'Wild In the Country'
FTD Soundtrack review
'Wild In the Country' is the fourteenth FTD extended movie soundtrack.
Many Elvis fans would have previously purchased these songs on single & LP 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.
Below EIN's Piers Beagley discovers the delights of Elvis recording in this acoustic setting.
For an alternate view Crister Berge is not so impressed. Click here for his less than enthusiastic review.
The fourteenth FTD extended movie soundtrack is all the more intriguing since 'Wild In The Country' was never released as a vinyl soundtrack, not even as an E.P. The 2 key songs were only released as single B-sides in the U.S. 'Wild In The Country' however was flipped to the A-side in Europe and made number 2 in the UK charts.
Two of the tracks 'In My Way' and 'Forget Me Never' weren't even released until 4 years later on the scrappy 1965 'Elvis For Everyone' LP where they already sounded dated.
‘Wild In The Country’ (November 1960. 27 tracks, 63 mins).
Elvis’ 7th film and a chance for him to prove himself with some dramatic acting after the fluff of G.I Blues which had just been released to the cinemas. In contrast the music here played a very subsidiary role to plot with the selected tunes being mainly low-key acoustic ballads.
The initial screenplay featured no music at all - and it was only under the orders of the 20th Century Fox CEO that songs were finally incorporated. The FTD booklet even describes how Director Philip Dunne ('How Green Was My Valley', 'The Ghost & Mrs Muir') nearly resigned over this meddling. (see below).
With only a week between the 'His Hand In Mine' gospel session and the start of filming for 'Wild In The Country' Elvis had very little free time. It was still only 8 months since he was discharged from the Army and he was about to make his third movie of the year! In that time Elvis had also recorded three albums worth of quality material.
In the biography 'Careless Love' Guralnick interestingly notes that, "Hope Lang, then 26 years-old, liked to drink vodka and Elvis uncharacteristically joined her throughout the filming, for the first time allowing the guys to have liquor in the house."
Priscilla meanwhile was still in Germany and Elvis was dating Sandy Ferra as well as seeing a lot of Nancy Sharp who worked on wardrobe in the film. Tuesday Weld ('Return To Peyton Place') was the juvenile smouldering love-interest and Director Philip Dunne was hoping for the emotional impact of 'Rebel Without A Cause.' In an fascinating twist the original movie ending had Hope Lang successfully committing suicide however Hollywood test audiences voted for her to live and a new ending had to be filmed. Looking at the film in 2008 one can sense that the original ending would have been the dramatically superior.
'Surrender'/‘Lonely Man’ reached #1/32 in US, Feb ’61.
'Lonely Man' reached #1 in Canada as a double A-side single.
‘I Feel So Bad'/'Wild In the Country' reached #5/26 in US, May ’61.
'Wild In the Country'/’I Feel So Bad' was a #1 in the UK.
With only five songs in total this FTD soundtrack had the potential of being a repetitive compilation with little of interest but what a surprise it is! Maybe it is because I have always had a soft spot for 'Surrender's flip-side 'Lonely Man' but unlike the FTD soundtrack to 'Follow That Dream' I found plenty of new treats in store.
There are 22 unreleased outtakes featured and although plenty of these have been previously released on bootlegs they have always been in mono and the sound here - for the first time in stereo - is sensational.
In 1960 Elvis' voice had acquired a new vocal range and depth not heard before his army stint. And while 'Elvis Is Back' of course shows it off to perfection the simple ballads recorded here give fans a chance to soak up the feeling of Elvis singing alone strumming his guitar with the simplest production. There would be very few times in Elvis' career (save the 1971 'I Will Be True' piano solo session) that he would be recorded in such a simple setting. The only track that does have the throwaway feel of a soundtrack song is the lightweight 'I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell' but even that has interest in being recorded in two different keys.
Previously issued tracks (ie from the very fine 'Collector's Gold' box-set) are presented in a completely different mix here and the earlier releases now sound as if they were recorded through a sock as the audio improvement is that good. Audio engineers Vic Anesini and Sebasatian Jeansson have to be highly commended for their work here as these songs really shine whereas most LA "Radio Recorders" material generally sounds very sub-par.
The exquisite 'Lonely Man' Take 4 from 'Out In Hollywood' must surely be a fan favourite. Well here it sounds that much better with a totally new clarity to Elvis, as well as the Jordanaires', beautiful vocal work. The cute ending with Fox Producer Steve Thielmann noting "Gee, That's pretty" and Elvis replying with a totally genuine "Thank You" now also has the full comment "the beat was kind of comfortable" included as well.
Cover & Booklet
The cover is very stylish and a perfect spoof on what The Colonel would have created with his glue & scissors. I also like the "fake" album label inside. The gloss printing is high-class and there's the usual mix of photos and memorabilia, some of them DVD film grabs.
It's interesting to discover that six demo versions of 'Wild In The Country' were sent to film Producer Jerry Wald to choose from. One must wonder what composer Fred Wise & Ben Weisman's ('It Feels So Right', 'Riding The Rainbow') versions would have sounded like - and a song 'Jennie Jenkins' was also submitted, a new title to me.
There's even a very cute photo (right) of Elvis on set blowing a bubble from bubble gum.
The booklet has the usual 'In and Outtakes', Storyboard and an interesting 'Behind The Scenes' including...
"When Twentieth Century-Fox top boss, Spyros Skouras, belatedly discovered that the studio
had secured Elvis for the leading role in a picture without any songs, he ordered some songs written and incorporated into the dramatic story. Elvis joined producer Wald and director Dunne in protest, but to no avail. Dunne wanted to quit, but once again, Wald persuaded him to stay with it. Together they agreed to include and direct the songs in such a way that they could be cut out when the picture was finished.
The songs "Lonely Man" and "Forget Me Never" did not make it into the final print of the movie. Yet, a scene showing Elvis singing "Lonely Man" in the garage sequence was used in a trailer for the film."
In an intriguing fluff FTD misprinted Presley as "Presely" on the spine (see above) during the initial print-run - where was their spell checker? - a bad but hardly devastating mistake.
The five Master takes start the CD followed by the two Alternate Masters, 'Lonely Man' (solo) and 'I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell' (lower key version) both previously on Collector's Gold but sounding so much better here.
With 8 complete versions of 'Lonely Man' featured, if you dislike that particular song this might not be the CD for you! However overall the compilation very nicely manages to capture an all together different studio feel to what came before ('G.I Blues'/'His Hand In Mine') and what would follow in 1961 ('Blue Hawaii'/'Something For Everybody').
Note that the 'I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell' Master featured on the original 'Something For Everybody' LP (& FTD soundtrack) was drowned in echo compared to the same song here. These versions come from the cleaner remixes done for the 'Double Features' series.
The previously unreleased movie version of 'Husky Dusky Day' which Elvis sings with Hope Lang is taken directly off the film print and is also thrown in as a bonus.
Short Verdict: If you ever liked the film, or the sound of Elvis in this acoustic setting, then you willl certainly enjoy this new FTD Soundtrack release.
Looking closer at the outtakes ..
'Wild In The Country'
Take 1 was featured on the 'Close Up' box-set and is fascinating as Elvis' voice goes off at a crazy tangent. The Jordanaires are very staccato which also feels totally wrong and the take stops with Elvis' voice breaking and him saying, "Hold it a second". By Take 2 the arrangement is totally revamped with guitarist Tiny Timbrell's tic-tac guitar already in place. This again falls apart but we get the chance to then eavesdrop on Elvis at work as he practices the vocal.
Little changes by the following Take 10, and Take 11 was the first complete take recorded. Previously released on 'Out In Hollywood' this version is subtler than the Master.
Listen to Take 13 while close to the single it’s surprising to hear that touch of Elvis' high & fragile vocal from his earlier Sun sessions ('Blue Moon’)
On Take 14 Tiny Timbrell's tic-tac guitar is far lower in the mix giving the song a very different overall feel with more prominences to Meyer Rubin's bass. Elvis' vocal is delightful and it only shows what a perfectionist he was as he continued look for that something extra.
Take 16 was previously on the Silver box-set but the audio there was drowned in echo and had the muffled sock sound, here it is vastly improved – an exquisite release but still not the prefect Master take.
Take 1. There's some nice studio banter and laughter before this take that was not featured on the previous release on 'Close Up'. In a slower tempo this has a rehearsal feel as Elvis sounds like he's reading the lyrics but includes that fine accordian work from Jimmie Haskell.
Take 4 - Elvis has plugged his guitar in by this take and this truly magical version which was already on 'Out In Hollywood' sound even better here. The audio mix is divine and you can really absorb the Radio Recorders atmosphere. A gem.
Takes - 6, 7,8 All new releases. Elvis stops playing guitar, "I'll gonna put the guitar in later" joking, "Cos there's a few little runs in there that I can do that Scotty can't do! See?"
Someone comments "Can you hear that humming?" with engineer Thorne Nogar stating, "Oh yeah, but that's what makes these records!"
Take 7 falls apart soon with Elvis commenting, "Sorry wrong lyrics" while Take 8 is another delightful complete version still with the shuffle arrangement but Elvis and The Jordanaires vocal falter just as they reach the end.
Take 11 - Sounding more like the Master the take is stopped as "the tempo's getting slow". Demonstrating just how difficult it can be to make the perfect record listen closely to Take 12 (@02.08) and you can hear Elvis' voice strain as it slips away from the melody. He also falters at 02.46, which makes it all the more appealing - Elvis was human! The next take was the Master.
Lonely Man (Solo)
Take 1 - Delightful for its simplicity and fragile vocal which so suits the lyric this was previously on 'Today Tomorrow & Forever.'
Unreleased Take 2 has an even lighter feel but breaks down after 30 seconds when Elvis sings a little flat.
Take 3 was one of the 25 reasons to buy the 'Close Up' box-set. Turn off the lights and dream of Elvis sitting on your porch and singing just to you. With no other backing this version perfectly emphasises Elvis’ loneliness & emptiness, "Here I am, come meet a lonely, lonely man." This version while close to the Master has slight guitar variations particularly in the playout and is delightful as Elvis hums the final chorus.
'I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell'
Takes 1, 2, 3 - A different feel to all the other songs this could easily have been from Elvis' future 'Blue Hawaii' sessions. The delight here is hearing the studio banter. Elvis has to ask for a pencil "All this is running together here" and you can actually hear him writing on his lyric sheet as he sings the lyrics to himself!
Take 3 is the first complete take and sounds light & twisty being in the earlier higher key - Dudley Brook's piano arrangement isn't so prominent.
Take 7, 8, 9 - By Take 8 the tempo has been slowed and The Jordanaires arrangement works better. Elvis falters "I fell.... you... shit! Start over again". Take 9 is complete but Elvis still stumbles (ha ha!) on the lyrics and sounds distracted.
Take 11 - This penultimate take still has Elvis has using his cute vocal trick of sliding into the final verse "Ahh.. umm, my knees are week" (@01.31) which is strange as it is not used in the final Master version.
'I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell' (Lower key)
Takes 14,15,16 - All previously released on 'Close Up' but again with a different mix here. On these versions Elvis and the Jordanaires vocals are emphasised over the band.
It is also interesting that after 13 takes Elvis decided to record in a lower key. Elvis also seems unsure, "is that a better key?" he asks.
Take 14 and 15 fall apart while Take 16 has some nice piano work from Dudley Brook's while Elvis again seems to be having trouble with the vocal.
'In My Way'
Take 1 - A delight if only for capturing the simplicity of Elvis alone with a guitar. As featured on 'Silver Screen Stereo' at the end he comments, "There's somebody talking outside or some loud-speaker or something".
Take 2 - It's hard to fault any of these complete takes but again they are presented here without the added echo used on the ‘Close Up’ versions.
Takes 4,5,6,8 - This time it is Tiny Timbrell who falters on guitar and there is a nice insight into Elvis as he jokes with his vocal over-projection. Take 6 a "Long False Start" is spliced with Master Take 8 to create a delightful complete composite.
'Forget Me Never'
Take 2, - Take 2 is the very amusing classic (first heard on the landmark Bootleg 'Behind Closed Doors') Elvis sings, "If I should go, Forget me never, please ... shit!"
Take 1 was the only other complete take and differs as the guitar messes up towards the end.
In a strange move the 1965 European version of 'Elvis For Everyone' featured an overdubbed 'marracas' version of 'Wild In The Country' in place of the US track 'Summer Kisses Winter Tears'. It is a shame that this oddity wasn't featured on this release.
Verdict: With only five songs and therefore low expectations this is a very fine FTD Soundtrack release. While not in the same league as the ‘Viva Las Vegas’ or ‘Fun In Acapulco’ soundtrack releases, ‘Wild In The Country’ captures Elvis in an unusual acoustic setting and with his voice showing its new 1960’s maturity. The audio improvements and the outtakes in stereo are a delight - as is the cover & booklet. But hey, did anyone tell you they spelt Elvsi's name wrong!
Reviewed by Piers Beagley
Copyright EIN - March 2008
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For an alternate view Crister Berge is not so impressed - Click here for his less than enthusiastic review.
'Wild in the Country' - FTD 2008 Januaryl release #8869723446-2
1. Wild in the Country
2. Lonely Man
3. I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell
4. In My Way
5. Forget Me Never
6. Lonely Man (solo)
7. I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell (low key)
8. Lonely Man (take 1)
9. Wild in the Country (takes 1, 2)
10. Wild in the Country (takes 10, 11)
11. I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell (takes 1, 2, 3)
12. Lonely Man (solo, take 1)
13. In My Way (take 1)
14. Forget Me Never (takes 2, 1)
15. Lonely Man (take 4)
16. Lonely Man (solo, takes 2, 3)
17. In My Way (take 2)
18. In My Way (takes 4, 5, 6/ 8)
19. Wild in the Country (takes 12, 13)
20. Wild in the Country (take 14)
21. I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell (takes 7, 8, 9)
22. I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell (take 11)
23. Lonely Man (takes 6, 7, 8)
24. Lonely Man (takes 11, 12)
25. I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell (takes 14, 15, 16)
26. Wild in the Country (take 16)
27. Husky Dusky Day
Album produced and art directed by Ernst Jorgensen & Roger Semon.
Mixed by Vic Anesini.
Mastered by Vic Anesini and Sebastian Jeansson.
Original Fox Producer: Steve Urban Thielmann.
Original Engineer Thorne Nogar.
Guitar: Scotty Moore, Tiny Timbrell, Elvis Presley.
Bass: Meyer Rubin.
Drums: D. J. Fontana.
Piano: Dudley Brooks.
Accordion: Jimmie Haskell.
Vocals: The Jordanaires.
Track 27: Duet by Hope Lange and Elvis Presley.
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