'His Hand In Mine'
FTD Deluxe CD review
Released in December 2006 FTD's new Deluxe CD release features Elvis' October 1960 Gospel album 'His Hand In Mine.'
In one all-night session Elvis would record 14 songs including two number 1 singles, 'Surrender' and 'Crying In The Chapel'. Elvis had found a new maturity to his voice since being in the army and the gospel songs provided a perfect setting for him to harmonise with The Jordanaires along with Millie Kirkham.
Elvis had always stated his love of Gospel music and here was the chance for him to pay homage to his personal favourites from such groups as The Statesmen, The Blackwood Brothers and The Golden Gate Quartet.
If you like Elvis Gospel you need have no hesitation in buying this newly upgraded Deluxe edition.
In October 1960 Elvis would take a break from his recent full-on filming schedule to return to the studio for his first religious album, 'His Hand In Mine'. Principal photography on ‘Flaming Star’ was completed on October 4th and after recording the title song at Radio Recorders Elvis had only been home to Graceland for a two-week break.
On October 30th, after driving down to Nashville’s Studio B, Elvis would record fourteen songs in one all night session. These would include two number one singles ‘Surrender’ and ‘Crying In The Chapel’. It was only 18 months since his astounding 'Elvis Is Back!' sessions and in between Elvis had already completed the two movies ‘G.I Blues’ and ‘Flaming Star’ and was about to start on ‘Wild In The County’.
Unfortunately nearly all of these Gospel songs were Elvis’ well-known favourites so unlike the creative works of 'Something For Everybody' or ‘Elvis Is Back!’ there cannot be as much excitement in eavesdropping on Elvis as he develops the songs to create the Masters. On the night Elvis was working in a professional mode and most takes are only messed up by a fluffed line or Elvis wanting to improve on his performance. Having said that, hearing Elvis and the band progress through ‘Surrender’ (especially the new unreleased work parts) as well as the rougher first takes there is still plenty to enjoy. Elvis was in superlative voice and the Gospel harmonies are sublime throughout.
His Hand In Mine LP - # 13 US charts January 1961.
His Hand In Mine LP - # 3 UK charts June 1961.
Surrender/Lonely Man - # 1 US & UK 1961.
Crying In The Chapel/I Believe In The Man In The Sky - # 3 US charts May 1965
Crying In The Chapel/I Believe In The Man In The Sky - # 1 UK charts June 1965
The Colonel tried to replicate the same success in February 1966 with a double 45rpm release in the USA but they did not chart.
Joshua Fit The Battle/Known Only To Him
Milky White Way/Swing Down Sweet Chariot
Note: In February 1966 in the UK ‘Blue River/Do Not Disturb’ would be released instead making #22 in the charts.
Audio engineer Sebastian Jeansson ('Something For Everybody', ‘Elvis Is Back' FTDs) once again has created immaculate versions of these 46 year-old recordings. There has always been an issue with the audio quality of the previous BMG releases. The 2-CD 'Amazing Grace' versions had little high-frequency sparkle, the later 'Peace In the Valley' 3CD set instead had too much hiss. Even the gorgeous FTD ‘Easter Special’ suffered from high-level audio clipping and ‘Fame and Fortune’ had a much lesser quality tape as the source that was far less "stereo" and with unnecessary added echo over the whole track. Luckily Sebastian Jeansson was well aware of these sound problems and he was obviously the man for the job! The booklet features the original RCA sleeve advert for 'Miracle Surface' and noting that it is a ‘TRUE STEREOPHONIC RECORD’ which indeed it is … and more!
(Note: Audio engineers Vic Anesini and Andreas Meyer who did such wonderful work with BMG's 'Close up' and 'Ultimate Gospel' are also credited)
The booklet is another beautiful and stylish presentation with the usual ‘Behind The Scenes’ notes, Elvis photos, recording information and lots of memorabilia.
The cover of Elvis Monthly from 1965 praising ‘Crying In The Chapel’ getting to Number One, for instance, is fascinating reading. British Fan Club President Albert Hand guessed incorrectly that RCA Britain would follow the USA lead with a follow-up ‘Tickle Me’ single release.
It is also interesting to note Elvis’ bandaged hand in photos of him arriving at the session. He had broken his finger playing touch football at Graceland two weeks prior.
(Right: From the photo session for the 'Are You Lonesome Tonight' sleeve)
Also note that on the publicity photos Elvis is wearing a decorative pin on his suit. This was his first-degree black belt Karate pin that he had obtained the previous July. The publicity session photos were taken by Don Craven on August 25th 1960 during a break in filming Flaming Star.
Below: More images from the 'His Hand In Mine' booklet.
The two discs are presented in similar format to previous Deluxe FTDs, the first CD combines the original LP, additional singles plus 11 fascinating 'First Takes' and runs 62 minutes.
CD 2 then features 28 tracks of session outtakes and runs the full 80 minutes. There are nearly 30 unreleased takes on this second CD, and although the majority are mainly false starts there are plenty of new incomplete takes that make very interesting listening.
Perhaps the only let down for hard-core collectors is that almost every major take of interest has already been released elsewhere, officially or on bootleg. However I have always felt that the gospel tracks on general compiles like ‘Such A Night; Essential Elvis Vol.6’ and ‘Fame And Fortune’ seemed out of place and here there is the glory of having them all in the right context. Plus the audio upgrade of those particular tracks is extremely impressive as before they had a very thin sounding ‘radio mix.’
So with some new revelations like ‘I’m Gonna Walk Dem Golden Stairs’ Take 4, ‘Surrender’ Take 3 or ‘Swing Down Sweet Chariot’ Take 1, along with the beautiful upgraded sound and delightful booklet I am sure that Elvis Gospel fans will not be disappointed.
There is a real deep richness & sparkle to these versions and on headphones you can really hear the ambience of the band working in Nashville's Studio B and absorb every note and every breath Elvis recorded that day. And while I have to admit that I have always preferred the choral power of Elvis' 1966 'How Great Thou Art' over this earlier gospel album, this deluxe set is truly stunning. Listening to it is like slipping into a soothing bath full of milk. The sound is so rich and beautiful that you need to soak in the healing music & drift away.
Looking a little deeper ….
On CD.1 following the LP & Singles comes a selection of First Takes. Elvis’ early takes inevitably show a rougher edge and when it comes down to these well-known Gospel songs they often have more of a spontaneous feel. This is certainly the case with ‘Joshua Fit The Battle’ which has the feel of a spontaneous church session. (A favourite topic of mine see EIN's 'Creative Edge' Spotlight).
Also worth noting is that the takes here are all featured in full whereas previous releases (ie ‘Platinum’, ‘Today Tomorrow & Forever’ box-sets) often edited out the intros and other studio chatter.
‘Milky White Way’
Takes 1,2,3 – The unreleased initial false starts are fun for capturing everyone’s good mood. Elvis jokes, "Well, we’re running through them, ain’t we!" These lead nicely into first complete Take 3 which was previously on ‘Platinum’ but here sounds so much richer. A great inclusion in this set as it is at a much slower tempo that the Master and with Bob Moore’s double-bass driving the song.
Elvis would increase the tempo by Take 3 adding a much better gospel-swing to the final melody, but even then the Master would still have faster beat.
Take 4 starts with Millie Kirkham discussing how they should be doing the backing vocals but soon breaks down with Elvis saying, "Gimme another start" and noting "That's a good tempo." On their previous release on the FTD ‘Fame and Fortune’ they had a very thin "radio" sounding mix (Dennis Ferrante presumably from a poorer generation tape) which were almost mono at times, so it is great to hear them so improved upon.
‘His Hand In Mine’
Take 1 is a great example where we now get the full-length version with the original false start which was not previously featured on the ‘Platinum’ release. The band falters at the start with Elvis then explaining to The Jordanaires where he would like them to join in. Compared to the Master Elvis’ vocal is interesting for being a little uncertain. From an audio upgrade point of view there is now a real richness to the sound with Bob Moore’s great double-bass work shining through and some lovely Hank Garland acoustic guitar work that was almost unnoticeable before.
Unreleased Takes 2 & 3 combines a false start with a near complete version.
‘I Believe In The Man In The Sky’
Take 1 was previously on ‘Essential Vol.6’ but from a far lower quality tape. With the band playing at a slightly faster tempo than The Master, this is a sensational audio upgrade.
On the unreleased Take 2 The Jordanaires miss the correct harmonies and Take 3 gets stopped by engineer Bill Porter for no obvious reason.
‘He Knows Just What I Need’
Take 1 – An absolute gem at a faster pace than the Master (Take 10) with a great "Fats Domino" feel to it. On the early takes Charlie Hodge supplies the tenor voice (rather than Millie Kirkham) although he does sound like he is straining too much. At the end Elvis says, "It's a little bit too fast".
Unreleased Take 2 is taken at too slow a tempo and doesn’t work as it sounds too forced which Elvis soon realises. Take 3 falls apart ½ way through when the band falters and stops, but sounds delicious as The Jordanaires keep singing alone.
A beautiful and laid-back unreleased Take 5 stops after the first chorus with Elvis saying, "Hold it."
Take 6/7 were on ‘Fame and Fortune’ and unreleased Take 8 is hard to fault being very close to the Master. Once again these go to show what a perfectionist Elvis was.
Take 1 - Previously on ‘60’s box-set’ but sounding even better here and even better having Elvis’ full, "Ok, here we go" introduction. You can tell that Elvis is holding back vocally, he knew the ending would be a real challenge, and almost over-enunciates the lyrics.
Take 2 previously on ‘Fame & Fortune’ is fascinating for being taken at a faster tempo with Elvis holding back and sliding down on the dynamic "Be mine tonight" finale.
Take 3 would be recorded at the slowest tempo which gives it a very different feel. Elvis carefully sings every word of the lyric and there’s more of a rhumba feel to the song. An intriguing new addition, even if it breaks down halfway through with Elvis apologising.
By Take 5 the group have sorted out the sound of the intro and the tempo is now the same as the final Master version.
Unreleased Take 7 fails when Elvis’ voice cracks right at the very last note and Take 8 breaks down soon after the start.
Take 9, by now near perfect, was on ‘Essential Vol.6’ but in comparison off a very poor quality tape. Here it sounds marvellous, although Elvis must have been dissatisfied with his final ending.
This leads to the fascinating unreleased Surrender ‘Work Parts’ where (after Jordanaire Ray Walker explained a new breathing technique) Elvis goes on to conquer the final "power-ending" that would be spliced onto earlier Take 4 to create the single version. This is truly interesting eavesdropping on Elvis at work. There is something intriguing about the ramshackleness of these last few moments as Elvis searches for the perfect ending. At one point he seems carefree saying, "To hell with the lights, we’ll just do it." Work-Part Take 7 is very casual with the band just drifting in to join Elvis in time, yet this was the penultimate attempt before the recorded the final ending!
‘Mansion Over The Hilltop’
Take 2 unreleased fails because someone coughs in the studio. Interestingly the vocal arrangement is a little simpler than the Master. The booklet inside incorrectly lists this as being on ‘Easter Special’.
Beautiful Take 1 (which was on ‘Easter Special’) sounds even better here - and was probably rejected because of the extraneous microphone noise during the first verse.
‘In My Father’s House’
None of the early takes have been released before. The initial takes are false starts with Elvis and The Jordanaires discussing how to get the start correct. On Take 3 the lyrics are messed up and Bill Porter comments, "Got all the lyrics now?" There is a beautiful blend of voices here and there is a true delight in hearing the group working out the harmonies.
Take 5 is a false start and Take 6 only fails because Ray Walker’s microphone isn’t turned on for his bass solo.
‘Joshua Fit The Battle’
Take 1 – This feel of this spontaneous first take was a revelation when first released on the FTD ‘Easter Special’ but it sounds even better here with a much clearer driving beat. There is often a special resonance to 'first takes' and this is no exception having the real feel of being at a Church Session - Elvis grabs the microphone lets loose announcing, "Here we go...hell, I need someone else to count" and they're away! Scotty is fumbling for his guitar licks, the Jordanaires are still working out the backing vocals - This is rough and ready and I'll take this over the final Master (Tk 4) any day.
Take 2 has more studio banter than featured on the ‘Fame & Fortune’ release and the mix without the over-dominant backing vocals is better here, plus the unnecessary echo that had been added all over the track (presumably by Dennis Ferrante) has been removed. This was the first rousing ‘Golden Gate Quartet’ song that Elvis would record this night.
Unreleased Take 3 breaks up with Elvis laughing but they are all essential listening and great fun.
‘Swing Down Sweet Chariot’
Take 1 is hilarious falling apart immediately with Ray Walker of the Jordanaires jokingly telling saxophonist Boots Randolph that, "It’s the first button on your left, Boots!" This introduction was deviously edited to Take 2 & 3 on ‘Today Tomorrow & Forever’ but now is in the context here. At a slower tempo to the Master there is a lovely cool laidback feel to the song. Unfortunately it falls apart just near the end when Elvis looses his place in the lyrics. Listen carefully for how Jordanaire bass-man Ray Walker slides through his notes more on Take one than later versions. This is another highlight and a great new addition.
It is noteworthy that the ‘First Takes’ of two tracks ‘I’m Gonna Walk Dem Golden Stairs’ and ‘If We Never Meet Again’ were chosen as final Masters and released on the original LP. On this deluxe edition however we also get engineer Bill Porter’s original rough mixes with the obvious difference being the louder piano mix on ‘Golden Stairs’.
‘If We Never Meet Again’ is fascinating for that fact that is was chosen as there is obvious Jordanaire talking during the piano intro, as well as Elvis’ chair squeaking - but Elvis obviously got the feel he was looking for.
'I'm Gonna Walk Dem Golden Stairs’
Takes 2,3 – Previously featured on ‘Easter Special’ but sounding so much better here and very interestingly for being at a faster tempo and being recorded after the smoother chosen Master Take.1.
On Take 4 Elvis is obviously not sure of the feel he wanted as he actually slows the band down. Taken at a much slower tempo and with a very different shuffle feel to the song and with a different piano riff Take 4 is a real ‘Alternate Take’ and a highlight of this expanded collection. A great new addition.
‘Known Only To Him’
The early takes start with the verse "In this world of fear and doubt" whereas the Master would start with the chorus. The Master would also be at a slightly faster tempo. It was 6am and Elvis had already completed twelve tracks that night, including power vocal of ' Surrender’ before he recorded this classic. Takes 1,2 were previously on ‘Easter Special’ but here they include more studio chatter. Again the audio upgrade makes Elvis’ impassioned vocal shine more than ever. Exquisite.
‘Crying In The Chapel’
Take 1 has been often bootlegged but how fantastic for it to at last get an official release. Halfway through the song The Jordanaires sing "knees and pray" instead of following Elvis’ line "of one accord" causing Elvis to break out laughing. He comments "What! What are you guys all saying!" It’s a marvellous incident which will bring a smile to your face. A great Elvis moment if you have never heard it before. Take 2 is a false start before the classic Master. Recorded around dawn as the session was ending, it is just extraordinary that this song would be rejected from the original LP only to become a classic Number One five years later.
'Working On A Building'
Take 1 is another favourite. It was 7am in the morning after working all through the night and we can hear the group working at the creative edge again on a final song suggested by Jordanaire Gordon Stoker. "Hey Bill I've got the intro" announces Hank Garland before the take falls apart immediately. "Hey, that sounds pretty good, we should have kept it up" jokes Elvis. This first take again has that great spontaneous feel, Elvis is clapping along and takes a back seat on the choruses. Elvis coughs towards the end but this is another treat with the sound much improved over the ‘Fame & Fortune’ version. Even better we get the complete ending here with Elvis commenting, "Let’s take it again real quick. I got lost on the end."
Unreleased Take 2 starts with Elvis commenting "Yeah, I like it" and sounding in good humour for the very end of this all-night session. Elvis’ vocal takes a back-seat on this version which not surprisingly is pushed more to the fore in the later takes.
Unreleased Take 3 starts with what sounds like Elvis yawning & his vocal sounds a little tired before he soon stops the band saying, "Hold it. Hold it." By Take 5 they had the Master in the can and everyone could head on home.
Only eight days later Elvis would find himself back in Hollywood recording the Soundtrack songs for his next movie ‘Wild In The Country.’
EIN Note: If you get a little bothered by the repetition of takes on CD2 try programming the following sequence which works very nicely. On CD2 choose tracks 1,2,5,7,10,13,14,17,19,22,24,25,27.
The sequence runs 41 minutes, twelve minutes longer than the original album.
Even if you own all the previous BMG releases this will provide an interestingly new & different feel to the song selection.
Verdict: FTD once again spoils Elvis fans with the ultimate version of this classic gospel album. Although the majority of this deluxe compile has been previously released the stylish informative booklet, the upgraded sound plus the unreleased versions make it a fabulous package. The exquisite harmonies of Elvis and The Jrdanaires and the real sense of total enjoyment that you can feel make it essential to any Elvis fan. A double CD at a bargain price, all these Deluxe FTD releases should be in every Elvis fans collection.
Review by Piers Beagley
-Copyright EIN, April 2007
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(Below: Sensational Elvis photo from back of 'His Hand In Mine' FTD sleeve)
'His Hand In Mine' LSP-2328 ; Deluxe Edition 2 CD SET
- FTD 2006 Decmber release #8869702028-2
Original LP, Singles plus ‘First Takes.’
1. His Hand In Mine
2. I'm Gonna Walk Them Golden Stairs
3. In my Father's House
4. Milky White Way
5. Known Only To Him
6. I Believe In The Man In The Sky
7. Joshua Fit The Battle
8. He Knows Just What I Need
9. Swing Down Sweet Chariot
10. Mansion Over The Hilltop
11. If We Never Meet Again
12. Working On The Building
14. Crying In The Chapel
15. His Hand In Mine (Tk 1)
16. I'm Gonna Walk Them Golden Stairs (Tk 1) [Bill Porter rough Master]
17. Milky White Way (Tks 1*, 2*, 3)
18. Known Only To Him (Tks 1, 2)
19. I Believe In The Man In The Sky (Tk 1)
20. Joshua Fit The Battle (Tk 1)
21. He Knows Just What I Need (Tk 1)
22. Mansion Over The Hilltop (Tks 2*, 1)
23. If We Never Meet Again (Tk 1) [Bill Porter rough Master]
24. Working On The Building (Tk 1)
25. Surrender (Tk 1)
Previously Released and Unreleased Session Outtakes
1. Milky White Way (Tks 4, 6*, 5)
2. His Hand In Mine (Tks 2*, 3*)
3. His Hand In Mine (Tk 4)
4. His Hand In Mine (Tk 5 B.P Master )
5. I Believe In The Man In The Sky (Tks 2*, 3*, 4 B.P Master)
6. He Knows Just What I Need (Tks 2*, 3*, 4*)
7. He Knows Just What I Need (Tks 5*, 6, 7)
8. He Knows Just What I Need (Tk 8*)
9. Surrender (Tk 2)
10. Surrender (Tks 3*, 5, 6)
11. Surrender (Tk 7*)
12. Surrender (Tks 8*, 9)
13. Surrender (W.Ps 2/1*, 3, 4*, 5*, 6*, 7*)
14. In My Father's House (Tks 1*, 2*, 3*, 4*)
15. In My Father's House (Tks 5*, 6*)
16. In My Father's House (Tk 7)
17. Joshua Fit The Battle (Tk 2)
18. Joshua Fit The Battle (Tk 3*)
19. Swing Down Sweet Chariot (Tk 1*)
20. Swing Down Sweet Chariot (Tks 2, 3)
21. I'm Gonna Walk Them Golden Stairs (Tks 2, 3)
22. I'm Gonna Walk Them Golden Stairs (Tk 4*)
23. I'm Gonna Walk Them Golden Stairs (Tk 5)
24. Known Only To Him (Tks 3*, 4*, 5 B.P Master)
25. Crying In The Chapel (Tk 1*)
26. Crying In The Chapel (Tks 2, 3 Master)
27. Working On The Building (Tk 2*)
28. Working On The Building (Tks 3*, 4))
* Denotes previously unreleased material