2005 starts off good with a “Best Of” release from two of the most respected import labels, Bilko and Ford Baxter.
As we may expect from this label, the design is close to perfect. A great looking picture with some very good images of our man accompanying interesting liner notes. These notes tell the story behind the names of the labels and the recordings on the CD.
This release contains an overview of some of the best material from the vaults of these labels. Strong studio versions, strong live versions and some fooling around while rehearsing in the studio of for a live show.
The unreleased opening track, “Fame And Fortune” is a good starter to celebrate the fame of the label and the "fortune" it brought us fans. At the end of this take a small segment has been removed, destined to be used to splice the master making take 14 incomplete. “Shopping Around” is a very happy soundtrack song perfectly describing what Elvis did during his army days. “The Prisoner’s Song / U.S. Male” sound like a spontaneous jam with some “made up lyrics”; you can hear the fun they had in the studio.
The songs from the early 1969 sessions at Chip Moman’s studio remain among Elvis’ strongest work. We can’t hear enough versions of “You’ll Think Of Me”, “Power Of My Love” and “Any Day Now”; these strong songs haven’t lost any power since the moment they were recorded. And the import releases containing material from these sessions rank in the highest regions of fans favorites list since they day these CDs were released, especially in this soundquality.
The second unreleased song on this compilation is Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” from February 23, 1970. As with most recordings from his early engagement Elvis still makes the effort on all songs, and not just his personal favorites or show stoppers. Unfortunately the audio quality of these songs is not as good as the studio out-takes; there is a lot of hiss in the background.
The bluesy "That’s All Right” from Culver City (July 15, 1970) is very nice to hear, the song sound totally different from the fifty breakthrough or the seventies opening tune. The treatment "Polk Salad Annie” (“Polk A Little Sock Salad”) gets is another example. Elvis clowns around with the band, the song and the lyrics, giving it a real “southern touch”. Unfortunately this song too has a high pitching sound in the background too.
“Stranger In The Crowd” is very strong, showing how strong Elvis and his band were, they band could play anything! The third unreleased track on this compilation, “Never Been To Spain”, shows Elvis still had the blues in 1972, a great laid back version, perfectly matching the lyrics of the song. It sound like this song is compiled from two recordings, since the first part has some background noise which suddenly disappears.
The “Johnny B Goode” version from 1972 was used in “On Tour”, but has never been released by the record company. It is a bit more relaxed than the later versions, but the lyrics match the theme of the movie, and this could have been a good single to promote the movie using several clips.
The version of “Promised Land” with the organ takes some getting used since it sound so different from the master version we know by heart. We need to listen to it several times more to make up our mind.
“If You Talk In Your Sleep” is a great rendition in a great quality, you feel like you’re standing on the stage with all the different instruments surrounding you. The CD ends with a personal favorite; “Moody Blue” (take 10) is present with a strong version too. It is a good track to end this compilation.
This release is a strong compilation with original, funny, interesting, special and simply strong versions of some of the (overlooked) gems from Elvis catalogue. If all these takes were normal versions in equal sound quality this would have made a very different, but very enjoyable compilation you could play at any moment. Presented here in these versions this compilation this release is a good showcase of the many highly appreciated releases from these labels. The fans that missed the original releases get a good chance to listen to some of the highlights from the past.