A Profile - The King On Stage

Released: 1995, by Fort Baxter 161095
Live, various1973-77

Content

CD-1
2001
See See Rider
I Got A Woman/ Amen
Love Me
Steamroller Blues
You Gave Me A Mountain
Trouble
Blue Suede Shoes
Rock And Roll medley
Love Me Tender
Fever
What Now My Love
Suspicious Minds
Band introductions
My Boy
Release Me
An American Trilogy
Mystery Train/ Tiger Man
Help Me Make It Through The Night
How Great Thou Art
Can't Help Falling In Love
Closing Vamp
(Recorded live, August 20, 1973, midnight show, Las Vegas)

CD-2
Bonus tracks;
Stagger Lee
I Got My Mojo Working
A Spanish folksong
Cotton Fields

See See Rider
When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again
Blue Christmas
I Got A Woman
Love Me
Tryin' To Get To You
All Shook Up
Love Me Tender
Hound Dog
Fever
Polk Salad Annie
Why Me Lord
Suspicious Minds
Band introductions
I Can't Stop Loving You
Help Me
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Let Me Be There
Johnny B. Goode
Can't Help Falling In Love
(Recorded live, June 29, 1974, evening show, Kansas City)

CD-3
Jambalaya
Love Me
If You Love Me
Love Me Tender
All Shook Up
Teddy Bear/ Don't Be Cruel
The Wwonder Of You
Polk Salad Annie
Band introductions
Johnny B. Goode
Steamroller Blues
T-R-O-U-B-L-E
I'll Remember You
Why Me Lord
Let Me Be There
An American Trilogy
Hound Dog
Funny How Time Slips Away
Little Darlin'
Can't Help Falling In Love
Closing Vamp
(Recorded live, May 4, 1975, evening show, Lake Charles, Louisiana)

CD-4
If You Love Me
You Gave Me A Mountain
Tryin' To Get To You
It's Now Or Never
Little Sister
Teddy Bear/ Don't Be Cruel
Help Me
My Way
Polk Salad Annie
Hurt
Blueberry Hill (February 13, 1977, West Palm Beach, FL.)
Danny Boy * sung by Sherrill Nielsen (February 14, 1977, St. Petersburg, Fl.)
Walk Wwith Me * sung by Sherrill Nielsen (February 14, 1977, St. Petersburg, Fl.)
Unchained Melody
Little Darlin'
Can't Help Falling In Love
(Recorded live, April 24, 1977)
* Note *The first songs of CD 3 & 4 were not recorded on soundboard.

Reviews

This is a spectacular boxed set, four terrific sounding CD's with a fourteen page booklet, illustrated with loads of color photos, and a splendid personal essay from W.A. Harbinson, author of 1975's "The Illustrated Elvis". This is Fort Baxter's attempt to give the fans an incredible keepsake and they, for the most, part succeed. The first event contained here is a surprisingly good, off-line stereo recording (the disc credits "two mikes in the showroom") of the midnight gig from August 20, 1973. Why this show is included from a label that has set a precedent for soundboard-only releases is a mystery. The program is fairly standard -- Elvis is evidently bored with the Vegas routine, as reviews from this time indicate. As usual, his classic fifties numbers are rushed through, some shoved into that horrific "medley" found in official form on the Memphis '74 live album. The fluffy version of "Release Me" here pales in comparison to the version he burned onto recording tape just three years prior, while "Mystery Train"/"Tiger Man" just limps along. There's virtually no sparkle or energy in what he's doing. He simply doesn't want to be there!

A few rarities appear in the set, including "Trouble" (which doesn't touch his raw 1968 TV special re-recording or the 1958 original), "My Boy" (nearly four months before his Memphis studio recording, utilizing the exact same arrangement) and "Help Me Make It Through The Night". My favorite moments feature Bob Hope, who was in the audience that Monday evening, when Elvis references him in song ("I saw Bob Hope, with bald-headed Sally ...") and salutes him from the stage. Hope gets a twenty second ovation.

Before disc two swings into a crazed summer night in Kansas City, we're at MGM's Stage 1 in Culver City, CA for a look into a pre-Vegas rehearsal session from July 15, 1970. Remember in Jerry Hopkin's "Elvis" biography, when Elvis' musicians referred to him doing rock songs off the top of his head? This is it. All tracks are go, from the risqué "Stagger Lee" ("I got three hungry kids and a very horny wife ... screw Stagger Lee!") and a brief take on the folk standard "Cottonfields" to the four minute jam on Muddy Waters' "I Got My Mojo Working" and the absolutely absurd "A Spanish Folksong" (released on the 70's box in edited form as "Alla En El Rancho Grande" -- play this one for non-Elvis friends and watch their faces).

Elvis worked a lot in 1974, maybe too much. He didn't make it into a recording studio the entire year, but jumped onto a stage 155 times! Coming near the end of a 25 date tour, the contrast between playing before 10,000 screaming fans rather than a sedate Vegas crowd of 2,000 is jarring. The show is ragged but Elvis is in a great mood so everything flows. This might be the most enjoyable concert in this box: while joking around after "C.C. Rider" he goes into brief renditions of "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again" and "Blue Christmas" before kicking off "I Got A Woman"! It feels like a hot, wild summer night -- when some girls apparently place a huge stuffed gorilla on the stage and Elvis jokes "don't you move, you big sum bitch ... " the audience roars. There aren't any real song surprises, but then again, there aren't any hints of the on-stage problems to come in 1974, either. One wonders what happened to Elvis between this tour and his Las Vegas stand in August?

The May to July 1975 appearances represent the last of the primarily up-tempo live Elvis Presley experience -- producer Felton Jarvis observed around this time that Elvis seemed to be getting more interested in doing rock material, although this would be short-lived. The May 4th tape, which disc three presents, is from Lake Charles, LA and is quite similar to the June '75 amalgam found on "Elvis Aron Presley". He initially sounds a bit tired (it's his second show that Sunday), but the Civic Center crowd brings out some nice performances, including a nice T-R-O-U-B-L-E (a hit in the 90's for country act Travis Tritt) and a pretty "I'll Remember You". Although the initial two songs were not caught on tape the third one was, a rare stab at the Cajun-influenced Hank Williams classic "Jambalaya". It's cute, but trivial -- barely a minute long it contains too much of Charlie Hodge's harmonyvocal.

Less than four months from death, Elvis is on stage at the Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, MI with some inspired moments. Amidst the pain and loss of ability, disc four includes a great "You Gave Me A Mountain", and a surprisingly robust "Trying To Get To You". An impassioned "Hurt" is done with reprise, although his voice isn't really up to it. As usual for 1977, he just sounds so damn tired! Prior to "Little Sister" someone yells out for "Blue Hawaii" and Elvis tries to run it down, but pianist Tony Brown doesn't know it ("Do somethin' Tony ... right or wrong, it don't matter!")

This April 24th evening is where RCA took "Unchained Melody" and "Little Darlin'" from, overdubbing a rhythm section and placing both cuts on the 'Moody Blue' long player. Here they are presented as performed, which means Elvis solo at the piano for "Unchained Melody". He does well, although Sherrill Neilsen "doubles" the falsetto ending and Elvis claims "I have done it better" (maybe he was thinking about the previous New Year's in Pittsburgh?); ironically, on "Little Darlin'" he executes the falsetto finale perfectly.

As a bonus, three songs are included from the Florida tour of February 1977; unfortunately, two feature just Sherrill Neilsen ("Danny Boy" and "Walk With Me"). The other tune finds Presley sliding pianist Brown off his seat (poor guy!) to play and sing a spontaneous rendition of "Blueberry Hill" ("You are a fantastic piano player, but you are warped, son ... I'm gonna show you how to do that"). It's a nice moment in a life that would soon no longer have any.

Thanks are due Fort Baxter for a mostly superb look at Elvis on stage, warts, indifference and magnificence for all to hear.


Reviewed by Johnny Savage, USA


Sound: 8 out of 10.