New Elvis CD Release News
From Elvis Week 2010
- EIN Spotlight by ElvisSessions
During Elvis Week this year SONY/RCA/FTD producers Ernst Jørgensen and Roger Semon were both present to discuss and launch the major release 'The Complete Elvis Masters Box-Set' - as well as talk about other upcoming releases at the special Graceland Plaza presentation.
Ernst Jørgensen and Roger Semon were willing to answer questions from those present, as well as talk about future plans to individuals who were interested.
In this fascinating article EIN contributor ElvisSessions reveals the finer details behind the new "Complete Masters" box-set as well as more details about other future releases.
Who is/are the author(s) of the new Complete Masters book? Is it merely a condensed version of Ernst’s Elvis Presley: A Life in Music?
Ernst, with Roger standing by nodding in assent, described this very much as a collaborative process.
Ernst and Peter Guralnick worked on this book together, in depth and at length. They had differences of opinion along the way that they cooperated to resolve. Roger also helped with adjustments along the way, according to Ernst, who cited as an example Roger’s urging them to adjust passages he found overly negative.
On the issue of negative commentary, Ernst says that it will be a largely positive account because that’s what the overall truth is but that they did not shy away from making critical comments. For example, they have not pretended “Go East Young Man” is as good as “Suspicious Minds.”
According to his fairly detailed account, Ernst did a lot more than write one page of this book. However, from my own cursory review of the book, it is most definitely in a different voice. From my understanding – and examination -- Ernst was more editor than writer.
So, to the question of whether this is chopped-down version of 'A Life in Music', in a word: No. Some albums and songs get longer entries than others, but the ones I glanced at and the ones I read in full read “fresh” to me.
Yes, of course, there are only so many facts about each song, so of course there’s going to be repeated data. But this is not the Reader’s Digest version of Ernst’s book, by any means. Ernst spoke of changes in perspective he and Peter had undergone through the years, and also of how they learned their assumptions about each other’s perspectives needed to evolve, too.
There is also corrected and updated information in the book that involved newly found documentation. This includes, for example, verification of recording dates. Some of this information became available during the writing of this book. So this book is going to include all the up-to-date research that has emerged since Ernst’s book was published.
Was the Complete Masters really a (audio engineer) Vic Anesini project? Is this just a rehash of old work done by other people?
This question was answered from several different angles, and I even asked again before the group, “Just to reiterate …” There is no doubt, then, about Ernst’s response: The mandate of this project was to go back to the start and rework everything.
I know that there is one reliable source who says and believes otherwise, but Ernst was clear on this point: This is new work by Anesini and Sebastian Jeannson. They went back to the album masters wherever possible and appropriate and ran those tapes fresh again in high resolution to provide the headroom to do the editing and refining they needed to do.
There are a few exceptions; a few tracks did need to be rebuilt from scratch. One example: the stereo master of “For the Millionth and the Last Time” had to be redone, which Ernst pointed out is delicate work.
Ernst said there were only a handful of situations comparable to that. However, he did not supply a full list of the songs that they have no choice at all to rebuild from scratch.
Jeannson’s involvement, by the way, seems to have been providing considerable technical (“mathematical,” as Ernst put it) expertise, drawing on his knowledge as an engineer (not as an audio engineer, but as an actual engineer).
Go here for more on Vic Anesini's great audio work with Elvis releases
Go here for more on Sebastian Jeansson's great audio work with Elvis releases
How were the choices made on selecting each track?
Broadly speaking, if Elvis was alive when it came out, so he was in a position to be aware of it as a release and/or approve of it, then it’s a master. No, of course not every single oddball variant counts, Ernst was clear.
But this explains, for example, why “Harbor Lights” opens the collection. It’s considered Elvis’ first master recording because it was released during his lifetime, even though it didn’t come out until 1976.
As far as the bonus material, Ernst reiterated what has been said before: A big factor is showing as wide a range of material as possible, but certain outtakes were also chosen to show how Elvis’ work evolved in the studio.
I believe we’ll find minor quirks along the way they may have overlooked, but for the most part the choices that had to be made were made deliberately. These involve questions of mix, especially, including choices of mono or stereo.
One decision I had wondered about from the Franklin Mint set was the choice of a dry vocal mix of “I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell.” This was a conscious choice on their part for reasons of continuity, Ernst said. I would have made a different choice, but I respect that they had many such decisions to make.
I will confess that though I did ask specifically about the missing splice on the single master of “I’m Yours,” I really did not understand his answer -- or rather, I understood the answer, but I didn’t get the point. However, I didn’t have a chance to ask a follow-up.
What about the high price of the set?
Ernst was really straightforward about the controversial pricing and limited nature of the set.
He talked a fair amount about the decision not to include any previously unreleased material. As he has said before, it wouldn’t be fair to take Elvis fans hostage with such an expensive set for a few add-ons.
He said he realized folks can argue that just by having the new sound quality on the collection, that’s not fair -- such views are always debatable and subjective, he said.
“Look,” he joked, “they make these very nice red cars in Italy; they’re called Ferraris ---- and I don’t have one.”
He said he did understand that not everyone could afford this set, but unfortunately we’re not living in a socialistic world where everybody can afford to have all the same things.
However, he said the set isn’t meant for everyone; it’s for very specific types of collectors.
Ernst said Sony can easily release a Christmas album every year and have a guaranteed X hundred thousand of sales. But this project is something different that serves as the flagship for a new approach to the Elvis catalog, represented by the On Stage and From Elvis in Memphis sets.
Ernst said he’d love it if a collection like this would sell a million copies, but it won’t.
FECC member MysteryTrain, who was also at the forum, noted that according to Ernst, the only reason for a second run of the box set would be if there are some folks out there who may not get the word on the box set before it is sold out. To accommodate those folks a second run may be manufactured. The second run would be like the first run, except they won’t be numbered. They would not be cheaper.
A friend of MysteryTrain spoke to Roger, who reportedly told him that he was disappointed Sony agreed to the Franklin Mint set, but that, at the time, the Sony set was OFF. Later, after the Franklin Mint set was being sold, plans changed and the Sony set was back on.
MysteryTrain also said his friend was told Sony had worried the new box might not be successful. It is a possibility that the sales figures on the Franklin Mint set caused Sony to reconsider and then they had agreed to a limited run, available online.
(Right; The cheaper, and cheap-looking Franklin Mint Set)
What does this box set mean for future releases?
This is the new audio standard for the catalog, Ernst said. The hope is that all future releases will be brought up to the sound quality of this set, he told us. So people will continue to be able to accumulate Anesini-quality versions, as many of us have been doing for several years on other releases.
How are the Complete Masters selling so far? When can we expect the set to ship, and how will it be delivered.
The Sony representative in attendance, Iris Maenza, declined to discuss specific sales figures, citing standard practices. Ernst said he’s confident this edition will sell out by the ship date.
The Web site suggests that the box sets may ship early, but we shouldn’t expect them to ship much sooner than mid-October, Maenza said.
The boxes will be shipped carefully, she said The outside manufacturer is going to be on the hook financially if something goes wrong. For example, if a set goes astray or is damaged, there’s a system in place for replacement. She mentioned that the manufacture can remake a replacement with the same number, if need be.
Why wasn’t any On Tour material released to coincide with the new home-video release?
Sony still has a dream that there will be opportunities for future, bigger collaborative releases of On Tour material.
What about the Sun book?
On the one hand, I believe there is still work being done on this project. I draw this conclusion because of aspects of it that Ernst spoke of in the present tense, such as the laying out and design of the book.
On the other hand, he has a very specific idea of what the size of the book is and, more important, he and Roger (a bit) talked about not wanting the Sun book’s release to collide with the Complete Masters set -- that the two were so different in scope and focus that it was best to give Complete Masters a lot of room.
So, I conclude, whatever state the project is in at the moment, it’s at least close enough to striking distance to be discussing how best to position it for release in relation to a current project.
We can expect the book to be large – easily more than 500 pages – and include three CDs.
(See EIN exclusive interview with Ernst Jørgensen here about The Sun Project & its possible contents)
MysteryTrain said Ernst told him and a friend that the Sun book would be out in April. He seemed pretty firm about that, MysteryTrain said.
What’s new from FTD, and why don’t we know more sooner?
No details on anything we don’t already know about -- for example, the FTD live Chicago soundboards and FTd Classic Album of 'Fool'. They also confirmed Jailhouse Rock, Vol. 2, is coming.
MysteryTrain reports that Roger Semon said the second Jailhouse Rock will be ready for release before Christmas.
Ernst explained that there are usually several people working on different projects and sometimes one gets finished sooner than the other because everyone has other work that they’re responsible for.
Also, he talked about FTD’s ability -- and need -- to adapt as circumstances dictate, say, for example, bootleggers announcing a release because they know an FTD disc may be coming. For example, if bootleggers hear through the grapevine that FTD is looking for photos of a certain location, they’ll try to get the jump on FTD. FTD has shown that if it can respond by getting its release out sooner, it will.
That’s part of the explanation for the short notice on FTD releases, as is the old problem of people complaining about changes in the schedule. Ernst, as he has in the past, talked some about the distractions things like that cause, leading him and Roger to the conclusion that it’s better to hold off on releasing information.
Does the new King Creole book mean there won’t be an FTD Classic Album version?
Ernst said that unfortunately there simply aren’t enough outtakes to justify it as a Classic Album release right now. He said he always dreams of finding find new material even if it seems hopeless.
However, he said they had explored all known avenues. For example, they had started with many unmarked tapes, and as we know such mystery tapes can yield rewards. But he said that even with tapes that the contents still have not been fully identified, they have reached the sad conclusion that Elvis is not hiding on any of them.
He widened the list of dead ends to include Elvis' second album, Roustabout and the first Christmas album, specifically, and he made reference in a general way to other gaps we’re all aware of in the catalog.
He again touched briefly on the fact that he did not think he could justify Classic Album releases in such cases for the time being but that there is always hope that someone will turn up and say, “Hey, I found these tapes in my dad’s attic.”
However, Ernst said that after FTD did everything else they already had figured out how to handle, then maybe they can go back around and assess the situation and decide how to put these Classic Albums together.
In the meantime, Ernst said, he thought that it was good to have the music out there and that the new King Creole project was a good way to provide a lot of cool pictures you can look at while you listen to the music.
What about mainstream releases?
The Legacy release of the first RCA album was originally slated for 2010, as we all remember from promotional material that came out months ago. However, now it’s been pushed to January.
This won’t be a Legacy release like On Stage and From Elvis in Memphis. This will be more of a super-deluxe package with extras. It sounds as if it’ll be larger dimensions with more goodies in there.
Look to the Miles Davis deluxe reissue of Kind of Blue for the kinds of things they’re considering. Audio additions to the album? I got the impression there will be, but there was no indication of what to expect – and certainly no suggestion that there would be any new audio.
What do you think of the new Complete Masters set now that you’ve held it in your hands?
Simply put: This thing is awesome. People have tried to compare this project to the ‘50s set or other releases in discussions of this project’s price. However, there is no comparison in any way to any Elvis release that has come before -- ever.
I know everyone’s seen the photos and the promotional video, but when you see it up close, this thing is impressive.
The book is done very well. It’s hard to sum up the overall impact by only listing details such as the silver-gilt pages. But believe me: This thing works on every level.
MysteryTrain agrees the book will “blow you away.” He called it stunning -- with heavy, thick, quality paper, beautifully illustrated with cover art and photos, etc. etc.
Right: The Complete Masters as displayed at the Memphis Elvis Week presentation.
Ernst had the discs themselves on stage at an earlier presentation, but we didn’t have a chance to examine them Friday.
The only thing I can think of that folks have complained about that there’s some room for real differences of opinion is the disc art -- the details of vintage recording equipment.
Personally, I think the disc art was a brilliant choice. It contributes in a subtle way to what Ernst has been trying to accomplish for so many years: to sharpen the focus on Elvis as the greatest pop vocalist of all time.
This set is about Elvis’ legacy as recording artist. Period. There are plenty of photos of Elvis included, but Roger and Ernst have included visual cues -- the microphones, the recording decks -- to remind us what this set is all about.
We got a chance to pick up, read and examine two copies of the book. We got to grab hold of the other parts of the box set, though we didn’t manipulate every single fold. However, I stood next to the Sony rep, Maenza, as she fiddled with every part of the box set. Everything is well-constructed and attractive.
The box itself they showed at the presentation was a handmade prototype, so it was not quite up to the real manufacturing standards. Frankly, it still looked awesome, but Maenza pointed out a couple of tiny imperfections and assured us the real boxes would be more precisely made.
After looking at this set, I can say there’s no way anything truly similar is going to be released for significantly less money.
Go here for "The Complete Elvis Presley Masters" 30 CD box-set complete tracklist and ordering information
Spotlight by ElvisSessions. - With noted input from FECC member MysteryTrain
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