Colonel Tom Parker had signed Elvis to star in another television special. Two concerts were filmed in June of 1977 to be used for this program. They showed an out of shape and at times somewhat incoherent Elvis struggling to perform. Elvis died before the special could be aired. Finally in October the special was broadcast and resultant live soundtrack album was released. The special was both terrible and embarrassing and has never been re-issued. Elvis In Concert, however, became a top charting album selling three million copies in the United States.
I remember purchasing Elvis In Concert when it was released. Trying to remember back 30 years I thought that it was an above average album. I also don’t think I ever saw the special as I do not have the negative visual images that Elvis presented. Listening to the album today I still find it O.K. which means that near the end of his career Elvis was better heard than seen.
I have mixed feelings about producer Felton Jarvis but feel he did a credible job putting this album together. He overdubbed some of the vocals and filled out the sound. He managed to create a listenable album that was superior to the actual concert.
This original two record set contained a lot of material. I don’t think Elvis ever gave a bad performance of “How Great Thou Art.” Here he strains but ultimately produces a wonderful vocal as he manages to hit all the difficult notes despite his physical condition. “Hurt” likewise is a fine performance. The song, in many ways, chronicles a part of Elvis’ life. He not only gives a strong vocal performance but manages to bring both pain and passion to the song. “My Way” comes across fairly well, but given the fact that it was recorded at one of the last concerts of Elvis’ life it takes on poignancy. The concert showed Elvis actually having to read the lyrics despite having performed the song for years. “You Gave Me A Mountain” continued Elvis’ tradition of always presenting excellent gospel interpretations.
The main negative of the album were the number of shortened, quick presentations of his classic songs. “That’s All Right,” “Hound Dog,” “Teddy Bear/Don’t Be Cruel,” “What’d I Say” and others had been performed hundreds of times by Elvis and he is not vested in the performances but rather just wants to satisfy the fans. I also could have lived without the fan comments interspersed between the tracks. They are unnecessary, untrue and hurt the flow of the music.
There were a few other representative performances. “O Sole Mio/It’s Now Or Never” is a unique presentation of these two songs that share the same musical structure. “Early Morning Rain” is given an understated vocal by Elvis that fits this folk song just right. “Hawaiian Wedding Song” is resurrected for a nice performance.
Elvis In Concert is by no means a great album but is certainly representative of Elvis near the end of his life.