We can be very short regarding the design, it’s the same digipack all FTD-releases are presented in. The track list is pretty complete with dates and musicians. Since the CD contains 1977 material, we couldn’t expect more from the photos on the cover (from Keith Alverson). It shows Elvis in the state he was at that time. We guess not many people will use this one for decoration.
To get into a 1977-mood immediately, the CD starts with ... a false start. Still this version of ‘That’s All Right” is pretty decent and at least it is better than “Are You Lonesome Tonight” and “Blue Christmas” from the same show. Indeed, “Blue Christmas” on a CD that focuses on the “Spring Tours ‘77”. Elvis made a remark himself that it is a strange time of the year to sing it, but on the other hand, we can listen to classics like “Merry Christmas Baby” and “Santa Claus Is Back In Town” the whole year, so who cares? BMG releases Elvis Christmas collections most of the time in mid-summer, so it is almost normal.
The next two songs, “Tryin’To Get” and “Lawdy”, can be heard in many better renditions and “Fever” is really sad to listen to. It gets slightly better with “Heartbreak Hotel” and with “If You Love Me” we get the first more or less good rendition. Until “Help Me” we get throw-away versions of “It’s Now Or Never”, “Little Sister” and “Teddy Bear/ Don’t Be Cruel”. “Help Me” probably is one of the best songs on this silver disc and that while we never counted it among our favourites. “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock” can’t be called highlights neither, nor does “Polk Salad Annie”. At least the last starts fine, but ends in the well-known wall of sound of the later versions. We prefer the early slow versions when Elvis was in a better physical state and mood that a song like this demands from the performer.
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” is a first class rape. It really is the “saddest song we ever heard”. Elvis hardly sounded weaker than on this “performance”, ever. He started way too high, (almost) torturing the ears and when he found out, he dropped down to a level way too low (while he had J.D Sumner on stage to do that trick).
But there are some good performances on this disk too. A big contrast to “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is the version of “Big Boss Man”. Elvis almost sounded like he was really enjoying his work. “Fairytale” is even of a higher level and is really enjoyable, just like the “slow” version of “Mystery Train/ Tiger Man”. “Unchained Melody” is the “Moody Blue” version, but without overdubs. Except for the ending it is one of Elvis’ best versions of the song. “Little Darlin’” (also the undubbed “Moody Blue”-version) is a light-hearted fun song, and it sounds like Elvis was having fun. “My Way” really gives a great ending to this CD (of which we were glad it ended). The last handful of songs almost make you forget what tragic compilation we have here, proving that Elvis needed to be in the hospital instead of on stage. The fact that we get this material in perfect quality makes it extra painful.
Listening to the CD we can understand the policy of Elvis Presley Enterprises and BMG not to pay too much attention to this period of Elvis’ career, both photo wise and musically. Still we realize that there are fans that like anything Elvis (even 1977). Keeping in mind that this is part of Elvis musical heritage too makes this release fit perfectly in the “something for everybody”-thought of the collectors label. The Follow That Dream label had the guts to listen to the fans and release this material and deserves a big credit for that.
This release can be considered a “Live Greatest Hits” CD. It can’t compete with BMG UK’s release with that title of last year, which proved that a live compilation can be great to listen to. The relatively “new” songs, like “Help Me”, “Fairytale” and “My Way” are very listenable, but with few exceptions all oldies can be disposed. In our case it will end at the bottom of the FTD-pile, just above “Too Much Monkey Business”, or maybe even below, but at least we have an official release from this part of Elvis’ career now.
Playing time: 60'31/ Design 6/ Content 4