Which “Jungle Room” Elvis CD Should You Buy?

[Side Note: Introducing the new look of Pastimescapes, which now leverages the Expound theme. Look for more tweaks in the coming days.]

Cover of WAY DOWN IN THE JUNGLE ROOM (2016, Sony)

Cover of WAY DOWN IN THE JUNGLE ROOM (2016, Sony)

Memphis. When it comes to Elvis Presley, there is something magical about the music he created in his adopted hometown.

That magic is tangible, no matter if we are talking about his early SUN sides of 1954-1955, the American Sound sessions of 1969, the Stax recordings of 1973, the Mid-South Coliseum concerts of 1974, or the Graceland sessions of 1976 – where his home’s den was converted into a makeshift recording studio.

Those Graceland sessions, which proved to be the last “studio” recordings of Elvis’ career, initially resulted in two albums: From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee, and the bulk of Moody Blue.

Since then, of course, alternates and outtakes from the Graceland sessions have appeared on numerous releases. The Jungle Room Sessions, for instance, is reportedly one of the best-selling CDs ever released by the Follow That Dream (FTD) collectors label for Elvis fans. The disc is so-named for the nickname given after Elvis’ death to Graceland’s uniquely decorated den.

Earlier this month, Sony released the latest compilation of these songs, Way Down In The Jungle Room. The release contains all of the Graceland master recordings on Disc 1 and selected alternates/outtakes on Disc 2.

Due to already having all of the material from both discs, I had actually planned to skip Way Down In The Jungle Room. I then found out more information about Disc 2 by reading Bob Mehr’s Memphis Commercial Appeal article on the project.

Thanks to the article, I did not skip it, and I can now highly recommend Way Down In The Jungle Room due to the incredible sound of Disc 2’s alternate/outtake versions – newly mixed by Matt Ross-Spang at Sam Phillips Recording Service.

However, my purpose today is not so much to review Way Down In The Jungle Room, but to expand upon an answer to a question I recently received from Wellsy – a Pastimescapes reader and longtime Elvis fan. A frequent commenter, he even wrote a guest post on The Mystery Train Blog a few years back for me.

Wellsy emailed me on vacation from Memphis about some CDs he was considering purchasing. Somewhere in the course of our ongoing exchange, he asked, “What is the difference between FTD’s The Jungle Room Sessions and Sony’s Way Down In The Jungle Room?”

Frozen In Time: Graceland's den in 2016 essentially looks the same as it did in 1977. According to legend, Elvis bought the Witco furnishings after his father commented that it was ugliest furniture he had ever seen. (Photo by Wellsy.)

Frozen In Time: Graceland’s den in 2016 essentially looks the same as it did in 1977. According to legend, Elvis bought the Witco furnishings after his father commented that it was ugliest furniture he had ever seen. (Photo by Wellsy.)

If you are interested in the Graceland sessions, the underlying question is which of the Elvis releases covering this material should you buy? In addition to Way Down In The Jungle Room, there have been quite a few, including:

  • From Elvis Presley Boulevard (RCA): Masters from the February 1976 Graceland sessions (#19 on my recent “50 Greatest Elvis Albums” list)
  • Moody Blue (RCA): Remaining masters from the February and October 1976 Graceland sessions, supplemented with live recordings from 1974 and 1977 (#7 on my list)
  • The Jungle Room Sessions (FTD): Alternates/outtakes from the 1976 Graceland sessions
  • From Elvis Presley Boulevard (FTD Classic Album Edition): Masters and alternates/outtakes from the original RCA album, including relevant portions of The Jungle Room Sessions in improved sound quality and some previously unreleased tracks
  • Moody Blue (FTD Classic Album Edition): Masters and alternates/outtakes from the original RCA album, including relevant portions of The Jungle Room Sessions in improved sound quality and some previously unreleased tracks

People who know me offline, and I am sure some online have picked up on this as well, understand that I am a very analytical person. Sometimes to the point of annoyance, but, hey, it pays the bills. Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to compare some of the releases covering the Graceland sessions in a more visual fashion.

The below chart captures the master and other complete takes for each of the songs recorded at the Graceland sessions that have been officially released to date. In an attempt to keep this to a manageable size, I left out things like rehearsals, false starts, and FTD-generated splices.

Graceland Sessions Comparison Chart

As noted in the graphic, my key information sources for the above were:

Any mistakes you might find, though, were entirely of my own making.

So, which one should you buy?

For typical, casual, new, or would-be Elvis fans, I recommend you buy Way Down In The Jungle Room. It gives you all of the master takes as well as a manageable number of alternates in great sound quality. This 2-CD set is a real value at less than US $15. Incidentally, there is also an LP vinyl version, but it does not include the masters.

For “totally insane” Elvis fans (like me), who enjoy listening to multiple alternates of the same song, I recommend you buy the FTD “Classic Album” editions of From Elvis Presley Boulevard and Moody Blue. Each of these 2-CD sets will run you around US $30, but they are more than worth it to experience the making of these albums. However, you will probably want to pick up the seemingly redundant Way Down In The Jungle Room as well at some point – simply for the sound experience on Disc 2.

No matter which you choose, settle back and enjoy some Memphis magic, courtesy of Elvis.


Thanks to Wellsy for inspiring this topic as well as giving permission to use his photo of Graceland’s den.

8 thoughts on “Which “Jungle Room” Elvis CD Should You Buy?

  1. To get the negative out of the way, I gotta say I dislike the fact that different releases come out over the years often containing a lot of the same recordings. It’s hard to know what to buy sometimes because you can’t be sure if you’ve already got some of the material on these releases. And I know that multiple takes doesn’t necessarily mean the ‘same material’ but close – you know what I mean. The worst, of course, is King’s Christmas recordings. Almost every season a new release comes out with some new twist on the same twenty songs. The Jungle Room recordings, though, are very unique in his canon and call for these thorough and exhaustive releases. For me, the chatter in the studio setting – an audio ‘glimpse’ at EP at work – is absolutely priceless and you CANNOT have enough of it. On top of that it is usually fascinating to hear the process, to hear Elvis and the musicians working their way toward a master take.

    I own “From EP Blvd” and I’ve grown to love it. It did take awhile to get over him doing a Roger Whitaker song. But at least that’s not as bad as him doing an Anne Murray song. The songs on this album are kind of sad but I think it’s a great album. “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” has to be the best track. It is also one of the tracks I turn to – along with “I’m Movin’ On” – when I need the best examples of him blending country with his soul/blues/r&b leanings.

    “Moody Blue” I’ve owned for years dating back to cassette days. It’s one of my favourites. “He’ll Have to Go” and “She Thinks I Still Care” he absolutely nails. Come to think of it: why no alternate takes of “He’ll Have to Go”?

    I happen to own an unofficial release called “From Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis, Tennessee – The Alternate Album” which features – as the title suggests – alternate takes of all the tracks on the album.

    While in Memphis I bought (wife allowed me to buy) FTD’s “The Jungle Room Sessions”. Actually a bit disappointed with the packaging (or lack of) and I’m kicking myself a bit: with some of it being repetitious, I really wished I’d gone with FTD’s “Memphis, Tennessee” or “Guitar Man” releases but, oh, well…

    I also have FTD’s excellent and VERY thorough edition of “Moody Blue” and I did pick up Sony’s recent “Way Down…” release.

    Long story long: the repetition still bugs me a bit but I feel that when you like the era or the recordings or the album then you cannot have too much. The false starts, studio chatter and multiple attempts to get a master are fun to listen to. A couple observations: I’m always curious which take the master is. I find that is not always plainly noted. Because if I’m listening to Take 8, I’m wondering ‘are they close? or did it take them another 10 takes to get the master?’. Also, Wikipedia notes that King played bass on “Blue Eyes…”. Can you confirm this?

    Great post – and helpful. People need help knowing what to buy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the great reply, Wellsy. Almost a full guest post worth of material right there.

      Come to think of it: why no alternate takes of “He’ll Have to Go”?

      Apparently, Elvis accomplished his vocal overdub in one take. On Halloween 1976, no less. See: http://www.keithflynn.com/recording-sessions/761031.html#01

      There is a “rough mix” of the master take on the Moody Blue and The Jungle Room Sessions FTD CDs. I did not distinguish those on the chart.

      FTD’s “The Jungle Room Sessions”. Actually a bit disappointed with the packaging (or lack of) and I’m kicking myself a bit

      It was one of the very first FTD CDs, back before their packaging quality improved a few years later. Sound quality of this material is better on the subsequent FTD releases as well – at least to my untrained ears.

      I’m always curious which take the master is. I find that is not always plainly noted.

      Among other sites, http://www.elvisinnorway.no/ep76.html is great for this kind of information.

      Wikipedia notes that [Elvis] played bass on “Blue Eyes…”. Can you confirm this?

      I can confirm that Wikipedia notes this on the page for From Elvis Presley Boulevard (with no source, I might add), but as to whether it is true, that’s a whole other matter. I do not recall ever hearing that before. For this particular session, I would find it surprising if true.

      According to http://www.keithflynn.com/recording-sessions/760207.html#03, which I find to be a far more valuable Elvis reference than Wikipedia, it is Norbert Putnam playing bass on that song. That sounds much more likely to me.

      Jorgensen’s Elvis Presley: A Life In Music does not list Elvis as playing any instruments for that session, either.

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  2. It’s a shame that Way down In the Jungle Room dosen’t include all the out takes, it’s not that far short either, but I guess if it had included everything then RCA (sorry I always call them RCA, not Sony or whoever they are this week) would not be able to sell us another CD next year called Way Down In The Jungle Room – The Missing Takes. Positively though, I’m pleased that this material is finally getting the treatment that it deserves, when Elvis was alive (and probably for a long time after his death) it was almost overlooked. Moody Blue obviously sold very well, but that was down to the timing of it’s release, but From Elvis Presley Boulevard was a bit of a forgotten album. I have to agree with Wellsy about Elvis covering a Roger Whitaker song – at least there was no whistling!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Even if most of the studio chatter was left out and no “rough mixes” of the masters were included, I still think there would be at least 3 CDs of material — and that is only based on previously released takes. 3+ CDs would move this into more of a “boxed set” range, which I don’t think the Graceland sessions could really support. Plus, these Legacy releases have more of a mainstream/commercial purpose when it comes to Elvis. Four or five takes of the same song doesn’t work under that goal. The FTDs fill that space better — though I would prefer they be more complete in terms of takes.

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  3. Troy, once again you’ve given us a thoroughly entertaining and informative post and review. And your Graceland Sessions Chart is, well…”off the charts” cool. Your analytical side, especially when it comes to Elvis, is never an annoyance. Keep the fun reviews, lists and charts coming!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Tim!

      It may not seem like an annoyance here on the site, but it can lead to “analysis paralysis” at times – trust me. You should see me try to buy a new piece of electronics… takes weeks or more!

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