Sunday, 3 November 2013

Budget Presley: Elvis On Camden & RCA International, 1969-1977

Back in 2011, I did an Elvis blog about the 1996 boxset “The Original Elvis Presley Collection”, a 50-CD trawl through his career which was designed to give you an overview of what The King got up to before his death. It started with his 1956 self titled debut, and ended with the final album released before he passed away, 1977’s “Moody Blue”. The remainder were a mix of studio albums, live albums, selected compilations, and movie soundtrack releases.

I mentioned in a follow up blog the same year, that the box didn’t quite tick all the boxes. The movie years had been dealt with via a series of early 90s compilations issued under the “Double Features” banner, which usually cobbled two original soundtrack LP’s onto one CD. Some of the original albums had been a bit short on material, and their running time was padded out by including some random, non-movie songs, as part of the package - but the “Double Features” releases dealt purely with movie songs, so these unrelated tunes “went missing” when the boxset was released.

Some of the “Double Features” albums dealt with movies where there had been no soundtrack album, maybe just an EP, or in some cases, seemingly nothing at all. Aside from the usual “previously unreleased” tunes being dragged out of the vaults, there seemed to be a lot of “previously available” songs filling these CD’s up. Where had all this stuff actually come from?

Well, in the late 1960s, RCA began to release budget priced Elvis albums in the USA on their RCA Camden imprint. Whilst most budget albums usually cobble together songs you can already obtain on other releases, these ones initially did not. Each album seemed to include numerous songs that were previously unreleased, with many of them having dated from recording sessions from the movie albums period. When the “Double Features” CD’s were released, these budget albums were often thus the source for some of the more obscure (but “previously available“) material.

Of interest, is the fact that some of the material making it’s debut on these budget records was not movie material at all, and thus, these songs did not get a second lease of life in the box. So, just as the decision to not issue the original soundtrack albums in their original form meant the likes of “Guitar Man” were missing from the boxset, so were more obscure oddities like “Too Much Monkey Business”, because by the time Elvis had died, these songs had never been put onto another “proper” LP, and thus were also absent from the box.

Long dismissed as patchy, cheap, and irrelevant affairs, the budget albums are now seen as being quite important parts of the Elvis back catalogue, and with some songs seemingly unavailable anywhere else (or certainly not cheaply), many of them have actually been deemed important enough to warrant a release on CD, at least in the USA.

In this article, I have listed the single and double disc budget albums that surfaced in the UK before Elvis’s death - in other words, albums that would have been valid for inclusion in the boxset had RCA gone down that path (the double albums had a running time of roughly an hour, so were well within CD-length). In the late 60s, the UK arm of RCA had their own budget imprint, and initial albums were thus released on RCA International instead. International later became more of a reissue label, and releases during the seventies slowly moved from International to the UK RCA Camden imprint. All of this is detailed here. I have tried to explain what was of interest at the time of release, and what is still of (reasonable) interest now. It’s not perfect, but hopefully it fills in another section of important releases in the Elvis catalogue that the boxset seemed to completely miss.

Flaming Star (1969 RCA International INTS 1012)

Although “Flaming Star” seemed to consist, on first glance, of entirely movie soundtrack material, given that the title track of the LP shared it’s name with a movie of the same name, it was actually more of a compilation album - albeit one that, when released, offered up a chunk of previously unheard Elvis songs. The title track was the only song previously available, and the remaining songs were mostly from sessions that were conducted for the purposes of recording songs for soundtracks of some of Elvis’ films. The odd ones out appeared at the end of each side, as the cover of “Too Much Monkey Business” was, more or less, a one off, whilst the live version of “Tiger Man” that closed the record had been taped at the recent, famous, NBC TV Special. All of the movie related material has since appeared on the “Double Features” CD’s, whilst the NBC album was reissued in 1991 with extra tracks taped at the show but not included on the original LP - “Tiger Man” was included on the reissue, and as the boxset includes the 1991 edition of the album, it thus also includes “Tiger Man” itself.

“Too Much Monkey Business” has appeared on a few expensive Elvis sets, including the “From Nashville To Memphis” 5 CD box, and this years FTD set “Stay Away Joe”. “Flaming Star” is one of several budget albums that have been given a US CD release, so you should at least be able to hunt this track down simply by buying the CD version of this album, quite easily available from the usual places.

It is also worth pointing out that, after the UK albums shifted from being issued on International to Camden, Elvis albums continued to appear on the imprint until long after his death, and whilst most were “new” compilations, “Flaming Star” got a second lease of life in the eighties, and the image shown above is of the later Camden reissue, catalogue number CDS 1185.

Let’s Be Friends (1970 RCA International INTS 1103)

If “Flaming Star” might have seemed like a bit of a one off, well, it actually wasn’t. This one went down a similar path, with the title of this LP sharing the name of the third song on side 1 of the record, a previously unissued recording that had been recorded during sessions for the “Change Of Habit” movie. Where this one differs slightly is that in the end, no form of soundtrack release (EP or LP) ever actually appeared for that film, unlike “Flaming Star“. Again, most of the remainder of the album was previously unreleased movie soundtrack material, again now to be found across the “Double Features” albums.

There are three odd ones out though - two songs, unconnected to any of Elvis’ films, are thus not on any of the “DF” releases - the two songs in question are “If I’m A Fool” and “I’ll Be There”. Meanwhile, the version of “Mama” that appears at the end of side 1 was for some reason edited when put out on the “Kid Galahad”/”Girls Girls Girls” CD release, so this mix is exclusive to this LP.

Whilst a CD version of the album does exist, a certain amount of artistic license has been carried out, with some alternate versions of some songs - in particular, the version of “Mama” is the edited version, and not the original 1970 vinyl version, whilst “Let’s Forget About The Stars” seems to be a completely unique mix.

Almost In Love (1970 RCA International INTS 1206)

Just as there are two distinct sleeve variations of “Flaming Star” (three if you include the ‘promo only’ Singer original), “Almost In Love” appeared in a completely different sleeve in the UK to the US edition - Google it, and it will probably be the US sleeve that comes up most often.

Once again, it’s previously unavailable movie material that fills this one up, and whilst this stuff later became available on the relevant “DF” albums, also on here are two songs that would later be remixed for the newbie generation in the Noughties - get this album, and you will be rewarded with the original versions of “A Little Less Conversation” and “Rubberneckin”. Solid gold, I think you’ll agree.

Again, two “rarities” can be found on this album, another one that is now available on CD. “My Little Friend” is an outtake from 69 not totally easily found elsewhere, although it did appear as a UK B-side at round about the same time as this album came out (and on a later Camden release), whilst side 2 includes hit 45 “US Male”, one of several latter period singles that missed out on the box simply by never making it onto a “proper” Elvis album before his death. As regards these CD repressings, the front cover of this one proudly displays the RCA logo and original US catalogue number, but not the Camden logo. There also seem to be two editions of this one, some ending with “Stay Away” and others with “Stay Away Joe”.

You’ll Never Walk Alone (1971 RCA Camden CDM 1088 / CDS 1088)

So this is where it starts to get confusing. Elvis’ first “proper” UK Camden album, with the title completely absent from the (superb) front cover, this one mostly dealt in material already available. It’s devoted to Elvis’s gospel recordings, and interestingly, was released in both mono and stereo editions - hence the two different catalogue numbers (although the stereo one is hyper rare, and in a different cover). Unless I am very much mistaken, no other budget albums from the period were released in such a way, but I think the stereo one was withdrawn so maybe that‘s why.

Don’t ask me why the next budget album saw a return to the International imprint, but it did - although only briefly. Anyway, this album was notable for still including some previously unreleased songs, just a lot less than earlier albums first did at the time, and whilst “Let Us Pray” did get a second lease of life when it appeared on the “Live A Little/Trouble With Girls/Charro/Change Of Habit” ‘Double Features’ CD, track 2 on this LP, “Who Am I”, is a bit more obscure - although the version of “His Hand In Mine“ in the boxset has a revamped track listing with this track appearing at the very end of the disc. This seems to be a repressing of a UK/European only reissue from 1988 which added several bonus tracks at the end, but with little fanfare, and most other editions available separately don’t include it.

You can get this one on CD - I assume it must be the stereo mix - and the title sort of appears on the front now, as the left hand side of the CD casing includes the title printed downwards. This is one of a number of budget albums that later got included, without much excitement, as part of a double album (budget) set - more info about that later on.

C’mon Everybody (1971 RCA International INTS 1286)

And so now, things start to become a bit more, well, “compilation album” related, as the vaults of rarities started to empty.

This album - again issued stateside in a totally different sleeve - cobbled together bits and pieces from some of the soundtrack EP’s that Elvis had released in the 60’s, where not enough material could be cobbled together to make a full length soundtrack LP. The title track of this album had appeared on the “Love In Las Vegas” EP, and the rest of the album was sourced from this EP and the EP’s for the “Follow That Dream”, “Kid Galahad” and “Easy Come Easy Go” movies.

All of the songs from this LP can now be found on those “Double Features” CD’s, and that probably explains why there seems to be no CD repressing for this one, as there probably isn’t any demand. Hunting down the original LP should not be too hard though, and you might not even have to pay more than the 99p it originally sold for when new in 1971.

I Got Lucky (1971 RCA International INTS 1322)

Essentially, a follow up to “C’Mon Everybody”, this one followed a similar path by including more material from the same EP releases that had filled up it’s predecessor. However this time, the album veered very slightly off the path by also including “Fools Fall In Love”, issued as a stand alone single in Australia in 1967 (and as a UK B-side at the same time). The relative scarcity of this song probably explains why this one can be picked up on CD, although other Elvis boxsets do also include it.

In 1975, the album was reissued on the Camden imprint, the original “simple” image of Elvis on stage replaced by a more garish looking sleeve (above), although the same shot of Elvis was used on the cover. It was given a new Camden style catalogue number (CDS 1154) and thus became the first RCA International budget release to get a re-release whilst Elvis was still alive.

As an aside, CDS 1155 was a repressing of the 1957 “Elvis’ Christmas Album”, with a slightly revamped running order, which in itself, was a repackaged version of an earlier RCA International release, again using the same Elvis image, but with a different overall design. I have a cassette version of this album, which used a different cataloguing system to the Camden vinyl pressings (CAM 462, for your information).

Elvis Sings Hits From His Movies (1972 RCA Camden CDS 1110)

On the face of it, and especially post-”Double Features”, you might think with this one, “well, what’s the point?” But it’s not quite as simple as that.

First up, “Guitar Man” is on here. It did make it onto the original soundtrack LP version of “Clambake” (as did “Big Boss Man“, also on here), even though they weren’t actually in the film. But the original version of this LP was, to give it it’s full title, “Elvis Sings Hits From His Movies Plus Two Recent Hits”, and these were the two hits it referred to, even if they weren‘t really THAT recent. It’s also quite interesting to think that both had appeared on two Elvis albums before 1973, and yet both were missing from the 96 Box because of the choice/non-choice of albums for that collection.

Then, we also have songs that, when they turned up on the “Double Features” sets, were remixed for those releases. What you have here, of course, are the “original” mixes. Songs affected are the gloriously raucous “Down By The Riverside” and “Frankie And Johnny”. Also on here is the original LP version of “You Don’t Know Me”, which was actually replaced on the “Double Features” release by an alternate “original film” version.

Again, these oddball rarities probably explain why a CD pressing has been made in recent times, where it has been retitled slightly to read “…From His Movies Volume 1”, because soon after, on my birthday actually, a Volume 2 set appeared before 1972 was over.

Burning Love And Hits From His Movies Volume 2 (1972 RCA International INTS 1414)

And here it is. Now, this is another slightly strange one. Back to RCA International again, and the labels read “RCA International (Camden)”, just like the late 60’s/early 70’s UK International releases did. But whilst those ones also featured this legend on the cover art as well, there is no mention at all of “Camden” on the cover of the UK version of this LP.

This one followed a similar path to “Volume 1”, in that it was an album featuring a couple of songs previously on 45 only, padded out with movie soundtrack material. Unlike “Volume 1” though, the two songs here were both sides of the very recent “Burning Love” single, another big latter period hit.

Everything else was from already released movie albums, and so even though you could argue that “Burning Love”, when released as a single, was a preview of this album, the random nature of what was actually on this record (everything apart from the single was all at least five years old), means it’s difficult to not look at this album as anything other than a comp. Nonetheless, a CD pressing exists - a worthy release given that the original UK pressing was actually quite shortlived, and can now sell for a whopping £60! Later pressings, including those from other countries, can usually be hunted down for a lot less.

Separate Ways (1973 RCA Camden CDS 1118)

Back to Camden again for what is probably one of the more well known Elvis sets. Following on from the preceding two Long Players, this one again coupled both sides of an Elvis single (“Separate Ways”/”Always On My Mind”) with more songs from soundtrack albums, and - seemingly at random - the ancient “Old Shep” from his second album, “Elvis”, released way back in 1956.

There are two different sleeve designs again, depending on which side of the Atlantic you are from. On both, the image of Elvis is the same, but it is the design of the motorway Elvis is standing on that is different on the UK one to the US one. Strange, but totally true.

Again, a CD pressing exists, which I suppose does at least mean there is a “proper” Elvis Studio album upon which “Always On My Mind” can be obtained. Fact fans may also be interested to know that all of the songs from this album formed disc 1 of the posthumous “Elvis Presley Collection Volume 2” (PDA 042), with disc 2 being the next Camden release. Which was...

Easy Come Easy Go (1975 RCA Camden CDS 1146)

And so, we come to probably the first rather pointless budget compilation. A 12 track release using, strangely, the exact same image from the UK “C’mon Everybody” album, this includes songs that seem to have already mostly appeared on other budget albums in the first place.

Some, originally, had been from soundtrack EP’s (the aforementioned “C’mon Everybody”), some from original Soundtrack albums from the 60’s (“Guadalajara”, from “Fun In Acapulaco”), and with nothing previously unreleased, it means we finally get to an album that, thanks to it’s slightly random nature, probably deserves it’s “budget price” tag.

As with “Flaming Star”, the title track not only appears on the album, but shares it’s name with a movie - and confusingly, there is now an “Easy Come Easy Go” expanded CD release on the Follow That Dream label, which - of course - is an expanded version of the original movie tie in EP of the same name. Suffice to say, no CD repressing of this “version” of the album actually exists. Some of the mono stuff has been “electronically reprocessed for stereo”, but whether any sound radically different to any other existing mono or true stereo mixes, well, my tinnitus stops me from confirming either way!

The US Male (1975 RCA Camden CDS 1150)

Another slightly pointless one, this seems a random mix of songs on earlier budget albums, so is probably only of interest to the completists. Although there would be more Elvis LP comps thereafter, none in the UK appeared on Camden, so this became the final single disc RCA budget album to be released whilst Elvis was alive.

The front cover image of Elvis was used again on a triple disc Camden release, simply titled “Elvis Presley”, which also included “US Male”, plus plenty more. An “Elvis Presley Volume 2” release, using the same cover as the “You’ll Never Walk Alone” album was later issued as a follow up, another triple album affair, both of which seemed to cobble together existing budget albums into one big “pack”. Check out the Elvis Shop London website, which has a section devoted to Worldwide LP’s, and a section on UK Camden albums - although it is a site through which you can buy some of these records, it also doubles up as a discography, and you can see images of these two records on the site.

Camden albums continued to appear after 1977 - some seemed to continue the “compilation” album theme (“Double Dynamite”), some followed the reissue path (“Girls Girls Girls”) and some offered up previously unreleased material (“The King”). It might take me quite a bit of research, but I would like to look at some of these albums in a future blog.

The Elvis Presley Collection (1976 RCA Camden PDA 009)

Unless I am very much mistaken, this was the only double or triple budget release to appear before Elvis’s death. The PDA cataloguing system actually comes from Pickwick Records - the budget releases were a sort of collaboration between RCA and Pickwick, and later releases would actually appear on the Pickwick imprint, with the labels designed to look like an old RCA label.

This one basically cobbled together the material from two older budget albums into one big double album - material from “You’ll Never Walk Alone” on sides 1 and 2, complete and in the same order, and the “Hits From His Movies” on sides 3 and 4, ditto, although nowhere does it mention that you are actually dealing with a pair of “sleeveless” reissues of older budget releases. Two more releases in this series followed during the remainder of the 1970s.

Elvis albums continued to appear on the RCA International imprint after his death alongside Camden and Pickwick (and K-Tel) albums, and whilst International would often be thought of as dealing with straight forward reissues, some were career spanning comps. You may or may not be more confused when you factor in the situation that major, non budget, releases continued to appear on the mainstream RCA Victor imprint, such as 1984’s “Elvis’ Golden Records 5”, a long delayed follow up to Volume 4 which had appeared in the 60s, and finally got round to putting a lot of the big 70s hits in one place. This blog, you will be pleased to know, is the first of a trio of Elvis articles looking at singles and compilations, and in two months time, there will be a look at selected best ofs and boxsets that gathered this stuff together. In the meantime, check out which should wet your appetite for all things Presley.

The more I listen to and research Elvis, the more fascinated I become by the material that seemed to slip through the net when the 1996 box appeared. It thus makes sense to also look at Elvis’s UK 45’s, and when they appeared on LP in the UK, and an Elvis Singles blog will be published on this website next month.

No comments:

Post a Comment