'Studio B: Nashville Outtakes '61-64'

FTD CD review

"We've got a classic in here"

(Piers Beagley, June 11, 2003)

By June 1961 G.I Blues had already been a smash success, Blue Hawaii was hot on it's heels and as the pop charts filled up with smooth, easy-listening music, the raw sound of Rock n' Roll had begun to lose its grip on youth culture.

Just 3 months earlier Elvis had performed his sensational USS Arizona benefit tearing the house down with tracks like 'Reconsider Baby' & 'Such a Night' and little did he know that it would be a long, lonely highway before he would be performing again with such ferocity.

This sequel to the sensational FTD CD 'Fame & Fortune' takes us on a journey from Elvis' chart topping year of 1961 (Blue Hawaii etc) to that first taste of movie desperation, 'Roustabout'. There is no doubt that the dynamic force of the 'Elvis Is Back' sessions had been left behind & the smoother sound of the sixties had crept in, but at the same time Elvis' Nashville musicians were the brilliant 'A Team' and his voice had never sounded so beautiful.

From Elvis' creative point of view you can tell that things were going wrong when some of the best tracks, 'Kiss Me Quick' & 'You'll Be Gone', weren't released on singles until 3 years after they were recorded. Once again the close focus of this CD works better than the other earlier Studio B compiles ('Long Lonely Highway', 'Essential Vol.6 - Such A Night') & the FTD team have produced magic with the new audio mixes.

The sound quality is just sensational and listening to this makes one desperate to get the Masters in the same quality. For a real treat listen closely on headphones and you really get that feeling of being in Studio B with Elvis singing right beside you. There are, as always, plenty of highlights but this time the majority of the tracks have previously been available on Bootlegs so a lot of them might sound familiar to hard core collectors. However there is no doubt that improved audio quality still makes this an essential purchase for any true fan.

'Kiss Me Quick' Tk.1 has always been a favourite. While it lacks the great use of Ray Walker's bass line that is so effective on the Master, this version is a delight. A possible complaint about this period could be that the recordings were all a little 'too smooth' but here we discover the delights of those 'first takes'. (Eight out of the 23 tracks here are first takes).

The track starts off with the sound of Elvis warming up, the band sounds rougher and Elvis is in great humour. Listen out for Elvis' delicious "Ummm", at 1.32, after which you can hear him almost laughing as he sings the lyrics. The song also has the original 'Cha-Cha-Cha' ending rather than the fade-out of the Master.

'That's Someone You Never Forget' Tk.5 - Elvis at his very best. This Red West composition, with lyric suggestions from Elvis himself, is a treat. This is one of the best takes of this song and it is hard to believe that Elvis wanted better. The audio quality is crystal clear -just listen to D.J's brushes on the drums. Interesting to compare this version to Take 1 (60's Box Set) which is almost an acoustic 'run through' before Hank Garland's electric guitar was added. Listen to this once and think of Elvis singing about Priscilla, who was still waiting for him in Germany. Listen to it again thinking of Elvis' desperate love for his Mother. A classic.

'His Latest Flame' Reh & Tk.2 - Elvis was such a perfectionist at this time that often the outtakes are all too similar to the Master versions. However if there was a song from the early sixties that demonstrated Elvis' true input in production & creativity then 'His Latest Flame' is it. Here we get a great rehearsal with the band delightfully loose and D.J. & Boots Randolph working out the percussion. Take 2, which follows, is still very sparse & shows off that 'Bo Diddley' beat. After the first 3 tracks of this night's session here was something really magical being created. Listen to these versions along with the fabulous Tk. 4 (60's Box Set) where the Jordanaires Neal Matthew's added to the great guitar sound and the band also found the 'perfect groove' and then finally listen to the E 30 #1s Master. Brilliant.

'Little Sister' Tk.1, 2&3 - It was 4am in the morning and straight after the magic of 'His Latest Flame' the band were onto another creative groove. As Engineer Bill Porter says from the very start "We've got a classic in here". From Take 1 the band are rockin', with Scotty Moore on acoustic & Hank Garland creating a great sound with his Fender Jazz guitar. On take 3 the band just miss the timing on the break and so the next take, #4, became the Master. However Elvis was enjoying himself so much that they kept going until the sun came up. Check out Take 9 (five after the chosen Master!) on 'Such A Night'.

'For The Millionth and The Last time' Tk.1 - Another first take and another favourite. Here Jerry Kennedy's guitar shines and the sound is crystal clear. Elvis' vocal stands out as does the delicious guitar & percussion. The track sounds more contemporary, without the accordion that was on the 'smoother' Master, and by take 3 the electric guitar had also been dropped in favour of an acoustic sound.0

'Anything That's Part of You' Tk.4&5 - Elvis being the perfectionist pushed this to take 10 before he was satisfied. Take 2 on 'Long Lonely Highway' is fabulous but here the audio mix let's you hear every slight breath. Listen to this on headphones - Elvis never sounded so lonely. Perfect.

'I Met Her Today' Tk.8&9 - There is great moment when Bill Porter asks everyone to "Clear their throats & try again". You can hear Elvis right there and everyone laughs! Take 1 on 'Collector's Gold' holds the real fascination as the tempo is so different and the track has a real "Country feel". By now the track was nearly perfect but Elvis still kept going to Take 18 before he was satisfied.

The next seven tracks are all from one night's work. 'She's Not You' was the single they were searching for but, like 'Good Luck Charm', it is missing from this CD. There are still some excellent outtakes available on bootleg so Ernst is obviously planning something for the future.

'Something Blue' Tk.3&4 - Elvis' first recording for 1962 & I've always loved this song. Take 1 (again!) on 'Platinum' was the exceptional outtake but here the mix is so clear and Elvis' vocal is deliciously high in the mix along with the piano. Just close your eyes & imagine yourself in Studio B. This could have been the Master except that Boots Randolph falters at the very end. Delightful.

'Gotta Get Back Home Somehow' Tk.1 - Yet another first take and here with Boots Randolph's wailing sax and with the two explosive drum patterns this has the feel of the 'Elvis Is Back' sessions. Rough & ready, with some rockin' piano, this is very different to the final Master (Tk.7) which by then was smoothed out to the "Pot Luck" vibe.

'Such An Easy Question' Tk.3 - An Otis Blackwell song and here Elvis explains to the band that "The tempo has slowed up a little bit fellas. It needs to be little bit faster". Cute if nothing special compared to take 2 on 'Such a Night'.

'Fountain Of Love' - Tk.1&2 - Another highlight. This has a much faster tempo than the final Master (Tk.10). Elvis explains "There's a guitar break in there too", as take 1 falls apart, and sings the part to the band - "We got it straight?" he asks. Nice to hear Elvis working in the studio and here the backing vocals and guitars are different to the Master. This could be the "Latino version". Boots Randolph is more predominant in the mix and it ends delightfully with Elvis saying "Ok, that's enough". He knows it won't be the Master.

The ballads like 'Just For Old Times Sake', 'I'm Yours' and 'I Feel Like I've Known you Forever' all fit perfectly in the CD although they are all very similar to the Masters with Elvis striving for that perfection that he often desired.

'Night Rider' Tk.2&3 - These were an attempt to improve on the 1961 versions where Elvis & the band just couldn't match the Phil Spector produced demo. Here Elvis has a desperation to his voice - "Someone blew a cork" he says as take 2 collapses. The smoother Master in fact came from the earlier 1961 session. Takes 1 & 2 of that session are found on 'Collector's Gold' but unfortunately suffer the dreadfully dull CD mix of the early 90's.

Before the start of 'Night Rider' we actually get a fabulous glimpse of the band rocking out, enjoying themselves on an unknown blues number. What a shame that the tape machine wasn't running for all of it.

'You'll Be Gone' Tk.1 - Along with the earlier 'That's Someone You Never Forget' a song that Elvis helped write with Red West & Charlie Hodge. A great Latin sound with fabulous, brooding backing vocals. A great audio mix with Elvis' vocal way up front & sounding really passionate compared to the Master (Tk.3). Here Elvis also went beyond that chosen version searching for that 'something extra' - Check out Take 4 on 'Long Lonely Highway'. Another track again well worth exploring on headphones. Sadly 'You'll Be Gone' was ignored until it was released on the flip side on 1965's 'Do The Clam'!!

'Just Tell Her Jim said Hello' Tk.2 - By the Master (take 6) Elvis had speeded up the tempo. While the first take on 'Collector's Gold' has the better 'groove', here the audio mix is beautiful, emphasising Elvis' great vocal, and the slower tempo is excellent.

'Echoes Of Love' Tk.2&3 - In an incredible fourteen month period, starting in August 1962, Elvis would record soundtracks for four movies from 'World's Fair' to 'Kissin' Cousins'. 'Echoes of Love' was Elvis' first non-soundtrack recording of 1963. By now Elvis had released 'Song of The Shrimp' and other inanities so it was a real shame that this session (which might have become "For The Asking", the lost album) had all its tracks scattered over the years as soundtrack 'Bonus songs'. This take is at a faster tempo than the Master (Tk.10). By take 4 Elvis had decided to slow it down.

'Please Don't Drag That String Around' Tk.2 - The flip side of 'Devil In Disguise', the single they needed, this has a great vocal mix and band separation. Take 1 on 'Such a Night' again has the raw & rockin' edge with a loud guitar mix but this version has a great swing.

'Love Me Tonight' Tk.3&4 - A delicious ballad, almost 'a cappella', showing off Elvis' smooth voice with just piano & backing vocals. Very different to the Master (Tk.8) which again is delightful, featuring a great bass guitar line from Bob Moore. Don Robertson was one of Elvis' favourite composers and it is also worth comparing this version to Take 1 on 'Collector's Gold' which is in a higher key.

'Western Union' Tk.3 - What a rip-off of 'Return to Sender'! This might have sounded ok had it been released on the 1963 LP but instead it first appeared in 1968 after Elvis had recorded both 'Guitar Man' & 'U.S. Male'! However the audio mix and crystal clear drums actually make this very enjoyable in context!

'Memphis Tennessee' Tk.1 - In 1964 Elvis recorded only 3 non-soundtrack songs and two of these were attempts to improve on his May '63 versions of 'Memphis Tennessee' & 'Ask Me'. The fabulous 'jungle version' from 1963 is found on 'Collector's Gold' but again it has that disappointing muffled sock mix! This recording is another highlight with a great sound and the band playing rough & ready rock n' roll. This is at a faster tempo form the earlier versions and you can really hear the ambience of Studio B. Another delight is that the band keep on playing even past when Elvis calls out "That's all". Another Take 1 gem!

'Ask Me' Tk.8&9 - The final track and again the earlier 1963 version can be found on 'Collector's Gold'. A number 1 hit in Australia I prefer this version which is has a mix featuring less of that "Skating-rink" style organ and more acoustic guitar. It sounds less corny somehow. Elvis worked really hard to get the vocal right on this song and in the earlier session he says "This song is gonna make me a nervous wreck"!

Verdict: With a playing time of over an hour and also featuring great cover photos, Ernst & Roger have again released an essential purchase. The sound quality is just sensational and listening to this makes one desperate to get the Masters in the same quality. For a real treat listen closely on headphones and you really get that feeling of being in Studio B with Elvis singing right beside you.

EIN copyright 2003

Go here for Ernst FTD conference & interview

For more Elvis Studio Outtakes why not check out

Fame and Fortune 1960

Silver Screen Stereo

Elvis - The Jungle Room Sessions

Elvis- The Memphis Sessions

Elvis - The Nashville Marathon

Elvis Presley - The First LP

Elvis: On Tour The Rehearsals

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