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The Best Of G.I. Blues Sessions

By Piers Beagley, December 02, 2000 | Music
Early 1960 and Elvis was pure dynamite. RCA had just released "Stuck on You", his first #1 since his return from the army, and on April 3rd Elvis managed to record 12 legendary songs in just one night - amongst them "Fever", "It’s Now or Never", "Are you Lonesome Tonight" and "The Girl of my Best Friend". Less than a month later the band, this time including Dudley Brooks on piano and the versatile Tiny Timbrell on guitar, would reunite on April 27th to start work on the soundtrack for Elvis’ new movie G.I Blues.The first 2 days of these sessions were recorded at RCA's Hollywood studios (due to a new RCA-Musician’s Union deal) which were arranged for Movie soundtrack recording but didn't suit Elvis at all. The positioning of the microphones stopped the band working as a close unit and you can hear the overall sound is ‘spacey’ and flat. This disappointed Elvis especially when compared to the brilliant sessions just produced at Studio B in Nashville.
At his insistence, a week later, Elvis and the band returned to the more familiar Radio Recorders (Jailhouse Rock, King Creole etc) to re-tape several of the earlier recorded tracks and finish off the remaining songs.
This Czech CD cleverly places the songs back to back enabling you to compare the two sessions, not only the sound (more echo) but also the vibe of the band with Elvis sounding great and also in better humour.
The problem can be easily seen where in the first session Elvis recorded 28 takes of Pocketful of Rainbows without creating a final Master yet completed the song in 2 easy takes at Radio Recorders a week later. 
RCA/BMG have officially released more of these outtakes and highlights than off any other recording session. The G.I. Blues (acoustic) version of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ was done in 1 take but there are alternate versions of ALL the other 11 songs already released on ‘The Elvis Silver box set’, ‘Collectors Gold’ and especially the 1997 ‘G.I Blues Special Edition’ which contained 8 excellent ‘Alternate versions’. (The highlight however is surely the joy of "Tonight’s All Right for Love" takes 3-8 on the Silver Box set).
So here, as promised, we have another packed Czech CD, nearly 79 minutes of further outtakes, all in superb quality, showing us more of the recording process with Elvis and the band hard at work. Also as a bonus, at this point in the 60s, Elvis’ voice was at its very best. 
It is also important to note that when the sessions began RCA, The Colonel and Elvis had not even decided as to whether a soundtrack album of G.I Blues would ever be released ! They were only recording a movie soundtrack for Paramount Pictures and yet it went on to become Elvis’ biggest selling LP to date.
The CD starts nicely with Elvis’ "Army Swearing In" where the Officer says "Congratulations you are now in the Army - Private Presley you will be in charge of the group". And he is … 
Shoppin’ Around (Hollywood) Tks 3, 5-7. In fact the excellent takes 3 + 5 were released on the Silver Box Set but with the dialogue in the wrong order - this version corrects that. The drums are high in the mix and the overall sound very ‘acoustic’ with Elvis deliciously sliding around with his vocals while at the same time playing rhythm guitar.
Shoppin’ Around (Radio Recorders) Tks 3,5. Elvis starts by announcing "I’m Hot, Hot!", and you can already hear the echo and the sound difference from being at Radio Recorders - Elvis is much better and the band is tight. Sounds great even though the pace is slightly slower than the previous week. Elvis warns the Bass singer to lean in closer for the song’s end and by the 3rd complete version (#7) they had the Master take.
Didja’ Ever (H) Tk1. Elvis refers to the track code ‘C.O’ as "Commanding Officer" - otherwise this is the version released on ‘G. I Blues S. Ed’ - The only alternate take available since take 2 was the Master. 
Doin’ The Best I Can (H) Tks 1,3,4,7,10. Showing Elvis’ silky, sexy new ‘post-Army’ voice off to the full this is a real delight - just beautiful. The Jordanaires match his voice perfectly and the first few takes sound much lighter than the final Master. The studio dialogue saying that they all have to go to lunch (released by RCA in the middle of the Tonight’s All Right outtakes) is here in its correct place as well as Elvis pointing out that his chair squeaks "Anyone got any oil ?" he jokes. The Master was take 13 and yes, his chair even squeaks on that ! 
G.I. Blues (H) Tks 1,4,8,9. Even with producer Hal Wallis present in the studio the final master was a splice of 2 takes - Here we have complete Tk 1 with 2 ‘Inserts’ - Elvis remarks ‘It’s pretty hard to start on that damn thing" as they start mid-song to try to record a satisfactory ending. 
Tonight is So Right For Love (H) Tks 1,2,10. The false start of take 1 is a gem with Elvis subconsciously clicking his fingers. When Elvis is asked by the engineer not to snap his fingers he gently replies "It was probably me, the most humble forgiveness" - "Actually it was my teeth" he then jokes - very cute. The earlier takes are slightly slower and on Take 10 it nicely breaks down ¾ through with Elvis laughing, "Hold it Charly, let’s do one more before I crack" - They did, which ended up being the Master.
What’s She Really Like (H) Tks 1-4,8,11,14,17. A true gem - 12 fascinating minutes of Elvis developing this cruisey song - The first couple of takes are sung beautifully with a delicious, light touch - On take 3 Elvis sings "Ha, Ha Ha, you messed up the break" perfectly in time with the song’s tempo - A fabulous moment that I find hard to believe BMG didn’t release. Worth buying this CD for this track alone. 
On another take there is a strange noise "Like somebody singing" someone remarks - "Oh, we could never stand that" quips Elvis! At take 17 they move away from this slow drifting sound and speed up the tempo to the bouncy version that we know as the Master (a splice of 19 + 22). 
Frankfort Special (H) Tks 1,3,4,8,9,12. This was the ‘fast version’ that never quite seemed to work. They quit after 13 takes and never achieved a Master version. Elvis exclaims "C’mon train, damn it, c’mon". The highlight is between takes 3 + 4 where Elvis sings one line from "It’s All in the Game" a # 1 hit in 1958 and later for the Four Tops - (What a sin that Elvis never got to record it as, just from the one line, you can tell how perfect it would have sounded). 
Frankfort Special (RR) Tks 3+5, Back at Radio Recorders and sounding so much better. Elvis still complains that "There’s no way in hell I can sing this - You have to stay with the tune rather than just yelling". However the slower pace fits the song perfectly, sounds loose and just fine. Take 5 is a gem (Only the slight slip during the guitar solo probably stopped this from becoming the Master).
Big Boots (H/RR) Five short takes of both the slow and fast versions of this song. 
Not a highlight of his career - At least Elvis is laughing too. 
The final version was only 1 ½ minutes long and that had to be a splice of two takes.
Pocketful of Rainbows (H) Tks 1,17,19,21,22,27. Another classic from this CD and already famous for Elvis’ remarks about his voice cracking and his moaning "I tried so hard, So hard to please". Here the dialogue is in the correct order after take 27. BMG were ‘naughty’ in the fact that they used the same dialogue to preface two different takes, #17 on Collectors Gold, yet Take 2 on the G.I Blues S Ed! 
The song’s melody obviously challenged Elvis’ vocal range. On take 19 Elvis sounds like he’s working too hard and his voice cracks near the end "Let’s start again, kinda’ schnell like" he remarks.
Pocketful of Rainbows (RR) Tk 1. A week later, a little more echo, more relaxed, an obviously better sound and they had the Master down in 2 takes. 
Blue Suede Shoes (H) Tk1 - The Master + intro.
Wooden Heart (H) Tks 1+3. Take 1 is an easy first run through, take 3 is the famous ‘laughing version’

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