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Collecting The King

By Robert Alaniz

Follow That Dream CD Reviews

 

The Follow That Dream CD series has been a true blessing to fans of Elvis’ music and the people at FTD continue to bring us some great releases. But with the state of the economy today and the hefty price tags attached to these CDs, fans are more than a little hesitant on which ones to spend their hard earned money on. Here are my own personal reviews of some of the recent 2008-2009 FTD releases that may help you sort out the best for your buck.

 

The “Collecting The King” rating system:

 

5 STARS = essential Elvis.

4 STARS = worth having

3 STARS = consider it

2 STARS = marginal

1 STAR = pass on this one

 

Standing Room Only

STANDING ROOM ONLY – This is a very interesting FTD release where Ernst Jorgensen and company has re-imagined the proposed RCA LP release from the early 70’s, which was scrapped in favor of the Elvis Recorded Live At Madison Square Garden LP. The cover of this 2-disc CD package features the original concept cover for Standing Room Only LP (the full body picture of Elvis on stage was used for Madison Square Garden instead). This is a great concept release and one that I really enjoyed. Although all the songs here offer nothing new, it is interesting to imagine what the original Standing Room Only release would’ve been like had RCA gone through with the project. Elvis: That’s The Way It Is is one of my all time favorite Elvis LPs and to think that (according to the liner notes) they were considering this to be another LP patterned after that one is intriguing. Combining studio recordings and live performances (specially recorded for this LP release) also makes for an interesting take on where Elvis’ taste in music was at the time. I still don’t know why Elvis was compelled to record songs by Perry Como or a show tune from Man Of La Mancha. The second disc contains alternate takes of most of the studio material on the first disc with nothing really exceptional but still fun to hear. In addition, FTD chose to release a special vinyl 2 record set of this release. Being a collector of Elvis’ records, I was excited to hear that they were doing this. However, I was quite disappointed with the picture of Elvis used on the front of the gatefold cover. Opting not to match the CD, FTD decided to go with a different cover, which was a fine idea. It’s just that the picture they chose (a slightly out of focus head shot of Elvis in a blue jump suit, looking upward) looks like it came from an old bootleg LP from the 80’s. With the thousands of concert photos taken of Elvis during that time span, they could have picked a better one.  RATING:  CD: 4 STARS – VINYL: 3 STARS

 

Blue Hawaii

BLUE HAWAII – Elvis’ movie soundtracks are my favorite FTD releases. Even though they were ignored by music critics of the day as being nothing more than processed fluff for his movies, they still played a part in Elvis’ musical career whether the music was good, bad or even ugly. The FTD releases usually include many treats from the vaults (as well as original soundtrack recordings taken directly from the movie) and I am always surprised at what they come up with. Not so much the case here with Blue Hawaii. As with most of the previous movie soundtrack releases, this 2 CD release includes another great booklet filled with interesting movie production facts and lots of alternate takes from the soundtrack recording sessions. However, there’s nothing really new here that hardcore fans of Elvis’ movie music haven’t already heard. Most of the material on the second disc consists of alternate takes that originally showed up on a couple of bootleg LP sets (there were a LOT of alternate takes) from the 70’s called The Blue Hawaii Sessions. Still, it’s a great all-in-one package of the original Blue Hawaii LP and the best of the alternate takes. Like Standing Room Only, FTD decided to produce another vinyl 2 LP set of Blue Hawaii. But unlike SRO, the front of the gatefold cover of this LP was a pleasant surprise. Maybe knowing very well that there has been numerous (close to ten) reissues of Blue Hawaii on vinyl, FTD decided to go with an original and unique cover that mirrors the original in design, but uses an entirely different picture of Elvis holding a ukulele (probably from the same photo shoot as the original). What a great cover!  RATING:  CD: 4 STARS – VINYL: 5 STARS

The Wonder Of You 

THE WONDER OF YOU – Being one of the concerts filmed and recorded for possible use in the movie documentary Elvis: That’s The Way It Is, this FTD release is historically essential to every Elvis Fan. The concert itself is a lot of fun to listen to. Elvis is very relaxed. Maybe a little TOO relaxed at times as when he forgets the words to “Sweet Caroline” or stumbles through “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”. For the most part, Elvis still delivers a solid entertaining show, including live versions of “Don’t Cry Daddy” and “In The Ghetto” that were not included in the movie.  RATING:  5 STARS   

 

In Person At The International Hotel

ELVIS PRESLEY – IN PERSON AT THE INTERNATIONAL HOTEL, LAS VEGAS, NEVADA –Another International Hotel concert from 1969? Well, actually it’s the first one that was released by RCA on LP in 1969 as part of a 2 LP set entitled From Memphis to Vegas / From Vegas To Memphis. This 2-disc FTD CD release is from the live LP of the original release featuring all the songs from that LP on disc one and a different ’69 concert on the second disc. Once again, here we have historic recordings from Elvis’ career that is mandatory for any Elvis fan however you look at it.  RATING:  5 STARS 

 

Love Letters From Elvis

LOVE LETTERS FROM ELVIS – At first I was a little surprised when I heard that FTD was releasing this CD, being that the original LP was such a big flop. But after giving this 2 CD set a fair chance, I have to say that this is now one of my favorite FTD releases. In addition to the songs that were originally released on this LP, FTD has included some interesting stand out alternate takes and undubbed masters, as well as an original radio commercial promoting the LP. In fact, it is those takes that make this FTD release well worth owning.  RATING:  5 STARS

 

Wild In The Country

WILD IN THE COUNTRY – As I said before, I love Elvis’ movie soundtracks. Unfortunately, this single-disc CD of a soundtrack that never was should have easily been left that way. Not only are the songs on this CD not very good (with the exception of “Lonely Man”), they don’t even feel like they belong together. This comes off like a blatant attempt at putting together a movie soundtrack from a collection of songs and alternates that do nothing for the overall concept. Nice attempt, but not worth the money.  RATING:  1 STAR

 

A NOTE ON ALTERNATE TAKES: The Follow That Dream series make great use of alternate takes in almost all of their releases. But let’s face it, you need a scorecard to keep track of all the alternate takes that are put on these releases. Without accurate knowledge of Elvis’ complete recordings sessions, the average fan could easily be duped into believing they have something they’ve never heard before. If alternate takes are one of the main reasons you buy FTD CDs, do your homework and pay close attention to the take numbers on the songs in each release and make sure you don’t already have them on another CD.

Robert Alaniz

SOUNDZ GOOD RECORDS


Be sure to read Robert's column "Collecting the King" in Elvis® International Magazine.

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