Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

April 29, 2020

Elvis Presley, A Dog’s Life (Audifon LP, released circa 1979)

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ELVIS PRESLEY, “A Dog’s Life” (Audifon Records LP, unauthorized, released circa 1979)

Buyers of boot (by the way, in the Elvis community, we don’t use the “B-word”– we call them “imports”) LP’s in the late 70’s and the early 80’s will have fond memories of the Audifon label (which seemed related to Ruthless Rhymes….some albums said Audifon on the cover but the label of the actual LP had the inimitable Ruthless Rhymes “shooting the dog” logo). A lot of their releases were devoted to Elvis (and clearly assembled by people who loved and cared about Elvis’ legacy as an artist), but there were also fantastic Beatles albums (Live At The Sam Houston Coliseum, Youngblood, Watching Rainbows), the legendary THIN WHITE DUKE album from David Bowie, and fine offerings from Hendrix and Cheap Trick.

For the Elvis fan back then, just two years after The King’s passing, an album like A DOG’S LIFE was a revelation and we were excited that such an album even existed, and with an attractive full-cover cover, not a paste-on xerox sheet as might have been the case a few years earlier.

At this time, the only legit archival releases that had come out on RCA were The Legendary Performer series, the first volume of which came out in 1973, after RCA purchased the reissue rights from the Colonel, “on behalf of Elvis,” for the Presley masters in perpetuity for a mere bagatelle. Each successive volume (there were four eventually) had a higher percentage of unreleased material.

However, we wanted and needed more, and an album like A DOG’S LIFE delivered it.

A combination of great-sounding alternate takes of 60’s movie songs (clearly from the master tapes and without overdubs, just Elvis and the rhythm section); alternates/rehearsals of 1970 studio material MINUS ALL THE ANNOYING OVERDUBS, with basically just a small group, live and spontaneous, with Elvis; and some 1973 concert recordings, in sparkling sound quality with none of the awful overdubs and “sweetening” that cluttered and choked the RCA 70’s “live” albums, also mixed so that the orchestra and the backing singers are lower in the mix and it’s essentially Elvis and the rhythm section up front.

Here’s what you get (discographical info from an Elvis boot website):

A1  August 4, 1965: A dog’s life (EOV take 8)
A2  March 23, 1961:
Rock-a-hula baby (TO takes 1, 2 & 3)
A3   It’s over*
A4   June 8, 1970: There goes my everything (undubbed)
A5  October 26, 1961:
Home is where the heart is (M3 take 4)
A6  My way*

……………………………………………………….


B1  October 26, 1961: Riding the rainbow (M4 takes 3 & 4)
B2   June 8, 1970:
If I were you (undubbed)
B3   An American trilogy*
B4   August 4, 1965: Paradise, Hawaiian style (GOV take 4)
B5   August 3, 1965:
Scratch my back (then I’ll scratch yours) (COV take 1)
B6   Can’t help falling in love*

* from January 12, 1973 20.30 hrs show

…………………………………………………………………..

Now that there are 150+ albums of archival Elvis material on RCA’s all-Presley “Follow That Dream” label (you’ve probably read my reviews of some of those in the pages of Ugly Things Magazine), and hundreds and hundreds of “imports” of studio outtakes and live concerts, something like A DOG’S LIFE is no longer necessary—-although it is still an exciting listen. I just listened to it twice tonight while working from home, which is what prompted this tribute to a historic Elvis “import.” It’s impossible to listen to the sparse 1970 outtakes of  “There Goes My Everything” and “If I Were You” with Elvis just backed by 4 minimal but in-the-groove musicians and The King WAY up front, as you might hear on a Julie London record from 50’s, and not come away floored by Elvis’s subtlety and soul as an artist. Hearing him working out the song with the musicians, clearly friends with whom he was comfortable and who were comfortable with him, makes the case for Elvis better than any documentary could.

I’d not be surprised if Elvis fans of that era (people like me) have played this album hundreds of times–I certainly have. In the pre-CD, pre-internet era, it was a revelation. I can still feel that when I listen to it. If you care about Elvis and his work, you might feel the same thing if you hear this LP today. The compilers even ended the album with a beautiful live performance of “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” the song that Elvis ended many of his shows with (and Elvis is way up front in the mix, you can hardly hear the backing singers or the Joe Guercio Orchestra). Clearly, Elvis lovers were at work here, and they did their job masterfully in support of The King’s legacy.

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