'G.I. Blues - Vol.1'
FTD Classic Soundtrack Album
EIN Review - By David Tinson & Piers Beagley
The long-awaited first volume of G.I. BLUES material in the FTD expanded soundtrack series.
G.I. Blues was Elvis' fifth film and his first after serving two years in the US Army. Elvis was discharged from active duty in early March 1960 and began pre-production work for 'G.I. Blues' soon after on April 21. Filming began on May 2nd and was finished by June 29th.
Unfortunately G.I. Blues also spelt the start of the Elvis "travelogues" and the huge success of both the film and its soundtrack album would be the start of the downward slide in creative quality.
The soundtrack album however spent months at Number 1 and was in the charts for over a year.
This first FTD volume includes the April 27-28 1960 recording sessions as well as a 'Best Of' disc.
'G.I Blues' is the twentieth FTD extended movie soundtrack release.
David Tinson and EIN's Piers Beagley check out this great set...
"Hup, two, three, four, occupation G.I. Blues" –– the familiar lyrics to the 1960 classic hit by Elvis are ingrained in our hearts and minds –– and there’s no doubt G.I. Blues holds us in its sway with its powerful army imagery –– imagery that's been a part of the Presley legend since his real-life US army induction in 1958 (and his being based in Germany).
There’s a deep appreciation for his Uncle Sam adventure and although the movie is a Hollywood pastiche of army life envisioned clean-cut style by Colonel Parker, it is greatly revered.
Now Follow That Dream, release – G.I Blues 2-CD Volume 1 - expanded soundtrack – and with its new sparkling audio it’s a veritable smorgasbord of delights –– Whether it's Elvis’ swaggering Dean Martin impression on ‘What’s She Really Like’, numerous infectious takes of ‘Shoppin Around’, the thrill-a-minute, frenetic train-ride of ‘Frankfort Special’, the delicate, stunning, almost, A capella takes of ‘Big Boots’, the Bavarian flavour, or the stunning sound making the recordings sound like they were recorded yesterday –– G.I. Blues FTD 2-CD marches to an altogether different beat.
Early 1960 and Elvis was pure dynamite. RCA had just released ‘Stuck on You’, his first #1 since his return from the army, and on April 3rd Elvis managed to record 12 legendary songs in just one night - amongst them ‘Fever’, ‘It’s Now or Never’, ‘Are you Lonesome Tonight’ and ‘Reconsider Baby’. The sessions also produced the sensational 'Elvis Is Back!' album.
Less than a month later the band, this time including Dudley Brooks on piano and the versatile Tiny Timbrell on guitar, would reunite on April 27th to start work on the soundtrack for Elvis’ new movie G.I Blues.
While the album is an overall lightweight affair, for me it has always been one of my favourite soundtrack albums. No doubt due to the fact that my older brother owned a copy and it was one of the very first Elvis albums I ever knew! Hell, I even like the lazy version of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ with its laid-back MTV unplugged session feel! The only real "movie" let-down is ‘Big Boots’ which was the first glimmer of the future atrocities to come!
Cover & Design.
With Elvis just out of the army and once again conquering the charts he was back on top form and looking great. Whether he really wanted to get back into uniform and a short haircut is another matter but he certainly looked taut and terrific.
The 16-page booklet features plenty of great GI Blues photos (see below) including some nice candid images. There are several publicity photos from the film but the best photos are the ones of Elvis relaxing on set.
For some reason Elvis’ hair on the FTD Album Cover looks "photo-shopped-black" when checking my original album the front picture looked far more natural.
It seems that FTD may have checked out MRS’s recent GI Blues package as nearly all the photos here are noticeably different from the ones featured in the MRS 100 page booklet.
Fans shouldn’t feel disappointed having purchased both.
The booklet features the Storyboard, Behind the Scenes time-line and Tracklisting presented along with Worldwide Movie release info and chart placings. This time there is not the usual detailed session "In And Outtakes" section to the booklet since FTD will release this with Volume 2. As they say, it will make more sense to have this section when the entire intended repertoire content is released.
So while the material is insubstantial in the context of ‘ELVIS IS BACK’ there is however no question about Elvis’ sincere approach to the recording process. The material has been released before in various guises but here the obvious quality of the SONY package shines. It's evident FTD have set a precedent with the exceptional sound on their recent releases and the listener can now enjoy and hear every studio moment in perfect clarity, thus enhancing the fly on-the wall experience (the recent FTD Promised Land 2-CD is another case in point).
There have been plenty of releases of the GI Blues material over the years but the best thing about this new FTD release is the sensational compilation of the tracks on DISC 1.
Starting with the Original Album (only 27 minutes in total!) and best ‘Bonus Songs’ (usually the Alternate Master from the first sessions) we also get the ‘First Takes’ showing the songs in their rougher, less smoothed out form.
The original soundtrack album sounds superb here, yet it’s the bonus songs and the subsequent first takes on CD-1 that tantalise. ‘Tonight's So Right For Love’s lighter touch and additional guitar pleases before the infectious ‘Shoppin Around’ (version 1) - Elvis sings, "I'm gonna stop, shopping around, because I've found, the girly I've been looking for" –– the payoff’s the last line – Elvis sings, "really am sold on you" with a delicious swaggering confidence. Thrilled indeed! "Frantic frauleins at the station" sings Elvis and the ‘Frankfort Special’ (version 1, take 12) speeds along with clear backing by the Jordanaires, who sound just wonderful throughout the discs.
The marvellous, gentle version of ‘Pocketful Of Rainbows’ has surprisingly never been officially released before,
while a delightful, ‘Tonight Is So Right For Love’ instrumental (Barcarolle, from "The Tales Of Hoffman") conjures balmy nights in a German bar smooching and serenading a sweetheart...Furthermore, Elvis is told not to snap his fingers during the intro to ‘Tonight Is So Right For Love’ he responds with, "my most humble apologies" before an, "it was my teeth" aside.
What’s intriguing here is the apparent formal tone of the sound engineers (union representatives). Elvis sounds bemused by their comments, usually he was in control of a recording session but he enjoyed the hell out of previous recording sessions with the mantra ‘work hard’ but have fun. Case in point: the sound engineer comments about a noise, maybe a stool being moved, Elvis says: "that was my a**" a reference to a joke between them. However, it’s clear the session had a definite air of formality.
That said, it’s curious to note the high productivity of the resulting recording session - an obvious nod to his professional manner no doubt... Moreover additional sessions were held at Radio Recorders studio at his insistence; and maybe in lieu of the aforementioned comment, Elvis was working with gritted teeth? More standouts: Elvis running off the track on takes 1 & 2 of ‘Frankfort Special’ the Jordanaires superb backing and their hoops and hollers before the jazzy guitar solo –– and a fantastic G.I. Blues style drum roll at the songs conclusion.
Like the first Disc of the FTD ‘Jailhouse Rock Vol.1’ set, this is 79 minutes of sheer delight and no doubt my favourite GI Blues compilation ever and the one I will keep coming back to.
The second disc offers more delights from the 2 days of sessions at the Paramount Hollywood Sound Stage.
These include a delectable jazzy guitar on instrumental ‘Shoppin’ Around’ and more infectious outtakes with its deliciously seductive - "hey, hey, baby I’m really am sold on you" lyric. Listen for The Jordanaires gorgeous backing vocals on, ‘Doin’ The Best I Can’, (take 4-7) –– if you can, just listen to them before the songs breakdown, and the subsequent takes –– a heaven sent joy and a definitive highlight!!
Further highlights include, ‘Frankfort Special’ takes 3-7 - Elvis sings a line of the Tommy Edwards classic 1958 hit, ‘It’s All In The Game’ at the first breakdown and his voice sounds so loud and clear, what a shame he didn’t sing more...Then the FS locomotive hits full speed –– "Go special go, blow whistle blow, Frankfort Special’s got a special way to go, whoaa" listen @ 3.15 – Tiny Timbrell’s jazzy solo ticks all the boxes.
There’s a stunning slow version of ‘Big Boots’, take 2-3, Elvis sings on the bridge: "So sleep little soldier, don’ t you cry, do, do do do, do do, general sandman, soon coming by, do, do do do, dooby do" –– Elvis’ intonation is pure and clear, a real joy to hear.
Elvis does his best Dean Martin impression on ‘What’s She Really Like’, he was an obvious fan of the velvet voiced crooner and ratpack legend, listen @ 2.08 ‘ay, don’t make me laugh," it’s all ‘Deano’ swagger and drawl. Imitation is the highest form of flattery – and Elvis was a big fan of the King of cool.
The four ‘Pocketful of Rainbows’ takes are compelling and the classic ‘Wooden Heart’ finishes the 2-CD.
The album was mastered by Sebastian Jeannson and remixed from the original tapes by Vic Anesini. These two audio engineers were the key players on the Elvis 'Complete Masters' so no wonder these sound so good.
Overall Mini Verdict: Summing up the CD includes a wonderful booklet with numerous photos and trivia from the period. The first CD is the best compilation of G.I Blues material to date and is 79 minutes of pure joy. Kudos to FTD for releasing these sessions in such fabulous quality and that’s the key to the enjoyment - the stunning sound! Presumably G.I. Blues Volume 2 is imminent and all things considered will be utterly essential. So jump onboard for an exciting ride onboard the Frankfort Special, this is one train ride you will never forget.
Taking a Closer look at the outakes.....
The Bonus Songs include the Hollywood faster tempo, earlier versions of ‘Pocketful Of Rainbows’, ‘Frankfort Special’ and ‘Shoppin’ Around’ which has a lovely "unplugged session" feel with Elvis playing guitar. The two different tempo ‘Big Boots’ takes are here, a slice was used for the final Master plus the ‘Tonight Is So Right For Love’ movie instrumental.
Surprisingly this delightful version of ‘Pocketful Of Rainbows’ has never been officially released before, and while the others have come out on old releases like ‘Collectors Gold’ and the expanded BMG 1997 ‘G.I. Blues’ they all sound so much better here.
The First Takes are presented in the same order as the album and like the ‘Blue Hawaii’ FTD they create a lovely "alternate album".
‘Tonight Is So Right For Love’ false start take 1 is a gem with Elvis subconsciously clicking his fingers. When Elvis is asked by the engineer not to snap his fingers he gently replies "It was probably me, the most humble forgiveness" - "Actually it was my teeth" he then jokes - very cute. The earlier takes are slightly slower than later versions and Elvis gets surprisingly close to a master even on his second attempt.
‘What's She Really Like’ Takes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 are a true gem – 6 fascinating minutes of Elvis developing this cruisey song - The first couple of takes are sung beautifully with a delicious, light touch - On take 3 Elvis sings "Ha, Ha Ha, you messed up the break" perfectly in time with the song’s tempo - A fabulous moment that I find hard to believe RCA haven’t released until now.
‘G.I. Blues’ take 1 is stellar, the arrangement is slightly different with a rather jazzy guitar lick; a la shuffle drums and a spot-on vocal. But it has to be said, his voice sounds just fabulous here: warm, rich, full and with a wonderful tone and timbre –– effortless! Previously on ‘Collector’s Gold’ but sounding so much better here.
‘Pocketful of Rainbows’ Takes 1 & 2 similarly delight with their laid-back feel and slower tempo. Take 1 ends fabulously half-way through with Elvis deliciously sliding his vocal up & down the scale but missing the mark and laughingly noting, "Hell No, Hold it!" Listen carefully at 1.55 and you can hear Elvis tell the engineer, "He was sent in here to cheer me up. Someone told him to come in here to cheer me up. Really." It is a telling aside on how things were going.
Both ‘Big Boots’ first fast and slow versions have never been officially released until now along with the alternate ‘Tonight's All Right For Love’ first take.
'Doin' the Best I Can' ends this fabulous compile and is a favourite of mine being a little slower and with a lighter feel than the Master. Showing Elvis’ silky, sexy new ‘post-Army’ voice off to the full this is a real delight - just beautiful. Although Elvis doesn’t sound totally comfortable with the pacing, The Jordanaires match his voice perfectly and these first few takes shine in this great audio quality with Elvis almost whispering in your ear!
DISC 2 (Another 79 minutes)
The first 2 days of these sessions were recorded at Paramount Hollywood studios (due to a new RCA-Musician’s Union deal) which were arranged for Movie soundtrack recording but didn't suit Elvis’ tight unit at all. The new contract demanded that the musicians had a set break every few hours (hence those interruptions telling Elvis they had to take "a ten minute break" which halted Elvis’ creative flow..
However the outtakes do show that unlike the future soundtrack sessions that he would hate, Elvis did not polish the songs off in a one-night session and was willing to try his best even with the insubstantial quality of the compositions. Elvis would also join in with the band on guitar and work hard on his vocals, several songs taking 20 attempted takes to complete a master he was satisfied by.
Little did Elvis know that the financial success of these somewhat frivolous and fun recordings would sadly pave the way to his unhappy path on The Colonel’s endless treadmill of uninspired and unending travelogue-nonsense.
Kicking off with an unreleased ‘Pocketful Of Rainbows’ Take 3. This was the last slow-tempo version before they moved onto the next song. When they returned to it the following day they had decided to speed up the tempo. As on several songs you can hear Elvis’ chair creaking in the background throughout!
More delights follow, a delectable jazzy guitar on instrumental ‘Shoppin’ Around’, more infectious takes (2-5) follow and its deliciously seductive - "hey, hey, baby I’m really am sold on you" lyric. The excellent takes 3 + 5 were released on the Silver Box Set but with the dialogue in the wrong order – now we get the full version. The drums are high in the mix and the overall sound very ‘acoustic’ with Elvis deliciously sliding around with his vocals while at the same time playing rhythm guitar. Take 5 is a gem, sounding rough & "unplugged" compared to the final version with a sensational dual-drummer ending!
‘Doin’ The Best I Can’ (take 4-7) previously unreleased offer a magical moment of outstanding beauty, listen for the Jordanaires gorgeous backing vocals. If you can, just listen to them before the songs breakdown, and the subsequent takes –– a heaven sent joy and a definitive highlight!! Again the new mastering sounds superb as if Elvis is singing right in your ear!
In the middle Elvis is told about the impending lunch break rule; this statement obviously halts Elvis and the Jordanaires and must have disrupted the mood of the session.
‘Tonight Is So Right For Love’ Take 3 has a powerful vocal and with Elvis singing along in the solo. It’s one of the best versions and was featured on the Platinum box-set but sounds so much better here.
Takes 4, 5, 6, 7 are all officially unreleased and Elvis seems a little more reticent in his vocal after the earlier take. On both take 5 and 6 Elvis admits "I’ve lost the feeling" and fluffs the lyrics.
‘Frankfort Special’ was the ‘fast version’ that never quite seemed to work the ‘Mystery Train’ feel of the Radio Recorders later version suited Elvis’ vocal far better. They quit after 13 takes and never achieved a Master version. Elvis exclaims "C’mon train, damn it, c’mon". The highlight is between takes 3 + 4 where Elvis sings one line from "It’s All in the Game" a # 1 hit in 1958 for Tommy Edwards and later for the Four Tops - (What a sin that Elvis never got to record it as, just from the one line, you can tell how perfect it would have sounded).
Then the FS locomotive hits full speed –– "Go special go, blow whistle blow, Frankfort Special’s got a special way to go, whoaa" listen @ 3.15 - Tiny Timbrell’s jazzy solo ticks all the boxes. The joy is we can hear it again @ 5.40.
While ‘Big Boots’ as a suggested Elvis song is a worry, there still is a stunning slow version (take 2-3). Elvis sings on the bridge: "So sleep little soldier, don’ t you cry, do, do do do, do do, general sandman, soon coming by, do, do do do, dooby do" –– Elvis’ intonation is pure and clear, a real joy to hear.
On ‘What’s She Really Like’ Elvis does his best Dean Martin impression over multiple takes. He was an obvious fan of the velvet voiced crooner and ratpack legend, listen @ 2.08 "ha ha ha, don’t make me laugh," it’s all ‘Deano’ swagger and drawl. Imitation is the highest form of flattery – and Elvis was a big fan of the King of cool.
Takes 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 are all officially new releases, most of them super-smooth and similar in style. Take 8 breaks down when Elvis mispronounces "Marvellous", while before take 11 Elvis discusses the melody line with (musical director) Charles O’Curran. On take 13 Elvis changes his phrasing away from the smooth Deano feel and it becomes a little more punchy.
‘Pocketful Of Rainbows’ was revisted on the second day at Paramount Sound stage and another seven unreleased takes are featured here.
You can sense the studio was not working for Elvis as in the first session he attempted 28 takes of Pocketful of Rainbows without creating a final Master yet completed the song in 2 easy takes at Radio Recorders a week later.
It’s hard to envisage the perfection that Elvis is striving for since most takes here are beautifully sung and similar as Elvis tries his best time and again, with very few slip-ups.
The classic ‘Wooden Heart’ early takes where Elvis cracks up laughing (as previously featured on A Legendary Performer Vol. 4) end the CD.
Overall Verdict: Summing up the CD includes a wonderful booklet with numerous photos and trivia
from the period. The first CD is the best compilation of G.I Blues material to
date and is 79 minutes of pure joy. Kudos to FTD for releasing these sessions in
such fabulous quality and that’s the key to the enjoyment - the stunning sound! While the second disc features the somewhat troublesome Paramount Soundstage sessions, they are enjoyable not only for Elvis playing guitar but also the different feel that the songs would have compared to the later Radio Recorders session. Plus the fabulous fly-on-the-wall look at how Elvis' sessions worked and how he ploughed through so many takes looking for that ellusive perfection. Presumably G.I. Blues Volume 2 is imminent and all things considered will be utterly essential. So jump onboard for an exciting ride onboard the Frankfort Special, this is one train ride you will never forget.
Combined Review by David Tinson & Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN August 2012 - DO NOT COPY.
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The Original Album
1) Tonight Is So Right For Love
2) What's She Really Like
3) Frankfort Special
4) Wooden Heart
5) G. I. Blues
6) Pocketful Of Rainbows
7) Shoppin' Around
8) Big Boots
9) Didja' Ever
10) Blue Suede Shoes
11) Doin' The Best I Can
12) Tonight's All Right For Love
13) Shoppin' Around (version #1)
14) Frankfort Special (fast version)
15) Big Boots (fast version)
16) Pocketful Of Rainbows (version #1, take 12)
17) Big Boots (medium tempo version)
18) Tonight Is So Right For Love (instrumental)
19) Tonight Is So Right For Love (takes 1-2)
20) What's She Really Like (takes 1-5)
21) Frankfort Special (fast version takes 1-2)
22) Wooden Heart (take 1)
23) G.I.Blues (take 1)
24) Pocketful Of Rainbows (version #1, takes 1-2)
25) Shoppin' Around (version #1, take 1)
26) Big Boots (fast version, takes 1-2)
27) Big Boots (slow version, take 1)
28) Didja' Ever (take 1)
29) Tonight's All Right For Love (take 1)
30) Doin' The Best I Can (takes 1-3)
APRIL 27-28 SESSIONS
1) Pocketful Of Rainbows (version #1, take 3)
2) Shoppin' Around (instrumental take 4)
3) Shoppin' Around (version #1, takes 2-4)
4) Shoppin' Around (version #1, take 5)
5) Doin' The Best I Can (takes 4-7)
6) Doin' The Best I Can (takes 8-9)
7) G.I. Blues (takes 2-4)
8) G.I. Blues (take 5)
9) Tonight Is So Right For Love (take 3)
10) Tonight Is So Right For Love (take 4)
11) Tonight Is So Right For Love (takes 5-7)
12) Frankfort Special (fast version, takes 3-7)
13) Frankfort Special (fast version, take)
14) Big Boots (fast version, take 3)
15) Big Boots (fast version, take 4)
16) Big Boots (slow version, takes 2-3)
17) What's She Really Like (takes 6-7)
18) What's She Really Like (takes 8-11)
19) What's She Really Like (takes 12-13)
20) Pocketful Of Rainbows (version #1, takes 4-7)
21) Pocketful Of Rainbows (version #1, take)
22) Pocketful Of Rainbows (version #1, take 9)
23) Pocketful Of Rainbows (version #1, take 10)
24) Wooden Heart (takes 2-4M)
|Note that MRS released their deluxe 'Cafe Europa Sessions' 100-page book/CD package in March 2011 focusing on the same G.I. Blues sessions. Selling for around US$45 it was certainly great value-for-money.
It also included multiple takes from the Paramount Soundstage session that we note are not featured on this FTD 'G.I. Blues' Vol.1 release.
EIN wonders if any of the missing April 27-28 sessions will be mopped up on Volume 2.
April 27-28 Sessions takes not featured on G.I Blues Vol.1
Shoppin' Around Take 6,7,8, 9, 10 (complete take)
Doin' The Best I Can Takes 10,11,12
G.I. Blues Take 6, Take 7
G.I. Blues (Pickup) 8,9,10
Frankfort Special (Fast Tempo) 9,10,11,12 (F starts)
Tonight Is So Right For Love Takes 8,9 (complete),10 LFS
Whistling Blues (Instrumental)
Tonight Is So Right For Love (Music & Chorus) Takes 2,3,4 (false starts)
Big Boots (Slow Tempo) Take 4 (complete)
Big Boots (Fast Tempo) Take 5 (complete) 6
What's She Really Like Takes 14,15,16,17 (diff key & beat),18,19 (fs) and 19 (complete)
What's She Really Like (Insert) Takes 20,21,22.
Pocketful Of Rainbows Takes 11,12,13,14 (complete), 15,16,17,18,19,20 (complete), 21,22,23,24,25 (complete), 26.
Thanks to Keith Flynns's website for help
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