The second release from the ReelTracks import label is out; did they continue the great start they had with “You’ll Never Walk Alone”?
It is clearly visible that the designer of this package found inspiration in the Madison label releases; just look at the use of the logo. The liner notes carefully describe the recording sessions behind the songs featured on this compilation. Added is the history of the “How Great Thou Art” classic.
The booklet is nicely designed – although a bit dark sometimes due to the use of black as one of the two main colours - with lots of memorabilia and original reviews. By now Elvis’ love for gospel music is well known, but an original English review of the "How Great thou Art" album clearly shows that the reviewer needed time to see Elvis as a gospel singer in stead of a rock and roll artist. But once he does he clearly compliments Elvis on the album.
This compilation continues where the previous ReelTracks escape left off, gospel recordings in great audio-quality. I gave this disc several spins and enjoyed it very much. The upbeat “revival-style” songs like “So High” and big songs like “How Great Thou Art” that build to a powerful climax are my favorites. Listening to songs like “Somebody Bigger than You And I” doesn’t give me same joy or excitement the before-mentioned songs do. That said, the latter song is performed very well and shows the craftsmanship of our man in the studio. Contrary to the “American Way” releases with recording sessions from the famous American Studio’s I don’t get the “fly-on-the-wall” feeling, but that is perhaps due to the content of the CD; we don’t get all takes available and there isn’t too much experimenting going on, Elvis clearly knows what he wants. On the “American Way” series we got an artist and band experimenting a bit more with pace, rhythm and tempo.
Unfortunately no unreleased material this time. The audio-quality of this CD is very good, it is almost like Elvis and his vocalists stand in my living room. The mix is done very well with the vocalists up-front and the musicians really accompanying them through the songs.
As a bonus we get a great live version of “How Great Thou Art”. But with a release like this, especially the good audio-quality, the “cut-off” of this live version is a real bad edit. Why no fade-out?
The live version of the title track shows us a strong Elvis on piano with leading his vocalists through this song. Listening to his “On stage” version I wonder how the well known midnight sessions after the concerts sounded.
The CD ends with a short statement by Felton Jarvis, recorded shortly before his death, on his career and work for Elvis (and others).
Some of te reactions from fans when news of this release came out was that they would wait until the Follow That Dream label would release this material. They are probably right that the FTD release will be the definitive release of this material, but until then this release is the perfect soundtrack for the "waitingroom".
The new label delivered another winner, hope they can continue this line with future releases.
01 - Where No One Stands Alone (Take 3, 4)?
02 - So High (Take 1)?
03 - Somebody Bigger Than You And I (Take 1+2)?
04 - We Call On Him (Take 4, 5, 8)?
05 - How Great Thou Art (Take 1, 2, 3 + Count-in Take 4)
06 - Somebody Bigger Than You And I (Take 11, 12, 13, 14, 15,16)?
07 - If The Lord Wasn't Walking By My Side (Takes 1, 2 + count-in Take 3)?
08 - Somebody Bigger Than You And I - workpart (Take 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)?
09 - Without Him (Take 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14)?
10 - Where Could I Go But To The Lord (Take 1 + count-in Take 2)?
11 - In The Garden (Take 1)?
12 - Stand By Me (Take 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)?
13 - Oh How I Love Jesus (private recording)?
14 - How Great Thou Art incl. reprise - live June 10, 1975?
15 - Where No One Stands Alone - live February 16, 1977?
16 - Statement by Elvis' producer Felton Jarvis - December 16, 1980