Time To Dare
The MXF label re-issued Elvis infamous “Strung Out” performance from September 2, 1974; a reason to throw your copy of “Desert Storm” in the bin?
Like the previous release from this label the booklet is black and dark. It does contain a lot of great pictures of our man in a two piece leather suits and a karate jacket. The booklet contains one page where the image is printed over the text, a nice design, but it makes the liner notes hard to read.
The two discs in this release contain Elvis “Strung Out” performance from September 2, 1974 as recorded in Las Vegas. The concert has seen previous releases on tape vinyl and CD. Fort Baxter’s “Desert Storm” from 1996 is the “classic” release most fans know but not many fans play to enjoy. The recording of this concert show Elvis was using “something”; this is not the material that paints the picture Elvis fans want to see.
This CD contains the “2001” theme and “C.C. Rider” (CD 1) and "Couldn't Live Without You" (CD 2), three songs that were missing from Fort Baxter’s release. This completes the actual concert, but since the source is an audience recording it isn’t the start of an infamous and strange concert that invites you to listen on. The audio quality is about the same as the Fort Baxter escape of this concert.
As for the concert was reviewed in 1996 by Aki Korhonen for the For Elvis CD Collector’s website, that review says it all, so I added that for the complete picture.
Like many more recent releases this re-issue does not really add anything to the material already available except for three additional audience recorded tracks. Great pictures don't make this a great release.
Elvis fans may want to add this concert to their collection because it shows us what happened. If you have the "Desert Storm" discs in your collection, stick to that release, if not and you want to listen to this historical (I have no other word for it) concert, get this 2CD set.
Original review for the Fort Baxter release of this concert:
Elvis' 1974 summer engagement in Las Vegas was a peculiar one. It started out well enough, with an adventurous opening show offering experimental material. By the end of the 4 week stay, things had taken a radical change for the worse. Elvis gave long boring monologues on various subjects and the material was basically the same which it had been for several years. The closing show, which is featured on this CD, was probably one of the strangest in Elvis' career.
The sound quality on this CD is not quite the best, with tape hiss apparent on quieter passages. But it is about average for these soundboard recordings. The opening "C.C.Rider" is missing, and the CD starts with dialogue about microphones. This is an omen of things to come; this talk has a strange, mean edge to it. "I Got a Woman / Amen" follows, as usual. Elvis' doesn't sound really concentrated. Amen in particular sounds quite ragged. It includes a swinging instrumental part, however, which lasts for just over a minute. "What're we doin'?", asks Elvis, and goes into the familiar vocal play with J.D.Sumner. "I want you to take me down to treetop level in a B52, then stall out and start the engines back up, OK?", tells Elvis. I'm sure this instruction wouldn't make much sense to anyone not familiar with Elvis' stage shows! J.D. does what he's told...
Karate dialogue follows, during which Elvis introduces himself as Bill Cosby, and talks about black belt degrees. He himself just got the 8th degree black belt. "Until It's Time for You to Go" is next and again it's not a concentrated version; this version has hardly any charm. In "If You Love Me" we get to hear the first proper performance of the evening and it's a good one, too.
"It's Midnight" continues this vein of good performances; this is a strong version of this wonderful song. Elvis calls out "Listen Cilla" to his ex-wife in the middle of the first verse; thus no doubt causing some embarrassment. The following "Big Boss Man" is a rocking version, although Elvis' weird state of mind is evident even here. Then we get to hear a strange version of "You Gave Me a Mountain". Elvis talks his way through it, sounding very anxious especially on the line "she took my reason for living", which he shouts out in a hoarse voice. A dramatic version just underlining the fact that all is not well with Elvis mentally tonight. The following dialogue confirms this. Elvis tells the audience that this song "has nothing to do with me personally or my ex-wife Priscilla." It gets more and more embarassing as Elvis talks about his divorce settlement and Mike Stone. By now it is clear that Elvis is under influence of some kind of substance. "Excuse me folks, I just mumble things!", he tells after a profanity slips out...
"Softly As I Leave You" follows and it's as beautiful as usual. "I hope you'd quit rattling the glasses till I tell the story, please", asks Elvis during the introduction. With only an "OK" Elvis then launches into another throwaway version of "Hound Dog"; I wonder if he ever performed this song seriously after 1969. On "American Trilogy" one would wish for a more serious approach. Elvis doesn't sound committed enough here, and so the song fails to convince. The following "It's Now Or Never" is an OK version, which actually sounds close the original 1960 version, as the horns are missing this time. The ending of the song is not so great, though.
The audience has enjoyed the show so far, despite its peculiarities, so Elvis thanks it: "I couldn't have gotten a better audience if I'd paid you 20 dollars to come i here... you're outtasight!" Then it's time for the introductions. James Burton is introduced as "one of the funkiest chicken-pickin' son-of-a-guns you ever met in your life". The band members play their solos for probably one of the first times; from now on it would be a regular fixture. Elvis urges them on with: "We've got nothing but time!"
The group Voice is in the spotlight for 3 songs; personally, I could have lived without these performances. Then Elvis goes on to describe his liver biopsy in more detail than anyone would want to hear. He then introduces Bill Cosby, who is not present. "You mean after that build-up that son-of-a-bitch left? To hell with him, I won't pay him anyway!" All this just makes the listener more and more embarassed for Elvis.
Then it's back to music; Elvis repeats "It's Now Or Never" for Vicki Carr. This version is not quite as good as the earlier one. "Let Me Be There" features a screaming (as opposed to singing) Elvis, especially during the reprise section. Not good. "If You Talk in Your Sleep" is a funky version of this funky song, probably with some karate moves during the instrumental part. Then Elvis has worked himself up into a mood, in which he feels compelled to address drugs in front of the audience.
The following drugs dialogue has become infamous. We all know how it goes. There's no use repeating it here. The term 'guilty conscience' comes to mind... After threatening to pull a certain person's tongue out by the roots, Elvis seeks into "Hawaiian Wedding Song", ("Let me get out of this mood", he says.) of which we hear a sloppy version. This somewhat excruciating show is now nearing its end. Elvis talks about his jewelry and tries to introduce the Colonel, who is not present either. "He's out there playing roulette, don't kid me! Him and Cosby out there talkin' trash and drinking mash..." Finally "Can't Help Falling in Love" is done and both the show and the season are over. Three weeks later Elvis would start a tour, on which his embarassing speeches would continue...
This CD can be recommended for the collector because of its peculiarities. For that same reason, I hope that the so called "general audience" never gets to hear this show. It would only bring about "Elvis was on drugs and nothing else during the 70's" comments. That would not