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The Originals Vol. 21 – Elvis edition 4

April 10th, 2009 6 comments

This is the fourth and final Elvis special in the Originals series. That is 20 cover versions (plus Glenn Reves’ demo acetate of Heartbreak Hotel), out of some 250 cover versions Elvis recorded. Most of these are, however, relatively obscure or better known in previous versions. Featured here are six songs: Are You Lonesome Tonight, Crying In The Chapel, Suspicious Minds, The Wonder Of You, There Goes My Everything, and Burning Love.

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Mark James – Suspicious Minds.mp3
(old file replaced by the album version as of December 17, 2009)
Elvis Presley – Suspicious Minds.mp3

Elvis Presley’s artistic decline in the1960s is symbolised by the coincidence of his most derided movie, Clambake, opening at about the same time as the Beatles released their groundbreaking Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. A year later, in 1968, Elvis’ live TV special marked the comeback of Elvis the Entertainer. Elvis the Recording Artist, however, had not had a #1 hit in seven years when in January 1969 he entered the famous American Sound Studios in Memphis, the soul table where Dusty Springfield cut her legendary Dusty in Memphis album.

At first the old soul music veterans at the studio were dubious about working with the washed-up ex-king of rock ‘n’ roll. Elvis soon had them convinced otherwise. Eight days into the session, on January 20, he recorded the Mac Davis-penned In The Ghetto; two days later Suspicious Minds, which by the end of 1969 would top the US charts.

mark_jamesSuspicious Minds was written by American Sound Studios in-house writer Mark James (whose real name was Francis Zambon), who also wrote hits such as It’s Only Love and Hooked On A Feeling for his friend, country singer BJ Thomas. The latter was also a UK hit for the vile Jonathan King. BJ Thomas was in line to record Suspicious Minds before the song was given to Elvis — who insisted on recording the song even when his manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker, threatened that he wouldn’t over the question of publishing rights (always an issue with Parker). Thomas went on to have a big hit that year anyway with Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, and went on to record Suspicious Minds in 1970.

elvis_suspicious_mindsElvis would record four more songs written or co-written by James: Always On My Mind (written originally, as noted in Elvis edition 2, for Brenda Lee), Raised On A Rock, Moody Blue and Thomas’ It’s Only Love. James recorded none of these, but in 1968 he did record Suspicious Minds. Chips Moman had produced James’ version, and thereby created a handy template which he returned to when producing Elvis’ version. Improved by Elvis superb interpretation, the stirring backing vocals, and the tight Memphis Horns, the cover became Elvis’ definitive latter-period song. Two months before Suspicious Minds was released as a single in October 1969, Elvis resumed performing live on stage — for the first time in more than a decade. As if to create a poignant contrast, Elvis’ first performance in Vegas took place just two weeks before Woodstock. Almost invariably, Suspicious Minds would be Elvis’ closing song, later usually accompanied by extravagant karate moves.

Also recorded by: Ross McManus (1970), BJ Thomas (1970), Waylon Jennings & Jessi Coulter (1970), Dee Dee Warwick (1971), The Heptones (1971), Del Reeves & Billie Jo Spears (1976), Johnny Farago (1978), Leo de Castro & Babylon (1978), Ral Donner (1979), Thelma Houston (1980), Candi Staton (1981), B.E.F. feat. Gary Glitter (1982), The Defects (1984), Fine Young Cannibals (1985; charting in the UK with a remix in 1986), Bobby Orlando (1988), Dwight Yoakam (1992), Phish (1996), Axelle Red (1997), Ligabue (as Ultimo tango a Memphis, 1997), True West (1998), Avail (1999), Wax (1999), Gareth Gates (2002), Helmut Lotti (2002), Big Fat Snake with TCB Band & Sweet Inspirations (2003), Pete Yorn (2003), Flemming Bamse Jørgensen (2007), Sakis Rouvas (2007), Dread Zeppelin (2008), Roch Voisine ( 2008), Colton Berry (2008), Ronan bloody Keating (2009), Miss Kittin & the Hacker (2009) a.o.

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Darrell Glenn – Crying In The Chapel.mp3
The Orioles – Crying In The Chapel.mp3
Elvis Presley – Crying In The Chapel.mp3

elvis_chapelThe influence on Elvis’ early music by the sounds of Rhythm & Blues on the one hand and country music on the other — Arthur Crudup and Hank Snow — is well known. A third profound influence was gospel. Here, too, Elvis drew from across the colour line. Often he was one of the few white faces at black church services (as a youth in Tupelo, he lived in a house designated for white families but located at the edge of a black township), but he also loved the white gospel/country sounds created by the likes of the Louvin Brothers — whose charmless sibling Ira once declined an approach by his fan Elvis, citing his reluctance to speak to the “white nigger”.

Gospel was not just a fancy, but the genre Elvis loved the most. In recording studios, he would warm up with gospel numbers. When he jammed with Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins in the Sun studio (Johnny Cash left before any of the mis-named Million Dollar Quartet session was recorded), much of the material consisted of sacred music. At the height of his hip-gyrating greatness, he recorded an EP of spirituals titled Peace In The Valley. And let’s not forget that the only three Grammies Elvis ever received were for gospel recordings.

oriolesElvis’ biggest gospel hit was Crying In The Chapel, which had been written in 1953 by Artie Glenn for his son Darrell, who performed it in the country genre. The same year, the R&B band Sonny Til & the Orioles — progenitors of the doo wop style of the late ’50s and the first of a succession of bird-themed bandnames — scored a #11 hit with the song (around the same time, a pop version by June Valli reached #4). It was the Orioles’ recording from which Elvis drew inspiration in his version, recorded shortly after he returned from the army in 1960. It was not released, at Tom Parker’s command, because Artie Glenn refused to share the rights to the song with the cut-throat publishing company of Elvis repertoire, Hill & Range. And with good reason, for the song continued to be a hit by several artists. Eventually Hill & Range secured the ownership. When Crying In The Chapel was eventually released in 1965, it was not only a US hit (his first top 10 single in two years), but also topped the UK charts.

Also recorded by: Rex Allen (1953), Lee Lawrence (1953), Art Lund (1953), Ella Fitzgerald (1953), Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1953), Eddy Arnold (1953), Nelly Wijsbek (1953), Wolfgang Sauer (as Tränen in den Augen, 1954), Derrick & Patsy (1962), Little Richard (1963), Roy Hamilton (1963), Ellie Lavelle (1963), Santo & Johnny (1964), Adam Wade (1964), Bobby Solo (as La casa del Signore, 1965), The Starliners (1965), Hugo Winterhalter (1965), Chuck Jackson (1966), The Lettermen (1966), Staple Singers (1968), Don McLean (1974), Ronnie McDowell (1978), Allies (1989), Aaron Neville (1995), Hotel Hunger (1997), Helmut Lotti (2002), P.J. Proby (2002), Chris Clark (2005), Cagey Strings (as Tränen in den Augen, 2006), Flemming Bamse Jørgensen (2007) a.o.

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Ray Peterson – The Wonder Of You.mp3
Elvis Presley – The Wonder Of You.mp3

raypApparently written for Perry Como, The Wonder Of You was first recorded by Ray Peterson (he of Tell Laura I Love Her notoriety) in 1959, scoring a moderate hit with it. Peterson, who died in 2005, later liked to recount the story of how Elvis sought his permission to record the song. “He asked me if I would mind if he recorded The Wonder Of You. I said: ‘You don’t have to ask permission; you’re Elvis Presley.’ He said: ‘Yes, I do. You’re Ray Peterson.’” Not that Peterson owned the rights to the song, or was particularly famous for singing it.

Elvis recorded the song live on stage in Las Vegas on February 18, 1970. It was released as a single a couple of months later and was a big hit on both sides of the Atlantic, topping the UK charts for six weeks. It was also his last UK #1 during his lifetime.

Also recorded by: Ronnie Hilton (1959), The Lettermen (1963), The Sandpipers (1969), Bobby Hatfield (1969), Jennifer Holliday (2003), Flemming Bamse Jørgensen (2007)

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Ferlin Husky – There Goes My Everything.mp3
Elvis Presley – There Goes My Everything.mp3

ferlin_huskyThis song is probably most famous in its incarnation as Engelbert Humperdinck’s gaudy 1967 hit. In its original form, however, it is a country classic, written by Dallas Frazier. It was first recorded in 1965 and released the following year by that great purveyor of unintentionally funny songs and owner of the hickiest of hick accents, Ferlin Husky. His version was an album track; fellow country singer Jack Greene turned it into a hit in 1967. Elvis’ version, which appeared on the quite excellent 1971 Elvis Country album (after being a 1970 b-side of I Really Don’t Want To Know) and was a UK top 10 hit that year, certainly draws from the song’s country origins — though surely not from Husky’s original.

Also recorded by: Carl Belew (1967), Del Reeves (1967), Margie Singleton (1967), Bill Vaughn (1967), David Ables (1967), Col Joye (1968), James Burton & Ralph Mooney (1968), Charlie Walker (1968), Nana Mouskouri (as Mille raisons de vivre, 1971), Holmes Brothers (1993), Patty Loveless (2008) a.o.

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Arthur Alexander – Burning Love.mp3
Elvis Presley – Burning Love.mp3
Dennis Linde – Burning Love.mp3

arthur_alexander_burning_loveElvis did not particularly like Burning Love; if he didn’t record it under protest, he certainly was not going to spend much time on it. Where 16 years earlier he’d spend 30-odd takes on the spontaneous sounding Hound Dog (see Elvis edition 2), he recorded Burning Love in only six takes. The production values were pretty poor: Elvis’ voice sounds tinny, but not for lack of trying. But listen to the drumming! Strange then that this slack recording scored big in the US (#2 on Billboard; the final top 10 hit in his lifetime) and UK (#7).

A year previously, in 1971, the soul singer Arthur Alexander (whom we will meet again when we turn to originals of Beatles songs) recorded Burning Love, releasing it in January 1972, two months before Elvis recorded it. A fine recording in the southern soul tradition, it made no impact. The song’s writer, Dennis Linde, recorded it in 1973 — his version recalls the sound of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Also recorded by: Mother’s Finest (1977), Benny Scott (1983), Ronnie Spector (1987), I Love You (1989), Clouseau (as In vuur en vlam, 1992), Travis Tritt (1992), Batmobile (1993), Grant Lee Buffalo (1993), Melissa Etheridge (1994), Nina Forsberg (1997), Ghoti Hook (1998), Wynonna Judd (2003) a.o.

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Vaughn Deleath – Are You Lonesome Tonight.mp3
Henry Burr – Are You Lonesome To-night.mp3
Carter Family – Are You Lonesome Tonight.mp3
Elvis Presley – Are You Lonesome Tonight (Laughing version).mp3

vaughn_deleathTom Parker got Elvis to sing this old standard because it was a favourite of his wife, Mrs Marie (!) Parker, in its 1940s version by country star Gene Austin. Written by Tin Pan Alley residents Lou Handman and Roy Turk in 1926, it was recorded by a swathe of artists in 1927. The first of these versions, by Ned Jakobs, was not released, so the honour of first released recording goes to one Charles Hart. The song first became a hit in the version by the improbably named Vaughn Deleath, “The Radio Girl”. Her take dates to June 13 (Hart’s was May 8). On August 5, 1927, the famed tenor Henry Burr put his voice to it. Many a crooner would follow, but some performers adapted the song to their genre. So it was with the Carter Family — the pioneers of country music who went on to produce June and Anita — whose quite lovely 1935 bluegrass version is barely recognisable, musically and even lyrically.

The song enjoyed a revival in the 1950s. It was the 1950 version by the Blue Barron and his Orchestra which served as the basis for Elvis’ take on Are You Lonesome Tonight, with Al Jolson’s version of the same year inspiring the spoken part, which borrows from Shakespeare’s As You Like It (“All the world’s a stage” etc). The saxophone is played by Boots Randolph, who later covered the song himself.

are_you_lonesome_tonightFeatured here is not the studio version which those who don’t already have it don’t really need. What they need is the laughing version from one of his 1969 Vegas gigs. The conventional story has it that Elvis, probably amphetamine-addled, was cracking up at the high-pitched singing of a backing singer (said to be Cissy Houston, Whitney’s mother). An alternative story has it that after Elvis, as was his wont, “humorously” changed the lyrics from “Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there” to “Do you gaze at your bald head and wish you had hair”, when he spotted a bald man in the audience, setting him off into a fit of laughter — and all the while the backing singer keeps going in a most gamely fashion.

Also recorded by: Al Jolson (1950), Blue Barron and his Orchestra (1950), Jaye P. Morgan (1959), Peter Alexander (as Bist du einsam heut’ nacht?, 1961), Frank Sinatra (1962), Helen Shapiro (1962), The Lettermen (1964), Michele (as Ti senti sola stasera, 1965), Dottie West (1972), Donnie Osmond (1973), Euson (1973), (as Er du langsom i nat, 1976), Johnny Farago (1976), Allison Durbin (1977), Merle Haggard (1977), Ral Donner (1979), Karen Casey (1980), Will Tura (as Ben je eenzaam vannacht , 1984), Peter Hofmann (1986), Robot (as Ti senti sola stasera, 1987), Mina (1989), Bryan Ferry (1992), 101 Strings (1993), Sammy “Sax” Mintzer (1997), Megan Mullally (1999), The Mavericks (1999), Helmut Lotti (2002), Anne Murray (2002), Barb Jungr (2005), Chris Botti with Paul Buchanan (2005), Cagey Strings (2006), Barry Manilow (2006) a.o.

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More Originals

The Originals – Elvis edition 1
The Originals – Elvis edition 2
The Originals – Elvis edition 3