This year marks the 40th anniversary of one of Elvis’ greatest performances ever, the TV special “Elvis,” more commonly known as the “Comeback Special” because it helped rejuvenate Elvis’ career.
It first aired Dec. 3, 1968, the first records promoting the show having been released the previous month: “If I Can Dream”/“Edge of Reality,” released Nov. 5 and peaking at #12 (Elvis’ highest-charting single since 1965’s “I’m Yours”), and the soundtrack itself, Elvis, released Nov. 22 and peaking at #8 (Elvis’ highest charting album since the 1965 Harum Scarum soundtrack, which also reached #8).
The soundtrack has since been released numerous times in different formats. But for the 40th anniversary, RCA/Sony/BMG have compiled an “all-in-one” box set, consisting of four CDs packed in a black box.
“The idea was to have all in one package for the first time,” confirms the set’s producer, Ernst Jorgensen.
The first CD has the album as originally released, with some bonus tracks. Thus the “Road Medley” presented here is missing both “Let Yourself Go” (featured in a bordello sequence cut in the original special) and “It Hurts Me,” though both songs do appear as bonus tracks on the CD (the complete medley with all songs can be found on 1998’s Memories: The ’68 Comeback Special CD). The CD also has stereo mixes of “Memories” and “If I Can Dream.”
The second CD features the complete first “Sit Down” and “Stand Up” shows (where Elvis wore the famous black leather suit), while the third CD features the complete shows from the second time the shows were taped. The complete shows were most recently released in an excellent DVD box set of the special, released in 2004, so I wondered why they were released again, as I assumed people would rather watch than listen to a live show, given the choice (that’s my preference).
Jorgensen respectfully disagrees with me (“Strongly!”), and, of course, including all the shows ties in with all-in-one concept of the set. And it is, indeed, the best way to pick up all four shows at once.
The fourth CD has two of the rehearsals for the “Sit Down” shows, featuring not only Elvis but also Scotty Moore on guitar, DJ Fontana on percussion and assorted “friends,” as the album credits put it. These are great fun to listen to, and though they’ll be familiar to those who own the Follow That Dream CDs Burbank ’68 and Let Yourself Go, they are considered to be “previously unreleased” for the general public.
“FTD releases to a few thousand people are not considered ‘previously released’ in a product aimed at the general market,” Jorgensen explains. Hence, though the set is advertised as having unreleased material, that won’t be true if you’re a hardcore collector.
Overall, it’s the best audio collection of material from the special, with liner notes written by Goldmine contributor Harvey Kubernik as well (those who’d like some more studio outtakes are directed to Let Yourself Go).
And even Jorgensen agrees “Comeback Special” releases are probably “done” for now — or at least until a new audio format emerges.
JAT Publishing also has put out a book on the show, “ ’68 at 40,” written by the show’s director Steve Binder. The limited edition first run came with an 8" x 10" photo signed by Binder. The book was launched at Elvis Week, though according to the book’s Web site, it was already sold out by then! I have word that a second run is being considered; check <