Label: RCA Camden [Reissue: Pickwick]
Catalog Number: CAS-2567
Recorded: 1962-1967 | Hollywood, CA; Nashville, TN
Released: 1972 [Reissue: 1975/1980]
A glance by an unknowing fan at the front cover of Elvis Presley’s Elvis Sings Hits From His Movies, Volume 1 (above), might lead her or him to believe that the album contains Elvis singing live versions of various movie songs in the early 1970s. While that might have actually made for an intriguing concept, the reality is this album, first available on RCA’s Camden budget label in 1972, simply re-releases a number of songs as recorded for or during the time of his mid-1960s movies. As with the original soundtracks of that era, the result is a mixed bag – ranging from stellar to awful.Side 1
- Down By The Riverside and When The Saints Go Marching In (1965)
A pleasant-enough medley, from Frankie And Johnny, opens Side 1. The Dixieland-infused “Down By The Riverside/When The Saints Go Marching In” is fun, but suffers from a chintzy arrangement typical of too many Elvis movie tunes.
- They Remind Me Too Much Of You (1962)
From It Happened At The World’s Fair, “They Remind Me Too Much Of You” offers a quiet mood and a simple, effective arrangement. A highlight.
- Confidence (1967)
When I first heard “Confidence,” as a teen, I declared it as Elvis’ worst song ever. I can’t say my opinion of this song from Clambake has really evolved since then. As my wife has said so many times when hearing lesser material like this, “Poor Elvis.” It is hard to disagree with her, either, particularly when he is relegated to a seemingly endless string of “…and a…”‘s. If you have never heard this one, you are lucky.
- Frankie And Johnny (1965)
Another overblown arrangement detracts from an otherwise nice rendition by Elvis of the title tune of Frankie And Johnny.
- Guitar Man (1967)
What’s this? A top-notch song to close out Side 1? Unbelievable. Though noted as from the movie Clambake on the label (it neither appeared in the film nor was recorded for it), “Guitar Man” is actually a bonus song, as correctly specified on the back cover. The confusion comes in because it was also a bonus song on the Clambake album. Jerry Reed, writer and original recorder of the song, features on lead guitar. Elvis would return to “Guitar Man” a year later for his 1968 television special, ELVIS.
- Long Legged Girl (With The Short Dress On) (1966)
From Double Trouble, “Long Legged Girl” ably represents another staple of the Elvis movie tune catalog, the overblown, pseudo rock & roll song. Enjoyable, but forgettable.
- You Don’t Know Me (1967)
And then, out of nowhere, another of Elvis’ best recordings ever – “You Don’t Know Me.” The lyrics of this beautiful song, a different and inferior recording and arrangement of which appeared in the movie Clambake, speak to the sorrow of opportunity lost. I first noticed this song by Ray Charles, in the 1993 movie Groundhog Day – although I must have heard the Elvis version before via this record and missed its significance, probably because an album like this one is so easy to overlook. After loving the Charles version in the movie, I was thrilled when I came across the Elvis version on From Nashville To Memphis just a few months later. It is my completely unbiased opinion as a lifelong Elvis fan that the Elvis version is superior, of course.
- How Would You Like To Be (1962)
What is the price for listening to “You Don’t Know Me”? That’s right, the wretched “How Would You Like To Be.” Almost as bad as “Confidence,” this one is from It Happened At The World’s Fair, and it is the stuff of which nightmares are made.
- Big Boss Man (1967)
Though not quite up to par with “Guitar Man” or “You Don’t Know Me,” “Big Boss Man” sounds like a comparative masterpiece after “How Would You Like To Be.” Reed again features on guitar. Elvis later re-recorded this one for the ELVIS special as well.
- Old MacDonald (1966)
I know, I know, many fans consider this one of Elvis’ worst songs and a nadir in his recording career. I’ve always found it fun, and that opinion has not evolved over the years, either. It remains a guilty pleasure.
Though in fine condition, with no crackles, pops, or skips, the overall sound of Elvis Sings Hits From His Movies, Volume 1 is disappointingly dull. It is simply not as vibrant as most other vintage records I have played in recent years.
There is some truth in advertising in the album’s back cover (below), which at least features covers of the original 1960s albums from which these recordings were drawn – despite another potentially misleading 1970s live shot.
Misleading covers were typical for the Camden/Pickwick Elvis releases, though. This one appeared on store shelves around the same time as the all-new Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden – in which, ironically, Elvis really did sing live versions of a few of his movie hits (“Can’t Help Falling In Love,” “Love Me Tender,” and “Teddy Bear”) as well as other songs from throughout his career to that point.
As for the muffled sound, if it is a result of the mastering, the material, the budget nature of the label, my setup, my ears, or some other technical factor is beyond my current knowledge. Ultimately, it makes little difference.
Though there is some enjoyment to be found here (it is Elvis, after all), Elvis Sings Hits From His Movies, Volume 1 is not a record I would return to very often even were it in excellent sound quality. The Camden/Pickwick records served their purpose, and I freely admit that Elvis fans, especially this one, are spoiled these days, but even I do not have enough nostalgia to propel this record into something it is not.
Thank you to my brother for giving me the Elvis records that inspired this series of posts.