Get Down And Get With It
Got My Mojo Working
I've Lost You
Stranger In The Crowd
The Next Step Is Love
You Don't Have To Say You Love Me
I Can't Stop Loving You
It's Your Baby, You Rock It
Ghost Riders In The Sky
It's Now Or Never
Peter Gunn Theme
Alla' En El Rancho Grande
That's All Right
Twenty Days And Twenty Nights
Patch It Up
Stranger In The Crowd
How The Web Was Woven
I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen
(MGM studios, Stage 1, Culver City, Ca., July 16, 1970)
The folks at Fort Baxter present the hungry Elvis fan with a complete (?) 16 July '70 rehearsal, held in Culver City CA, at MGM's Stage 1. This is Elvis with only his core rhythm section of James Burton, Jerry Scheff, Ronnie Tutt, and Glen Hardin running down (and sending up) numbers for his upcoming August incarceration in Las Vegas. Unfortunately for all of us, this ensemble didn't tour sans the Sweets, Imperials, strings and horns -- working together in the summer of 1970, there's a desperate and subtle sense that, given time, they would have rocked the clappers from SF to NY. Oh well.
As the reader may have already guessed, portions of this can be seen in the "Elvis-That's The Way It Is" documentary and it's the likely reason these tapes were made at all. Elvis, as one might expect, is the de facto producer, calling out arrangements as well as silly non-sequiturs and ad-libs (during "Stranger In The Crowd" he sings "I was down to my last piece of ass"). He's still having fun doing this and it's evident in the constant laughter that permeates the rehearsal. Fooling with "Hey Jude" he belts "let it out and shove it in"! His voice no longer displays the roughness heard in '68 or '69 but remains glorious -- and he makes it sound so easy! After a decent rave-up on "Patch It Up" Elvis declares it has "a good feel" and then jokes "good fields, cotton fields" -- suddenly he and the band segue full-tilt into the Leadbelly folk number "Cottonfields"!
Other such precious (and rare) musical moments include a quick stab at Lloyd Price's "Stagger Lee" (Elvis yells out "screw Stagger Lee, screw Stagger Lee"!!) and a decent "Got My Mojo Working" (though not nearly as hot as the June '70 studio jam). Some nifty instrumental covers (with Elvis on acoustic as well) are played off the cuff, including "Peter Gunn Theme", "Runaway" and "Ghost Riders In The Sky". EP and his band lay out a very nice, slow-tempo blues version of "That's All Right, Mama" while a vocals-way-up mix of "I've Lost You" sounds superb because of Presley's careful and gracious delivery.
The overall sound on the disc is decent (there's some mic overload -- who was watching the damn tape machine?) but sadly, some of it features Elvis out of the mix (unlike the same tunes excerpted in the documentary); for example, "Sylvia", never played for an audience, sounds interesting but Elvis' vocal is a room away. Other numbers like "One Night", "Crying Time" and "It's Now Or Never" suffer similar fates. It doesn't make a lot of sense either, as somewhere better tapes must exist; for example, in "That's The Way It Is" the vocals to "Crying Time" are quite audible.
'Get Down' also gives us four and a half minutes of Elvis alone at the piano -- hearing it now provides a small revelation. As mentioned above, it's the same performance as on Fort Baxter's "A Profile, Vol. 2" box set. His singing is off-mic, but he quietly sings a very committed version of "How The Web Was Woven" and then plays a instrumental, reflective medley of "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen" and "My Wish Came True" (though not mentioned on either release, this is the Ivory Joe Hunter song and a '58 B-side for El)! Sitting with Elvis on the piano bench, we share what must have been just a dream to him: peace of mind. Ultimately, it again proves how gifted he truly was.
Admittedly, about 75% of this session has been previously released (credited or not) on several Fort Baxter discs like 'Electrifying', 'A Profile' ("Stagger Lee", "Cottonfields" and "Got My Mojo Working") and 'A Profile, Vol. 2' ("How The Web Was Woven", "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" and "My Wish Came True"), but it's an essential purchase anyhow, what with the capably designed color sleeve and the fact that it harbors the full rehearsal. So, get with it!
Reviewed by Johnny Savage, USA