From Vegas To Macon
That's All Right
I Got A Woman - slow ending
Love Me Tender
I Just Can't Help Believin'
You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'
Polk Salad Annie
Johnny B. Goode & Happy birthday to James & Introductions band & Neil Diamond & Elvis grandmother
The Wonder Of You
Blue Suede Shoes/ Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Can't Help Falling In Love
(Live, Las Vegas, August 21, 1970, dinner show)
If You Love Me (Let Me Know)
You Don't Have To Say You Love Me
Big Boss Man
I'll Remember You
(Live, Macon, Georgia, April 24, 1975)
For the collector, the onslaught of 1970-era recordings continues. This attractive two CD set, housing five photos spanning '69 to '75, presents another Vegas dinner show, this time from Friday, 21 Aug'70, along with most of a Macon, Georgia gig from April 24, 1975.
Right off the bat two things must be said: one, the Aug'70 show is sourced from a very good stereo, audience-recorded tape. One can hear everything Elvis says in between the songs and the rhythm section is loud and clear; listen for Elvis' quite audible acoustic guitar strumming during the first few numbers! Using headphones is almost akin to being in the showroom! One drawback, which should've been corrected by Rock Legends, is that this first disk is off-pitch, running a bit too fast (boo)! The spring '75 show is a voice-heavy soundboard recording which shows just how much Elvis had changed in less than five years.
Following some peculiar organ warm-up piece, Elvis struts out to belt "That's All Right, Mama." He mysteriously mentions that "Tiger Man" (third song of the set) was "the second record that I ever recorded." Then he continues to rock the hell out of the showroom. The opening triad of "That's All Right, Mama," "I Got A Woman" and "Tiger Man" is as exciting as any he ever did on stage in the 1970's. Evidently "Love Me Tender" is his "kissing the girls" number, as it rambles along for over seven minutes with hardly any vocals! It's hard to believe that Elvis actually walked through the audience back then, but it's clear that the man was having fun on stage. Within a week it would change forever, with an anonymous death threat that culminated in a high-tension, FBI-attended Saturday evening show on the 29th (see 1995's 'Revelations From The Memphis Mafia' for more details). It's likely Presley never tried again after that.
In general his focus is clearly on showpiece numbers like "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" and "The Wonder Of You," which are absolutely inspiring. He delivers a lovely rendition of "I Just Can't Help Believin'"; this is classic, mature Elvis using his most ambitious arrangement ever on stage, save for "An American Trilogy" in 1972. After having sung "Sweet Caroline" and changing a line to "and spring became the mattress" he later introduces Neil Diamond (listen for a tiny snatch of "Holly Holy" by EP), his grandmother (Vernon's mom) at her first-ever Elvis show and sings happy birthday to James Burton.
"Polk Salad Annie" retains some of the delicious swampiness so delightful in his February'70 versions, while the remainder of the gig features hot romps through "Johnny B. Goode," "Suspicious Minds" and a off-the-cuff medley of "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On." "Bridge Over Troubled Water" is gorgeous, as usual; even the silly, self-mocking intro to "Hound Dog" works! For those who care, this may've also been soprano Kathy Westmoreland's first show with Elvis as well.
With Disk 2, we're only four years and eight months down the road and Elvis sounds pretty darned tired, opening his 1975 tour on a Thursday evening in Macon, Georgia. He'd spent January 28 to February 14 in the hospital for a "liver problem" or "hypertension" (although it was really to dry out from his abuse of prescription drugs), and in March taped an album in LA and played Vegas. Macon was bass man Jerry Scheff's return to the TCB Band after a two year hiatus (Duke Bardwell's contact had not been renewed) and he quickly realized during the first few numbers that the dynamism of shows from '72/'73 had been scaled back significantly.
The tape begins with dialogue ("My name is Johnny Cash ... it's a pleasure to be back here in Atlanta, uh, Macon") before the set's third number, "Love Me." Elvis must've gotten a lot stronger as the tour went on; by summer, he would be creating memorable evenings in New York and Asheville, among other places. That said, he rocks through "Burning Love" and delivers a bouncy take on Chuck Berry's "Promised Land" (at least his fatigue wasn't yet due to maudlin songs like "My Way") nicely. Before "Fairytale" Presley claims he hasn't recorded it yet, even though it was put to tape the previous month! A rare 1975 version of 1970's "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" is anemic, although "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" gets a rollicking live debut that night ("It's a hard song to do but we're gonna try it, OK?"). The recent top twenty power ballad "My Boy" milks all the proper maudlin avenues the song was written for. One wonders which music executive pitched that one to Presley; Red West should've been instructed to kick some ass. "I'll Remember You" is quite nice, including several falsetto turns by Elvis, but sadly, it fades out before completion.
Overall, coming on the heels of a 1970 model Presley, it's striking how different Elvis' voice sounds in Macon. It's strained and seldom soars as the Aug'70 voice did in abundance. Should Presley be on a stage even at this point? Only the "Colonel" knew for sure ...
If the first CD is taken from a nicely mixed soundboard tape, one would have to call this package indispensable; as it is, if you dig 70's Elvis on stage, you won't be disappointed by either the audience- recorded sound of the Vegas set or the sometimes exhausted voice from one night in Georgia.
Reviewed by Johnny Savage, USA