After one of the – in our opinion – weakest releases on the label (Spring Tours 77) so far, Follow That Dream Records strikes back, and how! Beforehand we knew it already, since June 1970 was one of Elvis’ best recording sessions ever, but we were a bit afraid that our expectations were too high and we might get disappointed. Nothing is further from the truth.
As with all FTD-releases, the cover art is simple. Essential information, like dates, takes and band members, is present. It is nice to see the complete band on the front for a change in stead of somewhere in the booklet. Some nice candid shots are hidden behind the CD and the fact that the photo on the back isn’t our favourite doesn’t really hurt.
As said, June 1970 was very fertile for Elvis’ catalogue. Some real big gems like “Just Pretend”, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “The Next Step Is Love” were recorded at those Nashville sessions in the legendary Studio B. This FTD-release focuses on these sessions and as an extra we get three tracks from the September 22 session from the same year.
The CD starts with a great jam. The band is starring and the music cries victory, since you can only hear Elvis’ voice off mike very far in the back. The mix on the CD highlights the band in all tracks by the way, you can really hear every instrument separately. Especially Charlie McCoy is starring on quite some songs, being it on organ (“Love Letters”) or Harmonica (“Mary In The Morning”).
Okay, back to the track list again, “Twenty Days And Twenty Nights” is beautiful as ever, but the acoustic guitar is beauty at its purest, you really wonder why they ever did overdub the song. “I’ve Lost You” shows that they knew from the start what they wanted, they only needed some fine-tuning (and Elvis the lyrics sheet).
We hate to use too many adjectives in our reviews, but we can’t come up with enough of them for “The Sound Of Your Cry”. Elvis is known for the emotions he put in his songs, but if he ever sang his heart out, it was on this take of this song. He obviously could not get enough of it and the result is 5’12 of pure excitement, and still we feel sorry the song was faded away. We wonder how many fans are able to listen to the whole thing without getting tears in their eyes.
“Bridge” is probably the only song that can follow “The Sound” directly without looking pale. This delicate version is far better than the somewhat pompous orchestrated original. Again, the band was more than enough. “How The Web Was Woven” is another proof for it, like on “Twenty Days” the acoustic guitar is very prominent, together with the piano.
The take of “The Next Step Is Love” (10) is almost as strong as the one that’s finally used (11), with just some different phrasing. The “oooo’s” near the end couldn’t make it really different, but it gets boring to say that also this songs didn’t really need the overdubs. After the take 6 on “Today, Tomorrow And Forever” we are happy to have yet another one of it. “I’ll Never Know” is just beautiful, we wonder why Elvis wanted 6 more takes.
Also of “Life” we just got another – very early - take on “Today, Tomorrow and Forever”, and although it is a somewhat strange song, this plain version is good to listen to. “Love Letters” sounds pretty different with Charlie McCoy headlining on organ. Next up is “Heart Of Rome”, not one of our favourites and on this take Elvis sounds a bit hesitating in the beginning.
Another highlight is coming up, it is like Elvis sang, “nothing’s quite as pretty as Mary In The Morning”. We do not know Mary, but the song certainly qualifies for this description. Some undefined background noises (is it in the studio or is it the CD?) can not disturb the listening pleasure at all. Elvis’ beautiful vocal, together with the harmonica, is a perfect combination and caused Goosebumps, even when it was 30 degrees Celsius outside. The next girl gets some attention in “Sylvia”, another beautiful ballad coming from his toes and we know it sounds monotonous, but also this one didn’t need the overdubs at all.
“It’s Your Baby” speeds up the tempo and this swinging country song shows clearly that James B. could handle an acoustic guitar as well as his electric ones. Strangely enough this is the first song on this CD where we were really waiting for the backing vocals, probably because they really fit into it. The tempo goes down a bit again with a song of which the title is often used in shabby remarks… indeed “It Ain’t No Big Thing, But It’s Growing”. Elvis is getting dirty himself on a version of “A Hundred Years From Now”, a nice light hearted break from all the more serious ballads, like the next one, “Tomorrow Never Comes”. Also on this take Elvis is really going for it, with enough success in our opinion. The third song that was also present on the recently released box set “Today, Tomorrow And Forever” is “Snowbird” and again we are happy with another – pretty fast - version of it. “Snowbird” is the first of three songs from the September session, “Rags To Riches” being the second. Elvis threw all the drama he had available in this song, and also this version shows he really went to the border of his power at the time. “Where Did They Go, Lord” is the last song of the September session used, and also the last one of the CD. As with the other versions we have of it, Elvis is really going for it and it is a worthy closer of a fantastic CD.
We didn’t even try to hide our enthusiasm for this CD from the beginning, since we knew it would be impossible to act that way. Was the previous release on the label predestined to end up at the bottom of the FTD-pile, this one will be near the top, if not at the top. Without any doubt this one will played many, many times again. Thank you, Ernst and Co.! Having these songs in these pure and often more relaxed versions might the biggest pleasure you could do to us.