ALMOST BLUE

ORIGINAL ALBUM (32:42)
  1. Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used To Do)? (1:35)
  2. Sweet Dreams (2:56)
  3. Success (2:38)
  4. I'm Your Toy (3:20)
  5. Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down (2:06)
  6. Brown To Blue (2:37)
  7. Good Year For The Roses (3:06)
  8. Sittin' And Thinkin' (3:00)
  9. Colour Of The Blues (2:18)
  10. Too Far Gone (3:24)
  11. Honey Hush (2:11)
  12. How Much I Lied (2:48)
BONUS DISC (76:06)
  1. Stranger In The House George Jones with Elvis Costello (3:36)
  2. We Oughta Be Ashamed Johnny Cash with Elvis Costello (2:44)
  3. Radio Sweetheart (live) (3:15)
  4. Stranger In The House (live) (3:56)
  5. Psycho (live) (3:35)
  6. If I Could Put Them All Together (I'd Have You) (live) (2:28)
  7. Motel Matches (live) (2:21)
  8. He'll Have To Go (live) (2:51)
  9. Girls Talk (live) (1:44)
  10. Too Far Gone ("Lost Session" version) (3:08)
  11. He's Got You ("Lost Session" version) (3:48)
  12. Honky Tonk Girl (2:24)
  13. That's Why I'm Walking (2:18)
  14. Wondering (2:20)
  15. Darling, You Know I Wouldn't Lie (2:36)
  16. My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You (2:01)
  17. Blues Keep Calling (2:05)
  18. Tears Before Bedtime (2:23)
  19. Psycho (3:20)
  20. Cry, Cry, Cry (2:47)
  21. I'll Take Care Of You (3:09)
  22. Your Angel Steps Out Of Heaven (1:55)
  23. Brand New Heartache (live) (2:29)
  24. There Won't Be Anymore (live) (2:32)
  25. Sittin' And Thinkin' (live) (2:51)
  26. Honey Hush (live) (2:28)
  27. I'm Your Toy (live) (4:01)
Almost Blue was recorded between May 18 and May 29, 1981 at Nashville's CBS Studio A. The original LP is the shortest album of Elvis' career, despite a wealth of additional material recorded during the album sessions, including several outtakes and alternates which first surfaced on the bootleg Nashville And More. Ryko repeated only one track from the bootleg ("Tears Before Bedtime"), although it requires a close listen to realize that Ryko used a slightly different version of "Darling, You Know I Wouldn't Lie."

Rykodisc's 1994 reissue was quite ambitious, with a generous 11 bonus tracks, although it also omitted several non-album B-sides from the period. Rhino's bonus disc gathers together all of the unique songs known to be recorded during this period and adds several new live tracks and thematically connected duets with George Jones and Johnny Cash. It does, however, drop two of the live performances which had been included on the Ryko CD.

In the Ryko liner notes, Elvis offers "25 or more" as the total number of songs attempted during the album sessions. The Rhino release includes 23 of these songs. As for the other two, one possibility is "He's Got You," which is included on the bonus disc in a version which predates the album sessions, but there is also a second version on bootlegs which is possibly from the official Almost Blue sessions. Also possible is that the unreleased but bootlegged medley of "Blues Keep Calling" and "Cry, Cry, Cry" was counted as a separate song. It could even be that "Too Far Gone" was counted twice as a result of being attempted at both the "lost session" and the main album sessions.

WHAT'S NEW

WE OUGHTA BE ASHAMED Johnny Cash with Elvis Costello
"We Oughta Be Ashamed" was recorded at Nick Lowe's home studio on December 26, 1979 for Johnny Cash's album Rockabilly Blues but ultimately went unused. Elvis' explanation in the Ryko liner notes was that the title "proved to be prophetic," although he may have been exaggerating since he says in the Rhino notes that he is "really glad that it has finally found its way off the shelf." Its inclusion on the bonus disc is made all the more unusual by the fact that Elvis is relegated to a supporting role, providing harmonies on the chorus and singing only one line on his own. Elvis and The Delivery Man co-producer Dennis Herring mixed the track especially for this release.

RADIO SWEETHEART (LIVE, NORTH HOLLYWOOD, FEB. 16, 1979)
STRANGER IN THE HOUSE (LIVE, NORTH HOLLYWOOD, FEB. 16, 1979)
IF I COULD PUT THEM ALL TOGETHER (I'D HAVE YOU) (LIVE, NORTH HOLLYWOOD, FEB. 16, 1979)
MOTEL MATCHES (LIVE, NORTH HOLLYWOOD, FEB. 16, 1979)

HE'LL HAVE TO GO (LIVE, NORTH HOLLYWOOD, FEB. 16, 1979)
GIRLS TALK (LIVE, NORTH HOLLYWOOD, FEB. 16, 1979)

Elvis and the Attractions played two shows in one night at the Palomino club on February 16, 1979. Both shows featured John McFee joining the band for a set of several country songs, among them the version of "Psycho" which was released as a 1981 B-side. Rhino's bonus disc adds six more songs from the show: the first two Costello originals with an obvious country influence ("Radio Sweetheart" and "Stranger In The House"), two covers otherwise unrecorded by Elvis (George Jones' "If I Could Put Them All Together (I'd Have You)" and Jim Reeves' "He'll Have To Go"), and overtly country arrangements of two then-unrecorded Costello originals ("Motel Matches" and "Girls Talk"). This version of "Motel Matches," which has substantially different lyrics, was previously under consideration for the Get Happy!! bonus disc, which ended up including a different song ("Opportunity") from the same show instead. (All of the officially released songs from the Palomino club are different performances from those available on the various Palomino bootlegs. Since there were two Palomino shows, it is clear that the official releases come from one show and the bootlegs from the other.)

TOO FAR GONE ("LOST SESSION" VERSION)
HE'S GOT YOU ("LOST SESSION" VERSION)
On January 20, 1981, four months before the official start of the Almost Blue sessions, Elvis and the Attractions joined Billy Sherrill at CBS Studio B for a trial session at which they recorded these two songs with Pete Drake (and not John McFee) on pedal steel guitar. Elvis had described these recordings as "lost" in his liner notes for Ryko's Almost Blue, but obviously the tape has since been found. (Elvis apparently also misremembered which songs had been recorded at this session, listing "I'll Take Care Of You" instead of "Too Far Gone." He repeats the same mistake in the Rhino notes.) Both of these performances are entirely unheard prior to this release. The studio version of "He's Got You" on the bootleg Nashville And More is an entirely different performance, although it is the same basic arrangement.

THAT'S WHY I'M WALKING
PSYCHO
I'LL TAKE CARE OF YOU
Although this is the first official release for these outtakes from the Almost Blue sessions, the same performances have long been available on the bootleg Nashville And More in inferior sound quality. In the case of "That's Why I'm Walking," Rhino adds a previously unheard count-in and a slightly longer ending. Rhino's "Psycho," however, is missing the count-in which can be heard on the bootleg. "I'll Take Care Of You" includes a full ending on the Rhino CD, while the bootleg fades out.

BRAND NEW HEARTACHE (LIVE, ABERDEEN, JUL. 30, 1981)
This is Elvis' only known performance of the Everly Brothers/Gram Parsons song.

WHAT'S OLD (BUT NOT ON THE RYKO CD)

STRANGER IN THE HOUSE George Jones with Elvis Costello
Elvis' duet with George Jones was started in 1978, completed in March 1979, and released in April 1980. Although it obviously predates the Almost Blue period, it is a country song recorded in Nashville with producer Billy Sherrill, and it makes its first appearance on a Costello album here. It was previously available on Jones' 1980 album My Very Special Guests and also released as a single.

HONKY TONK GIRL
WONDERING
BLUES KEEP CALLING
CRY, CRY, CRY
These outtakes from the album sessions were the most glaring omissions from Ryko's Almost Blue. Did Ryko's bonus material stop at 11 bonus tracks and 31 minutes for no other reason than to avoid overwhelming the original album's 12 tracks and 32 minutes? Thankfully, Rhino's recent bonus discs have shown no such qualms about limiting the bonus material, and all four tracks now appear on Almost Blue. They were first released as B-sides of the "I'm Your Toy" single, with "Wondering" and "Cry, Cry, Cry" on the 7-inch single and "Honky Tonk Girl" and "Blues Keep Calling" on the 12-inch. All four should have made their CD debut on Singles, Volume 2, but the wrong tapes were used for "Cry, Cry, Cry" and "Wondering," and they appeared instead in an unfinished state with subtle differences in Elvis' vocals. Rhino, thankfully, has used the correct single versions.

RYKO REPEATS

PSYCHO (LIVE, NORTH HOLLYWOOD, FEB. 16, 1979)
The band recorded a studio version of "Psycho" during the Almost Blue sessions, but this relatively old live recording was issued instead as the B-side of "Sweet Dreams" in December 1981. "Psycho" made its CD debut on the various artists collection From Hell To Obscurity prior to its inclusion on Ryko's Almost Blue. Rhino's bonus disc adds a previously unavailable spoken intro in which Elvis credits Jack Kittel with writing the song. In fact, it was written by Leon Payne, although Kittel's recording is what influenced Elvis' version. According to some reports, Elvis' vocal was re-recorded in the studio prior to the song's official release. Indeed, when "Psycho" is placed between other songs from the same concert on this CD, Elvis' voice sounds significantly different on "Psycho" and quite similar to other studio recordings from the Almost Blue period.

DARLING, YOU KNOW I WOULDN'T LIE
MY SHOES KEEP WALKING BACK TO YOU
TEARS BEFORE BEDTIME
YOUR ANGEL STEPS OUT OF HEAVEN
These were the only Almost Blue outtakes to appear on the Ryko CD. "Your Angel Steps Out Of Heaven" was originally the B-side of "Good Year For The Roses" (making the single a pairing of two George Jones covers, although Elvis would also have been aware of the Flying Burrito Brothers' version of "Your Angel Steps Out Of Heaven"). "My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You" was on the "I'm Your Toy" 12-inch single. The other two were released officially for the first time on the Ryko CD, although the bootleg Nashville And More had included the same "Tears Before Bedtime" and a very similar alternate take of "Darling, You Know I Wouldn't Lie." Rhino's version of "Darling, You Know I Wouldn't Lie" has a slower fadeout than the Ryko version, allowing the full ending to be heard more easily.

THERE WON'T BE ANYMORE (LIVE, ABERDEEN, JUL. 30, 1981)
SITTIN' AND THINKIN' (LIVE, ABERDEEN, JUL. 30, 1981)
HONEY HUSH (LIVE, ABERDEEN, JUL. 30, 1981)
These performances come from between the recording and the release of Almost Blue and are notable for including Charlie Rich's "There Won't Be Anymore," which is otherwise unreleased by Elvis. These first appeared on the Ryko Almost Blue along with two other songs from this concert, "He's Got You" and "Cry, Cry, Cry," which have not made the transition to the Rhino bonus disc, where they appear instead as studio recordings. Rhino has apparently returned to the original source tape for the three remaining tracks, because "There Won't Be Anymore" and "Honey Hush" are presented in remixed form, with "There Won't Be Anymore" also sporting a previously unheard spoken intro and a slightly longer musical intro, and "Honey Hush" no longer fading quite as quickly at the end of the song. "Sittin' And Thinkin'" differs even more significantly from its Ryko incarnation, with enough vocal and instrumental variations to suggest a completely different performance. Since the main purpose of the Aberdeen show was to produce footage for a TV documentary about the making of the album, it does not seem unreasonable to think that a song may have been played twice for the benefit of the TV cameras. Another possibility is that it is the same basic performance, and the variations are the result of the original live track being subjected to studio overdubs for use in the documentary. (There are also two other rather odd differences between the Ryko and Rhino versions of this material. An audience member's shouted request for "a Charley Pride number" appears before "Sittin' And Thinkin'" on the Ryko but appears instead before "There Won't Be Anymore" on the Rhino. Even more bizarre is that when Elvis says "thank you" at the end of "There Won't Be Anymore," it is a different "thank you" on each CD! Most likely this is the result of different crossfades, with one "thank you" truly belonging to "There Won't Be Anymore" and the other belonging to a different song which came before "Sittin' And Thinkin'" at the actual concert.)

I'M YOUR TOY (LIVE, LONDON, JAN. 7, 1982)
This live version of the Almost Blue track features the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and was first issued as the A-side of an April 1982 single. The complete concert was professionally recorded and filmed, but this is the only track to receive official release so far. The Rhino CD reinstates the brief spoken introduction ("This is called 'I'm Your Toy'") which originally appeared on the 12-inch single but was left off the 7-inch single, the Ryko CD, and Singles, Volume 2.

WHAT'S MISSING (RELEASED RECORDINGS)

HE'S GOT YOU (LIVE, ABERDEEN, JUL. 30, 1981)
CRY, CRY, CRY (LIVE, ABERDEEN, JUL. 30, 1981)
    [Almost Blue Ryko CD & 1994 Demon CD]
The Rhino CD ties up most of the previously available loose ends related to Almost Blue, but these two tracks from the Ryko version have been left off. Presumably they were considered redundant when studio versions of the same songs appear on the bonus disc, with "He's Got You" sounding especially similar to the studio version. A snippet of "Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used To Do)?" can be heard during the fadeout of "Cry, Cry, Cry." The Ryko CD is also the only place to find unique mixes of "There Won't Be Anymore," "Sittin' And Thinkin'," and "Honey Hush" from the same concert.

PSYCHO (LIVE, LONDON, JUN. 1, 1981)
    [Fundamental Frolics LP by various artists]
With the more famous 1979 live version and the 1981 studio version being used on the bonus disc, it is not surprising that a third version of "Psycho" failed to make the grade. Unlike the other two, this one is performed by Elvis solo. A live "Gloomy Sunday" from this same concert is commercially available only on video.

CRY, CRY, CRY (ALTERNATE VOCAL)
    ["I'm Your Toy" CD single included in Singles, Volume 2]
WONDERING (ALTERNATE VOCAL)
    ["I'm Your Toy" CD single included in Singles, Volume 2]
These were left off the Rhino CD with good reason. Aside from being redundant, they were never intended for release in the first place and only appeared on Singles, Volume 2 when the wrong tapes were used by mistake. These are the same basic performances that appear on the bonus disc, but they include subtle differences in Elvis' vocals. They were previously available in inferior quality on the bootleg Nashville And More and probably represent the tracks as originally recorded, before they were touched up for official release.

WHAT'S MISSING (UNRELEASED RECORDINGS)

BLUES KEEP CALLING / CRY, CRY, CRY
HOW MUCH I LIED (ALTERNATE VERSION
)
HE'S GOT YOU (ALTERNATE TAKE)
DARLING, YOU KNOW I WOULDN'T LIE (ALTERNATE TAKE)

These outtakes from the Almost Blue sessions can be found on Nashville And More. The medley of "Blues Keep Calling" and "Cry, Cry, Cry" is moderately interesting, but it is not surprising it was passed over in favor of the individual versions of each song which do appear on the bonus disc. There are actually two alternates of "How Much I Lied" which are similar to each other but noticeably different from the album version thanks to a faster tempo. "He's Got You" and "Darling, You Know I Wouldn't Lie" are unique takes, but they differ little from the released versions. (It seems possible, however, that "He's Got You" is from the main album sessions as opposed to the "Lost Session" version on the bonus disc. This would mean that it features John McFee rather than Pete Drake on pedal steel guitar.) Nashville And More also includes versions of "My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You" and "Honky Tonk Girl" with slight differences in Elvis' vocals.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Just prior to the May 1981 album sessions, the band (with Paul "Bassman" Riley substituting for an ill Bruce Thomas) rehearsed "30 or so songs," according to the Rhino liner notes. (Elvis had previously claimed "more than 40 songs" in the Ryko notes.) Since the rehearsals for the albums immediately before and after Almost Blue are known to have been recorded, it seems very likely that these tapes exist and include some songs which went unrecorded during the main sessions. Although specific titles are not available, these could include songs outside the country genre which fit the album's original concept of "melancholy songs of many styles." Among the songs reportedly under consideration early on were "Gloomy Sunday" and Little Willie John's "Need Your Love So Bad." No songs from the rehearsals were used on Rhino's bonus disc.


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