Label: Vigotone, VT-168/169
VT-168 / 37 Tracks - Total Time: 70:58
1-4. Lawdy, Miss Claudy (Takes 7-9, 12)
5-9. Shake, Rattle And Roll (Takes 1-3, 5, 7)
10. I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Take 3)
11. (There'll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me) (Take 1)
12-14. I Beg Of You (Takes 5, 10-11)
15. That's When Your Heartaches Begin (Take 1)
16-28. It Is No Secret (What God Can Do) (Takes 1-13)
29-37. Blueberry Hill (Takes 1-9)
VT-169 / 51 Tracks - Total Time: 66:19
1-15. Have I Told You Lately That I Love You (Takes 1-15)
16-27. Is It So Strange (Takes 1-11, 12)
28-30. I Need Your Love Tonight (Takes 3-4, 15)
31-32. A Big Hunk O' Love (Takes 2-3)
33-41. Ain't That Lovin' You Baby (Takes 2-10)
42-43. (Now And Then There's) A Fool Such As I (Takes 4-5)
44-51. I Got Stung (Takes 3-8, 18, 20)
The Unissued Elvis 1956-1958 is a two CD set of unreleased studio takes from the King's most fertile period. These original session tapes, rescued from the trash heap, have appeared over the years scattered across many obscure and hard-to-find collections. Vigotone has gathered these tracks together in a coherent form and packaged them with a 32 page booklet of photos and facts creating a set that is a must own for the serious Presley collector.
Elvis - The Unissued Elvis 1956 - 1958
The hectic pace of the career of Elvis Presley and his rise to fame in the mid-to-late 1950's required the King to record "on the run" many times between television performances, live concerts and movie-making. As a result, recording studios in New York, Nashville and Hollywood were used to capture Elvis's tremendous output during these years. One consequence of this multi-location recording method was the scattering of the original session tapes among many locations. Many of these tapes have unfortunately been lost or destroyed by RCA, the official handler (or mishandler) of the Elvis tape archive, and only the foresight of several recording engineers and interlopers have kept some of these priceless recordings from the trash heap. Previously scattered among several obscure, hard-to-find collections, these sessions are now gathered together in a coherent form on these discs to give you Elvis - The Unissued Elvis 1956 - 1958.
Some observations on what you're about to hear:
Almost uniformly throughout his career, Elvis preferred to cut his material live with a band in the studio. Partly due to achieve the dynamicism of his stage performances, and partly due to the restrictions of the 1950's recording technology, these sessions saw very little overdubbing. Many of the takes are false starts and breakdowns, and the complete takes rarely differ from the final released takes. However, the excitement comes from the power of the performances that Elvis (still, excepting the final session, with his original classic band of Scotty Moore, Bill Black and D.J. Fontana, with assorted musicians) never fails to deliver in laying down these tracks.
FEBRUARY 3, 1956 - RCA STUDIOS, NEW YORK CITY
"Lawdy, Miss Claudy" (Lloyd Price): Takes 7-9 and 12
"Shake, Rattle And Roll" (Charles Calhoun): Takes 1-3, 5 and 7
Personnel: Elvis Presley: guitar, vocals; Scotty Moore: lead guitar; Bill Black: bass; Shorty Long: piano; D.J. Fontana: drums.
Squeezed between his first two appearances on the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show television program, this last day of a three-day recording session produced two songs that ended up respectively as the "B" and "A"-sides of an August 1956 single. "Lawdy, Miss Claudy" takes 7 and 8 are breakdowns, including comments from an obviously amused Elvis. Take 9 produces a complete version, as does take 12, which features a slightly intense vocal performance, perhaps because the King had already captured the one on take 10, the released version.
The early takes of "Shake, Rattle And Roll" produce some interesting variations. Take 1 breaks down quickly but starts with a different verse than the released version (take 12). The version that was issued had overdubbed backing vocals; none are heard on any of these takes. Take 2 is complete, again with a different verse and a piano solo not in the issued take. Take 3 breaks down immediately, as does take 5, but now Elvis has started using the verse found on the released version. Take 6 is announced, but sadly is not heard. Take 7 is complete, with correct verses this time, but still with the piano solo.
APRIL 14, 1956 - RCA STUDIOS, NASHVILLE
"I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" (Mysels-Kosloff): Take 3
Personnel: Elvis Presley: guitar, vocals; Scotty Moore: lead guitar; Chet Atkins: guitar; Bill Black: bass; Marvin Hughes: piano; D.J. Fontana: drums.
A one day recording session to produce just one song, albeit a very important one: the A-side for the follow-up to E's smash debut RCA single, "Heartbreak Hotel". Take 3 of "I Want You,..." is a complete version, with Elvis sounding a bit tentative; perhaps in order to get the feeling of the song. The released version is a splice of takes 14 and 17, and this fact, combined with the evidence of other takes that have been made on the Legendary Performer Vol. 2 LP, the Complete '50's Masters box set and the Platinum - A Life In Music set suggest that possibly Elvis' impatience documented at this session dictated the necessity of using various takes to create the finished master.
JANUARY 13, 1957 - RADIO RECORDERS, HOLLYWOOD
"(There'll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me)" (Thomas Dorsey): Take 1
"I Beg Of You" (Rosemarie McCoy-Kelly Owens): Takes 5, 10-11
"That's When Your Heartaches Begin" (William Raskin-Billy Hill-Fred Fisher): Take 1
Personnel: Elvis Presley: guitar, vocals; Scotty Moore: lead guitar; Bill Black: bass; Gordon Stoker: piano, backing vocals; D.J. Fontana: drums; Neal Mathews, Hoyt Hawkins, Hugh Jarret (Jordanaires): backing vocals.
From the first of three studio sessions for RCA in January 1957, Elvis mixes the sacred with the profane: a little gospel with his rock 'n' roll. Take 1 of "Peace In The Valley" has the same "around the piano" feel as the released take 9, the the Jordanaires offering their usual fine backing vocals.
The three takes of "I Beg Of You" (released almost a year after it was recorded, as the B-side to "Don't") all differ from the issued version, which ended up being recorded at a session a month later (February 23) at the same studio. Here the guitar lines, percussion and backing vocals are significantly different. Takes 5 and 11 are complete, take 10 breaking down midway through.
Switching to a ballad mode, Elvis gives us the 1957 version of his first ever recording from 1953, take 1 of "That's When Your Heartaches Begin", slower and without the echo present on the released take 7.
At least two of these January 1957 sessions were recorded in experimental "binaural" stereo (although it sounds like regular stereo to these ears!), some tapes of which were officially issued by RCA on the Stereo '57 album in 1988, and a complete session which follows...
JANUARY 19, 1957 - RADIO RECORDERS, HOLLYWOOD
"It Is No Secret (What God Can Do)" (Stuart Hamblem): Takes 1-13
"Blueberry Hill" (Al Lewis-Larry Stock-Vincent Rose): Takes 1-9
"Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" (Scott Wiseman): Takes 1-15
"Is It So Strange" (Faron Young): Takes 1-11, 12
Personnel: Elvis Presley: guitar, vocals; Scotty Moore: lead guitar; Bill Black: bass; Dudley Brooks: piano; Hoyt Hawkins: organ, backing vocals; D.J. Fontana: drums; Neal Mathews, Hoyt Hawkins, Hugh Jarret (Jordanaires): backing vocals.
A four song session, presented here complete in "binaural" stereo (with E on the right, Jordanaires and piano on the left, and the rest of the instruments centered), for tunes all destined for various EP's and LP's, with Elvis starting off again with some gospel singin'. Takes 3, 5, and 12 of "It Is No Secret" are all complete takes that differ little from the released take 13. (As a matter of fact, with all the complete unissued performances in this session, Elvis seems to be basically looking for the right nuances in his vocal to perfect the take.) The other attempts all break down quickly, with the incomplete take 4 being the first attempt at the Jordanaires' distinctive vocalization over the intro.
Elvis' rather uninspired reading of Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill", one of the few cover versions E attempted that he was unable to make "his own", is featured in 4 complete performances (takes 2, 3, 7 and 8) nearly indistinguishable from the master take 9. Again the other takes are all fairly quick breakdowns.
Listen next for the most profanity-laden part of the session; three "shit" versions of "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" within the 15 takes included; not a reflection of the quality of the performances but simply because the King utters the aforementioned expletive when takes 1 (featuring Elvis proclaiming "I can't make this son of a bitch right") and 11 break down and take 7 concludes after a full rendition! (E aficionados may recall a version of "Can't Help Falling In Love" that has circulated for many years with the King breaking down the take in a similar fashion.) Take 2 is complete, though it ends abruptly ("Is that too short?"). Takes 13 and 14 are also complete, 13 featuring an attempt at "Vegas-y" phrasing ("...told ya lately that I love ya"), and 14 concluding with Elvis admonishing Bill Black for not repeating a verse as E had requested. The other takes all break down at various points, with Elvis getting particularly impatient on takes 3 through 6 ("Okay, okay...let's go..."; must have been time for eats!), and problems with the guitar/piano intro botching attempts 8 through 10 before they finally "hit the pocket" on master take 15.
This session concluded with the recording of "Is It So Strange". Takes 1 (ending with Elvis having a hearty laugh), 9, 10 and 11 feature complete performances, with breakdowns on the remaining takes at various points. It should be noted that the abrupt silence about 3/4 of the way into take 10, which concludes with Elvis confidently proclaiming "I got this son of a bitch, man!" is on the source tape. The issued master was, as with all the other tunes, the final take. It fades early here, again due to the source tape.
JUNE 10, 1958 - RCA STUDIOS, NASHVILLE
"I Need Your Love Tonight" (Sid Wayne-Bix Reichner): Takes 3-4, 15
"A Big Hunk O' Love" (Aaron Schroeder-Sid Wyche): Takes 2-3
"Ain't That Lovin' You Baby" (Ivory Joe Hunter): Takes 2-10
"(Now And Then There's) A Fool Such As I" (Bill Trader): Takes 4-5
JUNE 11, 1958 - RCA STUDIOS, NASHVILLE
"I Got Stung" (Aaron Schroeder-David Hill): Takes 3-8, 18, 20
Personnel: Elvis Presley: guitar, vocals; Chet Atkins: lead guitar; Hank Garland: guitar; Bob Moore: bass; Floyd Cramer: piano; D.J. Fontana: drums; Murray "Buddy" Harman: bongos; Gordon Stoker, Neal Mathews, Hoyt Hawkins, Ray Walker (Jordanaires): backing vocals.
Recorded during a two-week leave from the Army, is which he has just started a two-year hitch that was feared would perhaps knock the King from his rightful throne, the June 10th evening session had Elvis showing up in uniform! Perhaps not the best way to get one in the mood for some fiery rock and roll to leave his faithful followers during his absence, but it certainly didn't seem to affect his performance. "I Need Your Love Tonight" take 3 was an immediate breakdown, but leads into a complete take 4 which featured a slightly laid-back vocal, and another complete performance in take 15. Take 18 was the keeper, however and was issued as the B-side of take 9 of "A Fool Such As I" in March of 1959.
"A Big Hunk Of Love", the A-side of his final "Army era" single, is featured here with a complete take 2, with a somewhat frantic vocal from Elvis, and different Jordanaires backing. Take 3 was (trimmed from this version) the issued take, released in June 1959.
"Ain't That Lovin' You Baby" is represented by all but the first take; 2 and 3 are breakdowns (after the first verse and intro respectively). Take 4 was the take used for the issued version (oddly enough, not released until September 1964, as the B-side of the "Ask Me" single). However, a further 6 takes are included here, all breakdowns and incomplete with plenty of the King's laughter ensuring their unusablity! Finally, takes 4 (a breakdown) and 5 (complete) of "A Fool Such As I" bring this session tape to a halt.
The next night, Elvis returned for his final recording session of the 1950's. "I Got Stung" took many tries to perfect; 24 to be exact. Takes 3-7 are all incomplete (the King proclaims "I like this song!" during the breakdown in the first verse of take 4, and coughs his way through take 6 into take 7), but take 8 is finally a complete version. Take 18 is almost complete, until E's delightful utterance of "Fuck it, shit" makes it plain that this won't be a keeper. Bringing the disc to a close is a complete take 20, with a very prominent bass line that isn't evident in the released take 24.
...And so ended what was the most important period in true "rock and roll", with Elvis still the King. His return from the Army in March 1960, and the release of the "Stuck On You" single the same month saw Elvis' popularity unabated. However, it was obvious from first listening that this was a different performer, one with the rough edges gone. E was now into the realm of the "all-around entertainer" that the good Colonel had envisioned, perhaps from day one of his association with Elvis. His descent into Hollywood Hell in the early to mid-'60's made John Lennon's quote upon hearing of the King's death in 1977 ring even more true: "Elvis died when he went into the Army". Though Elvis was to recover somewhat in the late '60's, listening to this material makes it plain that he never again reached the heights that he scaled from 1954 - 1958. Maybe John was right...
Dr. John Carpenter and Sister Michelle