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BMG, Time To Fresh Up

By Mark O'Neill, January 28, 2006 | Other
I am not thrilled by the last few releases by the BMG strategic marketing department. We have all of Elvis' USA singles being released (similar to last years UK singles) with no different material or bonus material on them.

Since the high of 2002 when A Little Less Conversation and 30 No1s dominated there has been a massive decline in the quality of the products being released. Love, Elvis, Elvis By The Presley’s were very poor with many songs being repeated from 30 No1s and 2nd to None (If I can Dream, Always On My Mind, Heartbreak Hotel etc) and to add insult to injury, the long awaited third in the series (as was promised in the sleeve notes of 30 No1s was Hitstory. This album not only nicked Michael Jackson's previous Greatest Hits Collection title it included both 30No1s and 2nd To None - and there was no single remix. Total rip off.

Conversation and Rubberneckin' were excellent choices. Good songs (but little known outside of Elvis fandom) that could be remixed and presented to a new audience as "new" material. Ok Rubberneckin' had poorer sales than Conversation (as did 2nd to None to 30 No1s) but this was the way to go, instead of regurgitating the same songs again and again. Is it not time for an album of remixes? Think of all the songs that could be available for remixes that are little known to the General public Edge of Reality, Change Of Habit, Long Legged Girl, Hi Heel Sneakers, Big Boss Man the list goes on.

It is not good enough to be a blind fan who religiously buys whatever BMG sees fit to foist on us. It is time for a fresh approach. This also includes a new On Tour film (as done with that's the way it Is) by using unseen footage (only available in bootlegs) and giving us a "new" documentary.

And I won't even go in to Elvis In Concert (1977) that we repeatedly as for. "Oh Elvis was not at his best" yes we know he was fat then, we know he was ill and so does everyone else. It's hardly going to send shock waves round the world is it? Get it released and stop messing about. I have it on DVD and although not great there are many fine moments. BMG and EPE should give fans what they ask for not what THEY think they want.

I will not be buying any of the US singles and sticking a unique number on it is not going to persuade me that it is a MUST for Elvis fans everywhere. I want something fresh and new to get excited about. After years of loyal Elvis devotion I (and others) deserve better. But that is just my opinion.

Mark O'Neill
Paul Sweeney wrote on January 28, 2006
Thank god for FTD then (and Ernst) - at least we get great releases there.
shaneleebrown wrote on January 28, 2006
Again, it seems difficult for the fandom to realise that there is only so much that BMG can do that is "new". Elvis has been dead for nearly 30 years - and yet since his death there have been over 50 FTD releases of new materia, the Gold Box, the Silver Box, Platinum box, Today Tomorrow and Forever box, Elvis In Concert, Legendary Elvis 4, 6 essential elvis CDs, the alternate aloha, an afternoon in the garden, Live In Las Vegas box, TTWII box, collectors gold box, The Million Dollar Quartet, The Home Recordings, Close Up, Memories, Tiger Man and various other unreleased material as bonus tracks on soundtrack reissues, Suspicious Minds, Amazing Grace cd sets etc. Thats somewhere around 100-110 hours of unreleased material that has been issued since Elvis died (that I can think of of the top of my head). And I'm not too sure that some of that should have ever seen the light of day on official releases - Dragonheart being an obvious example. Yes, I agree that On Tour should be rereleased with bonus material - although whether we need to see four or five complete shows from the same tour I'm not sure. Elvis In Concert will always be up for debate. I personally class it as an embarassment. If I was Elvis I personally wouldn't want footage of me acting and singing like that to be released. Other than those, though, the well must be almost dry.
Jth wrote on January 28, 2006
I completely agree with the article, not with the image, it has nothing to do wih BMG. But why did BMG slash the Elvis catalogue down a few years ago, only to re-issue the cd's that were cut down (Elvis Presley, for example - if I remember correctly)?! There seems to be no strategy behind anything that BMG does in regards of Elvis; I read many months ago a very good article on the forum of Elvis-Collectors about that BMG should reorganize their catalogue, and fill it re-issues of albums that were released during Elvis' lifetime in cd form with the best possible quality for the casual musicbuyer, that would cover Elvis' recording legacy very well, and people could even name a few of his albums (like everyone knows the Beatles so-called "White Album"), but not just few of his songs (Blue Suede Shoes being nr. 1). I will not spend my hard-earned money on the singles-boxset. Why should I when I have all the songs already??? I, too, am not thrilled by BMG. And I'm not completely over the top with FTD either, very often they mess up take numbers and even on the back side of the "Elvis At The International" they messed up the songs listing. I know this is just a two-man company, or that's at least what Ernst wants us to believe, but there are no booklets (yes, some of us aren't familiar with every studio session Elvis had) nor does there seem to be any quality control.
Lex wrote on January 28, 2006
I agree on On Tour, but that's about it. More than enough Elvis songs has been messed up, the Guitar Man album and those two screwed singles are more than enough. Besides, the US singles box is not the same as the UK one. I bet there are quite some collectors that want to have both (not me included). Just realize the well must have dried up by now. I bet the managers and marketeers at Sony/ BMG have a better view on the market than the average fan. I do not like that fact either, but decided just to quit buying doubles and enjoy what I already have. Elvis is dead, but for a dead guy he doing pretty good... also thanks to Sony/ BMG. Or do you think it's because of that relatively small group of hard core fans?
RonBaker wrote on January 28, 2006
Actually, there is a lot BMG could do. Take the "Today" album for instance. It could have been issued as a dualdisc with surround sound (there was a cd4 disc in the 70's). They could also have put a concert video on the dvd side of the disc (there have to be some videos taken during 75). Remix ideas: "The Lord's Prayer"...why not orchestrate it? The little mistakes can be edited out. It would make a great addition to a religious collection. The same could be done for "I Understand How You Feel"...in this case, it's poorer quality sound-wise, but could still be fixed. "It Feels So Right"...that's a 3 track recording...hopefully the vocals could be put against new backing tracks. RCA gave some Sam Cooke hits the royal treatment on the new Les Paul album...wow! "Hitstory" was a terrible idea...the 3rd disc is just full of songs that shouldn't be there. Ok, they may be classics, but only to Elvis fans who probably already have the tracks. I'm ready for 5.1 surround mixes. We had that with "30 #1's". We seem to have lost the momentum we once had. It's a pity.
Dixieland Rock wrote on January 28, 2006
I really do appreciate the tons of unreleased Elvis songs that have been released through the years both to the general public & on FTD. I welcome all of it. But what I find amazing is how BMG seems think that the general public can't grasp anything outside of the same songs they repackage. It's as though the general public are off limits to understanding there are many many more great Elvis songs besides the Golden Records they rearrange under a "new" album title. I believe the general public are capable of understanding lesser known Elvis songs if they were promoted right. The Record label treats "Elvis fans" & the "General public" as though they are two separate breeds of people. But Elvis fans are the general public too but they just happened to catch on to the power of Elvis music. Now they make up the fan world. If the powers that be would treat Elvis music legacy the way it should be done to the General Public, Elvis could have more hits added to his list besides the repackaged same songs. ALLC showed us Elvis potential in the 21st Century. "Patch It Up" would be a great follow up & there is film footage to go with it. I think "Hitstory" would have been better if they had waited several years to release it. If they had just released Disc 3 by itself & called it E3, it would be in my collection today. But what I've noticed throughout Elvis career was so many times, the powers that be dropped the ball & didn't seize great opportunities that was there. There was alot of things that they did do right, so not all was bad. Right now the opportunity knocks again. I think the time is right for follow ups to ALLC, Rubberneckin'. If done correctly, these songs could be compiled on an album called "Elvis Golden Records Volume 6."
byebye wrote on January 29, 2006
I agree 100%! Releasing crap EP movies is MUCH MORE DAMAGEING than making a concert DVD with Elvis´ last historical tv performance. Young people today are not that narrow minded as some might think. I believe viewers today would understand and appreciate a weakened performer pouring his heart out, rather seeing him make a fool of himself in an embarrasing B-movie. Finally I would welcome someone else than Jorgensen being responsible for the EP division at BMG/SONY. He doesn´t measure up, obivously lacking innovating ideas.
Paul Sweeney wrote on January 29, 2006
"I would welcome someone else than Jorgensen being responsible for the EP division at BMG/SONY. He doesn´t measure up, obivously lacking innovating ideas." You must be joking - what Ernst has done with the FTD label and 50 + releases is unheard of with any other artist - he measures up, and then some...
Matt W wrote on January 29, 2006
Michael Jackson's release was called History, not Hitstory. Similar but not the same. I agree with the most part of the article about the constant stream of crappy hits CDs although it seems common place to mix up who has decisive powers over material. EPE controls the Elvis In Concert footage, not BMG so it has nothing to do with BMG. BMG can only release sound recordings from Elvis On Tour, they do not control the footage so again, good comments directed at the wrong party. As for the Elvis duck...well...we all know the lows EPE will go to for a fast buck. This sounds like a pro BMG opinion from me and...well, to be honest we have a HUGE amount of Elvis material other than the masters available to us. Let's not forget that there is not a great deal of unreleased material left so repackaging a remarketing material is all that can be done to keep the music in the marketplace. I would end with this thought....I began my Elvis experience with a small compilation tape that came with a Rock 'n' Roll set. Only around 20 tracks, none after 1964. But this tape ignited my interest to hear more...and I did, Elvis became my firm favourite music artist. So whilst us existing fans will moan and groan about Elvis Rock, Elvis Love or whatever, lets think for a moment that these are not aimed at fans, they are aimed at first time buyers, first time buyers who maybe will want to hear more as a result of their purchase.
Timothy wrote on January 29, 2006
I don’t mind whether Elvis was fat or slim, did look good or not. What matters to me is his incredible voice, his underestimated talent as an arranger and the ability he had to turn crappy material into gems. Having said that, one has to acknowledge that El's voice was not always at the top. (Blame it on his lifestyle, his crazy schedules and the carelessness of his "professional" environment.) Therefore, I would be grateful to BMG, FTD and C° if they could promote these Elvis interpretations that make us really proud of our man’s abilities. For instance, there are incredible moments in the CBS tapes. I wish they could re-edit the 1977 TV Special, rid it of these embarrassing “fans” interviews and give it the same technical treatment as TTWII New Edition or Aloha or the 68’ Come Back Special. A re-mastered edition of On Tour is obviously the last big chunk of the Elvis film saga that we are all waiting for. I hope they won’t mess-up with it. I was very impressed with the sound re-mastering of Aloha. The balance between vocal and instrumental accompaniment was -in my humble opinion- great, with El’s voice upfront, right on top of the rest, where it should always have been. (What bothers me in Todd’s editing, by the way, is the exaggerated focus on Elvis: more wide angles, more views of the orchestra and of the Elvis backing group would have made the show much more interesting. However, the sound is really great. To me, it stands out as the major achievement in this restoration job. Thanks to it, I really rediscovered the Aloha show.) So, I wouldn’t be against a re-mix of some Elvis best vocal performances, with the backing of a full-scale orchestra. A real challenge, but I think it should at least be given a try. As for the rest, and judging by the sheer mediocrity of most of the material recently offered to our attention, it seems that we’ve really reached the end of the barrel. But that’s all right with me. There’s so much to enjoy with the existing material that I wouldn’t complain if they stopped putting out second or third grade material.
byebye wrote on January 29, 2006
Paul, Im not joking. I would do a better job, Promise! I´m not attracted to the FTD quality either, but my concern was his work at BMG/Sony.. Accept the fact that everybody on this site has the right to his/her own view. I´m not impressed by amateurly put compilations! The 30#1 was good, but that is not his. If things leaned more towards the spirit of the Memphis Recording service release, I´d be happier. Or making a full remix album with the best producers there was. Problem is that Ernst lacks both musical skills and fresh quality thinking to make a "2006 Steve Bender/Sholes type of project" like that. Instead he looks back, trying to find version 98 of Eto eats. A good FTD strategy,but not something for the rest of the world out there..
RonBaker wrote on January 30, 2006
Tried to post this before...maybe because I put a link it didn't work, but there is a release of "Maybelline" by Elvis on January 31. The info was sent to me because I purchased Paul Oakenfield's remix of ALLC....how can one possibly remix "Maybelline"????
Lex wrote on January 30, 2006
Jesper, if you want to do the job better, you should at least have the song titles correctly :-)
Sirbalkan wrote on January 30, 2006
I'am 24... And I've been an Elvis fan for 12 years. The problem is young people want to listen to a 76 version of Polk Salad Annie, Tiger man, Burning love, Suspicious Minds, My Way and other fast songs and great different ballads...Not Its now or never or studio version of Love me tender... Why don't they release a live album like Hampton Concert and a complete footage of it and make ad. for that around the world... Every guy who sees Elvis ontour says: Wow... I didnt know Elvis was like this... I knew he was only a good singer of ballads and a few pop songs but not such songs as Polk Salad Annie...
Dixieland Rock wrote on January 30, 2006
I think BMG should focus on trying to give us a new 21st century album called "Elvis Golden Records Volume 6". This album would consist of Elvis's 21 Century Hits. They already have one song for that album, "A Little Less Conversation". "Rubberneckin" could be included too. There are many Elvis songs that could be 21st Century hits if marketed right. I think it's great to stop & reflect on Elvis many many achievements. Enough with the retrospective thinking. There needs to be more focus put on building on those achievements. The "Elvis Gold Records" series should not stop with Volume 5. "ALLC" proved Elvis music can work well in the 21st Century. There are so many Elvis songs there that are raw potential for 21st century hits. "Elvis - Still Taking Care Of Business" would make a good title for a 21st Century album.
Ton Bruins wrote on January 31, 2006
Evis In Concert '77...yes on DVD 5.1 sound...
Greg Nolan wrote on February 06, 2006
The excellent thread referred to down below by Jth on "For Elvis CD Collectors" messageboard is by "Peter Franks" and is entitled "Cutting the Catalogue." (Do a search on the author and then his posts, and you'll see it a few down. You'll see some of the best comments written on the direction of RCA/Sony-BMG. It's must-reading for Ernst and also Joe at Sony-BMG's Strategic Marketing Group. The post started in 2003 and has been kept alive since then as things have only gotten worse. I agree with a lot of the above article by Mr. O'Neill but not entirely. As for "Elvis in Concert" from '77, I really think on this issue EPE is on target in not releasing it except for a song or two. However, they also hawk "Elvis ducks" and Elvis impersonator costumes so they are part of the Elvis image problem. Also, someone unfavorably compared his movies to EIC: I'd take 99% of them over his rather sad appearance in that last film, which, as we all know is readily available in the unofficial bootleg market for anyone who wants it. As I wrote on the similiar "I Wish..for 2006" post here on ELVIS NEWS: We are over-due to see "Elvis on Tour' on an official DVD and certainly all the interest in unofficial releases of "EOT" and "That's the Way It Is" outtakes proves that much more can be done to exploit this material. Fans want it and will pay for premium versions of it! "Follow That Dream" (FTD) has been a dream come true for most fans, albeit with a few problems here and there. As for RCA/Sony-BMG, they must get back on track and stop making "new" Elvis albums. What a travesty his catalog has become. Elvis' albums are something many artists would die to have as their legacy. He need not be a "greatest hits" / gospel/ "love-song" artist!
Greg Nolan wrote on February 06, 2006
And as a footnote to those who insist that EPE should sully Elvis' image any further by releasing "Elvis In Concert" from '77 (which never would have been on TV had he had lived), please know that the internet also features a version apparently direct from the CBS master copy - the best ever seen. As a fan of this bittersweet moment, I own the imports and will enjoy this, too. Fire up your computers - but EPE, keep that stuff off the store shelves, please!
Timothy wrote on February 10, 2006
My own foot note! :-) I'll be happy to have a re-mastering of "Elvis Live at Madison Square Garden", with a better sound, a more balanced instrumental mix and Elvis' voice right in the front (pleaaase...). I think this job is quite overdue.
ep3577 wrote on February 18, 2006
Mark, I agree with you 100%, I also agree that Elvis In Concert needs to come out, as I said before with a little editing it would be a fine show, Take the best from both shows edit them together(No fan coments please). This would be a good release for FTD first DVD, if they can aford a good editor. Of course we are all waiting for the deluxe DVD set of On Tour, again a 3 to 4 DVD project to do it justice.