Finally the 2003 box set (will we get one every year?)"Close Up" has been released. Time to get "Close Up" with this release.
The liner notes, almost fifty pages, make a very interesting read and paint a good picture of the music on this set. The booklet contains great images covering the content of this box. Although a lot of them of Elvis performing live in the fifties while there are no live recordings of Elvis’ on this set. Take the cover as a good example, but this “image” of Elvis will probably still sell the best. Most images are known, publication shots and movie stills, but they added a great series from Elvis charity show in Ellis Auditorium, February 25, 1961.
The fifties masters on the first disc sound crystal clear from the sacred opening (a coincidence?) of this set with “(Let There Be) Peace In The valley” through several fifties movie gems from his best movies to great up-tempo rocker (You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care”. Listening to Elvis this “Close Up” is like a “live in the studio” experience as Colin Escott describes it in his liner notes. Thanks to the binaural recordings (a fifties fake stereo experiment) you have the idea you’re standing in between Elvis and the musicians, an experience a lot of us would gladly a lay down a lot for. Highlights are the fast version “Loving You” (take 5), which has kind of a jazzy swing into it much more then the 19th take that follows it., “Jailhouse Rock” remains a powerful signature song which never sounded so powerful before and finally “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care” with more piano than before.
From three songs we get several takes, which sets them apart while listening, it is more like listening to an alternate takes bootleg” than the other tracks on this disc. Overall this disc partly gives kind of the same experience as the remastered “Elvis 30 #1 Hits” regarding the crystal clear quality of the music. Our compliments to the team that did the remastering for allowing us to hear all the musicians and vocalists which were there.
From the studio to the movie set with the second disc titled “unreleased movie gems” from Elvis first four post army movies. Despite the everlasting discussion among fans on the quality of this era of Elvis career no one can dispute the quality of Elvis performance on many of the tracks on this disc. The disc opens with the rocking “G.I. Blues”, then slows down with a few ballads before picking up the tempo again with a few movie rockers. Elvis recorded a few “train” songs, and in all you hear a different train running, also in this “Frankfurt Special”. Even in this quality “Tonight’s All Right For Love” sounds to “Italian” for a “German” movie.
Up next are the soundtracks of “Flaming Star” and “Wild In The Country”. These remain some of the best parts of Elvis heritage, both on celluloid as on the magnetic tape of the recording studio. In the first title track you hear the horse and “Indian” drums, perfect for the theme of the movie. “Lonely Man” perfectly shows the “fragility” of Elvis’ voice. “Wild In The Country” has a great, totally different: arrangement and is one of the “gems” on this disc indeed. To bad Elvis can’t finish the song this way.
“I Slipped, I Stumbled. I Fell” remains a great song with a great baseline introducing the song which makes you react in the same way as the opening of “Jailhouse Rock”. Personally they might have left the Hawaiian tracks off this set; we’ve heard them once too often.
Ernst Jorgensen must like the “magic of Nashville” since he recently released “The Nashville Marathon” and “Studio B” compilations on “his” Follow That Dream label. Can we describe this third disc as an FTD release, but then with the more known songs (aimed at a larger audience”)? Well we can be short then, “keep ‘m coming”. A personal “favorite” is the ever powerful “working on the building”, too bad he didn’t mess up that song so we would have more takes. With the volume up loud we were almost “scared” when it seemed there was someone clapping along behind us. Again, the sound quality of this set makes it worth buying it. “(Marie’s The name Of) His Latest Flame”, “Night Rider” and Jerry Reed’s “U.S. Male” are the “gems” on this disc.
The final disc is a bit odd in this collection. Although it fits into the chronology of Elvis recording career, continuously being “On Tour” in the seventies, on this box this disc with a complete concert differs very much from the rest other material. On the other hand, listening to the first three discs with “gems” and “magic” it is about time to listen to some “magical gems” on stage.
Is there a window open or are this goose pimples caused by the TCB-band entering the room with “See See Rider”? This disc really blows out of your speakers! Disc four contains the concert from April 18, 1972, recorded live “On Tour” in San Antonio, Texas and it is a great one to finally have on an official release in this quality. At this time Elvis still had many up-tempo songs in the set, accompanied by songs Elvis liked to perform on stage which perfectly show the performer he was. We can’t add much to the lines above, listen to this one yourself.
It has been released on the bootleg “Welcome In San Antone” in 1993 on the Vicky label. This concert is the last filmed show from the "On Tour" movie. Listening to this concert we have two questions for Ernst Jorgensen; “when will there be an “On Tour” box and when a DVD (box!) with more material like this?" This is too good to be forgotten!
One this we don’t understand is the disclaimer “every effort has been made to achieve optimum sound quality; however priority has been given to historic content”. Why disclaimers like this on a box sounding as great as this one?
Boxes like these all have various content. Or as Ernst Jorgensen puts it "... this package holds something for everybody. The 3 musical decades of Elvis' career are showcased, as is Pop, Rock 'n' Roll, Country, Gospel, R&B and even Hawaiian music." They are advertised as “great for everyone” and contain a wide variety of music to please every fan. But to be honest every “Joe Public” already owns his “Elvis Greatest Hits” compilation. So releases like this will be bought mostly by fans. Knowing this the producers could consider releasing more “themed” box sets. On the previous sets “The platinum Box” and ‘Today Tomorrow And Forever” also are showcases of Elvis career. The beauty of his recorded work can be heard in a four CD box covering only one of the many aspects or era’s of his recording career.
That said, this box ranks highly in our “essential” section because of the great selection of songs, finally a complete “On Tour” concert and the crystal clear quality in which it is presented to us. Or in Elvis’ words “Thank You, Thank You Very Much”.