In the style of a famous quotation one can say: “Bootleggers punish those who delay.” In this sense FTD gets heavily punished these days.
We’ve waited so long for some outtakes from the now legendary Jungle Room Sessions. Throughout the years we got bits and pieces until 2000, where the collectors-label FTD released one of their – if not the– bestselling releases: “The Jungle Room Sessions”. Since then a lot of fans were waiting desperately for a follow-up or at least for a release in FTDs classic album series of Elvis second to last record “From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee”.
Lying in front of me is the third release in a row from the people behind VENUS, containing unreleased and formerly released outtakes, undubbed masters, different mixes and well-known masters of the following songs “Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall”, “She Thinks I Still Care” and “The Last Farewell”. In other words, they included everything that has survived from these selections, recorded on February 2/3, 1976.
The first track is take 1 of “Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall” (3:49) and it was released before on “Made In Memphis” (FTD) running a little shorter as VENUS includes the count-in.
The second track on this release are the takes 2 to 4 (1:48) which were all released before on the former mentioned FTD release “The Jungle Room Sessions”.
Next is take 5 (3:34) that also was released before on FTDs “The Jungle Room Sessions” running a little shorter.
Take 5 is followed by take 7 (3:29) which is the undubbed master. It was released before only on the bootleg “Elvis Among Friends”. There it was running a little shorter and needless to say it was sounding much inferior.
The next track is a different mix (3:17) which was used on the vinyl/CD release “Always On My Mind” (1985). At the time the album was released we were all excited about the good sound quality, but in comparison to the sound quality of the outtakes from VENUS they sound like a sonic disaster. It’s almost like a shock nowadays to hear the difference between the quality the producer has worked with and the final result that was presented.
The same goes for the well-known master take (3:19) which is track 6 on “The Last Farewell” and concludes the part with "The Last Farewell" stuff.
Being disappointed has nothing do to with the fact that the listening habits have changed over the years. Some might think that it can’t be true, but the final result – this time probably taken from the Franklin Mint Collection – is inferior in sound quality to the outtakes you’ll about to hear on the first four tracks of the CD.
Then it’s time for “She Thinks I Still Care”. It starts with the takes 1+2a (5:34). Both takes were released before on “The Jungle Room Sessions” from FTD, where take 1 wasn’t listed.
Next is the unedited take 2b (5:05) which was released before on CD 4 in an edited form on RCA’s “The Essential 70’s Masters” box-set in 1995. There it was faded out after 3:26 minutes. The more country-styled version fits the song very well.
Track nine offers the takes 3+4 (5:04). Both takes have been released before on FTDs “Made In Memphis”. The takes 5 to 9 – including a complete take 6 - are missing. All others were only false starts.
Next is take 10 (4:26). It has been released before on CD 4 of the box-set “Today, Tomorrow & Forever” without the count-in that VENUS offers on the CD. That makes clear that they used a different source and an exceptional good sounding one to say the least.
Then follows the former unreleased takes 11 to 13 (2:42) including different false starts. Elvis seemed to be irritated by something on take 11, asking “What’s that noise?” He then interrupted take 12 as he wasn’t satisfied with the tempo “It’s too fast…”. Take 13 was interrupted with Elvis commenting “Hey! It seems like someone is holding back on the first part…”.
Take 14 (4:28) is next and it’s a complete unreleased and beautifully sung take!
Track 13 on the CD offers the undubbed master – which is indeed take 17 (3:48). It was released before on “Our Memories of Elvis”, but as we know since a long time: the undubbed masters on that release weren’t the real undubbed masters. They were the overdubbed masters where certain instruments and backing vocal channels were removed. An unedited version was released on the bootleg “Elvis Among Friends”, but in comparison to “The Last Farewell” the sound is inferior. Though the soundquality on this one isn’t on par with the quality of the other outtakes, which is more than excellent.
Next is the well-known master take (3:48). It might be taken from the Franklin Mint Collection.
The last four tracks on the CD offer four takes of “The Last Farewell”, starting with the complete and unreleased take 1 (3:34). Shortly before the ending Elvis didn’t get it right followed by laughter.
Next is take 2 (4:14) which was spliced with take 4 and used for the master take. It was also released on FTDs “The Jungle Room Sessions”, but without the count-in.
Second to last track is the unreleased complete take 3 (3:29).
The CD ends with the well-known master take (4:06) which is probably taken from the Franklin Mint Collection just like the other used master takes.
In summary it can be said that also the third CD from the “Welcome To The Jungle” series offered by the VENUS people is an essential release! First of all the soundquality on this third release is nothing less than excellent just as it was on their first two releases of the series with recordings from the Jungle room sessions. More than that we get roundabout 20 minutes of unreleased studio material which is quite an art nowadays! On top of it all we do get a nice designed product with a 16-page booklet and very well written liner-notes. Way to go, VENUS! Highly recommended!
On a personal note I would like to add, that after all I’ve read and heard by now from the famous/infamous recording sessions in the Jungle Room I must confess that Elvis sound much more professional that I’ve ever expected after reading biographies from Hopkins and others or Jorgensen’s book “A Life In Music”. Possibly some things don’t fit into the picture of a sad and depressed late Elvis Presley, when writing a book about these sessions in particular. Hopefully VENUS will bring on some other outtakes from my personal favorites of the Jungle Room sessions “Way Down” and “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain”.