Viva Las Vegas ( FTD / BMG )

Rolling on, BMG's Roger Semon and Ernst Jorgensen continue their expansion of the Follow That Dream release schedule to include deluxe reissues of more deleted soundtrack recordings. Although this music can no longer be justified as viable product at normal retail outlets, through Follow That Dream anyone can obtain the material on CD.

Housed in handsome, double fold out, 7" sleeves with full color information booklets, a "retro" design and more than a dozen outtakes each, these gorgeous packages are a real treat for the hardcore Elvis fanatic. The fidelity throughout is also remarkably clean. There's an old song about finding "where the sands turnin' into gold" - and that is exactly what these "bonus" Follow That Dream discs achieve.

"Viva Las Vegas" never received a proper album release in 1964, its songs relegated to a single and EP or stranded on the film soundtrack. This FTD collection finally makes things right! In fact, if only one "deluxe" soundtrack is on your list, make it this one.

Although even Ernst himself considers the soundtrack "miserable," in reality it is far superior to his other 1963 film work, from the strident title track to the smoky, Charlie Rich-like ballad "I Need Somebody To Lean On." In addition, the inclusion of the high-wattage duets "You're The Boss" and "The Lady Loves Me" with film co-star (and lover) Ann-Margret make a special collection even more desirable. They were young and beautiful, and they had found each other at MGM Studios in the summer of 1963. Their mutual attraction elevates the music and is a major reason the film was Presley's most successful of the decade. A third duet of "Today, Tomorrow and Forever" was only recently discovered and is here as well.

Despite issues regarding "modern" mastering techniques on the original three track tapes, this CD is the best-sounding collection of the material to date. As with the others in this "deluxe" FTD series, there are 13 bonus tracks, more than half previously unissued. The highlights, as expected, are the alternates of Pomus and Shuman's "I Need Somebody To Lean On" and Joy Byers' "C'mon Everybody," the latter including a half-time ending similar to the take used in the film. The early run-through of "Viva Las Vegas," which emulates the original demo, although previously issued is also a treat here. Perhaps the only missing "bonus" might be the original 1964 radio commercials publicizing the film, with famed New York DJ "Murray The K" going wild over that "Bye Bye" gal, Ann-Margret, and Elvis, our "Go Go" guy.

The most revelatory moment here comes on the final track, "The Climb," rendered in the film by the Jubilee Four as Elvis and Ann dance real close. The session outtakes reveal that although George "Biggie" McFadden of the Jubilee Four sings lead, the backing vocals are by the Jordanaires and Elvis! "You picked the tempo up a little too much, it's still too fast," observes Presley to the rhythm section. How thrilling must it have been for Presley to work on some level with the former Golden Gate Quartet member George "Biggie" McFadden, one of his gospel idols? And such input proves Elvis had not yet given up on the music. Of course, "Kissin' Cousins" was just around the corner ...

Although not the finest work of Elvis Presley's career, this is the one 1960s soundtrack that every serious fan should own. Good work, FTD!

[Johnny Savage, USA]