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"Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century."

(Leonard Bernstein)


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"If you're an Elvis fan, no explanation is necessary; If you're not an Elvis fan, no explanation is possible."

(George Klein)


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"For a dead man, Elvis Presley is awfully noisy."

(Professor Gilbert B. Rodman)


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"History has him as this good old country boy, Elvis is about as country as Bono!"

(Jerry Schilling)

 

 

 

 


 

'Kid Galahad'

FTD Soundtrack CD review

The eleventh FTD extended movie soundtrack release, this time focusing on the six-track E.P & alternate takes, plus a colour booklet full of photos and information.

Many Elvis fans would have previously purchased these soundtracks on vinyl and again via RCA's "Double-Feature" series. Here we continue EIN's in-depth look at each one to see if they are worth buying again.

'Kid Galahad' - (October 26-27 1961. 27 tracks, 76 mins)

Elvis' 10th movie was still being filmed as 'Blue Hawaii' opened to packed theatres across the States. This would be Elvis' last film made before the "travelogue formula" became the routine. Even then, Kid Galahad, a remake of the Edward G. Robinson 1937 film, still had the feeling of a meaningful drama with six songs randomly dropped into the plot. The seriousness of the film however was shown by the fact that former world-champion boxer, Mushy Callahan, was brought in to help coach Elvis. Despite this, the lacklustre script, Elvis' worry about his increased weight and his mutual dislike of co-star Charles Bronson stopped the film from being particularly memorable.

Musically in 1961 Elvis was still focussed on producing quality Studio material and a Studio B session just one week before had resulted in 5 classic songs, including his last US # 1 for seven years 'Good Luck Charm/Anything that's Part of You'. Even with movie material Elvis was willing to try hard and 'King of The Whole Wide World' took 35 takes, over two days, before Elvis was really satisfied!

Luckily the songs were a real improvement from Elvis' last film and, although recorded at Hollywood's Radio Recorders Studios, the quality of the recordings was also excellent. For some reason after 1961 (even with fabulous engineer Thorne Nogar in control for 'Girls, Girls, Girls') the audio quality from Radio Recorders was just woeful. While Elvis still used his Nashville A-team band, this time Tiny Timbrell took the place of the hospitalised Hank Garland and Dudley Brooks also injected some cool & jazzy piano work to the session.

Filming was on location in Idyllwild, California, where a snowstorm in November interrupted the shoot after just 2 weeks. Filming was completed in Hollywood in late December.

It is worth noting just how much Elvis achieved in 1961. Four films were completed; Wild In The Country, Blue Hawaii, Follow That Dream and Kid Galahad. As well as the movie soundtrack material, Elvis recorded the 'Something For Everybody' LP along with 3 classic Number One singles. In concert Elvis performed the Pearl Harbour Benefit concert in Hawaii, plus the Ellis Auditorium, Memphis Charity show. It was an extraordinary year.

The FTD sleeve and booklet contains the usual mix of photos & memorabilia. Look closely and you can see a slight red blotch that Elvis has above his right eye in all the studio publicity shots. Unfortunately there is a slight picture misprint with this booklet, as the cover-fold image is repeated on the In And Outtakes page.

The 'Kid Galahad' E.P only made number 30 in the US charts. In the UK, released one month after 'Return To Sender' was # 1, it got to # 23 and became Elvis' highest charting UK Extended Play.

The original mono EP recordings start this CD. While the added echo somehow spoil their sound, the mono is mixed for a loud impact and sounds pretty exciting. The CD versions also exactly match the original vinyl EP.

The original stereo Masters, previously released on 'Double Features', are also featured and have a very different (in some ways disappointing) audio mix from the original Studio tapes. They were mixed for a very flat 'mono' sound but are definitely worth having, since they are the full-length recordings which were edited down to fit onto the six track EP.

Once again the real joy is hearing the outtakes as they were recorded onto 3-track tape. The pure audio quality of the studio takes, without additional echo, is fantastic and you can feel the excitement of the band as they worked together for the last time in 1961. Unlike the previous soundtrack for 'Follow That Dream' there is plenty of studio interaction and a great deal of development in the songs themselves. Several of them go from poppy soundtrack-type versions, to Jazz-pop interpretations, to hot-blooded rock'n'roll!

For those who are interested, and to truly appreciate this extended CD, here is a much, much closer look at the outtakes!

'King Of The Whole Wide World' - Elvis started his October 26th session with this song and after 31 takes, and several major musical variations, still wasn't satisfied! There were five major reworkings just on the first day!

Session One

Takes 1+ 2 - These earlier takes have a poppier, less rocking feel than the later ones. Sounding very like a rehearsal, the first take is actually complete. At the end Elvis laughs, "You guys don't get paid any more if we go overtime so let's hurry!" Take 2 is already in a faster tempo & with a different arrangement but soon falls apart. Elvis asks for the soundtrack musical director, Charlie O'Curran, to help out. Note that these takes were also featured on the 'Today, Tomorrow & Forever' box-set but there they were (understandably) edited down for the general public, and presented in their reverse order. They were also noted down as "Alt Take 3" which was incorrect.

Takes 7+ 8 - By now the Jordanaires' intro vocals have been removed, which is questioned by engineer Thorne Nogar. Elvis answers, "Yeah, we took the group out. In fact they were out before they got to the studio!"

The tempo has been increased and the guitar licks are prominent, while Elvis' vocal still remains surprisingly laid-back. Boots Randolph's sax is rough & ready.

Take 13 - With a much punchier Boots Randolph sax intro, Dudley Brooks also adds some cool jazz figures on the piano. Previously unreleased (even on bootleg) and with a very different feel to all other versions this is a real gem. Dual drummers D.J Fontana & Buddy Harman drive a pounding beat to the finish, with Elvis adding a satisfied, 'Yeah" at the end. A great addition to our collection.

Take 14+15 - Beforehand Elvis comments, "Everybody play loud, to hell with it! We've got to or we'll be here all night!" By now the song has changed key and the arrangement is completely altered. Boogie-woogie piano has been added and the band try out a more basic rockin' arrangement.

Take 16 - At this point Elvis has strangely decided to go back to the original arrangement of the very basic demo! Sounding surprisingly like Elvis' original Sun Studios trio, and with very simple back-up vocals, this is very different again. This time Elvis forgets the melody stopping the band with, "God almighty, damn! Hold it, let's take it again real quick, I forgot the tune!"

Take 20-25 & 31 - By now the song has taken on a very similar feel to Elvis' early takes of G.I Blues' 'Shoppin' Around'. With all the changes these takes again feel like a rehearsal! By now hard-working Boots Randolph has lost his impetus and so has Elvis' vocal. The final attempt of the first night, Take 31 has the added vocal bass-line of Jordanaire Ray Walker but everyone sounds far too worn out. Sensibly, the band call it quits!

Session Two

Take 1-3 - Coming back to the song at the end of the second day of recording, the tempo has at last been increased to match the optimism of the lyrics. This is the raw rock'n'roll sound of the Master.

Take 1 falls apart after 30 seconds with Elvis commenting, "What the hell happened?" All the second day's takes have the sound of Elvis snapping his fingers in appreciation, as does the Master version.

Take 3 has previously been featured on the FTD 'Out In Hollywood' but had the almost mono 'stereo master mix'. Here, with the fabulous stereo 3-track studio mix it sounds exceptional. With Elvis' fabulous vocal, great boogie piano, cool rhythm guitar, along with Boots Randolph blowing his sax to save his soul, this version is outstanding. The final stereo Master, that actually follows on this CD, sounds very compressed and a dull in comparison.

 

'Home Is Where The Heart Is' -

Takes 1&2, both false starts, have some very humorous moments with D.J Fontana missing the beat. Take 3 also ends up with Elvis giggling, as he too misses the start saying, "Man, I don't know where the hell to come in!"

Take 6, which breaks down halfway, has a delightfully gentle vocal from Elvis as he feels his way and then heads off on a different melody. "Hold It" he says, "I forgot the damn tune of this son-of-a-bitch!" The first complete take 7 follows, but still has a very slow tempo compared to the Master. This is another gem as the lower key, slow backing vocals, along with added reverb guitar, create a fascinating version that Elvis wants to hear played back.

Take 10 starts with Elvis yawning "Ok". The slow tempo and low key provide a delicious vocal and the 3-track mix gives it a brilliant open feel. Try listening to right channel only for a fascinating a-cappella version!

Take 13 + 14 - Elvis starts by admonishing Freddie Bienstock who was the manager of Elvis' song publishing company. While the quality of Elvis' songs in 1961 was pretty good, it was this terrible deal that kept making Mr. Bienstock a nice pile of money while he provided Elvis with worse & worse quality material. Elvis rightly says, "Where's Freddie the free-loader?"

These takes have been previously released and you can see why Ernst chose them for 'Silver Screen Stereo.' The tempo is slightly faster here and Elvis' vocal and The Jordanaires now match each other perfectly. The arrangement is very different from the final Master, with some light guitar picking instead of the strumming that was used on the actual single. With the slower tempo, lack of added echo and pure audio quality this is totally exquisite - and essential for your collection.

'Riding The Rainbow' - Take 1 has also previously been released on 'S.S.S' but here it is complete with more studio chat, as well as the full ending rather than a fade-out. At a much slower tempo than the Master, and with some exemplary jazz piano from Dudley Brooks, this has a very different feel indeed. Still sounding like a rehearsal (you can even hear the Jordanaires discussing the song as they are singing) there is a spontaneous jazz-club vibe to this which makes it an all-time favourite version.

By Take 7 they have increased the tempo making it more like a Twist. The arrangement is also changed, with more guitar and boogie-woogie piano added to the chorus giving it a more rockin' feel. The end of the song, with a D.J spontaneous drum-roll, is a treat. The tempo was even faster on the Master.

'I Got Lucky' - First version Take 1 has a rehearsal feel, with Elvis even giving a slight laugh while singing the lyrics, at 1.10. With a lighter arrangement these early versions also have one less verse, making it a shorter song. Note that it was this version that was on 'Silver Screen Stereo' not Take 6 as indicated on the booklet. The Alternate Master (Tk.6) again has a smoother arrangement than the final release and Elvis' vocal still sounds a little unsure. It is also interesting to compare the Stereo Master with the final mono version since, in this instance, the mono mix actually makes the song sound punchier & more rock'n'roll. (Elvis is always said to have liked mono mixes and this helps explain why)

'This Is Living'

- Take 2 - A very lightweight song anyway, this version has no saxophone backing and a very simple guitar arrangement. The song mainly features The Jordanaires, who sound very unsure in this early take, and Elvis only comes in halfway through.

The 3-track recording spatially opens up the song and this version delightfully captures the band in action. At the end everyone laughs with D.J. adding, "What happened there!" While the Master definitely benefited from the added echo, this time making it sound more dynamic, this rehearsal will grow on you.

'A Whistling Tune' - At a much slower & more suitable tempo than from the 'Follow That Dream' session, Elvis lets his voice slide deliciously over the melody. Take 2 is a lighter arrangement and, although this was never going to be the Master, the clarity of the recording is fabulous. The band is recorded so well, & with the percussion so clear, you wonder how Radio Recorders managed to make such lousy quality recordings from 1962 onwards! You can hear Elvis' chair creak and even the rustle of his lyric sheet. Another beautiful & worthy addition. The stereo Master, again with extra echo, is interesting for having almost a minute edited from it for the final release.

Verdict - With only 6 songs featured, this soundtrack could be a little repetitive. However, unlike 'Follow That Dream', there is plenty of musical development on each track and it is fascinating to witness the recordings as they progress. Indeed, some songs sound so different on earlier versions, that they could have also been released in their own right. The audio quality of the 3-track stereo transfer also shines a new light onto these great performances. If you haven't heard any of these alternate takes before, then the best ones will truly astonish you. Another essential soundtrack.


If you have ever enjoyed the happiness & fun of Elvis' movies then FTD's Special Edition Soundtrack series are well-worth exploring. EIN suggests you buy the essential 'Viva Las Vegas' and then continue with your favourite selection of Elvis' movies.

Check out all of our previous Soundtrack reviews
Loving You
Viva Las Vegas
Fun In Acapulco
Girl Happy
Harum Scarum
Spinout
Paradise, Hawaiian Style
Double Trouble
Frankie & Johnny
It Happened At The World’s Fair
Follow That Dream
Tickle Me

Click here for 'Silver Screen Stereo' CD review

Click here for FTD deluxe Something For Everybody review

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Elvis Odd Spot (updated 13 Jan 2005)