So High ( FTD / BMG )

In the last twelve years or so RCA/BMG began to realise that Elvis fans weren’t interested in hearing the same old songs any more, we wanted more. But how could they give us what we wanted? Elvis had been dead for 14 years and wasn’t going to record any new songs, and it was getting less and less likely that any new or lost songs would be found. The answer was sitting right under their noses, in the reels and reels of recording sessions they had. Up until “Collectors Gold” in 1991 we had the odd alternate take released, and were thrilled to hear them, but nothing on the scale of “Collectors Gold”, and it must have been then BMG realised that they could release these “New” alternate takes, and keep the fans happy at the same time.

Since 1999 when BMG founded their very own Collectors Label, to try and counteract the bootleggers, we have had an influx of new material spread over 25 regular releases now, ranging from Home Recordings, Rehearsals, Soundboards and of course Studio Sessions. In fact 11 of FTD’s regular releases have had studio sessions with alternate takes on them, and we’ve had quite a few gems amongst them, and those don’t include the new Soundtracks from FTD which also include some new alternate takes. I don’t know how long BMG can quench our thirst for new material, as it seems to be getting to the point now where we are expecting new releases every few months or so, and not just hoping for them. I myself am guilty of this, and I know most of you will be too. I know I’m not alone when I say here’s to the next 25 Follow That Dream releases, and long may they continue. 

“So High” is the twenty fifth release from the Follow That Dream collectors label, set for release on January 1st 2004, and the label continues to treat us fans with what we want to hear, unreleased alternate takes. Of the 25 tracks we get here, only 8 are totally unreleased, as most of us will have heard them before on bootleg releases, as well as the semi official Time Life series, but that doesn’t spoil this release one bit. Where bootlegs have used x-generation tapes, we are getting everything here in top-notch sound, which we should get as BMG do have the original tapes. 

First up we have Run On - take 6 which has been released a few times now on bootleg (Stand By Me Vol 1, Unsurpassed Masters Box 3 and more recently on the How Great Thou Art Sessions Vol 1) but only ever in mono. Here we get a perfect stereo take, which is complete. We got the only other complete alternate take of this song on FTD’s “Easter Special” but I don’t think we’ll get the incomplete takes released officially. It’s very close to the master (take 7) and the only significant difference I can hear is where Elvis sings “that’s all brother you’ll knock no more, well run on …” after the last verse. 

Stand By Me - take 2 is next, and to make things even more confusing, we have take 2 listed on FTD’s “Easter Special” where in fact we got takes 6 & 7!!! Confused? I certainly was. We’ve had the odd takes of this song in mono before on Stand By Me and Unsurpassed Masters bootleg sets, but more recently we got the complete session on the How Great Thou Art Sessions Vol 1. Although the sound could have been better, it helped tie up a few loose ends of what takes have been released before. The only other complete take apart from the master (take 11), take 10 was released on the “Close Up” box set from BMG. 

Down In The Alley - take 6 we’ve had before in stereo on There’s Always Me Vol 4 and in near perfect sound quality on the How Great Thou Art Sessions Vol 2, and no matter how many times I listen to it I just can’t distinguish it from the master (take 9). BMG released take 1 on the “60’s box”. 

Tomorrow Is A Long Time is one of those songs that I could play over and over again and not get tired of it, so to get take 2 in this quality is a real thrill to hear. This is the only complete take of the song apart from the master (take 4) and we’ve had it before along with take 1 (false start) on There’s Always Me Vol 4. 

Love Letters - take 8 we’ve had before in mono on There’s Always Me Vol 4 and the How Great Thou Art Sessions Vol 2 and it’s very close to the master (take 9). We’ve also had takes 3, 4 and 7 from BMG on “Collectors Gold”, and take 2 on “Today Tomorrow & Forever”.

So High - take 1 has been released before on There’s Always Me Vol 4 and the How Great Thou Art Sessions Vol 2 in mono, but it’s great to finally get it in this sound quality. We had takes 2 and 3 on FTD’s “Easter Special” (listed as take 2) so we now have the complete session officially released, apart from the count in before the master (take 4). At the beginning of the take it sounds like Felton says “okay this is So High take one, swing on…” and from then on Elvis certainly does, and for a first take of the song Elvis is very together with it. 

We got take 4 of By And By on FTD’s “Long Lonely Highway” and the complete session has just been released in mono on the How Great Thou Art Sessions Vol 2. We get take 9 here in perfect sound quality and it’s very close to the master (take 10) apart from Elvis’ little laugh just before he sings “…well children, by and by …” on the last verse. 

Somebody Bigger Than You And I is one of my favourite religious songs and we finally got the complete session including the work parts on the How Great Thou Art Sessions Vol 1 but in pretty bad sound quality, and we’ve had bits and pieces from this session on Stand By Me Vol 2 and Unsurpassed Masters Box 3 but always in mono. Here we get take 11 in stereo and the only real difference I can hear is Elvis not quite hitting the high note on “will never die …” at the end of the song. BMG has released other complete takes on “Easter Special” (take 12) and “Close Up” (take 15), but we are still to get the uncut take 16 which was used for the spliced master along with work part - take 6, maybe one day. 

Without Him (take 1) is another beautiful song and if it wasn’t for the squeak at the beginning and in the middle of the song, it sounds great. We’ve had it before on Stand By Me Vol 2 and Unsurpassed Masters Box 4 and more recently we got the complete session on the How Great Thou Art Sessions Vol 2 but again only in mono. We’ve had take 8 released by BMG on “Close Up” and take 12 is the master. This is one of those songs where Elvis tried to do a better take after the master, so we still have a complete take 14 to look forward to from BMG in the future. 

Next up we get take 6 of If The Lord Wasn’t Walking By My Side, and it’s unusual, as I said earlier, to get a take of a song after the master (take 5) but I guess they tried to do a better take to be considered the master, but then stuck with take 5. We had this with I’m Gonna Walk Dem Golden Stairs, where takes 2 and 3 were released on FTD’s “Easter Special” and then take 5 was released on FTD’s “Fame And Fortune”. How many of us expected those takes? Especially when the master is take 1. Anyway, we’ve had take 6 before on Stand By Me Vol 2, Unsurpassed Masters Box 4 and the complete session on the How Great Thou Art Sessions Vol 2 but only in mono. 

We finally got the stereo master (take 8) of Come What May on FTD’s “Long Lonely Highway”, before then it had only been released in mono (Rare Elvis) so perhaps BMG have only recently located the stereo master in the last few years. Maybe that’s why they used take 7 on the “60’s box” and “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” instead of the master. We’ve had take 2 before on the bootleg Come What May, but again only in mono. From BMG we’ve also had takes 3 and 4 on “Today Tomorrow And Forever” and take 6 on “Collectors Gold”. 

I’ll Remember You (overdub take 2) is another truly beautiful song that has only been released previously in mono on There’s Always Me, The Complete Spinout Sessions and Unsurpassed Master Box 4. It’s welcome to finally get in stereo and in great sound quality, and the ending has a haunting feeling to it the way Elvis’ voice fades back in the mix, truly wonderful. 

Guitar Man - take 9 is totally new to us, as only takes 1 to 6 have been released on bootleg, as well as take 5 (“Platinum”) and take 10 (“Long Lonely Highway”) by BMG. This take seems to be sung more laid back than the master (take 12). 

Mine - take 4 has been released before on There’s Always Me Vol 4 along with take 3 (Long False Start) and take 8(a), which is just an instrumental, but take 4 is presented here in better sound quality than has been released before. As this is the first complete take of the song, Elvis just doesn’t seem at ease with the song yet, and it shows a little. We’ve also had take 9 (listed as takes 8 and 9) by BMG on “Close Up”. It’s actually funny to listen to take 8(b) as Felton forgets to turn Elvis’ mike back on for the take (which is unreleased) and that’s how we get Elvis’ comments about an album of instrumentals before take 9 on “Close Up”. 

Singing Tree - take 1 (September 11 1967) is another new take released for the first time here. We got take 4 released by BMG on “Close Up”, and the master (take 13) was released on FTD’s “Long Lonely Highway” and There’s Always Me Vol 2 (unidentified take). For the first take of the song Elvis seems really at ease with the song, although the backing singers don’t. This, to me is a very underrated song that was tucked away as a bonus song on the Clambake LP, and it’s great to hear the song as it was originally recorded, without Elvis’ harmony vocal overdubbed. We got what was supposed to be take 1 of the remake on There’s Always Me Vol 2, which is in fact take 3 of the remake of the song from September 12 1967. 

Just Call Me Lonesome is another song where the master was delivered in just one take, but Elvis went on recording more takes to see if he could improve on it. Here we get takes 3 and 4 to go with take 6 which was released in mono on the bootleg Come What May, and then by BMG in stereo on “Great Country Songs”. Takes 3 (2 short false starts) and 4 are totally unreleased until now, and sound very different to the master as Elvis is trying a different arrangement. This arrangement works well until the musicians seem to mess up on the break just before Elvis sings the last verse. 

Another totally unreleased take here for the first time is High Heel Sneakers - take 5, and it runs for just under 5 minutes. It’s a real thrill to listen to but doesn’t really sound much different to the unedited master. Elvis seems very loose with the song throughout, but it fades at the end when Elvis starts to stumble on some of the lyrics. We’ve had the unedited master (take 7) along with a snippet of take 6 on the “60’s box” from BMG, which runs for 4 minutes 33 seconds, and I’ve been told that a 5 minute version of the master is on the cassette release of “Elvis Aron Presley” (Silver Box) but not having it, cannot confirm this. The master on the CD version of Elvis Aron Presley runs for 2 minutes 47 seconds. Does anyone have the cassette release? 

You Don’t Know Me - take 2 is another totally new take to us, as we only have take 1 released on the Japanese CD set “We Love Elvis Vol 2”and on the bootleg Black Star. The spliced master is all that has been released by BMG. This is one of those songs that were wasted in the movie Clambake in my opinion, along with The Girl I Never Loved. 

We Call On Him - take 2 has been released before on the semi official Time Life CD “Gospel”. We’ve also had takes 2 and 3 on the bootlegs Stand By Me and Unsurpassed Masters Box 4. From BMG we have had takes 4 and 5 (“Easter Special”) and take 8 (“Today Tomorrow And Forever”). Another very underrated song in my opinion. 

We’ve had take 2 of You’ll Never Walk Alone from BMG on the “Platinum” box, but here we get the unreleased complete take 1, which runs for nearly 5 and a half minutes, and it’s also a thrill to listen to. The master is actually spliced from this take along with take 8, so maybe one day we’ll get take 8 released uncut too. 

Most of us have heard the Yodel (Jam) that is in between takes 2 and 3 of Stay Away on the bootlegs There’s Always Me Vol 4 and I’m Going Home, but it’s released officially here for the first time albeit still only in mono. The actual title of the jam is “Muleskinner Blues”. On the subject of the song Stay Away, and mono, how many of you have noticed that BMG have only released take 2 in mono on the FTD release “Long Lonely Highway” where it has been released in stereo on the bootlegs 60th Anniversary Celebration (with dialogue) and I’m Going Home? Just a small point I thought I’d add. 

Next we get take 6 of Stay Away and this has been released before on the bootlegs 24 Carat Gold and I’m Going Home, but only in mono. There are actually another 4 complete takes of this song to be released officially but to me they all sound the same. The overdubs, however, by Jerry Reed, do sound decidedly different, but these are still of now, unreleased. 

US Male - take 11 is very similar to the master (take 12) but again, we’ve only had this before in mono on the bootlegs 24 Carat Gold and I’m Going Home. The other complete takes we’ve had from BMG, take 7 was on “Today Tomorrow And Forever” and take 10 was on “Close Up”. I don’t think we’ll ever get to hear the jam (Prisoners Song) between takes 1 and 2 officially, as it can be took to be slightly offensive! 

During the Too Much Monkey Business session, we get to hear some pre-song banter between Elvis and the guys before take 4, and we get a snippet of Elvis singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” as well as Elvis joking with Jerry Reed about the song “Tupelo Mississippi Flash” (I really wonder what Elvis was on that day!) very funny to listen to. Then we get take 10 of Too Much Monkey Business, which is sung slower, but punchier than the master (take 5). We also had take 9 on FTD’s “Long Lonely Highway” sung in the same style. 

Going Home - take 29 is another take released for the first time here, although we have had takes 21 and 22 from BMG on “Collectors Gold”. We’ve had most of the last part of this session in pretty bad sound on the Bootleg I’m Going Home, but the tape is cut in places and it’s hard to work out what takes are what. It gets even more confusing when Felton announces take 28 after take 25, so we really don’t know what takes are what. Presumably the master is take 28, so this must have been sung after the master, although it’s very similar. 

This is another essential addition to any fans collection, especially if like me; you love to hear studio sessions and alternate takes. 

© December 2003 Keith Flynn