Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden was issued in June of 1972. While this album only reached Number 11 on the Billboard charts, it would go on to sell more than 3 million copies. This album was also a recording of a complete concert rather than a pieced together affair. That fact gives the listener an accurate feel of an actual 1970’s Elvis concert.
When “Also Sprach Zarathustra (Theme From 2001: A Space Odyssey)” blasts from the speakers you know that Elvis Presley is about to perform. “That’s All Right” and “Proud Mary” immediately engage the audience as Elvis roars through both of this tunes. Elvis shows that he can still rock when he puts his mind to it.
Elvis slows the pace down with a superb version of Three Dog Night hit, “Never Been To Spain.” Elvis places the right vocal emphasis on each stanza as the song builds to its conclusion. His hit, “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me,” is another ballad that builds and is a good vehicle for Elvis to show off his vocal range. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” finishes off this trilogy of slow songs.
“Polk Salad Annie” is always a highlight of any Elvis performance. Elvis would always seem invested when performing this song. His deep vocal interpretation would enable him to appear sincere when singing this song of his southern roots.
The middle part of the concert was given over to a number of his early hits. There is both good and bad here as by this time Elvis would be more alive and energetic when performing newer songs. These were the songs that were important to the fans and as such Elvis would always include them. “Love Me,” “Heartbreak Hotel” and a medley of “Teddy Bear/Don’t Be Cruel” are performed merely to satisfy the audience.
“Love Me Tender” is a little better but he really uses this song to set up an impressive version of “The Impossible Dream.” His vocals key off a subtle piano in the background to create an intimate effect. “Hound Dog” is given an interesting treatment as it is slowed down from the norm. I’m not sure if I really like this interpretation but at least it was creative. His big hit, “Suspicious Minds,” brings back Elvis’ energy level and sets up the last third of the show.
Elvis goes country for the Ray Price hit, “For The Good Times.” Another nice deep vocal brings this ballad to life. Elvis would most always include “American Trilogy” in his '70’s shows. It was a patriotic medley which was originally a hit for Mickey Newbury. Elvis would literally adopt the song and make it his own. He gives it a gospel feel which is always a good thing for Elvis. “Funny How Time Slips Away” is a light pop presentation that is poignant today given Elvis’ subsequent history. A fine “I Can’t Stop Loving You” leads to the normal concert closer “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”
The band, led by guitarist James Burton, is at the top of its game. Oddly I find the production and mix of the original vinyl LP superior to that of later CD re-issues. All in all, Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden, finds a healthy and vocally strong Elvis giving a very representative 1970’s performance. It is still an enjoyable listen.