'The Way It Was'

FTD Book/CD review

The Way It Was - A delicious, expensive treat. To be honest my last Elvis purchase was the LP 'Harum Scarum', second-hand, mint condition and cost $7, so paying AU$150 for this new FTD package of CD and book seemed a little excessive in comparison!

I also wondered whether I really needed yet more That's The Way It Is material after the 'Live in Las Vegas' box set, TTWII 3 CDs and 'One Night in Vegas'.

Well the answer is that Ernst Jorgensen + FTD have once again come up with the goods! Here the TTWII celebration is very nicely 'wrapped up' with not only a 96 page book of magnificent photos and memorabilia but also a final CD that is real delight.

The book has been reviewed thoroughly elsewhere and, yes, you can get pernickety and note that some photos are reversed and one is repeated but basically 'Baby, I don't care'! For me the book is just a great celebration of the event and the film, along with an interesting document of every song at each show and where they have been officially released.

Certainly it is way too expensive for some people but this is a collector's item. What interested me most is that now Ernst is nearing the bottom of the barrel of unreleased material, can the CD really be worth it? Unlike the previous TTWII releases this one takes us on a fascinating journey from the earliest formative rehearsals through to the last MGM show.

You might have heard some of these songs on 'The Brightest Star' and other bootlegs before but here the quality is extremely impressive. The more I play this CD the more it becomes a firm favourite.

'The Way It Was' kicks off with an early rehearsal of "Words" and "The Next Step is Love" setting the scene with Elvis and the band still working out the arrangements.

Into track 3 and suddenly the CD bursts from a poor mono rehearsal tape to brilliant stereo quality with the true highlight of the unreleased "Ghost Riders in the Sky". At last we have a great mix including Elvis' vocal (which was so desperately missing from the bootleg). If you have any hesitation about this CD we have a classic here already!

Next the fabulous bluesy "Love Me" - the TTWII version with Elvis swallowing the mic - at last on an official release. A batch of 'Brightest Star' highlights follow including a delightfully fragile "I've Lost You" and the dazzling "Just Pretend". If you don't know these versions there is a deliciousness to Elvis' very worn voice, which cracks at points, giving a very intimate feel to these songs. Yes, we're eavesdropping on something very special once again. Without the strings + chorus these versions are magnificent.


At the end of "Just Pretend" we also get the well-known fun of Elvis singing "Don't it make you want to go to the Bathroom" when Ronnie Tutt asks to be excused - Great stuff!

The July 29th rehearsal of "Words" follows, nicely showing how the song has developed since they were fooling around on track 1 - Elvis sings "Words are all I have to steal your ass away"!

Then the gorgeous "I Just Can't Help Believing" - the complete 6 minute try out which was only glimpsed on the original TTWII film. Surely a favourite song of everybody's, this is another highlight. It's fascinating to listen to Elvis and the band working on this song without strings and backing vocals and Glen Hardin's piano shines on this version.

A technically poor "Something" follows but is intriguing in that Elvis' voice is mixed way up front and his phrasing is very different from the on stage version. "Polk Salad Annie" takes us to the International Hotel Stage Aug 7th rehearsal (Elvis in the Red Shirt).

"Mary in the Morning" follows (as in the film), a delightful version and great to have officially released.

In fact five of the CD's 25 tracks have been released before and the first is the outstanding "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" which was previously on the Silver box set. Here however it is in perfect context which makes it truly shine. Completely capturing the power of Elvis' vocal it is another highlight and it also shows the hard work and determination of the full dress rehearsal - Just astounding.

"Sweet Caroline" (One Night in Vegas) is chosen to represent Show 1.

"Hound Dog" and a cruisey "Heartbreak Hotel" from Show 2 are next, including some fun dialogue showing Elvis in good humour which nicely captures the feeling of his 70 Vegas performances. The false start where the band misses Elvis' intro to "H Hotel" is a delight.

Then "Don't Be Cruel" from Show 3 (Live in Las Vegas/Lost Performances) but here the bonus is the missing banter with the audience. Elvis mentions that he has to do 420 songs and is just warming up!

Straight to Show 4 and a short but powerhouse "Blue Suede Shoes" plus the film version of "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me". You've seen the film, so you know that this is a fabulous version.

In dynamic quality - put on the headphones and soak up the feel of Las Vegas. "Mystery Train/Tiger Man" (Film + Box set) are great versions taking us to MGM's final show (Red Ladder Suit).

From the film we have "The Wonder of You" - Elvis' voice is slightly strained compared to the single version giving it a lovely emotional quality. A very fine and bluesy "One Night" follows and "All Shook Up" takes us out. A great journey and another gift from Ernst - A perfect end to all his 30th anniversary celebration of TTWII.

My only complaint - The fast final fade out and no "Can't Help Falling in Love" which made me feel that we had never got to the end of the trip and just left me wanting even more!

And, Oh Yes, I've played it more times than my $7 Harum Scarum already! Let's hope we get as many treats from a future "On Tour" project.

Piers Beagley - November, 2001


Go here for other relevant EIN articles:

Review of 'Flashback' Book/CD

Review of 'Rockin' Across Texas' Book/CD

Review of 'Live On Stage In Memphis'

Review of 'Writing For the King' Book/CD

Review of Elvis 'LIVE IN L.A' Book/CD

Review of the 1975 Elvis 'Today' Album



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