Friday, 3 February 2017

A Big Hunk O' Love, Live 26/01/72 OS (First Time Performed Live)

On return to live performances in 1969 Elvis' initial setlist was heavily loaded with many of his 50's hits intertwined with some more recent hits and recordings. As the 70's wore on most of the 50's hits were maintained albeit in abbreviated forms and occasionally some songs from the 50's like 'Trouble' would make an appearance for a full season before being dropped or others would have one off performances such as 'I Was The One' on 12 Aug 1970 during that legendary sit down section at the Midnight show.
An exception to all of those examples was A Big Hunk Of Love which two and a half years after the live comeback was the 'oldie' introduced to the setlist among five new songs on 26 January 1972 and would become almost a permanent fixture in the setlist for exactly two years and was usually given a fully committed performance.
It was sung on the first two shows of Elvis' tenth Vegas season on 26 January 1974 before being appearing to be dropped and never to be performed live again. In the time that it was included in the setlist it was three times committed to film firstly in the 1972 movie Elvis On Tour (from Hampton Roads on 9 April) then during both Aloha shows (although a fourth is likely to have been filmed for 'On Tour' at Greensboro on 14 April).
Incidentally it was the fourth last track recorded in the 50's on 10 June 1958 before Elvis began his national service in the Army and it would be almost two years before Elvis entered the recording studio again on 20 March 1960.
In this wonderful first 70's live version Elvis is practically spitting out the words, almost like the old Elvis - who said Elvis of Vegas couldn't do rock 'n' roll!!!

Listen Here

Thursday, 19 January 2017

You Can Have Her (Only Time Performed Live)

Elvis Presley appeared four times at The Forum of Inglewood in Los Angeles in the 1970’s over two days ,three years apart. The first in 1970 on 14 November during just his second tour and the second on 11 May 1974.
The 1974 shows were attended by British rock group Led Zeppellin and both the afternoon and evening shows had very little difference in terms of the setlist .
Of the 37,000 who attended those two shows the half which made their way into the Forum for the afternoon show had no idea that within that show would be two and a half minutes which would set this show apart and the treat that awaited them.
Both shows were excellent with Elvis in good voice and mood – a combination which always proved to be a winner. During the afternoon show between ‘Love Me Tender’ and ‘Steamroller Blues’ something magical and quite wonderful happened. In a moment of pure Elvis spontaneity he started to sing Ray Hamilton’s 1961 hit ‘You Can Have Her’.
The song seems to progress in stages with the passing of each verse firstly Elvis shouts the songs title then Elvis and pianist Glen D. Hardin start of before Ronnie Tutt joins in with the cymbals but at the start of the next verse it’s full blown drums. At the beginning of the next verse it’s the turn of the guitars which then become more prominent next turn around. Joining next time around are the backing vocalists and then it just becomes singing for fun. By this stage you can hear the clapping along as everyone seems to be playing and singing with a smile on their face and it’s almost just like they never want it to end but eventually Elvis does just that by bringing the song to a close.
A studio version could never have caught this fun in quite the same way and the audience recording seems to add to the ‘fly on the wall’ feel to this recording. I doubt if anyone in the crowd that afternoon had any inclination as to how special a moment they were witnessing. In a cruel twist of fate the Evening show was recorded at the mixing board and the subsequent soundboard recording was released by Sony on the FTD label in 2007 but it appears that the same cannot be said of the afternoon show. This suspicion is strengthened further by the fact that Sony actually bought the audience recording of ‘You Can Have Her’ and included it as a bonus track on the aforementioned ‘Live in L.A.’ album. It is however lucky for us that the performance was captured at all and that in spite of it being recorded by an audience member it is of good quality.

Listen to "You Can Have Her" here

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Elvis Presley - Bridge Over Troubled Water 14/04/72 ES (On Tour Version with new audio)

Between his first, on 10 August 1970 and final, on 26 June 1977, performances of Simon and Garfunkel's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' over 200 times Elvis sang it on stage in which time his delivery and the arrangement of the song would evolve.

The earlier performances, particulary in August 1970 would be full of emotion, sincerity and understated power with a typical Vegas arrangement loaded with strings and brass.

By 1972, when this particular version was performed the tempo was slightly quicker and the ending was now full of power.

On 14 April 1972 whilst filming for the movie 'Elvis - On Tour' the cameras of MGM caught this stirring rendition in the Greensboro Coliseum, North Carolina during the evening show.

Many fans count this as their favourite version and it is obvious, particularly towards the songs conclusion how much enjoyment Elvis is getting out of this performance.

If you watch carefully towards the end of the final chorus you can hear and see Estelle Brown of 'The Sweet Inspirations' shout yeah completely in keeping with the spirit of the performance.

This concert is still to recieve an official release on CD an to date the only one of the four 'On Tour' shows to be released officially was the San Antonio show of 18 April 1972 which appeared on the 'Close Up' 4CD boxset in 2003.

Video source : MGM's 'Elvis - On Tour' blu-ray version
Audio source : The Greensboro Concert CD

Elvis Presley - Bridge Over Troubled Water 14/04/72 ES (On Tour Version with new audio)

Sunday, 26 July 2015

In The Ghetto - The first take

The 1960's were awash with protest songs from artists such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez and whilst protest songs exist from both before and after the 60's it is with that decade that they are probably associated with most. The Civil Rights Movement and The Vietnam War are the two subjects most covered by the protest song in that period.
It took until the closing minutes of 'Singer Presents Elvis', or the 'NBC 68 comeback Special' if you prefer, for Elvis Presley to present any sort of material that in any way resembled a 'protest' song. 'If I Can Dream' was written by Walter Earl Brown at the behest of the program's producer Steve Binder after a conversation over Elvis' dismay at the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. Elvis and Binder had been looking for a song to replace 'I'll Be Home For Christmas' as the show's closing number and Elvis chose to try it despite Colonel Parker's objections. The song with Elvis' raw emotion and it's iconic status as the show's finale remains one of Elvis' most famous recordings. How much of a protest song it actually is is open to each individuals interpretation.
The same can perhaps be said of the Mac Davis compositon 'In The Ghetto' which also became one of the most famous of Elvis' recordings. At first perhaps slightly reluctant to record the song he eventually did and the result was a masterpiece.
Recorded in American Sound Studios on 21 January 1969 it tells the story of poverty in 60's Chicago and the difficulty in escaping that predicament.
This first take, the master was take 23, is almost a completely different song from the master in that it has almost the bare minimum of accompaniment. The song starts with just an accoustic guitar and then Elvis' vocal almost at a whisper and so it continues with just drums and organ for company.
Apart from a slight error with the lyrics and phrasing at the two minute this could almost have passed as an alternate master a folk version if you like and this could possibly have placed it squarely in the 'protest' bracket.
Here are the words of the song's composer Mac Davis on the song's inception and how it was originallly titled 'The Vicious Circle' :
'I never really dreamed of pitching that song to Elvis. I had been working on In the Ghetto for several years. I grew up playing with a little boy in Lubbock, Texas, whose family lived in a dirt street ghetto. His dad and my dad worked in construction together. So that little boy and I sort of grew up together. I never understood why his family had to live where they lived while my family lived where we lived. Of course back in those days, the word 'ghetto' hadn't come along yet. But I always wanted to write a song about that situation and title it 'The Vicious Circle.
I thought that if you were born in that place and that situation, then you grow up there and one day you die there, and another kid is born there that kind of replaces you. And later I started thinking about the ghetto as a title for the song. In the meantime, Freddy Weller had showed me a guitar lick he had been playing. I liked the lick and went home one night and used that guitar lick and wrote that song'. 'I didn't write the song for anyone in particular, but later while I was working on an album in Memphis, Chips Moman called me and said Elvis was recording and asked me if I had any songs for him. So I sent him a tape with 19 songs on it and Elvis recorded the first three songs on the tape, In the Ghetto, Don't Cry Daddy and another song they never released titled Poor Man's Gold. A lot of people have asked me about Elvis talking to me about In the Ghetto. I don't think we ever had a conversation about that song ... either before or after he recorded it'.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Sit down section - 12 August 1970 Midnight Show

Although the point of view is purely subjective August 1970 is probably Elvis at his absolute peak as a live performer. Having already conquered Las Vegas with both his return to live performances a year before or consolidating that position with a triumphant return in January/February 1970 whilst updating his setlist with more contemporary material, he reached another level entirely in August.

The stratospheric levels that Elvis would reach in this Vegas season would never again be reached with such consistency. Elvis would still have many more peaks and outstanding shows but not for a complete season and for that there were many reasons maybe not clear then but certainly now.
As every show throughout this engagement was of an exceptionally high standard it is almost impossible to find a show which is better than any other. Many fans however are of the opinion that the Midnight show of 12 August was that show indeed the linear notes from the 2000 special edition, 3CD version of TTWII, on which that show was first released makes reference to this.

The Midnight show of 12 August 1970 is without doubt an excellent show and includes the version of ' You've Lost That Loving Feeling' with a wonderfully unexpected reprise and the final live version of 'Words'. After the band introductions Elvis embarked on a twenty minute period that would never be repeated starting with a four song burst of 'Heartbreak Hotel', 'One Night', 'Blue Suede Shoe's' and 'All Shook Up'.

Fortunately all of this and what was to follow was recorded by MGM during the filming of what was to become 'Elvis - That's The Way It Is' as this was the fifth of six shows filmed. Whilst the first part of the aforementioned twenty minutes was included in the film why the second part was not is as inexplecible as it is unforgivable especially as it was still left out of the 2001 re-edit.

The first hint of this hidden gem was on the 'Las Vegas' disc of the 1980 'Elvis Aron Presley' boxset which had a medley of 'Little Sister' and 'Get Back' but at that point we had no idea as to how much more was after that. Just before this Elvis asked for a stool and with an electric guitar started singing as if in a jam session and the result was astonishing.
This video is that second part of those twenty of so minutes and you can see and decide for yourself if this is Elvis at his absolute best - relaxed and totally immersed in the moment!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Kentucky Rain - 26 January 1970 Opening Show

After the band introductions on 26 January 1970, the opening night show of Elvis' second Las Vegas engagement Elvis would perform the last of the ten new songs introduced during this show.

Just for the record the other nine first time perfromances in the order which they were performed, (and I've posted them all on my YouTube channel) were - Proud Mary, Don't Cry Daddy, Teddy Bear (in a medley with Don't Be Cruel), Long Tall Sally, Let It Be Me, Walk a Mile In My Shoes, True Love Travels On A Gravel Road, Sweet Caroline and Polk Salad Annie.

The tenth and final was 'Kentucky Rain' which had been recorded in the studio amost exactly year earlier on 19 January 1969 in American Sound Studios, Memphis, Tennessee.

Whilst most versions of 'Kentucky Rain' during this engagement would include some humorous comments or lyric changes this first live version is one of very few played absolutely straight. This version is also very close to the original studio master but one very subtle lyric change would take place. This version and the original studio master has in the chorus ....'and here's another town that I'll GO walking through....' however later live versions would be sung as '.....'and here's another town that I'll BE walking through....'. The ending would also change with percussion becoming far more prominent in the song's climax.

The definitive live version of this song, and the very first version to be released officially was that from 16 February Dinner Show which was made available on the silver 1980 box set 'Elvis Aaron Presley' and is a version which is also played absolutely straight.
This version was released on the 2013 FTD release of 'The On Stage Season - February 1970' which contained both the opening and closing shows of this engagement. Several other live versions from this engagement have also been made available on FTD's 2004 album 'Polk Salad Annie' which featured the 15 February Dinner Show and on both the FTD and Legacy editions of 'On Stage'.

After this song Elvis would sing an excellent version of 'Suspicious MInds' before closing the show with the traditional closer 'Can't Help Falling In Love' completing and opening show with over half of the songs featured performed for the very first time.

As far as this song being sung live is concerned it would be performed at all six shows during the engagement at the Houston Astrodome immediately following this Las Vegas season but the final Houston show, the evening show on 1 March was the final time Elvis would sing 'Kentucky Rain' live.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Teddy Bear / Don't Be Cruel 26 January Opening Show

On opening night of Elvis' second Las Vegas engagement, 26 January 1970 he introduced a mammoth TEN new song to the setlist. Of the first four songs half were new and the fifth and sixth would also be new but with a twist!

In retrospect with such a wide range of Elvis concerts now in the public domain it is almost unfathomable to imagine one (Aloha apart) without the Teddy Bear / Don't Be Cruelmedley. In the later years of course Elvis would use this as a point in the show where he could catch his breath, throw some scarves to the crowd and have some audience interaction, usually with those of the female variety!!

In early 1970 however, this medley was just a fledgling performance and after this show he would sing it just twice more this season, at the Dinner Shows on 3 and 5 February and not again until January 1971. It would be a setlist regular throughout August 71 and all of 72. In 1973 however it would only make the odd appearance. It was from the beginning of the March 74 tour where it would become a permanent fixture in the setlist and would take on it's now familiar guise in the show.

As a stand alone performance 'Don't Be Cruel' was sung throughout the initial Vegas engagement in August 1969 and a handful of times in August and September 1970 but post 1970 it was almost always segued into a medley with 'Teddy Bear'.

Teddy Bear was of course written for Elvis' second motion picture 'Loving You' and it is perhaps within this context that the song works best. It was recorded on the Paramount Soundstage in Hollywood, California on 16 January 1957.

Don't Be Cruel is probably one of the early Elvis' most famous recordings and was recorded in New York at RCA's studios on 2 July 1956 at the same session which produced 'Hound Dog'.

If you think it is a case of "If you've heard one 70's Teddy Bear / Don't Be Cruel medley you've heard them all" then you really are in for a treat and a surprise. During this first 70's live version at times Elvis is almost growling the words of 'Teddy Bear'!!! This is almost night and day from the later 70's versions!!!!!