'Viva Las Vegas'
FTD Extended Soundtrack review
'Great movie, great soundtrack, great treatment by FTD!'
Elvis Presley's 14th movie co-staring Ann-Margret and a true classic. A real diamond amongst the mediocre.
Elvis Presley & Ann Margaret, the two stars chemistry, both on screen & off was dynamite, and while the song material wasn't chart-topping quality it was at least varied & interesting.
'Viva Las Vegas' (July 1963. 25 tracks, 79 mins)
The fourth 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 CDs in groups 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.
The sexual tension was palpable even in the recording studio. In a ridiculous marketing strategy, the real potential of a big chart success in the U.S. was lost when the single was released just 2 weeks after the 'Kissin' Cousins' single. The Colonel at the time didn't want Ann-Margret sharing any of Elvis' limelight so their duets were also never released. This meant that any idea of soundtrack album, which undoubtably would have become a classic, was lost and only a 4 track EP was issued. Sometimes The Colonel just got it all wrong.
'What'd I Say' reached #21 in the charts.
The 4-track Soundtrack EP only made #92.
The packaging this time looks like the original EP but with a deluxe gatefold sleeve.
The pictures include some rare publicity stills, movie photos and a great colour photo of 'The Wedding kiss'. Elvis has a knowing glint in his eye and who wouldn't in his situation? This is one booklet where another 4 pages of movie stills wouldn't have gone a-miss.
The audio mix on all the tracks has been spatially opened up to create a really wide stereo sound. Sadly it is hampered, at times, by MGM's original poor studio technique of recording most of the band onto one track only. However, the sound is beautifully clear and without that dreadful echo and muffled sound of the 'Double Features' issue.
With 12 available tracks there was a great potential LP missed and if 'Santa Lucia' runs a little short, now we find out that Elvis actually sang backing on 'The Climb' which could have been used as a startling bonus track!
At last the original masters all sound fantastic and so different to the echoey versions of 'Double Features' which always sounded messy. The audio mix here is clean and crisp and you can really appreciate the band. The piano & sax solo of 'If You Think I Don't Need You' on 'Double Features' sounded as if it was recorded in a swimming pool, while 'C'mon Everybody' had that awful echo of a school gym. (oh yes, in the movie that's right!).
We have heard some of the outtakes in this great quality on 'Silver Screen Stereo' but hearing the 12 'LP' tracks in this remastered sound is reason enough to buy this CD. The drums on 'C'mon Everybody' have a delicious snap and now there is a piano that you could hardly hear on the original. 'Night Life', 'What'd I Say'… all the tracks sound superb in this quality.
'I Need Somebody To Lean On' is a highlight as you can now hear Elvis' every whisper and breath. Another gem is the Master of 'You're The Boss' where they have now properly separated Elvis & Ann-Margret's vocal to left & right channels. Even better is the fact that it runs on 17 seconds longer than the original and there is some lovely vocal interplay & laughing between them at the end that we have never heard before. While several of the extra outtakes have already been released there are still 11 new takes, or false starts, that have never been issued before.
Finding the 'VLV' Master tapes was definitely one of the most important scores for the FTD team. While some people might complain that too many of the outtakes have been issued elsewhere the quality of the sound is astounding on this release and, at last, all the songs are perfectly compiled on to one CD. And at a packed 79 minutes nothing else could have been squeezed on!
Looking closer at the outtakes..
'Today, Tomorrow & Forever' (Duet) - Elvis isn't sure of the melody so Take 1 falls apart after 1 minute. He cutely apologises, "I'm sorry and I should be! That's enough." The delicious take 2 follows and if you don't already own it on the 'T, T & F' box-set then you are in for a treat. Having all these diversely released tracks on this one CD is at last so right.
'Viva Las Vegas' Tk1&2 - While these have been previously released on 'Silver Screen Stereo' here they have a slightly cleaner mix. If you haven't heard the first 'acoustic/unplugged' version you are in for a real treat as it is so different from the classic final version. Here the echo has also been removed that was on 'SSS' and the band is clean & unadulterated, with Elvis' vocal mixed slightly higher. It's a gem and there's a little more studio banter between the takes. A classic.
'Night Life' Tk1 - Featured on 'Out In Hollywood' this is another essential outtake. Perfectly placed against Boots Randolph's sax Elvis comes back from the break with the incorrect lyrics. He's grooving, doesn't care, and @ 1.32 he acknowledges his mistake whistling, "Yeah". Elvis knows it won't be a Master take but he just scats along adding, "Walking all out, hot-damn Nightlife." Interestingly, his final telling comment, "We don't happen to have the words?" is only on the 'OIH' version.
'C'Mon Everybody' - Tk1,2,3 were also on 'SSS' and are a classic with fabulous band interaction as they try and work out the tricky spacing and includes a great bluesy finale. The studio interaction is again edited a little differently here compared with the 'SSS' release. The next day Elvis came back to the song to record a 'movie version'. The tempo has been speeded up and Elvis says, "Keep it up" before Take 6 falls apart after just 5 seconds. I can swear that in the background you can hear Elvis say, "Oh f**"!
After all it was 3am in the morning, after a long day of recording, and Elvis' voice sounds pretty worn out & hoarse. Plus, Ann-Margret might have been waiting at home to try some "rehearsing" for the duets to be recorded the next day!
'I Need Somebody To Lean On' Tk8 - This version is at a slower tempo and with a sparser arrangement than on the final Master. This gives it a better 'smoky nightclub' atmousphere with the restrained piano & acoustic guitar sounding perfect. DJ Fontana's lazy brush stokes, also not on the Master, also add that nightclub vibe. This was already issued on 'OIH' but sounds even better here and has a few seconds more on the fade out. Just listen to Elvis' every tantalising breath and also for his sigh @2.27 "To lean on, uhhh, yes I really do" Delicious.
'The Lady Loves Me' Tk9 - On the 'Silver Screen' FTD Ann-Margret says at the start, "What do I do?" to which Elvis replies, "You give me a cue". This is missing from this release and the audio mix is also different with Elvis centre channel this time. A classic cool duet but the real delight is discovering Ann-Margret leaning very close to Elvis as she sings, "I'd rather kiss a rattlesnake." Her voice obviously bleeds into his microphone. Now why would she be making a point of that lyric to Elvis!? I hope that Priscilla never listened that closely on headphones!
'You're The Boss' Tk3 - The version of this on 'Silver Screen' had some added echo across the whole mix which seemed a little unnecessary. Here it is pure Elvis & Ann-Margret purring very nicely together, especially on the fade out. Give yourselves a treat by turning off the left (backing) channel and listen to just the two of them interact. (Listen to their gentle moan at 00:30 after "You've got me beat upside down..."). Let's face it, with Ann-Margret singing, "When it comes down to love, you're a horse", sex was on the cards!! Note that after that line on the Master Elvis comments to Ann, "Oh Yeah" which was missing from this earlier take!
'Today Tomorrow and Forever' Tk3&4 - These were almost mixed to mono on the 'Silver Screen' release so again they sound much better here.
'What'd I Say' Tk1&2 - Always great to hear Elvis' first takes and these don't disappoint. Elvis asks at the start, "Got a pen chief? I need a pen!" This was the song that Elvis suggested as the up-tempo finale to the film and it sure sounds like a party. Demonstrating the good vibe Elvis adds a line of "When Irish eyes are smiling" at the end.
'If You Think I Don't Need You' Tk5&7 - The Ray Charles feeling continues with a song contributed by friend Red West. The first take falls apart after a minute with Elvis laughing, "Whoo, hold it!" Similar to the Master but again, capturing the fun of the moment.
'Do The Vega' Tk1 - Another great first take and at a more suitable, slower tempo than the Master. Elvis suggests the band, "Loosen up" before they kick off. The track actually has a very clever Latin rhythm that is sadly wasted by the typically mindless lyrics. This is a shame since, with the percussion nice & clear in this mix, the musicians provide a great Latino groove. Elvis is appreciative shouting, "Yeah" in the middle eight and giggling delightfully at the end. Turn it up & 'Do The Vega'!!
'The Climb' - Not just the master take, as indicated on the sleeve, but 4 takes! The first ever official release and what a stunner. This is a real discovery that, although this movie track has the sublime bass lead vocal of George 'Biggie' McFadden, Elvis was not only producing this track but also singing backup vocals with The Jordanaires! In the middle of Take 1 Elvis shouts, "Hold It. We picked up the tempo a little too much fellows." Everyone also laughs when it is suggested that they might be singing "Chick to chick"! It's a fabulous final track showing what fun Elvis could have in the studio with the right movie, right material and the right co-star.
This is the first FTD Soundtrack CD that, even at a full 80 minutes, has left me wanting more. Amazingly the film only ran 86 minutes. The CD is so good that you have just got to play it again!
Overall Verdict - Viva Las Vegas is the perfect justification for this FTD series of Soundtrack re-issues. Recommended for everybody even if you already own some of the tracks on previous FTD CDs. Buy it, you won't regret it. And if you like it save up your money and try your next favourite!
Review by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN April 2004
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If you have ever enjoyed the happiness & fun of Elvis' movies then FTD's Special Edition Soundtrack series are well-worth exploring.
EIN suggests you buy this essential 'Viva Las Vegas' and then continue with your favourite selection of Elvis' movies.
Check out our other previous Soundtrack reviews
Fun In Acapulco
Paradise, Hawaiian Style
Frankie & Johnny
It Happened At The World’s Fair
Follow That Dream
Viva Las Vegas - Released January 2004 - FTD 82876 50412. 2
1: Viva Las Vegas
2: What'd I Say
3: If You Think I Don't Need You
4: I Need Somebody To Lean On
5: C'mon Everybody
6: Today, Tomorrow And Forever
7: Santa Lucia
8: Do The Vega
9: Night Life
10: Yellow Rose Of Texas/The Eyes Of Texas
11: The Lady Loves Me
12: You're The Boss
13: Today, Tomorrow And Forever (duet) (1, 2)
14: Viva Las Vegas (1, 2)
15: Night Life (3)
16: C'mon Everybody (1, 2, 3)
17: I Need Somebody To Lean On (8)
18: The Lady Loves Me (9)
19: You're The Boss (3)
20: Today, Tomorrow And Forever (3, 4)
21: What'd I Say (1, 2)
22: If You Think I Don't Need You (5, 7)
23: C'mon Everybody (6, 7)
24: Do The Vega (1)
25: The Climb (9) [Sung by Georgie McFadden and The Jordanaires]
CD Credits: Produced and Art Directed by Ernst Jorgensen and Roger Semon.
Mastered by Lene Reidel.
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