Moody Blue & Other Great Performances
Are You Lonesome Tonight
You Gave Me A Mountain
O Solo Mio/ It's Now Or Never
Teddy Bear/ Don't Be Cruel
Why Me Lord
(Recorded live, February 21, Charlotte)
Polk Salad Annie
Where No One Stands Alone
Can't Help Falling In Love
(Recorded live, February 16, 1977, Montgomery)
Elvis telephone conversation (1971)
There's a lot more to this disc than meets the eye (or ear). Although housed in a "wallet" type sleeve instead of a jewel box, this is a superb-sounding mixing board release from the Fort Baxter crew, covering most of the Charlotte, North Carolina show of February 21, 1977 along with four tracks from Montgomery, Alabama five days earlier. The cover is a nicely done homage to the original 'Moody Blue' design (in fact, it's better), with a shot from the February 1977 tour on the front.
Elvis, as one might expect for a 1977 tour, sounds pretty darn tired throughout. Typically, he forgets the lyrics to "Are You Lonesome Tonight" (Estelle from the Sweet Inspirations prompts him), delivers an unrehearsed, half-hearted and rarely sung "Moody Blue", and generally rushes the old numbers (as usual). On the other hand, he muscles through a pretty fair (and not often heard) "Reconsider Baby" (Elvis says it's a song that he "did about a month and a half ago"), acoustic guitar and all. The arrangement will always be too much like "Steamroller Blues" for my taste, and James Burton's solos aren't nearly as good as those from the New Year's Eve performance the previous December, but Elvis ain't bad. "Unchained Melody" is done solo at the piano, a song he did a lot on the last few tours, and it's both beautiful and horrible (see Peter Guralnick's description of the song in "The Great Performances" video sleeve notes) -- the soul of Elvis comes through as his voice struggles for the high notes and his fingers try to find the chords.
Among the remainder of the mostly pedestrian (rather than "great") performances is one that deserves to be placed alongside the best of later Presley recordings. That track is Elvis' rendition of "Where No One Stands Alone". For no apparent reason he just sat down and accompanied himself on piano, singing his heart out on this fabulous gospel tune, originally recorded nearly eleven years earlier for 'How Great Thou Art'. It's a fascinating piece, given the incredibly ironic lyrics and the passion with which Elvis invests each verse. For a couple of minutes, the audience in Montgomery was treated to an Elvis every bit as good as the one who dominated the 1950's. By 1977, this type of total commitment only happened once in a blue moon. It's nice to have a soundboard document of it.
An extra bonus at the end of 'Moody Blue' is a seven minute phone conversation, privately taped by a Denver cop acquaintance in March/April 1971. If Elvis was still living I'd call this a violation of his privacy, but since he's no longer here, I guess it can be called "historical documentation". Elvis sounds in control, happily married and straight as an arrow, as he chats about earthquakes (the Califonia/Nevada area had a big one in February 1971), his eye infection cancelling the March 1971 Nashville session ("the eye thing just blew everything sideways") and interior decorating! This is truly fascinating to be sure, but the real revelation on this disc remains with his incandescent reading of "Where No One Stands Alone".
Another worthy addition for the serious Elvis fan from Fort Baxter!
Johnny Savage, USA