Elvis Presley was, among many other things, known for his strive for perfection. Ten to twenty takes of a single song was no exception, and probably nobody knew why besides the man himself.
The latest Follow That Dream Records album, "6363 Sunset", proves this point. Nineteen so-called "alternate takes" of songs recorded in March 1972 and March 1975, and in my opinion they don't sound that different from the master takes.
Of course, small things are different here and there, but this album does not contain anything really spectacular. No real mistakes, dialogue, laughter or jokes that some other outtakes offer the fan. Only a close listener and long-time fan will point out differences in the songs.
So, what does this album bring us? Basically a nice compilation of 1972/1975 songs, nothing more and nothing less. I assume a lot of fans do not consider this Elvis' best period or best repertoire, and to be honest neither do I. Besides some good songs most of the material is, well, mediocre. Of course it's still worth it buying this collectors' item, and listening to it is no torture either. I'll take you through the album, pointing out the few highlights or other things worth mentioning.
We start off on March 29, 1972 with "Always On My Mind" - take 3. Take one became the master, but this third take sounds like it was close. In fact, I didn't hear anything different in it. From the same session, but a day earlier, is "Burning Love". Obviously this song was harder to get right, because this second take sounds like it did need some more work. Especially the last part with Elvis' falsetto "oeh-s" is really off. Halfway through the song the bass falls out but the band keeps playing. Nice.
The beautiful "For The Good Times" is very close to the released take, as does the sixth take of "Where Do I Go From Here and take 1 of "Fool". For "It's A Matter of Time", no take number is listed, but features a slightly (with emphasis on slightly) different melody line (it's a matter of syllables, really).
Now comes the good part. Elvis and the band "jam" through a number of "stage songs", starting with "See See Rider". Now this rocks. Also featured are "A Big Hunk O'Love", "All Shook Up", "Heartbreak Hotel", "Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel" and "Can't Help Falling In Love".
Why "Until It's Time For You To Go" is placed after "See See Rider" and thus breaks the rockin' part, is beyond me. Nice touches in this take are Elvis singing "Lord, I hope so" after "…you're a woman" and a false note by bass player Emory Gordy on the very first line.
"A Big Hunk O'Love" opens with some laughter and ends up a great version of this rock classic. "All Shook Up" is a classic, ultra-short rendition like most concert versions. Before "Heartbreak Hotel", Elvis mentions that he doesn't have the song list (another list yes, but no song list), then asks what key it was in (he gives some suggestions), shouts "Well" and says "Next song…". In the first chorus he says: "Come on, Inspirations" who of course join in after that.
The "Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel" medley has Elvis starting a little late, which shows the good humour of it all. And we all know Elvis was at his best when he was most relaxed. The "concert section" ends with "Can't Help Falling In Love". Elvis adlibs "only fat fools rush in".The concluding six songs are from the 1975 session. The first song is "Green, Green Grass of Home", a wonderful song featuring a false start by Elvis. He scrapes his throat and someone asks: "Need some water, Elvis?"
The following first two takes of "Susan When She Tried" are nice. As you probably remember, this song has a lot of names in it, and Elvis had some trouble getting them right. What was that Peggy's last name again? The rest of the take is not really spectacular however.
Next up is "And I Love You So", the first take and it sounds good. Before the band starts Elvis can be heard saying "Step here, Sheila, let me sing to you baby…" to then-girlfriend Sheila Ryan whom Elvis had met in February 1974. This emotional song is beautiful in my opinion.
Piano player Tony Brown, who replaces Glen Hardin only on "Bringin' It Back", messes up the intro and Elvis says "Next piano player…". But then he laughs it off. "Bringin' It Back" doesn't appear to be a favourite of many fans, but I personally like it a lot. The presented third take doesn't offer anything special.
Getting nearer to the end, track 18 of this album is the first take of "T-R-O-U-B-L-E". Now we know this is a difficult song, and it's fun to hear Elvis practice his spelling. The song ends abruptly with a "Ho! Okay, let's listen to that." and some conversation and laughter.
The final track on the CD is "Shake A Hand", and it's not one of my favourites. Nothing out of the ordinary in this second take.So, concluding this review: I like this CD, I'm glad FTD released it, I'm glad I bought it but it's not a jewel like some other FTD releases. Not in content, and not in design - I think the artwork of this digipack isn't really great.
But okay, please keep releasing them and I'm already looking forward to the Easter Special.