FTD Soundtrack review

By Elvis Presley's 22nd movie everything had become dreadfully routine. Elvis was a racing driver yet again surrounded by young starlets - and the disappointing 'Paradise Hawaiian Style' had also preceded it.

The soundtrack songs ('Queenie Wahine', 'A Dog's Life', 'Smorgasbord'. . ) were now becoming pallid impressions of anything else before them. Would Elvis win the race? Get the girl? Did the audience care?!

CD Review - Spinout By: Piers Beagley - June 6, 2004

The seventh FTD extended movie soundtrack release. Once again presented with an improved mix of the original LP, alternate takes plus a colour booklet full of photos and information. Many Elvis fans would have previously purchased these soundtracks on LP and again via RCA's "Double-Feature" series.

Here we have an in-depth look at each one to see if they are worth buying again.

'Spinout' (Feb 1966. 25 tracks, 70 mins).

By Elvis Presley's 22nd movie everything had become dreadfully routine. Elvis was a racing driver yet again surrounded by young starlets - and the disappointing 'Paradise Hawaiian Style' had also preceded it. The soundtrack songs ('Queenie Wahine', 'A Dog's Life', 'Smorgasbord'. . ) were now becoming pallid impressions of anything else before them. Would Elvis win the race? Get the girl? Did the audience care?!

However there was light at the end of the tunnel and the real musical excitement was the incredible impression the 3 'Bonus Songs' made on side 2 of the LP. But what were these Elvis gems, 'Tomorrow Is A Long Time', 'Down In The Alley' & 'I'll Remember You' doing on a LP that contained 'Beach Shack'?

The Elvis fan of the sixties was truly confused. While the LP 'How Great Thou Art' would be released soon after, nothing like the bluesy funk of 'Down In The Alley' would appear until the 'Big Boss Man' single a whole year later. In 1966 Elvis was still far more interested in exploring his spiritual side and spent hours discussing spirituality & the 'Self-Realization Fellowship' with Spinout co-Star Deborah Walley. They became very close friends & there are great photos of them together on Elvis' motorbike.

All these Spinout songs have been released on bootlegs before however all 20 fluffed attempts at 'Adam & Evil' never made them enjoyable listening. The challenge for Ernst & FTD was to keep the chosen outtakes interesting, provide a good-looking booklet and make the audio really shine.

'Spinout', with 'All That I Am' as the flipside, was released as the single in September 1966 making #40 in the charts. The soundtrack LP made #18.

The deluxe gatefold sleeve packaging does contain some excellent photos and rare publicity stills. Elvis always looked awkward in the publicity shoot (check that boofy hairdo!) but the film shots are fun.

The photo of the recording session in Radio Recorders is particularly enlightening. The set up seems extremely ramshackle with amplifiers balanced on cheap metal chairs. No wonder the sound was so rough on these sessions!

There is a fascinating quote from this period in Peter Guralnick's book Careless Love. Elvis said to Deborah Walley,

"Look, we've only got this moment together, so let's have it completely. No holding back. No wasting time on trivialities. I've got the word; I want to give it to you. I'm not a man, you're not a woman - I'm a soul, a spirit, a force. I have no interest in anything of this world. I want to live in another dimension entirely."

What a contrast this sentiment is to the formulaic film that Elvis was making at the time! Fortunately FTD is back on track and the original LP Masters quality is improved and matches the sound of the outtakes. In fact the original LP audio wasn't half as bad as H.H or F&J and had an 'ok' stereo image. It did however have terribly muffled audio whereas this FTD sounds lovely & crisp.

The previous Spinout 'Double Features' issue wasn't as messed with as others (echo & mix wise) and, for instance, the excellent 'I'll Be Back' Master has a great snappy percussion sound on both! In fact it is hard to tell the DF & FTD version apart, although the drums seem to have a nicer 'edge' to them on the new FTD.

Nearly all Elvis' songs have the backing vocals on the right channel and so it seems that the original LP was mistaken in having The Jordanaires on the left. The audio channels here have been swapped left<>right on the outtakes only, so as to place The Jordanaires back onto the correct right channel.

Elvis' band was flown out to Hollywood for the occasion but even the addition of great guitar work from Tommy Tedesco weren't going to the makes hits out of the mediocre material & they managed to complete the recordings in an impressively fast 2 night's work.

Unfortunately one of the better numbers, the nice & bluesy 'I'll Be Back' was a one take wonder. On the bootleg you can hear Elvis sounding enthusiastic before the first take saying, "Oh Yeah." I also love the way it ends with (possibly) D.J Fontana saying, "All right!" and a satisfied laugh from Elvis quickly faded out. Getting this final track finished so quickly meant that everyone got a holiday on the third planned recording day.

Being a Friday Elvis could then take his new customized Greyhound bus to Las Vegas for the weekend. In the end it's so sad that songs like 'Smorgasboard' & 'Never Say Yes' that actually have a funky music backing are ruined by such mundane lyrics! Of the original Bonus Songs, the first two are in very similar audio quality to the versions of the '60's Box set'.

For some reason the drum intro of 'Down In The Alley' was cut short on the 60's box set but here it is restored. The original LP short edit of 'I'll Remember You' however is a lovely upgraded audio mix and very different from box-set longer version. The trick for Ernst was to select a listenable 'best of' selection of all the outtakes and I reckon FTD has done a very good job.

The earlier takes of most songs are a treat. 'All That I Am' without the syrupy strings overdub of the Master is a gem here, and the audio quality is great. While 'Beach Shack' was admittedly a terrible song if you have never heard the outtakes then you are also in for a treat.

Looking closer at the outtakes ..

'Stop, Look And Listen' - Elvis tries hard to inject excitement into this song, which gives a taste of the enthusiasm with which he approached this session. You also get a nice feel of eavesdropping on the recordings. Take 1 is very raw while Take 2 falters with Elvis singing, "Whoa, whoops real still! Hold It!" The phone rings in the control rooms giving a feeling of controlled chaos. The previously released Tk3 on Collector's Gold was very muffled & echoey in comparison and is much clearer here. By Take 6 the "Hey, hey, hey" backing vocals had been added making it a fuller mix.

'Am I Ready' - Take 1 is very cute, with a delightful mix of piano & Tommy Tedesco on mandolin. The Jordanaires' backing vocals are too complicated here & very different from on the final Master. This take was previously released on 'Collector's Gold' but the audio is fabulously improved here & the false echo removed. Take 3 starts with Elvis trying out one line of 'Cotton Fields' causing him not to be ready & to break up laughing.

'Never Say Yes' - Day 2 of the recordings session started with this Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman (Little Sister etc) song and you can hear Elvis' laughter & good humour. Elvis knows it's not going to work saying, "Give me the cue to come in on this man". A provisional title of the film was 'Never Say Yes' and so unfortunately this is another song with a great (Bo Diddley) rhythm but again let down by the lyrics .. ("Always keep the girlies guessing"!?!?) Take 1 falls apart delightfully with Elvis laughing, "I just run out the door." These first takes felt very out of context when they were featured on 'Today tomorrow & Forever'. Here they sound fine & there's a nice touch of Elvis saying, "One more start & can I hear the group on these damn earphones?"

'All That I Am' - The earlier takes have a nice informal feel.. Elvis stops halfway through Take 1 saying "I think we've picked up the tempo up a little too much." Nice guitar work from Tommy Tedesco which really shines on this new mix. Take 4 has an overcomplicated piano arrangement & on headphones you might notice some old analogue tape audio drops outs on the right channel. These dropouts on the Jordanaires tape track are noticeable on the previous 'Out In Hollywood' release but because of the better audio quality here they unfortunately become more obvious. The Master would end up with syrupy overdubbed strings but these undubbed versions are a real treat.

'Spinout' - Elvis sounds enthusiastic before Take 1 but it immediately falls apart. Take 2 was again featured on 'O.I.H' but had added echo and this version sounds much cleaner with the real feel of the band in the studio. (Radio Recorders had a very 'flat sound', hence the reason RCA added levels of echo afterwards.)

'Adam And Evil' - We get 3 of the nineteen outtakes here, which is plenty! There is some great studio interaction with the engineer shouting "Close the doors please" and Elvis moaning like a dog! The roughness of Take 1 is interesting but falls apart after a minute. A bonus here is the between-take banter in the studio where Elvis sings lines from 'When the Swallows Come back from Capistrano' (1960 home recording on In A Private Moment'). After Take 16 he also sings the recent Statler Brothers hit 'Flowers On The Wall.' Take 16 was previously on 'OIH' however again with added echo and Elvis' chatter was also edited. Showing amazing resolve for such a lightweight track Elvis keeps on trying. After Take 14 falters Elvis comments, "Mental block city! That's the worst note I've heard in my natural life" yet he's still laughing! Very few Elvis songs went past 20 takes! ('Do Not Disturb' at 36 takes being memorable - see Girl Happy review)

'Smorgasbord' - It is amazing to realise that this was the first song recorded for the film! Sadly this is another track with a funky sixties beat & cool Boots Randolph sax solo but ruined by dreadful lyrics. Sid Tepper & Roy Bennett wrote 43 songs for Elvis movies and while their music was often fine their lyrics were frequently appalling! In fact Take 1 has a decidedly cool groove especially the sax playout. Elvis was also wishing for better times - at the end of Take 5 he kicks off with a line of 'I Got A Woman'.

'Beach Shack' - A terrible song but saved by the delight of Elvis' good humour making these outtakes a real treat. Even before the start you can hear Elvis' mischievous laugh, he knows what's coming & he going to change the lyrics! Singing, "What you think I am?" the backing singers of course reply, "Dumb, de dumb de dumb"! Everyone breaks up in laughter & you know that Elvis won't manage the next few takes without cracking up. As Elvis says, "It's gotta be the silly hour!" Really fun stuff. The Master is Take 4 but even then you can hear that Elvis only just makes it.

Overall Verdict - Spinout, while neither the worst Elvis film nor soundtrack, was another mid sixties cheapie. The saving grace of this extended Soundtrack album is the enthusiasm of the band, Elvis' great humour and the audio improvement on the outtakes. Luckily the LP Masters also have improved sound and the packaging is well put together. The original LP also had the treat of the exceptional Bonus Songs, showing a glimpse of hope at the time. I have been playing Spinout all week and the fluffy fun seems to be catching, since I have really begun to enjoy it far more than I ever used to. If Spinout is one of your favourites then this soundtrack won't let you down.

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 the essential 'Viva Las Vegas' and then continue with your favourite selection of Elvis' movies.

Check out all of our previous Soundtrack reviews
Loving You
Viva Las Vegas
Fun In Acapulco
Kid Galahad
Girl Happy
Harum Scarum
Paradise, Hawaiian Style
Double Trouble
Frankie & Johnny
It Happened At The World’s Fair
Follow That Dream
Tickle Me

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