As I've written many times, the 1979 edition of The Rolling Stone Record Guide was my record-buying Bible, and one of my purposes in life during the time I depended on its critics for musical guidance was to get every album that received a five-star review.
That meant such cultural touchstones as Who's Next by The Who, Beggar's Banquet by the Rolling Stones, the fourth Led Zeppelin album, Tapestry by Carole King, the 2-Lp Otis Redding best-of from 1972, the Nuggets 2-LP set of garage rock classics and C'mon Everybody by Elvis Presley.
In today's Internet parlance, wait, what?
Yes, that last one, the 1971 album — released on RCA Victor's budget Camden label at a time when Elvis was being extremely over-exposed — received a five-star review in the guide, which doesn't explain why this honour was granted. Just for perspective, the other five-star Elvis albums were his first two 1950s LPs, his first two Golden Records collections, his three gospel albums, and the classic From Elvis in Memphis.
So what was up here? Let's explore C'mon Everybody's merits and demerits.
First, the album cover. For that alone, one star should have been docked. It's a somewhat unattractive picture of Elvis vocalizing in concert circa 1971, in black and white yet. This picture was the first sign that Elvis was starting to put on weight. He reminds me in that picture of Fred Flintstone and the way the photo is shot, Elvis appears to be partially unshaven.
Next, the record itself. The album photo does not at all reflect its contents, which are songs from four extended-play albums, the soundtracks to the movies Follow That Dream (1961), Kid Galahad (1962), Viva Las Vegas (1964) and Easy Come, Easy Go (1967).
Except that the EP contents are split between this and another Camden album, I Got Lucky, also with a rather unattractive Elvis picture (he looks okay, but the colour is kind of washed out).
Back to C'mon Everybody, another star should have been docked from the Rolling Stone Record Guide review for the sound quality alone. The album is all mono, even though all of the songs were from the 1960s, when Elvis recorded in multi-track facilities, whether they be recording studios or movie company soundstages.
But the mono itself isn't the problem, it's the quality of the mono. The LP sounds like a straight transfer from the original vinyl EPs, and the result is extremely tinny.
For years and years, I dreamed that someday, I would hear the songs in stereo. In fact, a reissue of C'mon Everybody on the Pickwick label had a stereo designation, but that was likely a misprint. Then I later read, in an extensive book on Elvis recordings, that many of the songs had been issued in stereo outside North America. This increased my frustration many-fold.
It was only in the 1990s, when RCA issued a series of Double Features CDs (two or movie soundtracks on one CD), that almost everything from those soundtracks was issued in stereo, and in a more coherent way.
But the sound of those stereo remixes was not very appealing, and Sony remasterer Vic Anesini made further improvements in the 2000s when he remastered the entire Elvis catalogue. In fact, C'mon Everybody has been reissued on CD, this time almost completely in stereo. The "almost" is because most of the first-generation masters for the soundtrack of Follow That Dream are lost, and too bad. It was recorded at RCA's marvelous Studio B in Nashville, and the stereo that did survive — mostly alternate takes — sounds great, especially a two-track (voice on one side, music on the other) mix of Angel, available on the Follow That Dream reissue of the soundtrack to the movie of the same name.
Now on to the songs:
• C'mon Everybody- This is a real rouser, and one of the better songs from the altogether quite good Viva Las Vegas soundtrack, for which no LP was issued until a few years ago. Brilliant, RCA...
• Angel- A marvellous Elvis ballad which, as mentioned above, sounds fantastic in stereo — a conventional stereo mix was first put out in 1978 or so. The only stereo master take that survived.
• Easy Come, Easy Go— The title track to what is considered one of Elvis's worst movies, and one of his worst soundtracks in the worst sound — it was recorded on the Paramount soundstage. The song is kind of cheesy, and the horn arrangements sound kind of tacky, but the song is very lively.
• A Whistling Tune- This is from Kid Galahad, and is a nice tune. Not far from a classic, and not nearly as bad as many of Elvis's soundtrack songs would become.
• Follow That Dream-Very short, and very memorable. Bruce Springsteen is a big fan of the song, and has performed it in concert. The master take is mono-only, but a stereo alternate take (I can't tell the difference) was first put out on the Elvis Aaron Presley box set in 1980, and was also used for compilations.
• King of the Whole Wide World— From Kid Galahad. This is one of the few 1960s songs that sounds like it was recorded in the 1950s, in terms of Elvis's vocal. And that's a huge compliment.
• I'll Take Love- Elvis really sounds like he didn't want to sing this song. One of the worst songs from Easy Come, Easy Go.
• Today, Tomorrow and Forever- From Viva Las Vegas. An absolutely masterful ballad. Tender, intimate and stately. A version sung in duet with co-star Ann-Margret has a nicely eerie quality to it, although her voice is a bit "heavy" at one point in the song.
• I'm Not the Marrying Kind — from Follow that Dream. Innocuous, tongue in cheek and kind of fun.
• This is Living- From Kid Galahad. A very enthusiastic performance from Elvis on a fun song. Interestingly enough, you don't hear Elvis sing solo for several seconds — he and his backup vocal group open the proceedings.
Based on song choice alone, this LP did deserve a pretty high rating.
Next time — the companion album Elvis album I Got Lucky.