IS STILL ACTIVE IN NORWAY
"YOU CAN HEAR ELVIS SAY ****"
by Oven Egeland
Train/Tiger Man (Jam-Instrumental)
Outtakes, Studio B 1970
released on Essential Elvis Vol. 4
The Nashville Marathon definitely marks a new era! BMG no longer ban rude language from Elvis, so one is allowed to hear "fuck" on several occasions. Rotten outtakes, off-key versions are also legitimate now. The Nashville Marathon contains some examples of this (the clearest example is, however, A Thing Called Love on the four-CD boxset Today, Tomorrow And Forever). And finally - but not least - BMG no longer stays loyal to the "standard" mix of the songs. The mixing on Nashville Marathon is so different and so a-typical of Elvis-material, that only added sound (like on A Little Less Conversation) could take it further from the original sound picture.
Is the mixing good? It is a matter of taste. I find it very effective on several of the songs, while others are not so successful. A mutual characteristic; the famous "Nashville sound" is gone...disappeared!
In general the CD is produced so that much of the studio feel - the fly on the wall feel - are lost, even though you can hear Elvis interact with the band members from time to time. Compared to other CD's Nashville Marathon features very little "goofing around in the studio". Almost all Elvis fans love to be able to hear such informal chatting, so why BMG decided to leave this out - in general - is a relevant question.
I mentioned Elvis being off-key on some selections. This surprised me a bit. Even though Elvis too could miss a note from time to time it was not common. Jungle Room Sessions [a previous Follow That Dream release] from 1976 is free from such mistakes. Funny, Elvis was fitter vocally and physically in 1970... wasn't he? Most likely this happens thanks to the large amount of songs to be sung in a short period of time, combined with the fact that Elvis had to force himself to sing some rather dull songs in June 1970. A lot of those dull ones are featured here on Nashville Marathon. Who could rise to the challenge of tackling songs like 'If I Were You', 'Life' etc..? Another argument is that Nashville Marathon features several take 1's, and in many cases it was a long way to accomplish a master take.
To the songs:
'Mystery Train/Tiger Man' is an instrumental, although you can hear Elvis singing the opening lines.
'Twenty Days And Twenty Nights' is a good version! Elvis misses the lyrics in parts, otherwise it is close to perfect.
'I've Lost You' is only fair, however. Elvis also mixes the lyrics at one part and the version soon gets monotonous!
'The Sound Of Your Cry' is simply awful! It goes on for over five minutes, and reminds more and more of a vocal masturbation. This song alone almost ruins the whole disc, but luckily we have the magic "skip" button!
'Bridge Over Troubled Water' is quite good to be a first take, but far from a master. Elvis is wary almost through the whole song.
'How The Web Was Woven' is simply BRILLIANT! This song stands out due to both lack of overdubbed instruments and Elvis' vocal performance. He simply tackles it tremendously (Yes!). The mixing is fantastic too!
'The Next Step Is Love' is represented with the take before the master. It is therefore quite similar to the final master version both in tempo, timing and phrasing. However, I like the version on Today, Tomorrow And Forever (take 6) better!
It was a crying shame that Elvis had to sing 'I'll Never Know'. This outtake does not hide that fact. The same could be said about 'Life'. However, these undubbed outtakes of 'Life' (including the one on Today, Tomorrow And Forever) put the song in a slightly better light!
I was looking forward to take 1 of 'Love Letters', hoping it would be more like the original version than what the final 1970 master (take 5) became like. Unfortunately the version featured here is a disappointment in many ways. The song is incomplete and starts just before the second verse. Even worse, Elvis sounds like he is sleepwalking through the song.
'Heart Of Rome' isn't my cup of tea. Take 1 finds Elvis missing the timing at the start. The rest reminds of a run-through, even slightly off-key in parts. Elvis obviously felt this couldn't be a master!
'Mary In The Morning' is a nice tune. Here it comes with a false start before take 4. This outtake is very similar to the master version. Harmonic and delightful!
'Sylvia' take 9 means a post-master take. Always special! In my point of view it is not as good as the previous (master) take and it is actually off-key in parts. Not the greatest song anyway!
'It's Your Baby, You Rock It' is one of the better Shirl Milete songs. Take 3 starts off out of key. This time it is the musicians who miss. Elvis, however, is having problems with the lyrics at one part. Except for that, it is a fine addition to the CD.
'It Ain't No Big Thing' is a cool song. Take 6 is quite similar to both the master take and the previous outtake as featured on Essential Elvis Vol. 4.
'A Hundred Years From Now' starts in the middle of take 1. You can recognize the solo part from James Burton at the end of this version as it was used for the spliced "master" created to the Essential 70's Masters. The first part of the take could not be used as Elvis changes the lyrics several times. Before take 2 (previously released on Essential Elvis Vol. 4) you can hear Elvis say; "Here goes my fucking career". He is referring to his guitar playing.
Take 2 of 'Tomorrow Never Comes' was planned for Essential Elvis Vol. 4 and first featured on the greatest of all bootlegs A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On. The same goes for 'Snowbird' (take 1) . "Tomorrow" is a great version, while 'Snowbird' leaves no impression on me at all! 'Where Did They Go, Lord' (take 3) is also a strong delivery. This is not the same take as featured on the above mentioned bootleg (*).
Take 2 of 'Rags To Riches' is quite good. Couldn't this have been a master, or perhaps Elvis is off-key on the second line? Anyway, perhaps it was just a hair too slow...
The Nashville Marathon is in general a fine CD. I like the work done by Dennis Ferrante (mix). Another plus, sound wise, is that Lene Reidel seems to master the tracks in a more sensible way. Nashville Marathon comes with more ambiance that any FTD release since Jungle Room Sessions.
Unfortunately these marathon sessions in 1970 contained several sub-standard songs. The majority of the better songs are not available on Nashville Marathon, either due to lack of outtakes or for some other reasons. One could ask why 'Stranger In The Crowd' and 'Patch It Up' are not included. I would also have liked the inclusion of 'I Was Born About 10,000 Years Ago' - complete and unedited - in this great sound that Nashville Marathon offers. And what about 'I Really Don't Want To Know'? Isn't there any outtake of this (the Master is an unknown take)? Time will tell, I guess.
The cover art is very bad. We are used to inferior cover work from FTD, but I think this one takes the cake!
However, even though there are some blunders from Elvis and the band and even though there are a lot of weak songs on this CD, I would still recommend it to all Elvis fans.
© Oven Egeland, August 2002
(*) Thanks to Philippe Turquois
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