Reviewed For EpGold
Over 34 years ago Elvis Presley opened his 2nd Las Vegas season at the International Hotel. Gone were the comeback nerves that plagued him during August of 1969 and far (relatively) away were the coming nerves about performing life and being filmed as would be the case in August of 1970.
January/February 1970 saw Elvis probably at his most relaxed ever performance wise. The shows were dramatically changed. Gone wereJohnny.B.Good, Funny How Time Slips Away, Yesterday/Hey Yude, Mystery Train/Tiger Man, Runaway, Memories, Baby What You Want Me To Do and Blue Suede Shoes (as opening song). This time Elvis focussed more on his ´69 Memphis session (Don’t Cry Daddy, Kentucky Rain andeven a once in a lifetime life performance of True Love Travels On A Gravel Road), contemporary songs (Walk A Mile In My Shoes, Sweet Caroline, Polk Salad Annie, C C Rider, Let It Be Me and Proud Mary) and some of his old hits (from ´69 there still were Hound Dog and Love Me Tender which were now accompanied by Long Tall Sally and All Shook Up (as opening song) ). Also his stage wear had been changed. He now began to wear, mostly quite plain, jumpsuits as opposite to the two-piece karate gi´s he had been wearing during his previous engagement.
RCA recorded parts of the shows between the February 15th Midnight show trough February 19th. RCA released what they thought were the best selections they recorded on their On Stage February ´70 LP and the live performance of The Wonder Of You, which was released as a single, made it to #1 in the UK.
Over the next 30 – 34 years very little of what RCA recorded saw the light of day. In 1999 there was an upgrade of the original On Stage album which contained some additional songs and in 2002 we had three songs on the Today, Tomorrow and Forever box set. By that time a couple of shows were already released on boot. First we had Fort Baxters Walk A Mile In My Shoes which contained (only the first 10 songs) Opening Night, January 26th 1970. For the first time we could hear an almost complete January/February ´70 show. Although the sound wasn’t quite astonishing it was great to finally hear live versions of That’s Alright – first ever 70´s version, Don’t Cry Daddy, Long Tall Sally and Kentucky Rain. Later the February 3rd and 5th Dinner Shows were released (as good quality audience recordings) and also the last part of Opening Night and parts of Closing Night were released.
All shows released had one thing in common: they were fast paced, showed a loose and funny Elvis who still had that rough edge to his voice and great track listings.
Now, 34 years later, we can finally enjoy an, almost, complete show recorded in stereo by RCA back in 1970. On several message boards this show has already been compared to the original On Stage album. In my humble opinion that isn’t correct or fair. On Stage was a compiled album which contained songs from different shows. RCA had the choice of picking the best versions of the songs. Here we have an (almost) complete show which is something totally different and should therefore be approached differently.
The latest outing on the FTD label, titled Polk Salad Annie, contains the almost complete Midnight Show from February 15th 1970, RCA´s first night of recording. Sadly the opening song, All Shook Up, and the first part of I Got A Woman were not recorded by the sound engineer. The disc starts with the last part of I Got A Woman which sounds very strong. Great to hear the way Elvis attacks this classic song. Long Tall Sally receives a false start but when it gets going it rocks the hell out of the showroom. The next song, Don’t Cry Daddy, is introduced as his new record (“it’s not a new record, it’s out for about a month”) and is beautifully done. During the chorus Elvis is joined by Charlie Hodge. A lot have been written about the vocal abilities of Mr. Hodge, but to me his duet ting with Elvis on this song sounds very good and not distracting at all as Elvis voice is clearly more upfront than Charlie’s. Besides that, this is as Elvis probably wanted this song to be heard. Hound Dog gets the fooling around intro that also can be heard six months later (this version also the rarely performed original “I said she was a high class” lyrics) and Love Me Tender (with false start and lyric change) is done miles better than it would be from 1972 onwards.
Kentucky Rain starts promising but after some lyric changing Elvis gets lost in laughter but still able to finish the song on a high note. Let It Be Me (this version was first released on the A Legendary Performer series in the70´s) is next and what a version this is. Proceeded by some dialogue Elvis puts on a powerhouse performance and for me more moving than the On Stage version. I Can’t Stop Loving You, Walk A Mile In My Shoes/In The Ghetto are all equal strong performances. Sweet Caroline is victim again to lyric changes but doesn’t loose much of its strength. The highlight of the show is definitely Polk Salad Annie. The February ´70 versions are simply the best. Jerry Sheffs thumbing base, James brilliant guitar licks an Elvis memorizing vocals ensure us of a dynamite performance.
After the introductions a lengthy version of Suspicious Minds follows. Already done at a faster pace than the previous engagement it still is a captivating song. Can’t Help Falling In love ends this show. (as usual).
Following this concert we get 4 more songs from the same engagement. A vocally better Release Me than the On Stage Version. (19/2 DS), C C Rider which is proceeded by several false starts and is a loose, relaxed version with great vocals by Elvis.(17/2 MS), Proud Mary, which is THE highlight of this cd. Simply brilliant.(19/2 DS), and the already on the 30#1 hits cd released version of The Wonder Of You, which is the very first performance of this song.(18/2 DS)
The cd ends with the three February 18th afternoon rehearsals which were first released on the Platinum box set in 1997. Although they add nothing new to this cd it is nice to have them here as an addition to the live songs.
A great early 70´s concert in great sound. Every instrument is audible, but still it stays a matter of taste if one likes the mixing. Elvis puts on a good performance, is loose and jokes throughout the show, he clearly has a cold as he is coughing throughout the show between (and even during) songs.
This disc is one of the better packaged and sounding live FTD releases with Elvis in a great form during a time when he was still interested in what he was doing. Don’t let the lyric changing or joking spoil this cd, as the humour comes from the man’s heart. His intention was to put on a great show and let the audience escape their worries for the time he was on that stage, and for me he has succeeded just perfectly.
** Extra note: A great thank you to Ernst for listening to the fans which have asked for a, complete as is possible, early 1970 concert for a long time. This may not be Elvis best performance of that engagement it still is a winner with a capital W.