The "Jailhouse Rock" soundtrack has finally been released from the prisonvaults of RCA.
The design itself is great; classic rock and roll all-over, no complaints there. The printing itself is sloppy; the cover is not sharp and the image of our man looks smudged like it has been blown up too much. On the back you still see the remains of the originally white background. Five minutes of photoshop could have cleared that. The same goes for the inside, the black vinyl background behind the discs is grey and not black.
The booklet is standard for the FTD Classic Album Series, a light overview of the movie and sessions with a few illustrations. Looks nice but I can't help to think that the label could deliver a bit more. Several books have been written on the movie and two new titles will be released in the months to come, why not cooperate with those publishers? Perhaps the experiences on that front are not too good, we're still waiting for the Dixieland Delight box …
More important than the looks is the content on the two discs. The first disc holds the original EP, single alternate masters and movie masters, alternate movie masters and finally two bonus tracks. Presenting the only six! titles in the chronology of their original releases the label remains true to history and at the same time creates a very listenable disc.
The differences between the various master takes is not too big, the differences with the movie versions is more audible. The addition of the "Jailhouse Rock Movie Intro" is a new feature from the record company and marks the first time a recording from the film orchestra has been put on CD.
Elvis himself sounds great, he should, he is on top of the world in 1957. You hear the confidence in these polished rock and roll recordings like "Baby I Don't Care" and the raw edge from his early days on "Jailhouse Rock". I really enjoyed these tracks.
The studio tracks sound better - all tracks have been remastered by Kevan Budd - than the movie versions. Elvis is a bit more up-front. The overall sound is very good, the songs are presented as they were recorded, in mono and (binaural) stereo. But there are some differences between the tracks in quality. Give the Jail Version of "I Want To be Free" a spin and listen to the hiss on the background. The binaural versions sound the best and I really like the separated tracks on the right and left speaker it as gives the fifty year old songs a touch of the past.
The second disc is one for the collectors, hear how Elvis and his sidemen recorded three of the six classic titles on this album; "Treat me Nice", "I Want To Be Free" and "Young And Beautiful". Less entertaining to play when you have some friends over, very entertaining if you want to join Elvis in the studio. For fans this disc will not be dull.
A good start of the definitive "Jailhouse Rock" collection, bring on Volume 2 (with some better quality artwork I hope) which will have a focus on in and out-takes.