A fast follow up to 2019’s ‘The Elvis Presley Connection‘, Bear Family Records have started a new decade with a 33 track compilation that picks up where the last finished; focusing on songs that Elvis Presley recorded between 1958 and 1962. It follows the concept of the previous release, Presley associated tracks performed by other artists; recorded before or after the fact. As with other releases from this label, this album offers rare and obscure efforts from the archive.
The overall flavour of this compilation, when compared to Volume One, is much more smooth pop and easy listening, with some movie soundtrack thrown in. Volume One covered the early rock-and-roll era, while Volume Two caters for the somewhat middle of the road section of the early 1960s music scene. In this period of Elvis’s career, he spent two years actively serving in the army. This means a smaller selection of tracks to select from and more obscure numbers being included here.
Many of the era-specific big hits are here but performed predominately by Ray Pilgrim (Bobby Stevens), who appears on the album five times. Recordings by Ray, along with a couple of others, originate from a British budget label called Embassy Records; whose purpose was to create cover versions of popular hits. While they are smart recreations, they feel like more of a curiosity than a substitute retrospectively. Other notable inclusions include Bobby Vee and The Crickets, Peggy Lee, Bing Crosby and Jaye P. Morgan, Joel Grey, Johnny Devlin & The Devils and Carl Mann.
To pick a track that really stands out from everything else included here, I think track 21 deserves a particular mention. It is not representative of the compilation as a whole, in fact, it almost does not deserve a place among the rest. It is just a demo, recorded by Don Robertson, the author of the song himself. ‘There’s Always Me’ is naturally rougher-sounding than most other tracks here, but there is such deep feeling within. Perhaps the song’s content itself might not move the listener to tears. But Don Robertson brings the sensitivity of the songwriter and his feeling for what he is writing. His heartfelt delivery and self-accompaniment bring a tear or two as the last notes of his famous piano style die away. While some purists will scoff at someone else singing an Elvis song, this recording helps to justify the concept.
Some weaker tracks include Rock-A-Hula Baby by Paul Rich with Ken Jones and His Orchestra which feels middle-of-the-road enough to almost fade into the background. The pace picks up again with such cuts as answer song ‘Hey Memphis’ by LaVern Baker, which has some get up and go; thanks no doubt to producer Phil Spector’s involvement. The Marvelettes’ ‘Good Luck Charm’ is a nice example of a Presley number done in an artist’s own style. They bring the early 1960s pop vocal group flavour to it. It’s funky and a little bluesy for its time with enough personality to set it apart from being just another cover.
The album closes with another tender demo rendition from Don Robertson: They Remind Me Too Much Of You. You get the feeling that Presley must have been quite influenced by Robertson’s delivery when it came to record his own version of Robertson’s songs, as much of the enunciation and phrasing is very similar.
As with releases that take vintage material from various sources, the sound quality is mixed.
Anyone who has bought the other ‘Elvis Presley Connection’, will know what to expect here. Inside an attractive looking digipak is a 34-page booklet. It features song and artist information alongside photographs and illustrations; with liner notes by German Elvis Presley expert Helmut Radermacher. The booklet stuck inside the casing makes it a firm part of the packaging.
The collection is strong, with every track different and with its own flavour. In places, it feels somewhat like a love letter as much to Ray Pilgrim as to Presley himself, with 5 tracks by Pilgrim included. The disc progresses like a well-crafted eclectic playlist, beginning with a higher tempo rock-and-roll sound. Later on, it is largely smoother and ballad-driven. If you’re looking for a ‘connection’ compilation with more known compositions, I’d suggest buying the first one before venturing here. I look forward to seeing what they do with volume three.
- Johnny Devlin & The Devils – A Big Hunk O’ Love
- Rikki Henderson & The Beatmen – Ain’t That Loving You, Baby
- Johnny Worth – (Now And Then There’s) A Fool Such As I
- Eli Whitney – I Got Stung
- Bobby Stevens – Stuck On You
- Bobby Stevens – A Mess Of Blues
- Peggy Lee – Fever
- Priscilla Bowman – Like A Baby
- Danny Ezba – Dirty, Dirty Feeling
- Bobby Vee with The Crickets – I Gotta Know
- Jaye P. Morgan – Are You Lonesome Tonight
- Thomas Wayne – Girl Next Door Went A-Walkin’
- Joel Grey – Shoppin’ Around
- Ronnie Knull & His Rock-A-Kings – G.I. Blues
- Johnny Gatewood – Pocketful Of Rainbows
- Rikki Henderson – Surrender
- The Blackwood Brothers – Working On The Building
- Rikki Henderson – Wild In The Country
- Carl Mann – I’m Comin’ Home
- Bobby Darin – I Want You With Me
- Don Robertson – There’s Always Me (Demo)
- Bryan Davies – Slicin’ Sand Twist
- Bing Crosby With Lani McIntire & His Hawaiians – Blue Hawaii
- Anthony ‘Tony’ Perkins – Moonlight Swim
- Bobby Stevens – Can’t Help Falling In Love
- Paul Rich – Rock-A-Hula Baby
- Bobby Stevens – (Marie’s The Name Of) His Latest Flame
- LaVern Baker – Hey, Memphis (Answer To ‘Little Sister’)
- The Marvelettes – Good Luck Charm
- Les Carle – She’s Not You
- Gerri Granger – Just Tell Him Jane Said Hello (Answer to ‘Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello’,)
- Ray Pilgrim – Return To Sender
- Don Robertson – They Remind Me Too Much Of You (Demo)