The new FTDs arrived and I still have to do a review of the previous batch, thanks to the post, so let’s do it straight away! The On Stage Season brings the opening and closing shows of the January/ February 1970 engagement in Vegas.
The choice for the front cover would not have been my choice. I would have used the front of the booklet or another black and white one to keep it in “On Stage” atmosphere. Besides that, I don’t really like this picture. Otherwise the package is good as usual, enough background info and some nice shots.
What really counts is the music. Of course we know Elvis still had the fire in these first few Vegas seasons. Personally I miss Ronnie Tutt in this particular one, but still it belongs to Elvis’ best live material. So far Madison brought these two shows in the best quality, but they are not real party to Vic Anesini. He managed to improve the sound even further, especially on Opening Night, compared to earlier escapes.
For the completists is here what I wrote about the shows themselves on the two Madison releases with the same content:
Elvis opens with a frantic All Shook Up and goes on in high speed with That’s All Right and Proud Mary before calming down with Don’t Cry Daddy. Although we get the Teddy Bear/ Don’t Be Cruel medley already in January 1970, it is nothing compared to the later boring throwaway version. This medley actually rocks, even the Teddy Bear part. Long Tall Sally is one of the highlights to me; this is rock’n’roll like it ought to be. Let It Be Me is in one word extraordinaire and although I really love Tom Jones’ bluesy version of I Can’t Stop Loving You, Elvis’ powerhouse version is not much less (if at all).
Next up is the premiere of Walk a Mile in My Shoes, a song that gives me mixed feelings I love the song, but I hate the fans that misuse the lyrics when they are out of arguments. In this version the violins add a special touch, more than on other versions. The song goes flawlessly into In the Ghetto, which is followed by another song of the famous ’69 sessions: True Love Travels on a Gravel Road. It is great in its rarity and one of my favourite songs of the session, but honestly I have to admit I understand why it was dropped from the set list pretty quickly. It is just not it.
Another premiere is Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. Another performance that doesn’t go without an error, but this one survived. A song that was new and just fell into place is Tony Joe White’s Polk Salad Annie. This is why Elvis it the king, the way he embraced this song and lived it… WOW!
Gladly during this part of his career the introductions were short without boring solos and used to get his breath back before going into a perfect outing of Kentucky Rain, although the finale by the orchestra is a bit over the top. Suspicious Minds still had the extended treatment it got in August ’69 and the show is closed with my favourite lullaby Can’t Help Falling In Love. Well, I don’t like lullabies at all and I can’t get sleep anyway right after enjoying this latest Madison escape.
What do I need to say about the show? There are so many outings with material of this engagement that show the high quality that was Elvis’ standard at that moment. From the first bars of “All Shook Up” to the final notes of “Can’t Help Falling In Love” the show is pure entertainment. In between we get rockers like “Long Tall Sally”, “Hound Dog” and “See See Rider” presented in a way only Elvis could. The man shows his diversity with the treatment of a ballad like “Let It Be Me”. The recent hit singles “Don’t Cry Daddy”, “Kentucky Rain” and of course “Suspicious Minds” got their exposure too. The latter shows – like all versions during this engagement – why Elvis wanted Ronnie back. It’s still a great song, but I miss the driving power of Mr. Tutt’s drumsticks, and Elvis obviously did too.
During the engagement Elvis did also recent hits of other artists, like “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” (which we get from the 18th as a bonus on this CD), “Sweet Caroline” and the highlight of the show – can it be else? – “Polk Salad Annie”, I really love this version so close to Tony Joe White’s original. It is way, way better than the later over orchestrated rush versions. Elvis directs his band into more swamp rock to give him time to get his breath back before introducing the band. I never knew he had Chuck Berry and Leonard Bernstein playing for him that night ;-). In other words, this experience is exactly like the L.A. Times wrote back then “a flawless demonstration of vocal ability and showmanship”.
I guess this is the definitive version of these shows. A must have for everyone who enjoys Elvis at his peak!