FTD Extended Soundtrack review
Piers Beagley, 2003
Girl Happy The second of the 6 extended movie soundtracks issued by FTD.
Each one has been released with an improved re-master of the original LP, plus alternate takes, and a colour booklet full of photos and information.
It seems an odd marketing policy to release these new FTD soundtrack CDs in a group of three, since not everybody can afford the luxury of buying all 3 at once. Plus many of us would have previously purchased them in RCA's "Double-Feature" series.
'Girl Happy' June 1964. 24 tracks, 67 mins.
Elvis' 17th movie and another beach-flick. By 1964 Elvis' Hill & Range publishers were supplying all the songwriters and this could not help but decrease the quality of the supplied material. The Beatles were dominating the pop scene and band members recall Elvis' general apathy in the recording sessions.
It is interesting to note that this is the only Elvis' 1960s movie that had two separate single releases.
'Do The Clam' reached #21 in the charts in Feb '65.
'Puppet On A String' got to #14 in Oct '65.
The soundtrack LP made #8.
The CD is again presented in a beautifully printed deluxe gatefold sleeve looking very much like the original LP.
The packaging, in a '45 rpm' size concept, is delightful and fits perfectly next to your Elvis 45rpms. The pictures include some rare movie stills and Cinema lobby cards. If you examine the promotional pictures you can see that Elvis looks a bit sullen (in 1964 that's not surprising!) and this time the lobby cards are not reprinted as clearly as they could be.
One nice picture shows Elvis playing football between takes.
Someone needs to proof read the English too since it says, on page 6, "The performance was not scene" instead of "was not seen"!
However this was the first Elvis film to include his 'favourite actress' Shelley Fabares and there are some good shots of both of them.
The audio mix on all the tracks has been spatially opened up to create a really wide stereo mix and it truly is "Living Stereo" as the logo infers. This allows all the musicians to shine as well as giving The Jordanaires & back up vocals a better role since they are now separated further from Elvis' vocal track. The sound now has the real punch, clarity and bassier feel of the original 45rpm vinyl singles. Yes, my house was rockin' while I 'Did The Clam'!
The improved audio quality also lets you delve a little deeper into the songs. If you listen to the five over-dubbed tracks for instance, it is now more obvious that Elvis was not in the studio with the band as he sounds distant and there is no band interaction. On 'Do The Clam' there is that very noticeable 15 seconds (from 2.05) when the right hand channel is missing from the backing track. This fault is even audible on the original mono single so I wonder if the backing tape was a splice of 2 different versions or did the studio engineer just make a mistake?
The spliced Master version of the track 'Girl Happy' was sped up 8% for the movie release, to give it a faster beat, and it is a treat to hear it in this new quality for the first time. On the second day of recording 'Do Not Disturb' took 36 takes to reach a satisfactory Master after which Elvis' patience failed and he left the recording session. This meant that the remaining 5 songs were done as vocal overdubs and no outtakes exist. This could be a blessing in disguise since this saves us from multiple versions of 'Fort Lauderdale Chamber Of Commerce'!
Interestingly, although it took 36 takes to get to the final 'Do Not Disturb' you can still hear the guitars play out of key (@ 1.34) on the Master version. I guess Elvis wasn't going to try it yet again! While the original LP was definitely not one of Elvis' best, the updated audio re-mastering is excellent and the sound is much brighter than the slightly muffled sound of the 90's "Double-Features" issue along with a nice full bass response.
Again the FTD team have strictly recreated the original LP which interestingly means that the extra few seconds of 'I've Got To Find My Baby', that you could hear on the 'Double-Features' version, are now missing. Releasing this CD implies that Ernst believes that no more Master tapes of this film will be found. This is a shame since we know that 'I've Got To Find My Baby' was brutally edited for release and there was always hope that the full length original take may eventually be discovered.
The original LP had one 'Bonus Track' that has also been included.
'You'll Be Gone' - This is one song that Elvis was truly involved in writing, along with Red West and Charlie Hodge, and it had been left unreleased since early 1962. Interestingly the 'Latino version' (Tk 4) has been included here rather than the original Master. At a slightly faster tempo that the original LP track, and with more of a Latino flourish to the guitars, this was released on the previous FTD 'Long Lonely Highway' but sounds more dynamic here.
The extra outtakes are the real interest and there are 22 new takes or false starts that have never been released before.
'Puppet On A String' - The earlier versions are more laid-back than the final single, with a lighter piano feel from Floyd Cramer and less backing vocals. Take 5 delightfully falls apart with Elvis laughing, "Every time you look at me… He's looking at me with a sheepish grin!" Take 7 was already on 'Out In Hollywood' but sounds better here.
On several of the tracks from this film you can hear tape 'print through'. This is where you can hear the sound on the previous piece of tape repeating. You can notice it on the start of Take 10 and it demonstrates the fact that at we are indeed lucky that Elvis' original tapes generally sound as good as they do 40 years on.
'The Meanest Girl In Town' - On the earlier soundtrack 'Kissin' Cousins' all the songs were vocal overdubs but in 1964 Elvis was still interacting with a live band even if the material was a pale comparison to his earlier songs. On Take 7 he struggles with the lyrics and runs out of breathe laughing, "Ha, ha, whoo! Speaking of taking a deep breath!" Again it is great to eavesdrop on Elvis working in the studio.
'Spring Fever' - A lightweight song that took 24 takes to complete. Take 18 falls apart delightfully when the band stops which leaves Elvis mid sentence. He ends up singing, "The sky is full of butterfly … shit!" As another take stops, Musical Director George Stoll points out to Elvis, "It should be a little happier too. You're thinking of other things." As Ann-Margret was still hanging around & visiting Elvis, I can imagine his mind being on other things than 24 takes of 'Spring Fever'!
'Do Not Disturb' - One of the real highlights of the soundtrack LP and possibly the song that Elvis had the most trouble with in his whole career. These outtakes have previously been available on bootleg but it is great to have them in this quality. It is fascinating to listening to every exasperating moment as Elvis gets more & more frustrated, "That is undoubtably the weirdest goddamn chord change I think I've ever tangled with in my life. I'll beat the hell out of it if it takes 94 years of hard labour. I'll come back after the picture and record it for hours!"
The engineer points out that the first take was "ok". Always the perfectionist, even with his movie material, Elvis notes, "It was 'ok'. I don't like 'ok'!" Elvis laughs and keeps in amazingly good humour for so many takes. If you have never heard these takes before you are in for a treat.
'Cross My Heart and Hope To Die' - Another highlight and a cool groove with nice piano work by Floyd Cramer along with Bob Moore playing a great double-bass line. On Take 9 Elvis slips on the words, which, he nicely points out to the band, are hard to read from the lyric sheet. Of course he then stumbles at the same point on the next take! The earlier versions have a jazzier ending than the standard fade-out on the Master.
'Girl Happy' - These outtakes are another real gem. At the correct tempo compared to the sped up original these versions have a great feel. The band is playing at a slower groove and there is nice interplay between the guitars. On take 3 Elvis nearly makes it to the end before tripping up and then laughs deliciously, "Hold it, Hold It." He talks to the band commenting, "I think it could be a little faster." A real favourite. Take 4 was previously available on 'Collector's Gold' but sounds so much better here.
The final track on the CD is interesting too since it lets you hear how the final Master was actually made from a splice of two separate parts.
Overall Verdict - While not the greatest Elvis movie nor an important soundtrack there are some outtakes here that are really worth owning especially in this new quality. If 'Girl Happy' is one of your favourite films then do check out this package and if you like it, save up your money and buy your next favourite
Review by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN May 2003
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Read EIN's 'GIRL HAPPY' Movie review here
Girl Happy - Released May 2003 - FTD 82876 50408. 2
1: Girl Happy
2: Spring Fever
3: Fort Lauderdale Chamber Of Commerce
4: Startin' Tonight
5: Wolf Call
6: Do Not Disturb
7: Cross My Heart And Hope To Die
8: The Meanest Girl In Town
9: Do The Clam
10: Puppet On A String
11: I've Got To Find My Baby
12: You'll Be Gone
13: Puppet On A String (5, 6, 7)
14: The Meanest Girl In Town (7, 8, 9)
15: Spring Fever (4)
16: Do Not Disturb (24, 25, 26, 27)
17: Cross My Heart And Hope To Die (6)
18: Girl Happy (1, 2, 3, 4)
19: Puppet On A String (10)
20: Spring Fever (18, 19, 21)
21: The Meanest Girl In Town (11)
22: Do Not Disturb (35)
23: Cross My Heart And Hope To Die (9, 10, 11) [Used for spliced master]
24: Girl Happy (13 and 4 of ending) [Used for spliced master]
CD Credits: Compilation Produced by Ernst Jorgensen and Roger Semon.
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