Elvis Back Up Tapes Astonish

When first released by RCA as a single LP back in 1988 (RCA 9589-1-R) this album, probably sourced then from digital, created a sensation—at least among the legions of Elvis Presley fans.

Recorded by engineer Thorne Nogar at Hollywood's famed Radio Recorders back in January of 1957 as safety back-ups using a "newfangled" two track Ampex tape recorder and destined for erasure, they survive because engineer Bones Howe saved them from the trash heap when years later Nogar decided to clean out his tape closet and Howe prevailed upon him to give him the tapes, which were marked "Erase" in bright red. Howe kept them in a bank deposit vault until they were retrieved in 1988.

While a mono recorder ran documenting the sessions for use in the production of final masters in those pre-stereo days, the stereo Ampex was used for safety backup.

Elvis works on his vocals, backed by The Jordanaires with minimal instrumentation provided by Scotty Moore, Bill Black, D.J. Fontana and pianist Dudley Brooks. He breaks up with laughter, hits some clams and has a damn good time making music and figuring out what's needed to create magical takes.

Final mono masters of most of these songs were released soon after these January 1957 sessions were recorded, some as "B" sides of big hits like "All Shook Up" and some as parts of four song EPs.

These are works in progress comprising multiple takes of "I Beg of You", "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You", "It's No Secret (What God Can Do)" and others that are presented as "fly on the wall" eavesdrops—though you can be sure this fly had some good microphones and knew how to use them!

The sessions of January 12th, 13th and 19th were recorded as Elvis was preparing for the film "Loving You". Elvis had his own unidirectional microphone as did the Jordanaires. For the mono machine, these mikes plus the ones used for the band, were mixed down but for the two track back-up masters, Elvis was mostly isolated on one channel, the Jordanaires on the other and the band occasionally separated with drums left and everything else right.

"Stereo" this was not! Nor was it "dummy head" "binaural" as we recognize the term today. It was more like The Beatles early "stereo" records, where the two channels were designed to be blended into mono with the two channels offering greater mixing flexibility. Of course here that wasn't the purpose as these tapes really served no purpose other than as safety back ups.

They serve a purpose in 2013 though, cut this time from the analog masters. For Elvis fans, so utterly transparent and pure are these recordings, it's as if Elvis has been resurrected. I'm not kidding!

While I initially questioned whether there would be an audience for this relatively expensive, beautifully produced double 45rpm reissue of safety work product cut from the analog master tapes, the emails I've gotten from people who have bought it and from the response I heard to it at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach 2013 tell me there's still plenty of interest in Elvis Presley and for those who are big fans, this represents both a treasure trove of unreleased (or at least unfamiliar) performances and/or partial takes rendered with sonics that are nothing short of astonishing. It's as if Elvis Presley is lurking behind your speakers singing just for you.

While it's playing, it's 1957, Elvis, the Jordanaires and the band are alive at Radio Records and you are there. When it's over you'll want to go back. It's magical.

Music Direct Buy It Now

Logansport Berry's picture

Boppin' Bob Jones did a splendid job of mastering those 2 track tapes for the initial release on cd.  Did he do the original lp mastering as well?

Bix's picture

Michael, have you heard the SACD version AP did?  If so, how big of a difference would you say there is, especially given the pricing of each?  I was blown away when I heard the SACD but I'm not sure I can justify myself spending $50 (vinyl MSRP, vs $30 for the SACD) on one album, even one that sounds this good.

jefrey's picture

I never imagine that :D I always listening in YouTube suffering the poor sound of it. But this is really a big news ! Surely grab one.

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39goose's picture

Thanks to Chad Kassem for another treasure.The sound is stunning, dead quiet surfaces. Analog Productions Re-issue of 24 Karats is equally as good.