Tuesday, 4 October 2011

"Elvis Is Back: Legacy Edition" by ELVIS PRESLEY (2011 RCA/Legacy 2CD Reissue and Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...


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"…You Gave Me Love To Enjoy…Like A Bright Shiny Toy…"

Conscripted into the American Army in March 1958 and discharged two years later, Sergeant Presley was a mere 18 days back in the USA when RCA practically frog marched him into their Nashville Studios to cut some new material for a highly expectant public. So it's perhaps strange now in hindsight to think that 1960's "Elvis Is Back!" - his most beloved of studio albums - only went to Number 2 on release. But I can assure you that there is nothing second-place about this 50th Anniversary reissue. It's a gem. Here are the details...

Released 8 March 2011 in the USA (28 February in the UK) - "Elvis Is Back" by ELVIS PRESLEY on RCA/Legacy 88697 85300 2 (Barcode 886978530028) is a 2CD 'Legacy Edition' and contains 2 whole albums along with 12 x 7" single-sides (5 of which reached Number 1). Its 36 Stereo tracks break down as follows:

Disc 1 (50:43 minutes):
1. Make Me Know It
2. Fever
3. The Girl Of My Best Friend
4. I Will Be Home Again
5. Dirty, Dirty Feeling
6. Soldier Boy [Side 2]
7. Such A Night
8. It Feels So Right
9. Girl Next Door Went A’ Walking
10. Like A Baby
11. Reconsider Baby
Tracks 1 to 12 are the US LP "Elvis Is Back!" - released 8 April 1960 on RCA Victor LPM-2231 [Mono] and LPS-2231 [Stereo]
Tracks 13 and 14 are "Stuck On You" and "Fame And Fortune" - the A&B-sides of RCA Victor 47-7740 - released 23 March 1960
Tracks 15 and 16 are "It's Now Or Never" and "A Mess Of Blues" - the A&B sides of RCA Victor 47-7777 - released 5 July 1960
Tracks 17 and 18 are "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and "I Gotta Know" - the A&B sides of RCA Victor 47-7810 - released 1 November 1960
Track 19 is "Surrender" - the A-side of RCA Victor 47-7850 - released 7 February 1961

Disc 2 (39:23 minutes):
1. There’s Always Me
2. Give Me The Right
3. It’s A Sin
4. Sentimental Me
5. Starting Today
6. Gently
7. I’m Comin’ Home [Side 2]
8. In Your Arms
9. Put The Blame On Me
10. Judy
11. I Want You With Me
12. I Slipped. I Stumbled, I Fell
Tracks 1 to 12 are the US LP "Something For Everybody" - released 17 June 1961 on RCA Victor LPM-2370 [Mono] and LSP-2370 [Stereo]
Track 13 is "I Feel So Bad" - the A-side of RCA Victor 47-7880 - released 2 May 1961
Tracks 14 and 15 are "(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame" and "Little Sister" - the A&B-sides of RCA Victor 47-7908 - released 8 August 1961
Tracks 16 and 17 are "Good Luck Charm" and "Anything That's Part Of You" - the A&B sides of RCA Victor 47-7992 - released 27 February 1962

The really big news in 2011 is a new VIC ANESINI remaster with truly beautiful sound quality. Anesini is not new to Elvis reissues; he handled the 2CD 'Legacy Editions' of "Elvis Presley" and "From Elvis In Memphis" as well as the 4CD set "The Complete '68 Comeback Special" - with unanimous praise heaped on all three.

Musically - like Sam Cooke's "Night Beat" (1963 on RCA) and Roy Orbison's "Lonely And Blue" (1961 on Monument) - these Elvis Presley 'Living Stereo' recordings have long been the stuff of audiophile wet dreams. The previous reference point is the 2005 "Follow That Dream" 2CD reissue where the sound quality is superb  - and yet here - it is somehow elevated even further. The effect is instantaneous - Otis Blackwell's "Make Me Know It" is the album opener and every instrument is wonderfully clear and full of HUGE presence. That's followed by Presley's stripped-down version of the Little Willie John/Peggy Lee classic "Fever" - with razor sharp audio on Bob Moore's Double Bass and Buddy Harmon's Percussive shuffles and snare-drum whacks.

I love "It Feels So Good" with the sexy slink of Scotty Moore's guitar and the schmooze of Floyd Cramer's piano tinkling. It all leads up the big-duo finishers - "Like A Baby" (lyrics above) and "Reconsider Baby". In his musical and vocal element - Elvis lets rip on these stunning bluesy workouts. The effect has always removed the pain of the Vegas years for fans and will instantly stop any Presley sceptic within a ten-mile radius. And by the time you reach the saxophone of Boots Randolph half way through "Reconsider Baby" - the audio onslaught is just incredible. Never mind 'living stereo' - you'll think these guys are in your living room... 

The 2nd album is a bit of a forgotten gem too. Tracks 1 to 6 are "The Ballads Side" with 7 to 12 being "The Rhythm Side". Highlights include his chipper version of Charlie Rich's "I'm Coming Home" while "Put The Blame On Me" is great Sixties pop. And it all sounds wonderful. The singles too are embarrassingly strong - the sexy strut of the kissing song "Stuck On You" and the reworking of the Clovers hit "There's No Tomorrow" which would eventually became the huge Salsa hit "It's Now Or Never". Brilliant. 

The packaging is lovely to look at. A 3-way card digipak features the gorgeous "Elvis Is Back!" colour artwork on the front with the "Something For Everybody" full-colour sleeve on the inside flap. There are full-colour repros of the US pictures sleeves for "His Latest Flame" and "It's Now Or Never" (a contender for his best ever picture sleeve) featured beneath the see-through CD trays - while the 24-page booklet is crammed full of spot-on discography stuff by lifetime fan and keeper of the flame - ERNST MIKAEL JORGENSEN - a name Presley fans will be comfortable with (even if his wording is a little flowery here and there). There are the 'bonus' G.I. snapshots that came with original gatefold albums, snaps of Elvis with Frank Sinatra about to do the Timex TV Special, more US 7" picture sleeves, trade adverts, holding his Army discharge papers up etc. Jorgensen also rightly praises behind-the-scenes heroes like Producer STEVE SHOALS and RCA's perfectionist Studio-Engineer BOB PORTER and his Telefunken U-47 microphones. It's very nicely done...

Niggles - a look at the total playing time of each disc and RCA is not exactly pushing the digital boat out here. And when you reference the incredible 53 tracks of the 2005 "Follow That Dream" 2CD reissue - some may feel it would have been better to do 2 separate Legacy Editions - one for "Elvis Is Back!" and another for "Something For Everybody" - both featuring copious amounts of 'outtakes' and the elusive LPM MONO mixes of both albums. There are two B-sides missing when there was plenty of room to include them. But like the Legacy Edition of "Elvis Presley" (his explosive 1956 debut album), which is presented in a similar way - you could also argue that what you've actually got here is less fussy and more defined. It's a matter of personal opinion I suppose.

To sum up - "Elvis Is Back! Legacy Edition" is a timely reminder of his genius and a STEREO gem in his otherwise patchy Sixties catalogue. It boasts a fabulous new remaster, affectionate presentation by a man who cares and isn't going to break your bank balance either. I'd say snap it up and then proceed with haste to the MONO "Elvis Presley" to see what all the fuss is about (see separate review).

I'd better go now because I can feel a need to tame "...a team of wild horses..."

The King folks - remember him this way...

PS: For other Vic Anesini Remasters - see my reviews for "Be What You Want..." the 4CD Box Set by HALL & OATES, the Legacy Edition of "Couldn't Stand The Weather" by STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN and the Legacy Edition of "Tomorrow The Green Grass" by THE JAYHAWKS. He has also done the much-praised Columbia issues of Simon And Garfunkel's back catalogue and the already mentioned Roy Orbison album "Lonely And Blue"

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