'ELVIS: The Last Movies'
Charro!, The trouble with girls, Change Of Habit
FTD Soundtrack Album
- Review by Ian Garfield -
Charro!, The trouble with girls, Change Of Habit - finally, Elvis’ last soundtrack recordings are brought together in a cohesive release that works as a companion set for the FTD 7” Classic Album series.
“The Last Movies” contains outtakes and an informative illustrated 16-page booklet with rare memorabilia and photos.
The one disc contains previously unreleased material, including "rough mixes" and also multiple outtakes from 'The Trouble With Girls' 'Almost' session.
EIN's contributor Ian Garfield checks out this new FTD Classic soundtrack album release....
Finally, Elvis’ last soundtrack recordings are brought together in a cohesive release that works as a companion set for the FTD 7” Classic Album series. “The Last Movies” contains outtakes and an informative illustrated 16-page booklet with rare memorabilia and photos.
The Last Movies? Ok, the last scripted movies. I thought it a bit of a funny title, but it was similar when first compiled and released in 1995 on the Double Features collection. It was called “Double Features”, but actually had four movie soundtracks on it. I always thought this was a great CD, as we had Elvis singing in the 1968-69 period. His voice had matured and the sound of ‘68/’69 was a great musical turning point for Elvis – with the NBC TV special and the Memphis sessions. With Elvis sounding vocally great at this time – what does this new Classic Soundtrack have to offer?
The front cover has a great 1968 publicity shot of Elvis from Charro – very non-approved by the Colonel. Elvis is in his western gear, unshaven and smoking a cigar – looking very cool. To the right of the picture is the CD title and followed by the movies covered in the package. As we open the cover on page 2 is a very nice mock-up single cover featuring “Charro” and “Let’s Forget About The Stars”. Another cool shot of Elvis from the movie. We open the gatefold to uncover the CD holder and underneath it a copy of the “Clean Up Your Own Backyard” single label. Across from that we have a very cool looking mock-up EP from “The trouble with girls”. Elvis looks great in a publicity shot from the movie wearing a white suit and blue shirt. On the right is the list of songs on the “EP”. Turning this over we will find another great mock-up EP from “Change of Habit” Elvis in a b/w shot from the movie, again looking very cool in a dark suit with guitar. To the right is the list of songs from the movie including a special bonus song “Let’s be friends”. On the back cover of this package we have a nice publicity shot of Elvis in a black suit from “The trouble with girls” and to the right the 27 tracklistings. Best FTD cover design so far!
The front cover of the booklet features a publicity shot of Elvis boarding a train in his white suit from “The trouble with girls”. Elvis is not looking at the camera in this shot. Page 2 has a collection of “fan” photographs taken during the period of the 3 movies. To the right is the tracklisting. Page 3 has the soundtrack and musicians list for each of the movies.
The booklet then dedicates four pages to each movie – with movie posters, cast and crew, publicity shots, record covers, cinema premieres, movie trivia and record releases. It is packed full of facts, trivia and photos. (see example pages below)
On the back cover is a nice shot from “Change of Habit” during the “Rubberneckin” song sequence. This booklet is full of great information, rare photos and different designs of record and movie posters. A real treat!
The Music - the best part - 76 minutes.
This CD is mastered by Sebastian Jeansson and he has made the 27 tracks come alive and feel a little fresher. The versions here sound vastly improved – for instance a lovely rich bass sound - over the previously released ones such as on ‘Double-Features’ or ‘Silver Screen Stereo’.
Even though the cover is correct in stating the order in which the movies were recorded and released, the tracklisting is not in order of the recording sessions. While the playlist was presumably chosen for a “more pleasant listening experience” I cannot see a real reason for this.
The nine masters released during Elvis’ lifetime start the CD, the rest of the disc filled with alternate takes, rough mixes, movie songs, plus ‘Swing Down, Sweet Chariot’ the “master” of which was first released on ‘A Legendary Performer Vol.4’ in 1983.
The sessions for “Change of Habit” were recorded at Decca Universal Studios on March 5-6th and 26th. There was also a vocal replacement session for Let Us Pray in RCA Studio A, Nashville, September 26 1969.
1. “Change of Habit” Master take 6 starts off the CD with a funky bass and drum beating sound. It is shame this is the only version of this song on the CD. Driven by popular jazz-bassist Joe Mondragon on fuzz bass, this was a soundtrack song with some contemporary lyrics. "If you're in old habits, set in your old ways, Changes are a-comin'" - if only this had happened back in 1966! Empowered by his previous “Memphis” session Elvis added a suitably angry vocal, "don’t count on any medals son, they’re pinning none on you!" and his inspiration was notable on the funky play-off, "uh, huh, change of habit." This would have been great to witness in the studio. The movie version is a little different as it has the fuzz-bass removed and overdubbed by a more of a straightforward arrangement, by bassist Carol Kaye from LA’s ‘Wrecking Crew’. This alternate version should surely have been on this collection. This song would have made a great single, however it was first released on the Camden release “Lets’ Be Friend” in 1970.
2. “Rubberneckin’” (Take 2 master) was recorded at the Memphis session January 20 1969. It appears this track was the replacement for “Let’s Be Friends” in the movie. It was also the B-side to “Don’t Cry Daddy” in November 1969 reaching number 6 on the US Billboard Charts. Take 1 can be found on the FTD CD “From Elvis at American Sound Studio”.
3. “Let’s Be Friends” a composite track taken from take 3 and an unknown take. It is a fairly lightweight movie song, but funny enough was the title track for a budget LP released in 1970, that also included “Change of Habit” and “Have a Happy”. It does have some nice piano work in it from Roger Kellaway.
4. “Have a Happy” is a vocal overdub of the track – take 7. Elvis’ very first soundtrack recording back in 1956 was the lame ‘We’re Gonna Move’ so it was fitting that his final soundtrack recording would be a vocal overdub to the totally unworthy children’s song ‘Have A Happy’! Although written to order it is still hard to believe that it took three credible composers Ben Weisman, Dolores Fuller and Buddy Kaye to come up with such trite lyrics, "It takes you to wishing wells, to ice cream and carousels..". The backing melody featured some fine piano and jazz guitar but, as with the majority of his soundtrack songs, the lyrics were woeful. With the film’s story based in the rough ghetto streets a more contemporary lyric could not have been difficult. This is very much a kiddie song with a carnival feel to it – and could sit in the group with “Confidence” and “Old MacDonald”.
5. “Let Us Pray” Master take 8 with Elvis’ vocal replacement recorded September 26 in Nashville. The Blossoms overdubbed vocals on March 26. Driven by Joe Mondragon’s funky bass this soundtrack-required gospel song lacks the feeling Elvis usually gave his gospel numbers. It might have had more oomph, had Elvis recorded it live in the studio with The Blossoms. This is a nice peppy gospel track that fits in well for a finale song for the movie. It was released on the Camden Label “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in 1971.
Next up is 2 songs from 'The Trouble With Girls'
Recorded at United Recorders, Hollywood, Oct 23-24 Oct 1968. Overdubs later December 1968 and May 7/8 1969.
6. “Clean Up Your Own Back Yard” Take 6. This song sounds great with the guitar and roughness/cheekiness of Elvis’ voice. The song penned by Mac Davis/Billy Strange was the A-side single release with the B-side “The Fair’s Moving On” reaching number 35 around June 1969. This is the overdubbed record version that Felton Jarvis mixed later on request for a single with a more beefed up version. This was a fine contemporary song for Elvis that should have done better on the charts. The film clip to this song is very cool with Elvis in a white suit and some different camera work angles. This song was also re-mixed for the 1981 release “Guitar Man” produced by Felton Jarvis.
7. “Almost” take 31 record version. The piano work by “Wrecking Crew” Don Randi in this song is nicely upfront and accompanies Elvis’ vocal very effectively along with fine double-bass from Max Bennett. Unlike his usual ballads this was cool lounge music with a slight jazzy feel. It is surprising to think that this is the master and the last take it took to get it in the can. This Master features extra, rather unnecessary, overdubs. I will discuss more in “the recording of Almost” which features towards the end of the CD.
The next movie sessions are for “Charro” Oct 15, 1968 at Stage 7 Samuel Goldwyn Studios, Hollywood and Nov 25-27 1968 at same studio for vocal overdubs.
8. “Charro” Take 5 master with overdubs. This was the only song featured in the movie and for the opening title sequence, making this the shortest soundtrack session for Elvis’ movie career. I think “Charro” is a strong song with full effect from the Hugo Montenegro Orchestra. To me, it has some underlying chords from the James Bond theme – now wouldn’t that have been great for Elvis to record a Bond theme. Maybe this is close as we will get with a big sounding production number. Obviously it was envisaged that this would make a great A-side with “Memories” released in Feb 1969. It was the strength of “Memories” that took it to number 35.
9. “Let’s Forget About the Stars” Take 2. Listening to this song, I cannot think where it could have fitted into this movie. I think the decision to leave it out was a good one. It is still a nice upbeat love song with Elvis in great voice. It was featured on the budget Camden label “Let’s Be Friends”.
Outtakes, Rough Mixes & More
10. “Let’s Forget About the Stars” rough mix of the same song. It starts with “take 2” and a beat to commence. Elvis’ voice is more prominent in this version. I prefer this version as it is a little more intimate. It also has a longer outro.
11. “Charro” Unreleased rough mix. It starts off with some studio banter. Elvis is in great voice, but that full sound of the orchestra and vocalists is sadly missing, that gave it a bit more polish. This also has a longer outro – which is good.
Two of the four pages dedicated to Charro! in the FTD booklet.
The CD now switches back to “The Trouble With Girls”
12. “Clean Up Your Own Backyard” Undubbed Master. There is a short studio intro with a count-in. I think this song still sounds great without the overdubs. Elvis’ voice, the cheeky lyrics, great guitar work and the beat just takes us along for the ride. Previously released on Double-Features.
13. “Almost” (undubbed version). It has a short count-in “1,2,3”. Without the overdubs it sounds a little more melancholy. Felton Jarvis’ brass and orchestra overdubs only helped bury Elvis’ original heartfelt emotion. Without cloying violins this provides Elvis’ more up front vocally. Previously released on Double-Features.
14. “Swing Down, Sweet Chariot” (movie version), a song that Elvis had previously recorded for his 1960 “His Hand In Mine” LP. It starts with “studio production take 10” and is the movie version with back up from “The Mello Men”. They previously appeared for the sessions of “It Happened at the World’s Fair”. This is a more upbeat version compared to the 1960 version – and bounces along “sweetly”. Previously released on Double-Features.
15. “Swing Down, Sweet Chariot” (alternate overdub) is still take 10 but had the male backing vocals removed and female vocals from “The Blossoms” added, plus a new brass overdub. It intros differently with female vocals upfront. It took me a few plays on this track, as I had never heard this version. It was featured on the 2009 “I Believe – The Gospel Masters”. It certainly does have a surprising impact to it with the brass sections. It has a longer outro also.
16. “Signs of the Zodiac” take 9, duet with Marilyn Mason. It starts off with studio banter. It is a very upbeat jazzy number that fits in well with the era of the movie. It reminds me of some of the work with “King Creole”. It mainly features Marilyn, with Elvis partaking in small portions and chorus.
17. “College Songs Medley”. - “Far Above Cayuga’s Waters / Boola Boola / Dartmouth’s in Town Again / The Eyes of Texas / On Wisconsin / The Whiffenpoof Song (Elvis) / Fair Harvard / Notre Dame / Violet (Elvis)”. The 2 songs that featured Elvis were originally on the “Double Features” CD. The seemed strange at the time as they were only “segments” of this medley, but after listening to the full version, I prefer the old. The Mello Men, Jack Halloran and Ronald Hicklin feature for the non-Elvis numbers. Although not noted, Elvis is clearly singing a bass-vocal (left channel) on ‘Far Above Cayuga’s Waters’ his vocal lasts all of 15 seconds! The session starts off with studio banter. Between each song is a pause, not making it a continual medley. I still don’t know why the “sheep” is featured in “The Whiffenpoof Song”.
Tracks 18 – 25 “Almost” recording session.
It’s one of those frustrating Elvis facts that the outtakes of such classic material as ‘Hound Dog’ are missing while we have the lengthy session outtakes for songs such as ‘Adam and Evil’ and ‘Almost’. While ‘Almost’ was a cool, relaxed, ballad it is hard to believe that Elvis would need thirty-one takes before being satisfied with the result – a song that would end up being released on a Budget compilation. ‘Last Movies’ includes eight complete outtakes all of which are quite similar.
18. 'Almost' Take one is a short false start, take 2 with piano intro starts off flat and soon ends. Take 3 has a few chord misses, but is a full take. This feels more like a rehearsal as there is some background studio rustle which would never have allowed this to be a master. The cool brush-work and double-bass along with a reticent vocal from Elvis makes this rather enjoyable. Even funnier at the end with Elvis saying, “God-damn this M-F” on the fade out as he gets annoyed with his wavering final note.
19. Take 4 is still changing the key on the piano during the intro and is a short take. On early Take 6 the feeling was there but Elvis’ vibrato again wavered on the final note and annoyed he stated, "If I sing ‘Way’ like that one more God-damn time I will eat this microphone!"
This was featured on the 2002 Today, Tomorrow and Forever CD package.
Take 7, 8 and 9 not on CD.
20. Take 10 is a false start. For a movie song Take 11 was so close to perfect it was a wonder that they continued. This time he holds the last note and it was only Elvis’ slight variation in timing and a few slippery notes that makes it differ from the final take. Previously featured on the FTD Silver Screen Stereo. Take 12 is not on CD.
21. Take 13 is an unreleased full take. Close but not quite, Elvis’ timing misses at points.
22. Take 14 some studio banter, “I’ve got a mental hang-up on the end” notes Elvis. Everyone sounds satisfied apart from Elvis he then practices “all the way” again. Short false start. Take 15 Long false start lasts a minute but Elvis is frustrated by his vibrato again - “wooo” he jokes. On Take 16 they have radically altered the end arrangement. This is another full take and certainly good enough for a soundtrack release. Takes 17-21 are not on CD.
23. Take 22 starts with the band discussing the new ending. After 1 minute Elvis sings, “But we were just outsiders blowing gas” when he fluffs a note. Take 23 Short false start. Take 24 is another short false start but by now Elvis is losing it and breaks up laughing after the first line. Take 25 is another complete take where the ending is unsatisfactory. Take 26 not on CD.
24. Take 27 lasts only two lines, “missed it” Elvis notes. Take 28 is another full take but by now Elvis’ vocal is becoming less natural and more mannered.
25. Take 29, the last complete take before the final master is very close. Here Elvis slides down the scale on the last “all is knowing” when on the final take he punches up on the “all”. Take 30 not on CD.
Having the Almost recording session for the end of the CD would make sense, but instead we go back to two alternate versions of ‘Let Us Pray’.
26. “Let Us Pray” alternate vocal overdub. This has a full sound with some great bass work, good lead guitar and a nice beat. For some reason, perhaps because Elvis’ vocal is not as strong as it could be, this was rejected and re-voiced. This version previously released on the CD Today, Tomorrow and Forever.
27. The final is also “Let Us Pray” Elvis’ final overdub vocal track only ex the master. It does sound richer than the first version and demonstrates just how good Elvis’ voice was back in 1969. If you get close to the speakers or with headphones, you can still hear the background vocals and band.
When Elvis left the studio having completed the soundtrack to Change Of Habit, his final dramatic movie, he must have felt an internal contentment knowing that he would never have to record another trivial soundtrack song. Elvis’ next genuine studio session, over a year later, would start with ‘Twenty Days And Twenty Nights’ and ‘I’ve Lost You’ and he would no longer be forced to record insipid soundtrack material with unknown musicians. The soundtrack era was finally over.
Overall Verdict: This is a neat compilation of the 1968 and 1969 movie tracks when Elvis had great power and passion in his voice, even if some of the compositions were beneath him. There are missed opportunities however, I still wish they have could have included a suite of “Charro” theme and incidental music and the ‘Change Of Habit’ movie version. Of course this compilation is no way an equal accompaniment to the excellent 1969 Memphis Sessions, however it does nicely complete this period of Elvis’ work. Collectors need to be aware that over 25 minutes of the CD is dedicated to the one song ‘Almost’ with most outtakes very similar. It is of course a shame that there were not more outtakes to every song and that there was such a disregard for his material during this incredible period of change for Elvis.
Coming Soon – “Kissin’ Cousins”
Forthcoming Attraction – “Elvis on Tour”
Review by Ian Garfield - extra notes by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN December 2017
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
'Elvis: The Last Movies' - #506020-975116
FTD November 2017 release
Compilation produced by Ernst Mikael Jørgensen & Roger Semon. - Mastered by Sebastian Jeansson
Tracklist: 1. Change Of Habit 2. Rubberneckin’ 3. Let’s Be Friends 4. Have A Happy 5. Let Us Pray 6. Clean Up Your Own Back Yard 7. Almost 8. Charro 9. Let’s Forget About The Stars 10. Let’s Forget About The Stars (rough mix)* 11. Charro (rough mix)* 12. Clean Up Your Own Back Yard (undubbed master) 13. Almost (undubbed master) 14. Swing Down Sweet Chariot (movie version) 15. Swing Down Sweet Chariot (female vocals and brass overdub) 16. Signs Of The Zodiac (duet with Marlyn Mason) 17. College Songs Medley (Far Above Cayuga’s Waters* / Boola Boola* / Dartmouth’s In Town Again* / The Eyes Of Texas* / On, Wisconsin* / The Whiffenpoof Song / Fair Harvard* / Notre Dame* / Violet) 18. Almost (takes 1-3*) 19. Almost (takes 4* & 6) 20. Almost (takes 10*-11) 21. Almost (take 13*) 22. Almost (takes 14-16*) 23. Almost (takes 22-25*) 24. Almost (takes 27-28*) 25. Almost (take 29*) 26. Let Us Pray (alternate vocal overdub) 27. Let Us Pray (M/vocal only) * Previously unreleased
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Go here as EIN contributor Ian Garfield examines this new FTD soundtrack release and checks out what's new.
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