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High Voltage! Birmingham ’76 Revisited

By ElvisNews.com/ Lex, January 26, 2008 | Music

Recently there was a cheap re-release of the Birmingham show on December 29, 1976. Some call that thievery. Gladly two quality labels Audionics and 2001 joined forces to do this show justice.


I can be very short about that. A nice 16 page booklet carries the best that can be done with pictures of Elvis in this shape. The liner notes are an interesting read and the extra information about the tour is for “completists”. The last page is used for an in depth story of “the reparation of…”.


Since I already happened to bore visitors with my views when the original “Burning In Birmingham” was released, I looked up what I wrote back then:

“A week ago I was complaining about 1976, lost glory and Elvis not being at his best. Probably true, but this concert shows Elvis at his best. 2001 showed in recent releases they are a synonym for quality. With Burning in Birmingham the only live up to their image. The CD contains an 8 page booklet with pictures of the concert and fragments of a newspaper review. Okay, back to the show itself. The sound quality is great, Elvis in a very good mood and the band at their best. It's hard to name highlights in the show, but to me 'Early Morning Rain' (2'56 !), 'For the Good Times' and 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' are pure gems. After listening several times I am convinced that Elvis did also one of the best, if not the best versions of Mystery Train/Tiger Man (play it, James).”

Nowadays I am a bit more critical. This show is only good compared to what Elvis did the year before and the months after it. I still think the four songs above are a pleasant listening, as are several others. But really great? No way!

Compared to the original release (with which I was quite happy at the time), the sound quality has even improved a lot. The downside is that David Briggs is even more annoying, or at least I experience it more that way.

Anyway, the fact that it already had two complete spins since I received it yesterday says enough to me… that didn’t happen with a bootleg for a long, long time.


This CD contains a significant improvement of a historic show in a historic tour, not because of its own quality, but compared to the mess Elvis usually made on the stage in 1976/77. The title is well chosen, since Elvis sounds high as a kite.


01. Also Sprach Zarathustra (Theme from "2001 A Space Odyssey") - 02. Opening Vamp / C. C. Rider - 03. I Got A Woman / Amen (medley) - 04. Love Me - 05. Fairytale - 06. You Gave Me A Mountain - 07. Jailhouse Rock - 08. O Sole Mio (by Sherrill Nielsen) / It's Now Or Never (medley) - 09. Tryin' To Get To You - 10. My Way - 11. Polk Salad Annie - 12. Band Introductions - 13. Early Mornin' Rain (complete) - 14. What'd I Say - 15. Johnny B. Goode - 16. Drums Solo (by Ronnie Tutt) - 17. Bass Solo (Blues - by Jerry Scheff) - 18. Piano Solo (by Tony Brown) - 19. Electric Piano Solo (by David Briggs) - 20. Love Letters - 21. School Day - 22. Funny How Time Slips Away - 23. Hurt (with last part reprise) - 24. Hound Dog - 25. For The Good Times (with false start, last live version) - 26. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (last live version) - 27. Unchained Melody (Elvis at the piano) - 28. Mystery Train / Tiger Man (medley) - 29. Can't Help Falling In Love - 30.Closing Vamp. Bonus: 31. You Gave Me A Mountain - 32. Unchained Melody (in original binaural sound, as recorded)

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Herbi wrote on January 28, 2008
..and the sound quality ?
benny scott wrote on January 28, 2008
Hi Herbi. See review by Lex. "Content , paragraph 4 ": " the sound quality has even improved a lot". OK ? Always El
elvis sweden wrote on January 28, 2008
I have listen and compared these 2.High Voltage and F1rst time Birgmingham.The sound on F1rst time Birgmingham is clearer and higher,On high voltage the sound is only slight better then the old titel Burning in Birgmingham.
wayup wrote on January 28, 2008
elvis sweden: what you wrote is pure bull$hit. Or better said - it is lie. Another supporter of Martin Schardinger?
wayup wrote on January 28, 2008
Btw, really funny, how anyone can call flat, unbalanced sound totally lacking bass "clearer and higher". Questions: 1. is HIGH VOLTAGE more complete than BURNING IN BMGH or 1ST TIME IN BMGH? 2. is HIGH VOLTAGE much better sound and stereo? Answers: YES & YES.
FLY-TROUBLE! wrote on January 28, 2008
I agree with Lex. This is a great cd,much better than that German crap. Thank you,Audionics/2001!
elvis sweden wrote on January 28, 2008
It's just my opinion about these 2 release and it's my truth of what I'm hearing not every one elses. I don't need others to think or hear for me. I have all the 3 titels on original copies too. And I'm feeling lucky to that.
Rev. Gerhard wrote on January 28, 2008
It's a breathtaking concert. Great that the fans gets it restored. Elvis-sweden, thank you for that comparison.
I Saw the Light wrote on January 28, 2008
I like 'High Voltage'. It's not spectacular improvement, but the sound quality is without doubt better then on 'Burning In Birmingham'. It has punch and energy this time. Booklet is absolutely great. You definately can't go wrong with this one.
Ton Bruins wrote on January 28, 2008
I was not impressed by the so called improvement of the sound quality..still a great show though ! Sound quality improvement can't be compared with "Zhazam" and "One Night Only" (Boston 1971). When One Night Only (Boston) came out - it was a revelation compared to Zhazam. High Voltage unfortunately can not be called a revelation. But I'm sure that the people at Audionics and 2001 did everything that was possible...
Lefty wrote on January 29, 2008
I missed out on the original release, so I'm looking forward to this one. A great idea to improve upon and re-release the classic boots. I thought FTD would take a stab at it, but why should they when everyone is willing to buy the movie soundtracks, and yet another set of stuff from TTWII? I can't wait for the new Goodbye Memphis release. It is one of my favorite shows.
Joern wrote on January 30, 2008
First of all I really think that this is not a decision of life and death. Both labels have done their homework. I 've listened to both new releases just to compare the sound. In my opinion the sound of the german CD is clearer and Elvis voice sounds more upfront in comparison to the Audionics release. That gives the impression of a less muffled sound picture which I prefer personally. Nonetheless is the Audionics CD a good improvement over "BIB" and recommended. The people who do have the original CD will affirm that the original sound belongs to the less good sounding soundboards which are available. Possibly there wasn't so much room for a sensational improvement considering the source the producers had to work with. In the end it's up to you and your "hearing habits" to put it this way.
wayup wrote on January 30, 2008
Joern: first of all, 1ST TIME IN BMGH is stolen DIRECTLY from old CD BURNING IN BMGH. Means all what was wrong with the old one is present there, also bad denoising. You wrote it have CLEARER sound, well if you call LACK OF BASS clearer then it is clearer, all right. From this point of view BURNING IN BMGH is also better than HIGH VOLTAGE. I certainly prefer BALANCED sound spectrum with both basss and heights present, not flat, dead sound like BURNING IN BMGH/1ST TIME IN BMGH. Next thing is that HIGH VOLTAGE is as complete as it can be. Audionics/2001 did not faked 2001 and other parts by adding it from OTHER SHOWS. Also Sprach Zarathustra on HIGH VOLTAGE is from 29.12.76. Not from OTHER show. As far as I know the reason of HIGH VOLTAGE release was to present the show in STEREO. Which is indeed true. Of cousre it is a matter of taste, not everyone like keyboartds, especialy Briggs' one. Other two releases are MONO. For BURNING IN BMGH both channels were mixed together into one and since 1ST TIME IN BMGS is nothing else than a copy of it, it is mono too. The best thing that I can recommend is: play some tracks of BOTH CDs using high fidelity speakers at high volume. I.e. POLK SALAD or HURT. And then you will notice something. Or maybe not. Depends on the quality of your ears.
I Saw the Light wrote on January 30, 2008
Maybe it's something wrong with me, but in the last few days, since I got 'High Voltage', I've started to like D. Briggs electric piano- it's not that laud in the mix and he's a good musician
Aron wrote on January 30, 2008
Ton Bruns, i agree totally. Also, they should have edited David Briggs some 12 dB less: to me he's really annoying. Apart from this, it's a great release and Audionics / 2001 probably did their best.
RJ wrote on January 30, 2008
Got it --> a significant upgrade. More bass and warmth in this recording. Imo, Briggs could have been a tad lower in the mix, he was recorded on a separate track anyway.. Drums are drown out a bit at times, but so be it. First time I saw your face can now truly be enjoyed, sounds pretty amazing in this new sound. Elvis' voice still sounds kinda flat at times, just like the old boot. The only way this could have been solved is adding slight reverb.. That pretty much covers up some of the soundboard recording limitations and of course gives you that concert feel. DAE did the trick and always liked that.... Just an opinion. My advice: go get it while you can, it's a classic concert in cool sound!
You Dont Know Me wrote on January 31, 2008
VERY WORTHY 'up-grade' better sound, more complete, excellent booklet ALL add up to another great release. I think a few people complaining that this 'new' sound isn't as 'fantastic' as they were expecting should remember that the source wasn't 'perfect' to start with- given that this is a very good concert to listen to(which i just have complete) and only a partial bit of It's now or Never is missing.at over 79 minutes running time they couldn't have fitted anymore onto 1 disc anyhow! amazing photo on the disc cover too!- VERY 'unusual!'.
Greg Nolan wrote on February 03, 2008
I agree with Lex's original enthusiam for this concert but disagree with his down-grading of his initial view. My how jaded we've become after years and years of a windfall in import and FTD concerts...!We also should recall that Lex seems especially hard on late-era Elvis, as shown from his snarky panning of the 1977-based "Unchained Melody" FTD and other titles..) Elvis no doubt had a variety of substances coursing through his veins probably for many years prior to '76, so I don't hold it against him for whatever it is (or claimed in likely true rumors) to have made him so "up" for this concert. But as a fan and listener, the results, well, are simply fantastic! Let that not be an endorsement for any kind of upper, but given the alternative of relatively hum-drum shows thoughout '76, I can't complain outside of the fact it all led to his early death a year later at a mere 42. And I praise this Birmingham show as having heard only the original concert, which for me (along with the rest of late December '76) is one of his better representations of his late-period voice and overall performance potential that sadly he struggled to maintain. For the many of us who actually appreciate his still-maturing and powerful voice in the better songs of 1977's "Elvis in Concert" in a sort of "What if he had gotten his act together?," these shows are a real treat as his energy level (>cough<) is where it should be and the sets longer and more passionate. The December '76 shows in Birmingham, Dallas, and Pittsburgh, and what can be gleaned from Atlanta and Wichita remain a counterpoint of the popular non-fan notion that his talent was in decline and that he expired some 8 months later as a result of total artistic decline. As fans we know that was not the case, but among some fans even, a minority likes to pretend (just to annoy some of us?) that he had nothing to offer in terms of performance after, say, 1973, which is an absurd over-reaction to the undoubtedly obvious rise in pedestrian, "cruise-control" shows as his boredom grew and personal life tanked. I'm a huge fan of the output of "Audionics" and "Southern Comfort" so I know the sound upgrade is going to be worthwhile along with the deluxe booklet. I hope to buy a copy A.S.A.P.
Lefty wrote on February 05, 2008
I just received High Voltage. The package is absolutely fantastic! The picture disc features a shot of Elvis lying down on the stage. Unusual to be sure, but neat nonetheless. The booklet is packed with great shots of our Man, and the notes are very informative. The technical references show you the dedication that went into this project. Fantastic Stereo mastering. You can see a difference when fans are involved in the execution of a CD. As for the quality of the show, well that's a matter of taste. As for me, I'm glad that Elvis had one last great tour before the end. I wish that I had been there. This CD is the closest I'll ever get. A great buy!
Steve V wrote on February 18, 2008
Glad that cover isnt on a regular BMG release. Horrid picture and one of the reasons for the Elvis ridicule in the world. Fat, jumpsuit, awful pose, it has it all.
Greg Nolan wrote on February 20, 2008
It sounds like Steve V has internalized the worst stereotypes about Elvis. Let's face it: the negativity about the '70s jumpsuit Elvis is actually because the impersonators who "do" Elvis are so self-righteously *BAD* in their tributes! They are buffoons....and to younger folks who don't remember the real Elvis , they have morphed *INTO* Elvis. Otherwise, with a few exceptions, there's nothing inherrently wrong with Elvis' 70s jumpsuits, unless your some kind of purist '50s fan. It was a flamboyant decade - ask David Bowie or Mick Jagger or Freddie Mercury or any other '70s act. Why hold Elvis to another standard? I'm with those who think it's a cool, even badass cover. It fits the material perfectly. A few years ago, I liked the picture so much from an alternate Elvis album cover site that I printed it up and used it as my cover. I don't think your impression is in the majority. And besides, the heck with these Elvis haters who ridicule his '70s look. We don't have to be pretend to be repulsed to be in their good graces. Granted, we can among ourselves hem and haw about this or that suit, but this one? It's not particularly unusual and while he wasn't as slim as he could be, he looked a lot better then he did in earlier '76 or February '77 in Florida. Hat's off to Audionics and Southern Comfort for having the cajones to put an angry Elvis in full Karate roar on the cover. It's who he was at times - the whole persona - embrace it, I say!
Steve V wrote on February 20, 2008
Sorry Greg I cant embrace it. Elvis to me was always so cool, even through the downside of the movie years. He was still a guy that personified cool and you knew there was more to come ala the '68 TV show. When he returned to live performing he was still badass cool and yes even the early 70's when he paved the way for other performers by wearing simple jumpsuits (copied by The Osmonds, Jackie Wilson & others). But after Aloha it was a bit over the top for me. The peacock, tiger, gypsy, & worst of all the sundial. I didnt find them cool at all and was sort of embarassed by the whole look as Elvis' physical condition worsened. To me it was just gaudy 70's at its worst. You mention Bowie / Jagger but even they changed constantly(as well as their music). Elvis what happened indeed.
Lefty wrote on February 20, 2008
After listening to this release a few times through, I'm a little bit disappointed with the sound quality. Granted, it's an improvement over the prior release. However, it falls short of being in stereo. Using phrases like, "stereo image," and "mixed to stereo," lead you to think that stereo has been accomplished, but that's not the case. It's an okay soundboard, nothing more. The over emphasis on the electric piano really dampers the quality of this CD. Lex is right on the mark when describing it as "annoying." That aside, the packaging is great. The pic on the inside of the CD tray is awesome. A quality release in every respect. On another note, I'm with Greg Nolan regarding the 70's. Steve V is entitled to his opinion. I just don't see any reason to bag on Elvis in the 70's. I certainly don't like the movie era stuff, but others do. To each his own. There's enough room in the world for us all. Plus, I love the sundial suit. It's one of my favorites!! How's that for weird? Lot of love to you all.
FLY-TROUBLE! wrote on February 20, 2008
Steve V,you completely forgot how great he looked in the Sundial suit in october 1974! By the way,the other jumpsuits you have mentioned are between my favorites. To each his own. By the way,i think he looked very good in those jumpsuits until mid/late 1975. But you may find a few great shots even from '76 and '77. About the cover-picture of this cd: it fits to the title perfectly,i'm glad they choose this one.
sohigh wrote on February 20, 2008
I think this show is totaly overrated. For me the December, 28 is much better. Ok, he performed a few rare songs here, but with this performence he would fail in every castingshow today.
FLY-TROUBLE! wrote on February 20, 2008
Sohigh,you made me laugh:) You can't imagine recent pop-stars how bad shows do. Elvis was much better even in october '74 than these so called stars anytime. In fact,the whole dec.'76 tour was great. Fortunately we'll get the reissue of the Dallas show within a few months.
mature_elvis_fan75 wrote on February 23, 2008
The 70's are my fav part of Elvis,but there from 70 to 72 and then 75,as for this show i think its not as great as some think,its not a bad showjust not one of my fav,i love the june 75 tour!
Greg Nolan wrote on February 24, 2008
I think he's more on fire at this time than June '75, which to my ears still sounds comparably lax to prior years, although still-top notch. Fans will find this all subjective and have their favorites, but there is, I'm sure we all agree, a distinctive difference in the sound he had late '76 vocally and even incrementally with the material and band. And that's a plus for us. Steve V: your comments reveal your overall bias towards Elvis after Aloha, let alone this particular show, which you originally singled out. It's good to know where you are coming from. Personally, I think you paint with much too much of a broad brush as one can find terrific shows in every year, and arguably even in '77. Or is it that you are offended, okay, find "uncool" his take on fashion? So you don't like his jumpsuits - that seems kind of shallow. It's Elvis: big, gaudy, outrageous. Only Elvis could wear such outfits - and it was the '70s! And hey, I'd love him to look as slim as he did in 1970 or even '72 or say January '73 but it didn't work out that way. And despite popular stereotypes, he didn't weigh 300 pounds or something, but just looked more burly and perhaps more ordinary. But he was always a magestic presence on stage, even to the last concert. Why write him off so casually? And I can't help feeling that some people, if not yourself as you seem to like ALOHA, are coming at this from a "rockist" bias - look up the term. That is, many cannot embrace his wide variety of musical choices, particularly big ballads, country, gospel and the like. Elvis went way beyond a David Bowie in that regard and his legacy has nothing to apologize for - in my book, anyway. So High, I don't know what you're talking about with this show being a failure. Are you even a fan? Jeez. Give it another listen, please. Lefty, I agree that the electric piano can be grating. I have to be in the mood, quite frankly. I just received this disc the other day and do notice a noticeable uptick in the sound quality. It was a tall order to attempt to bring it into stereo but one must credit the Audionics staff for working over-time to bring it up a notch and I think they've succeeded. More comments as I soak the rest up!
Steve V wrote on February 25, 2008
Greg - I saw Elvis 5 times, 3 days at MSG in 1972, once in 1973 and once in 1975 at Nassau Colesium on Long Island. I also had tockets to see him again in Aug of 1977 on Long Island. Nothing can match the excitement of the first time in 1972, In 1973 I felt let down after seeing Aloha a few months earlier. The show lacked fire. However and you may find this hard to believe, my favorite show vocally was the 1975 Long Isalnd show The song mix was better (yes he rocked more (and I liked that)and he sat at the piano and played You'll Never Walk Alone (FTD where is this ?) So I am not that biased as to think there were no good shows in the later years. But from all Ive read there were more so-so and even and even some bad shows by the this time. The suits were gaudy and I admit not cool to my eyes. I wish he had taken some time off, got himself better , changed his stage show, ditch the jumpsuits, Guercio, etc. He was becoming too much like Liberace for and by 1976, I dont think the stage shows did much to enhance his career or image.
GeertFromNl wrote on February 26, 2008
This is one of the best shows he ever gave! I've recently bought this reissue and it's really a beautiful package. The sound quality is definitely better than earlier. Maybe not a huge improvement,but it sounds better. My favourite song on this CD is the magical,unearthly version of 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face'. How sad it was the last live version...
mature_elvis_fan75 wrote on February 26, 2008
In the june and july tour of 75 to my ears he sounds more with it, in late 76 he sounded out of alot and i do like hot winter night in dallas more than this show,although you can tell he is not as with it as he was in those 75 shows i spoke of,and yes Elvis should have changed what he was doing ,goodness id been depressed to if i was doing the same songs everynight and id also ask him to drop the dive bomb routine and get sherill to move as far away from the stage as he could!
GeertFromNl wrote on February 26, 2008
Personally i like the dec. '76 tour more than the (otherwise very good) june and july '75 tours,but it's just a matter of taste. I've purchased the recently issued 4 Huntsville shows,those are all good,my favourite one is the show which was issued on ADIOS HUNTSVILLE. But the dec. '76 tour is a completely different story... I LOVE those shows! The last splendour of the king.
Devon wrote on February 27, 2008
I was at this show and he was very sick, i had seen Elvis 32 times before this show and i had seen at his best and at his not so best. This show was not up there with his best!!!
GeertFromNl wrote on February 27, 2008
Devon, i respect your opinion. You know, opinions are different and that's fine. Some people think he was better in january 1971 in Las Vegas than in Birmingham in late 1976. To each his own. However, according to your profile,you're 48 years old. Did you really see him 33 times during the concert years??? You was still very-very young then. Probably a high-school student. Without own earnings...
Greg Nolan wrote on February 28, 2008
Steve V: well stated and more in tune with your own particular tastes, which is fine. I enjoy songs like "Hurt," "Funny How Times Slips Away," "Love Letters, "You Gave Me A Mountain," "For the Good Times," etc. and could really hear a whole night of that without ever thinking he needed to do any rock, but I agree in as much that he never did stop growing away from rock and roll. While I see the similarities to a Liberace in terms of his flashy (okay, gaudy) outfits as time went on, I still say he was more than just a "MOR" ("middle of the road") artist. That was his achievement - the undisputed "King of Rock and Roll (even if you had to wait for a "Polk Salad Annie" or "Hound Dog") but also a (the?) King of music, period. I'll agree that he probably needed to soon polish up his rock bona-fides in a sense. If he had lived past '77 (and probably out-grew some of the loud '70s costumes), there's cause to believe a better manager / producer would say to him : "Elvis, outside of 'Way Down' or 'T.R.O.U.B.L.E' or 'Promised Land ( but really since 1972's "Burning Love'_it's time for you to show people that you were the first rocker they ever cared about - by doing a "return to the roots" album, be it flat out blues or whatever. But it has to *rock.*" Alas, that was not to be but as I get older, I enjoy the wide variety of material and have a wide pallate in musical tastes, hence my more forgiving attitude. I'm just as likely these days to listen to a song by Frank Sinatra or Englebert Humperdink or George Jones as to cue up the Rolling Stones, Queen, Buddy Guy or Cream like I might have once upon a time. That's great you were at all those New York shows - I'm green with envy, especially as a native-New Yorker too young to attend at the time. I agree that '75 Nassau was top-notch - controversial jump-suit and all...! As for the Birmingham show, heard to such fine effect on the great package "HIGH VOLTAGE!..", I think the "power" is on more than what I've heard of some 3 or 4 Huntsville shows from '75 (as good as they were), as he's showing off a mature vocal style. To me, Huntsville's voice and effort is closer in kin to '72 onward than the last phase, which I think of as late '76 and the best stuff of '77, such as Binghamton, New York or the better songs of "Elvis in Concert" on CBS-TV. That richness to his voice heard on songs like "Trying to Get to You, " "How Great Thou Art," and even "My Way" at the very end is in full effect in late December, with a lot more in the way of relative energy and freedom to revisit older tracks and an extended program. None of it is to be confused with 1970 Elvis, but in many ways HIGH VOLTAGE and the like (Dallas, Pittsburgh) to my ears rival the ease and smoothness of '70 with the raw, kick-ass, half-cocked, operatic Elvis of late '76 and parts of '77. They all co-exist, thankfully in our hearts and minds and CD bins. It's gratefuly not a competition. HIGH VOLTAGE's booklet and essay are terrific, as usual and the sound is uniquely brought into the realm of stereo. Any audio disappoints aside, Audionics in conjunction with 2001 have reaped some new riches from some rather unforgiving source tapes, so this upgrade is well-worth it.
Steve V wrote on February 28, 2008
Greg always enjoy your posts. Well-written! I wish someone , anyone would release the 1975 Nassua Colesium show in decent quality. That show to me showed Elvis as the complete performer with good rock & roll, gospel, pop & country. No flaws. I did record it ( yes I snuck in a tape recorder) and have an audience recording that is my personal souvenir of that night!
Greg Nolan wrote on March 04, 2008
Thanks, Mr. V! By the way, I was under the impression that the two-CD "AMERICA'S OWN" release on AMPEX is the "go-to" document now for the Nassau shows. Great presentation and they did what they coudl with audience tapes...! You should release a tape of that night as a bonus or rival to this version. Where were you sitting? Perhaps you did a better job. We should all hear it for posterity..!
GeertFromNl wrote on March 06, 2008
Greg,i also like your posts and mostly i agree with you. Keep up the good work!:)
Steve V wrote on March 06, 2008
Greg - I made a few copies of my tape for some 'fans'. I believe America's own was made from my tape. Names shall not be mentioned! (I was sitting about 20 rows back)