unedited Master but, unfortunately, I just wish it was shorter! ‘Night Rider’ has no added echo (so did the recent FTD version) but runs on to a fabulous complete ending.
This is where FTD will always be compromised. Should they (as they usually do) release the often dissapointingly early-faded original Masters to “keep Elvis’ musical legacy intact” or add new intros and endings (i.e. ‘Reconsider Baby’, ‘Your Love's Been A Long Time Coming’ on Promised Land)? Whatever they do, someone will not be happy!
‘Do The Vega’ for some reason I don’t understand is the same Master as on the FTD ‘Viva Las Vegas’, since it never did have an early fade or edit.
‘500 Miles’ – This stereo version is easy to explain since the official FTD release used ‘mono left channel only’ to try and emphasise Elvis’ vocal which is somewhat buried on the left channel. Here we also get the right channel with Charlie Hodge’s vocal dominating, but it is a nice addition since it does have a greater ambience of being in Elvis’ Rocca Place lounge room while they recorded just for fun.
There is a real change of pace - from ‘Wisdom of The Ages’ to Live 1969 in 6 minutes - as Elvis blasts his movie-blues away and jumps back into live performing.
‘Heartbreak Hotel’ sets the exciting tone, but it is ‘Blueberry Hill/Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ which delights as Elvis has fun playing piano on Closing Night Feb 1970.
Similarly ‘I’ve Lost You’, albeit with poor audio, gives us a chance to hear Elvis rehearsing this great song on stage. Of course the first live concert version, the very same night, was fairly muddled with Elvis even apologising afterwards! (See One Night In Vegas)
Two studio tracks ‘It’s A Matter Of Time’ and ‘Woman Without Love’ show just how good Elvis and the band sound without Felton Jarvis’ excessive overdubs.
‘Woman Without Love’ is particularly interesting since it was a “One Take Master” so there are no alternates. This version comes from an acetate and, while I prefer the added overdubbed slide guitar, it definitely benefits from the lack of those cloying ‘choral’ backing vocals.
While the previously unreleased live March 1975 tracks ‘My Boy’ and ‘Big Boss Man’ are best presented on the recent FTD Big Boss Man they do segue nicely to the final track, ‘And I Love You So’ from 1976 which is presented in a fascinating Live “binaural” mix.
Elvis’ vocal is on the left channel only with most of the musicians, while the right channel basically contains the drums & organ and it is from the same source as ‘Let Me Be There’ on Movin’ Mobile. Elvis sings the song beautifully - but the oddity is Elvis forgetting the words at the start, and having to ask for a lyric sheet. It is still a cool treat.
Playing the CD through I felt that maybe ‘I’ve Got Confidence’ & ‘Do The Vega’ should have been left out, but didn’t I feel the same way about “A Cane & A High Starched Collar” all those years ago? Some hard-core collectors will also complain of the amount of already available bootleg material but it is certainly a fascinating selection and incredibly well presented.
Verdict – This is so clever, and with such exceptional packaging, that I only wish FTD had got there first as an official release. There is also no doubt that the most important tracks here will come out on FTD in the future. “Undubbed Masters” is already in the planning and the Houston Astrodome concert will be an essential upcoming release, so in some ways this feels like an FTD sampler!
With a song section running from Elvis’ 1956 advert for the “Victrola” gramophone to the 1976 live ‘And I Love You So’ the journey is a strange but fascinating one, which reflects nicely on Elvis’ own life.
The unusual ‘bits & pieces’ feel of the original ‘Legendary’ series is preserved and with a packed CD of 32 tracks in 77 minutes, this is worth seeking out.
(Note – My new CD copy had a annoying print fault on the last 3 tracks)
1 - Elvis Presley "Victrola" Special Offer Oct. 1956
Review by Piers Beagley, copyright EIN - September 2005.
Note - EIN does not support bootleggers since they do deprive songwriters & musicians of their well-deserved earnings, but the hope is that something like this will inspire FTD to consider a similar release. This is a RCA legacy that is worth continuing for all Elvis fans.
Quote:"Elvis Presley is the supreme socio-cultural icon in the history of pop culture"
(Dr. Gary Enders)
Quote:" Elvis is the 'glue' which holds our society together....which subconciously gives our world meaning"
Quote:"Eventually everybody has to die, except Elvis"
(humorist Dave Barry)
Quote:"He is the "Big Bang", and the universe he detonated is still expanding, the pieces are still flying"
(Greil Marcus, "Dead Elvis")
Quote:"I think Elvis Presley will never be solved"
Quote:"He was the most popular man that ever walked on this planet since Christ himself was here"
Quote:"When I first heard Elvis' voice I just knew I wasn't going to work for anybody...hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail"
Quote:"When we were kids growing up in Liverpool, all we ever wanted was to be Elvis Presley"(Sir Paul McCartney)