We now continue our look at Elvis Presley’s compilation albums — not just greatest hits, but collections of songs that gathered up jetsam and flotsam that were either on singles or Extended Play albums, or had been unreleased the year they were recorded for quality or other reasons.

This time, we delve into the music on Elvis’s cheaply presented Camden budget albums. Some of the music mirrors the tacky presentation, some of it surpasses it into near-greatness, and some of it is good but presented badly.

Here we go:

Elvis Sings Flaming Star: As mentioned last time, this was originally a tie-in with Elvis’s 1968 TV special and was originally available for purchase in Singer sewing machine stores, as Singer sponsored the special.

Flaming Star-From the movie of the same name, recorded in 1960. Sung in a nice dramatic style, but mainly good as an accompaniment to the film’s opening titles. Originally recorded as Black Star.

Wonderful World– From the movie Live A Little, Love A Little, which was an attempt to provide Elvis with some late 1960s hipness in terms of psychedelia and (off-screen) sex. This song is nether hip nor sexy, and is actually rather joyful but, in the end, pretty much fluff. Originally a Cliff Richard song and one of several Elvis songs to be written by British songwriters.

Night Life– Recorded for Viva Las Vegas in 1963 but not featured in the movie. A fairly good, tough, somewhat bluesy song, and the second song recorded for the movie to be released in stereo, a fact which will become relevant as we delve into the subsequent Camden albums.

All I Needed Was the Rain– From Stay Away, Joe. Nicely atmospheric and bluesy, but way too short — less than two minutes. It seems to float in and away again too quickly.

Too Much Monkey Business– Elvis’s version of the Chuck Berry song was done in a similar style to that of Guitar Man, as both featured hard strummin’ guitar by country wildman Jerry Reed. This is not as good as Elvis’s version of Chuck Berry’s Memphis, but it’s not bad. The lyrics about fighting in the war were updated from Yokohama (World War II) to Vietnam, presenting a rare bit of current events in an Elvis song — a precursor to the very topical If I Can Dream.

Yellow Rose of Texas/Eyes of Texas– From Viva Las Vegas. Not good, and just usable as a movie plotline song. Also in stereo.

She’s A Machine– We’ll get more into the infamous Easy Come, Easy Go soundtrack songs a bit later on. Too bad this wasn’t in the actual movie, as it was one of the better songs recorded for it. But it doesn’t measure up to most other Elvis songs. Presented in stereo, a significant fact which we’ll also get into soon.

Do the Vega– Recorded for but not used for Viva Las Vegas. It’s this type of song, which has a Latin sound to it, which kind of justifies the fact there was not a full-fledged soundtrack LP for the movie. Very bad compared to the better songs in the film. Presented in stereo.

Tiger Man– And this album concludes with a top tier Elvis song, his roaring version of the Rufus Thomas song that was performed on the 1968 TV special, but not seen on TV in the original December 1968 telecast — it was inserted in the first rerun, replacing Blue Christmas. Elvis’s version was so good that the song became part of his Las Vegas live repertoire in a medley with Mystery Train. He even attempted it again in the studio, likely just for fun, in 1975. A pretty rough sounding mono recording as presented on this album.

The next Camden album was Let’s Be Friends, released after the wonderful trifecta of the 1968 TV special, From Elvis in Memphis and the From Memphis to Vegas/From Vegas to Memphis LPs, and the comedown in quality is steep, in both album art and songs.

Stay Away, Joe– From the movie of the same name. A fun stomping song, but more suited to a hoedown.

If I’m a Fool (For Loving You)– A leftover from the January-February 1969 Memphis session and nice to have. Not the most substantial song by a long shot, but performed with commitment.

Let’s Be Friends– From the movie Change of Habit. Not bad but also not particularly memorable. Sadly, I always associate this song with this album’s bad album art, as it’s the title track.

Let’s Forget About the Stars– Recorded for but not used in Change of Habit. One of the better songs on this album. Originally presented in mono, and a later stereo mix misses some piano, sadly.

Mama – Recorded for but not used in the Girls, Girls, Girls movie from 1962. Which is a good thing. Very, very hokey and old fashioned. Presented here in mono.

I’ll Be There– Another Memphis sessions leftover, and originally a Bobby Darin song. Again, beautifully performed but rather bland compared to the other early 1969 tracks.

Almost– From the movie The Trouble With Girls. Very nice song, with a jazzy nightclub atmosphere, but with inexcusably poor sound, particularly on Elvis’s vocal. The alternate versions on a Follow That Dream CD of these sessions sounds much better. Oh, why RCA?

Change of Habit and Have A Happy– Both from the movie Change of Habit. The title song is another, not bad, attempt to be late 1960s hip, and is performed with passion. The second song has one of the most moronic titles in Elvis’s catalogue, and is best viewed as part of the movie, where it’s charming, than just listened to on the LP, where it sounds silly.

Next time: The Almost In Love LP.

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