The announcement that "Elvis The Concert" will be in Madison Square Garden is a good reason to take a closer look on the two albums that were released by BMG/RCA. Two shows on CD, out of the four that Elvis gave in 1972 ain't bad. Both albums contain a show from Saturday, June 10 1972. The original 1972 album "As Recorded at Madison Square Garden" brings us the evening show, while the title of the second (1997) release "An Afternoon In The Garden" speaks for itself.
In Rolling Stone 116 Bob Palmer started his review like this:
"This is a damn fine record, friend, and you're going to like it whether you like it or not. There's Wagnerian bombast, plenty of your favorite songs, some jukebox music and some Las Vegas lounge music. There's even some old fashioned rock 'n' roll. And most of all there's lots of Elvis, doing what he does best, strutting his stuff before his adoring fans. There's even historical interest; this was Elvis' first New York stage appearance, and you can bet plenty of folks had been waiting since 1956 for a little of that Elvis magic. Well, they got it, and you can hear them getting it right here, the whole thing, from the opening whisper of Also Sprach Zarathustra to the MC announcing that 'Elvis has left the building. Thank you and good night.'"
Very clear words, that we are not going to contradict. Nowadays people say about this album that the decline was already (slightly) visible. This comment is mostly based upon the fact that everything was very tight and up tempo. We saw more than once comments like "Elvis was in a hurry to get home". Allthough those comments are understandable, one should not forget the image of time. Compared to a lot of other music from the early 70's Elvis' music was still relaxed, but the "oldies" got indeed already the rushed, bored treatment. Not as bad as later on, but they didn't sound like Elvis' was really enjoying them. The one exception being "Hound Dog", since Elvis obviously enjoyed the fooling around with its start.
Furtheron in the above mentioned review Bob Palmer trumpeted forth the praises of the band, the backbone of Elvis' show in the 70's and the backbone of "Elvis The Concert". Besides some annoying mistakes, like misspelling of names and naming Kathy Westmoreland as one of the Sweet Inspirations, we can only agree with mr. Palmer once again:
"Every great rock and roll singer needs a great rock and roll band, and Elvis has got one. James Burton, the guitarist, can pick Sun era rockabilly, country twang, laid-back bluesy fills and sharp, ringing single string leads. Bassist Jerry Schiff and drummer Ronnie Tutt are super tight; when they nail down the beat, it stays nailed down. Pianist Glen Hardman knows when to honk and when to tonk. The backup singers are the Sweet Inspirations and J.D. Sumner and the Stamps, the one a black gospel group, the other white gospel. Church music of the sanctified, shouting kind has never been far removed from blues and rock & roll, so these two groups are perfect complements to Elvis' gospel-tinged voice. Kathy West-moreland of the Inspirations sings graceful obbligatos way up high, and Mr. J.D. Sumner is the most authoritative bass singer you could imagine, especially when he ends a song with one of his long, perfectly timed slides down from the dominant to the tonic. Of course there's also a flaccid orchestra sawing away in the background, but it's used like the orchestras on some of the classic Phil Spector records, to reverberate around the core of band and singers and occasionally come out with a sweet lead line."
About everything that can be said of "As Recorded at" holds for "An Afternoon". Not surprisingly the setlists don't differ too much from each other. Most fans agree that the afternoon show was more spectacular, but it seems that "The Impossible Dream" was the main reason RCA to release the eveningshow in 1972. The release itself was done very fast: only 8 days after the shows at MSG RCA shipped it. The album reached to the eleventh place in the charts.