Some nostalgia pops up with the release of this CD... the original Bilko was one of the first bootleg(CD)s I ever bought.
As we are used from both the Audionics as the Sounthern Comfort label, the artwork is top notch. Besides memorabilia and two cartoons by the legendary Ger Rijff the booklet is filled with shots from our man, both on as off stage. Two superb background stories, one first hand and the other is one of the best pieces of background information I've ever read. ElvisNews published both of them earlier, and for completeness I'll include them at the bottom of the review again.
Right after his final decent tour in the summer of 1975 Elvis had a very short stint in Vegas. The engagement was cancelled due to illness of the star, but listening two this 2CD set it is very clear that Elvis was in a good mood. If he was acting he surely deserves a posthumous Oscar for that role. Maybe he was in such a good mood because he new it would be a very short engagement?
As said before the original The Request Box Shows was one of my first bootleg CDs, but I have to admit I didn't listen to it for at least 7 or 8 years. I bought it in a period of my life when I - like many fans still do - loved anything Elvis. Criticism of The King was something I could not even think of. Over the years realism and developing braincells won and now I am mature enough to acknowledge Elvis was human and had his failures too. When I push the nostalgia aside, I have to admit there is a reason I did not play this CD for so long.
One of the reasons is the sound quality. I passed the time when I thought "rather a good audience than a bad soundboard recording". Now I just listen to the things I really like, in general audience recordings are not among that. And that's exactly why this release is a big improvement. For comparison I played a part of the original Bilko and By Special Request on the Live Archives label. Wow is the only thing I can say... the sound surely improved a lot. Especially the first CD sounds very good for an audience recording. The second CD is slightly less (and in the beginning it sounds like Elvis is in overdrive), but still very listenable. I am told we have to settle for this quality, since both RCA and the engineers did not record these shows on soundboard. Of course that is only until a soundboard turns up ;-).
Although the shows are certainly not among Elvis' best work, there are some real gems and rarities to be found on this 2CD set. Gladly the background singers did not have solos, but the intros of the band already got their annoying length with all the instrumental solos.
On the first CD And I Love You So catches the ear. After two false starts the song gets a more than decent treatment. Other highlights are three other songs of the Today album: Fairytale, Green Green Grass of Home and the single of the time T-R-O-U-B-L-E. If only he had build each tour around the then current album... But also Burning Love is far above the average live version of the song, I even think it is one of the best live versions ever. From the August 19 M.S. My Boy is outstanding and Young and Beautiful a great to have rarity.
As said the 2nd CD starts in overdrive with See See Rider but gets to a normal pace quickly. Disregarding the sound quality the show is less than the show on the first CD. My Boy is spoilt by fooling around and I can't name any real highlights, or it must be Crying in the Chapel for its rarity. Still all together this show is enjoying too, if only for Elvis' good mood. The bonus medley of That's All Right and See See Rider (recorded during the midnight show of August 20) is a nice addition.
This co-operation between Audionics and Southern Comfort is successful. Two pleasant CDs crowned with beautiful artwork.
CD 1 – Complete Dinner Show - August 20, 1975:
Opening Vamp - C. C. Rider / I Got A Woman - Amen (Medley) / Hound Dog / Its Now Or Never / And I Love You So (With 2 False Starts) / Blue Suede Shoes / Green Green Grass Of Home / Fairytale / Softly As I Leave You (With Sherrill Nielsen) / Band Introductions / Johnny B. Goode / Drums Solo (By Ronnie Tutt) / Bass Solo (By Jerry Scheff) / Piano Solo (By Glen D. Hardin) / School Day / T.R.O.U.B.L.E / Why Me Lord / Until Its Time For You To Go / Burning Love / Can't Help Falling In Love / Closing Vamp August 19th, 1975 Midnight Show / Opening Vamp - C. C. Rider / Bathroom Story / Blue Suede Shoes / Young And Beautiful / Are You Lonesome Tonight 1 / If You Love Me (Let Me Know) / Softly As I Leave You (With Sherrill Nielsen) / Its Now Or Never / Polk Salad Annie / My Boy Running Time: 79:47
CD 2 – Dinner Show – August 19, 1975
Also Sprach Zarathustra / C.C. Rider / I Got A Woman /Amen (Medley) / Monologue / Blue Suede Shoes / If You Love Me (Let Me Know) / Its Now Or Never / My Boy / Love Me / Loving You / Suspicious Minds / Band Introductions / Johnny B. Goode / Drums Solo (By Ronnie Tuff) / Bass Solo (By Jerry Scheff) / Piano Solo (By Glen D. Hardin) / School Day #1 18 School Day #2 / Introduction Of Neil Sedaka / T.R.O.U.B.L.E. / Why Me Lord / How Great Thou Art / Let Me Be There / Crying In The Chapel / Can't Help Falling In Love / Closing Vamp
August 20th, 1975 Midnight Show (Closing Night) That's All Right - C. C. Rider (Medley)
And as promised the articles from the booklet:
It was the early evening of August 20th when we landed at the Las Vegas Airport. For years my lady and I had dreamt of this moment. We were finally going to see Elvis!
We're part of a group of 250 fans travelling from the UK and Europe, organized by the Official Fan Club of Great Britain. Specially chartered coaches - 5 of them - drive the large group to their 'home' for the next seven days - the Holiday Inn on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Early the next morning we take a taxi to the Hilton Hotel in order to confirm our reservations for three Elvis shows on the 24th, 25th and 26th. On the way we spot several large billboards that scream out NOW ELVIS! It's like driving through a Hollywood movie set. Frikkin' incredible! When the taxi pulls up in front of the Hilton Hotel entrance, a feeling of total disbelief overpowers us. Is this really happening? We enter the hotel lobby, look around and freeze. Everywhere we look, hotel employees are pulling down posters and large banners from the walls. What the hell is going on here?, we ask ourselves. Around us are many fans who are crying and comforting each other. In just a few short moments, the sheer joy and excitement that had engulfed us has turned into the feeling of being at a funeral. We walk towards some sobbing fans and ask what is going on. "All shows are cancelled", we're told. "Elvis has taken ill and has left Vegas...!" What?! We feel numb...paralysed. The next few minutes are wiped from my memory. Never have we been so disappointed.
Broken hearted, we take a taxi back to the Holiday Inn where the sad news is beginning to sink in. There are crying fans everywhere.
"How ill is he? Is there any news about his condition?" I'm on the phone with Todd Slaughter from the UK fan club, still in his hotel room. "Not a word from his management. I just learned about it from watching the local TV news", he replies. "I'm going to make some calls and get back to you a.s.a.p., okay?"
Hours pass by and there's still no official news from the Presley man