In The Ghetto (alt. take)
Hey Jude (alt. take)
Without Love (undubbed)
This Is The Story (undubbed)
A Little Bit Of Green (alt. take)
Mama Liked The Roses (undubbed)
Inherit The Wind (alt. take)
Elvis rediscovered many things when he returned to Memphis to record in January of 1969. He learned he could work with new, established musicians and a tough-minded producer in a funky, disheveled downtown studio. He discovered that he could tackle almost any kind of number and seize every ounce of majesty from it. He emerged from the sessions the full-blooded rock artist that no one would've dreamed he'd become, given the previous seven-odd years of mostly soundtrack-recorded misery and waste.
'American Rejects' contains songs that, really, are anything but "rejects"! Rather, this is one's personal copy of a reference acetate made shortly after the American Studios sessions for Elvis to evaluate RCA producer Felton Jarvis' vocal overdubbing work on the rhythm tracks. This is likely when Elvis first heard the female voices on "In The Ghetto" and hated them, demanding Jarvis remove them from the master; then, upon further listening, he changed his mind and told Felton to leave them on!
Of the seven tracks contained on this superb-sounding mono acetate, three are alternate versions (the cover says four): "In The Ghetto," Without Love" and "Hey Jude." The remainder are the lovely, unadorned master takes, but they don't suffer for this; in fact, the listener can enjoy more of the Presley voice this way! Presley works extremely hard to create a perfect master for Mac Davis' "Ghetto," and the hard-core fan has heard four variations (one here, two on the '60's box' and another on the "import" 'American Crown Jewels'). The more up tempo acetate version yields a huskier delivery from Presley, with subtle backing vocals and no strings; it's magnificent, but lacks the delicate touch of the final master.
Other highlights include the incredible alternate, pure version of "Without Love," an aching, passionate ballad originally done by one of Elvis' favorite r'n'b singers, Clyde McPhatter. This is Presley at his big ballad best, subtle and dynamic beyond the scope of most vocalists. Until recently this was totally essential, as it blew away the gaudy, overblown hail of voices and strings that Jarvis coated onto the master take when released in November '69 on 'Back In Memphis'; however, 'American Crown Jewels' sports a clean stereo version of the master, which is nothing short of amazing. It would have been a staggering live number for Presley. Still, his singing on the acetate cut can bring a tear as well.
The master of "Inherit The Wind," not the best Eddie Rabbit tune Elvis cut in '69, sounds so much better with just Elvis, the house band and some backing vocals to delight the ear; on "A Little Bit Of Green" one hears most of the master vocal (Elvis cleaned it up a bit more in a different mix) but starts off clipped and fades early. In any case, Elvis' vocal is sweeter than molasses on a summer day!
Those who are not fans of "Mama Liked The Roses" "This Is The Story" or "Hey Jude" shall not be swayed by their undubbed counterparts. "Mama" is slightly less bathetic without backing vocals, though, and Presley's self-harmony is neat to listen to here. "Jude" simply should never have been released; the arrangement doesn't work and it's akin to someone else covering "Hound Dog" in 1957. Of course, Felton Jarvis gave it to the world on the 'Elvis Now' album anyway. Elvis does the best he can with "Story," aided and abetted by a very prominent organ and the female vocals later heard as well on the released version.
If one loves what Elvis and producer Chips Moman accomplished in Memphis' American Studio back in 1969, this CD is a worthy, wonderful companion piece to 1997's essential "import" collection of similar tracks, 'American Crown Jewels.' And who in the hell doesn't?
Reviewed by Johnny Savage, USA