To celebrate the 50th Anniversary, RCA releases 'The Complete Million Dollar Quartet' with audio restoration by hard working Kevan Budd. Running 79 minutes we at last have the missing 12 minutes, along with the songs being in the correct order. Not only does this new introduction nicely set the scene to Elvis' participation in this historic jam - but you can witness how everything changes and becomes more focussed once Elvis enters the studio. Go here for EIN's full review
EIN - Kevan, thanks for agreeing to another interview. There are, as usual, too many questions that we'd all like to ask you so I will concentrate on the recent Million Dollar Quartet BMG release.
The obvious first question - Is this really "The Complete" tape? The new CD runs 79 minutes, therefore just fitting onto the maximum of 80 minutes, so is there anymore that you couldn't include?
KB – This is everything we have. It was very fortunate that we had just enough space to fit it all on.
EIN - Everyone has been asking where did this new generation tape come from? Were they copies that Sam Phillips made for Elvis? Did you have to do an amalgam of all the best sources?
KB - We have two sets of tapes, both sets consisted of 3 tapes each. And both sets were used to make the most of what we had. One of the sets came from Elvis' personal collection that I believe Sam made for Elvis and the other set was a totally separate source that we have had for a little while.
EIN - All the original releases have a real lack of high-frequency (sound muddy) as well as having echo added at points. Do you know why they did this?
KB - There were noise problems on the original tapes and mainly in the high frequencies, so I guess they removed the high frequencies due to this. I wanted to keep the high frequencies intact, so I only targeted the noise where it suffered the most. This takes a lot more time but hopefully the fans will feel the result was worthwhile.
EIN - (laughing) It certainly was worthwhile! Elvis is so much clearer and it's great the peak distortion is also gone. How much work did you have to do to improve the tapes, have you been working on these tapes for months?
KB – Actually there was not too much time to prepare this release, just a few weeks.
The tapes were badly damaged and it was easy to see why some parts had been cut on the older releases; however I did what I could to repair all the damage, so that everything possible could be included on the new release.
EIN - It is a great improvement to have the session in the correct order. I never did understand the previous beginning of 'You Belong to My Heart' badly edited into 'When God Dips His Love in my Heart'. If I were faking the order I would have started with one of the classics like 'Peace in the Valley'. How did you decide on the genuine song order?
KB - The progression of the 3 tapes only really made sense in the order they were placed, such as the instrumentation that was included etc - and where the development of the session naturally leads us, starting with the instrumentals on the first tape and ending with Elvis saying goodbye on the third.
EIN - There is still a tape break between ' Softly and Tenderly' and a fade-up on 'When God Dips His Love in My Heart' - so why is that? Were these separate tapes?
KB - Yes, this is where the first tape ends and the second tape started. The third tape starts on the second version of 'Don’t Forbid Me'.
EIN - Something that I'm not sure many people have spotted is the almost extra minute in 'Jesus Walked That Lonesome Valley'. On previous releases there was an edit that took out the sensational section with Jerry Lee Lewis doing a falsetto against Elvis singing the lead. It honestly is one of the highlights of the whole session! Do you know why it was never on the orignal releases?
KB – I don’t know why this was cut out on past releases as I agree that it is a great part of the session and a highlight on the new disc. Also a personal highlight for me was the previously cut additional dialogue of Elvis describing his first recorded acetate of 'That’s when your heartaches begin', which I thought was fun.
EIN - If there is anything technically frustrating it must be the period of bad tape dropout during 'Paralyzed'. As this appears to be on every version of this session do you think that Sam was using old tape or could you not find a better quality tape for this section of the re-release?
KB – The problems in general were a combination of discarded damaged tape being used and technical problems. Unfortunately the problems on 'Paralysed' are the same on both of the sources we have.
EIN - Of course I'm not really complaining, as this is not a session to dip into. To appreciate it you just need to turn it up and let this glorious historical moment of rock'n'roll history wash over you - and your new remastered version certainly makes it a greater experience.
KB – It was a fantastic thrill to get the opportunity to work on this fascinating session and off course the credit must go to Ernst, Roger and SONY/BMG who decided to release the session as it really was, and all the fans who had been requesting this release.
EIN - So what's next for you?
KB – A single track - the 'Heartbreak Hotel' 1955 demo, this I restored for the new 'Writing for the King' set. This was the only track I restored for the set and this nearly didn’t make it! On first listen to the raw transfer it was thought to be in much too bad a shape to be saved as the acetate record was virtually destroyed, however after the restoration was finished, it was decided that it would be usable after all. This was a relief as it was pretty neat to finally be able to compare what Elvis received and heard in late 1955 with the classic hit that he recorded in January 1956.
Other than this there are several new projects in the pipeline that I am working on for the near future which I hope to give more details on as they draw closer to release, and off course there will be the FTD 'Sun box-set'.
EIN - Can you give us any details of what might be in the Sun release?
KB - A general overview of the FTD `Sun box set` is that it will include a good amount of unreleased material, including studio sessions (everything we have in the vaults), live recordings (newly restored) including amongst others, the unreleased Meridian, May 1955 performance where Bill goes crazy and Elvis is really rocking! Plus interviews, demos, radio ads and off course the odd surprise! The book section is a massive project, including such items as the first known colour photo of Elvis in 1954 to unpublished Sun session tape notes and off course many, many more unseen goodies! The set is now in its final stages of completion.
EIN - That sounds well worth saving up for. I have to say that like all Elvis fans I have bought the "Million Dollar Quartet", too many times over throughout the years - but NOTHING beats this new 2006 version that you have done. So I hope that you are as happy with it as everyone who has bought it. You should be really proud and I can't add anything but a big thanks from all of us for your hard work - and for the interview.
KB – The pleasure was mine, thank you.
Kevan Budd was interviewed by Piers Beagley for EIN, December 2006.
- Copyright Elvis Information Network 2006.
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