Elvis collectors have always been very interested in vinyl releases from Japan. Like German releases, the audio quality of Japanese releases was generally superior to releases in the US, Europe, and Australasia.
Also, Japanese releases often offered better packaging and inclusions such as:
- Foldout covers
- Bonus photos
- Music lyrics
- Promotional leaflets
David Ward is to be commended on the amount of research he has undertaken to produce what is the most comprehensive record of the 131 Elvis LPs (400+ pressings) released in Japan. Given the paucity of information for many albums, Ward would have experienced many frustrating roadblocks and dead ends during his exhaustive research.
The author notes that Japan, like Britain, went its own way in releasing Elvis LPs, with the result that it often released different, or track list altered, albums. Similarly, Japan was also one of the first to release Elvis LPs in quadraphonic and there are numerous Elvis quadradiscs featured.
The author provides significant background information on key issues including:
- What is an obi? (obi’s can add substantial value to an LP)
- Label text design overview
- Dating and identifying records with no obi
- Album values
- Confusing album titles (for example, On Stage February, 1970 had five different titles!)
A very helpful tool is the author’s five-point rating scale (R1-R5) to signify the rarity of individual releases.
Each album is numbered from 1 to 131 based on the release date (Japan did not always follow the US./UK sequence of releasing albums).
For each release, Ward provides:
- General background information
- Track listing
- Obi or no obi
- Front and back cover images
- Insert images
- Side A and side B images
The background information is solid and instructive, as indicated by these passages from the narrative for About On Stage, February 1970:
The last gatefold covers appeared from around 1975 with one of two orange obis: VMI or RVC. The back cover still had the colour shot from Elvis On Tour while the inside front covers were as they were in 1970. The bound-in booklet was back to 4 pages in length, retaining the photos from That’s The Way It Is.
David Ward also notes that, at times, the titles of RCA’s Japanese Elvis LPs, were confusing. For instance:
That’s the Way it Is: “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” on the first obi and on all 4-channel stereo obis. The title on the regular stereo obis quickly became “Elvis on Stage Vol. 1”. This title was used on the labels from 1972. Prior to that, it had been “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” on the labels.
One thing obvious in From Elvis in Japan is that RCA Japan was prolific in releasing Elvis records in “series” format. Among the many impressive series discussed and visually presented in the book are:
- The “Translucent Vinyl” Pressings
- The Yellow Golden Disk Obi Series
- The 1970’s Christmas Albums (1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976)
- The 1978 Camden Reissues
- The 1982 “Elvis on Screen 180” Series
- Presley Rocks History Series
- The SX Series
A 1973 Poster Series of LPs were notable as each title coming with a different fold-out Elvis poster (see EIN’s interview with David Ward for more information).
The variety of “Japan only” albums is also interesting, with “greatest hits” compilations dominating:
- Elvis’ Golden Story
- The Great Hits of Elvis
- Elvis Presley (Deluxe Panel)
- Elvis Presley Best 24
- Elvis Big 20
- Elvis Gold 30
- Elvis Presley Special 24
- Elvis on Screen
- Elvis Presley The Complete Singles (11 LP box set)
- Elvis Presley By Request of Japanese Fans
In addition, there are also sampler albums and a great inclusion, How to Read Elvis’ Name in Japanese. The author also includes some of the humorous translations that can be found with Japanese LPs. One of my favorites was the song, Wheels on My Heels being translated as 'Flying Along in A Cool Car'. And can you identify which song this translation relates to: 'Shifty Henry said you bugs for heaven’s sakes'?
The book’s data size is 28MB and it contains 221 pages.
There are so many rare, glorious and interesting images in From Elvis in Japan, that it is hard to know where to start…...the full color cover grabs your attention.
Some of the highlight images include:
- The famous “teardrop” cover for By Request of Japanese Fans (4LP boxset)
- Numerous double page poster images from various LPs
- The Great Hits of Elvis features an interesting montage of Elvis images on its back cover
- An Elvis “record bag” given away with the second pressing of Elvis As Recorded at Madison Square Garden
- A fantastic on stage insert photo from Elvis Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite
- Hand drawn illustration insert from Elvis Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis
- Picture label for Pure Gold
- Back cover design for Elvis Presley Special 24
- Colorful cover for Kings of Graffiti
- Christmas themed obi on 1977 release of Elvis’ Christmas Album (Camden edition)
- Hype sticker for This is Elvis
- Beautifully designed front and back covers for Love Songs
- Bright yellow front and back cover for Elvis on Screen
- Purple cover for disc 11 in Elvis Presley The Complete Singles set
- 1960s Covers with Obis - Soundtrack Albums (montage)
- A Date with Elvis Obi
- Victor Blue Hawaii Sale postcard
- Various internal double panels from gatefold album cover
- Imagery from many of the album booklets
- Promotional leaflets for a free LP storage box/wall panel and Elvis poster
- RCA mini capsules
A standout section features the visually attractive, various series of obis. These are stunning when shown as large images. (Note: an obi can substantially increase the value of an album).
While many of the visuals are very good, some are problematic. The full color front cover images are strong and remain so even if magnified to around 300% on a 13” screen laptop. However, many of the back covers and some of the label images lack clear resolution, even when magnified, or viewed on a 27-inch monitor. This means the text is often unreadable. Despite this, it is good to be able to see what they looked like.
Using the e-book
Not only has the cost of printing a physical book risen over the past decade, but international shipping costs have soared, and the use of higher cost commercial courier companies (FedEx, DHL) is increasingly common. For these reasons, digital (e-book and flipbook) books are becoming increasingly popular as they offer a more cost-effective way of releasing books, especially those with a high number of pages and/or hundreds of images. Hence, why David Ward elected to publish his book as a digital edition.
The Contents page for From Elvis in Japan allows the reader to click on any of the more than 20 chapter headings, to access their content. Similarly, the alphabetical Album Index allows you to quickly access any title. It is easy to return to the beginning of the book or any page using the page number facility on the top left-hand corner of the screen. There is also an unclickable Song Index.
Verdict :From Elvis in Japan is a most welcome addition to the vast Elvis book library. The depth and breadth of information and hundreds of impressive visuals in the book will satisfy not only collectors, but also general fans wanting to know more about Elvis records in non-western countries. It will stand the test of time as an excellent reference source for its subject.
About the author: David Ward has been an Elvis fan for about 50 years and has been buying his music since he first had the money to do so. David has lived in Japan for approximately 20 years.
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NOTE - 'From Elvis in Japan Japanese LPs 1956-2018' The eBook is priced at $10.00 and can be purchased as a download from Payhip at https://payhip.com/b/weJiv
Book Review by Nigel Patterson.
-Copyright EIN October 2021
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
(Interview) David Ward, author of 'From Elvis in Japan: Elvis Presley Japanese LPs 1956-2018': A new e-book by David Ward chronicles more than 100 Japanese Elvis LPs in great narrative detail and full color images.
Long-time collectors will be very aware of how different many Japanese Elvis records were.
In a fascinating and entertaining interview with EIN’s Nigel Patterson, David discusses:
- the extra effort RCA Japan put into Elvis’ LP releases
- what you can find in Japanese obi strips on Elvis LPs
- the Elvis LP obi strip doubling as a poster
- Elvis’ record sales in Japan
- the single you need to hold up to the light
- some very funny Japanese transcriptions of English lyrics, and a lot more.
There is also a shout out to Ernst Jorgensen!
Read David’s full interview - & check out the great covers..
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Read Evangelos’ full interview
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Read Nigel Patterson's interview with Carlos R Ares.
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Jean-Marie has also written a number of acclaimed Elvis books including his latest coffee table release, Elvis Technicolor in Black & White.
In this fascinating interview Jean-Marie Pouzenc, now 77 years old, discusses...
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Go here - EIN's Nigel Patterson ask the questions