'Once Upon A Time in 1977'

EID import DVD review

Once Upon A Time in 1977 is a new DVD from EID that puts you at a complete concert from February 1977.

All taken from home-video footage, EID has compiled a full 1 hour performance of complete to near-complete songs to create an example of what a February 1977 Elvis concert might have been like.

27 songs are featured in the concert and the DVD also contains nearly 100 minutes of similar footage in its Bonus Chapter.

On January 1st 2007 FTD issued ‘Unchained Melody’ the first ever officially released ‘complete’ 1977 concert by Elvis.

Looking back at Elvis in 1977 is difficult from anyone’s point of view. The end was near, the constant touring was burning him out. The man should have been resting and relaxing instead of being flogged like a horse.

Cleverly coinciding with the release of FTD’s ‘Unchained Melody’ EID presents 'Once Upon A Time in 1977' a compile of fan videos taken at Elvis’ first tour in 1977. As we all know early 1977 saw Elvis going downhill fast and putting on the weight that he had recently lost for his energetic December 1976 concerts. But although this 10-date first 1977 tour in February was a sad decline from the peak of New Year’s Eve 1976, they would still be some of his best concerts of the year.

‘Once Upon A Time in 1977’ cleverly edits seven concerts of home-video material (in varying degrees of quality) to create a ‘complete’ concert featuring 27 songs.

To be honest these concerts have been seen before on various DVD import releases and most of them are of very shaky and poor quality. However what can you expect from footage that is 30 years old and that had to be filmed without security guards noticing?

Sometimes Elvis is just a vague outline, most of the time his face is pretty undecipherable, sometimes he is just a blur – BUT we all know that it IS Elvis!

(Right: Screen grab from the DVD)

Whatever the quality, the videos generally show that Elvis was having fun during this February tour and while the concerts are nothing like his performances in 1970 or even 1975 you still know that you would have loved to have been there.

Most of the seven concerts are combined with audience recordings of the shows which help give you the atmosphere of being at the performance. In fact at times you actually feel like you are at the concerts – you get a poor view of Elvis in the distance and echoey sound!!

Of course this is NOT the professionally filmed ‘That The Way It Is’ – far from it. But nor does it convey the sadness of the final June CBS TV concerts.
Note: Do not buy this DVD without checking out the sample on YouTube (see below) as this has been made for enthusiastic Elvis collectors only.

The DVD menu features two chapters, The Concert and the Bonus section. It is annoying that there is no song selection during The Concert so that one can easily skip to your favourite song. The individual Concerts however are selectable from the bonus chapter

The DVD starts with Elvis running up on stage in Hollywood, FLA his first concert of 1977 to sing ‘See See Rider.’ He looks in good form, if a little overweight, and it is quite amazing that the footage even exists.
The editing between the concerts is fairly smooth and I for one am happy that ‘I Got A Woman/Amen’ is edited down to a sensible length!

‘Love Me’ from Charlotte (with the audience recording) shows Elvis doing his usual kisses & scarfs routine and gives you another insight to the recently released FTD concert. Although the home-video is from behind the stage you can still get a fair impression of the concert visually and how Elvis felt. (There is 11 minutes of Charlotte footage in the DVD Bonus section)

A not so concentrated ‘You Gave Me A Mountain’ comes from Hollywood - "tired of the grief and the sweat" – but Elvis still puts some energy into his performance. We get to see a fine ‘Big Boss Man’ from St Petersburg albeit fairly distant. Of course Elvis wasn’t moving around much but his voice sounds great and the man’s aura is so obvious - even through a distant image.

It is fairly disappointing that the Hollywood footage, although somewhat improved over what I have previously seen, is still pretty fuzzy at points. The home-video of course does become pretty unwatchable at times and it is such a shame that the Montgomery footage is so wobbly & hand–held. But you know what? - Elvis isn’t coming back for any encores and so we have to live with what we have and be thankful for it.

Very representative of 1977 is a very lacklustre ‘Jailhouse Rock’ from Orlando which demonstrates just how little energy Elvis has to put out to get the crowd screaming.

A highlight however is ‘Little Sister’ also from Orlando which, for some reason, is mistakenly missed off the tracklist. Elvis really enjoys himself and kicks out. It’s a damn shame that Elvis couldn’t pull this one off for his CBS TV show.

‘Fever’ from West Palm Beach in his Rainfall jump-suit is surprisingly good with Elvis working the crowd just right. ’My Way’ is another highlight but the video shows several of the crowd generally milling around and seemingly not watching the concert. Were the crazy or were they just hunting for Colonel Parker’s "Super Souvenirs"?!

On ‘Polk Salad’ Elvis’ performance, physically at least, seems sadly like a terrible parody of his former self. I often wonder whether the crowd felt that at the time or whether Elvis’ amazing aura would dispel the thought. After all you would have been in the presence of ELVIS.

‘Blueberry Hill’ is the great St Petersburg version "You’re warped son!" but unfortunately the camera is too far away to really see Elvis clearly at the piano. What you do see is that interestingly Elvis only shows pianist Tony Brown the introduction before standing up to sing the rest of the song. It appears that it must have been David Briggs who actually plays the rest of the song in "Elvis" style.
Great to hear ‘Love Letters’ from the same show as well even if so very distant. The St Petersburg audio at times is also from a soundboard and not an audience recording so when watching the footage this change, particularly the jump in audio level, can be annoying.

We also get to see ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’ from Hollywood with terrible sound but closer vision.

Sadly the all-important ‘Where No One Stand Alone’ is filmed so far away that Elvis is just a white blur sitting at the piano. Oh, if only these concerts had been filmed professionally or if camcorders had existed at the time. A benefit in this instance is that the audio is from the Fort Baxter ‘Moody Blue’ bootleg release and so is soundboard clear and so has no digital crackle.

A very fine ‘Unchained Melody’ from Montgomery follows and a quick ‘CHFIL’ with Elvis saying his farewells to the Hollywood crowd.

Twenty 27 tracks, 1 hour has passed and it’s all over!

There is however plenty more footage from the individual concerts all featured separately in the Bonus section which runs nearly 100 minutes.

Best of all you don’t need me to describe it as, via the wonders of YouTube, you can get a long 7 minute taster of what the DVD is all about!
GO here >>> 'Once Upon A Time in 1977' YouTube sample

Verdict: Made for serious Elvis collectors only, this EID DVD is a clever companion piece to FTD’s recently released ‘Unchained Melody’ CD from the same February shows. I personally found a fascination in seeing the visual side of Elvis in concert in early 1977 - even if the video quality is downright appalling at times. It does give yet another insight into Elvis’ legacy and how he was in that final year, even if it doesn’t bear repeated viewing.

Review by Piers Beagley
-Copyright EIN, April 2007

(EIN thanks Rod Cramp for Elvis technical assistance)

'Once Upon A Time in 1977'

Track List
C C Rider (Hollywood, FL)
I Got A Woman (St. Petersburgh, FL)
Love Me (Charlotte, NC)
If You Love Me (Hollywood, FL)
Faiytale (Charlotte, NC)
You Gave Me A Mountain (Hollywood, FL)
Big Boss Man (Orlando, FL)
All Shook Up (St. Petersburgh, FL)
Teddy Bear (St. Petersburgh, FL)
Don't Be Cruel (St. Petersburgh, FL)
Jailhouse Rock (Orlando, FL)
Fever (West Palm Beach, FL)
My Way (Montgommery, AL)
Polk Salad Annie (Montgommery, AL)
It's Now or Never (Montgommery, AL)
Early Morning Rain (Hollywood, FL)
Jerry Scheff Solo (Hollywood, FL)
Blueberry Hill (St. Petersburgh, FL)
Love Letters (St. Petersburgh, FL)
Hail Hail Rock and Roll (Hollywood, FL)
Funny How Time Slips Away (Hollywood, FL)
Hurt (Montgommery, AL)
Hound Dog (Montgommery, AL)
Where No One Stands Alone (Montgommery, AL)
Unchained Melody (Montgommery, AL)
Can't Help Falling In Love (Hollywood, FL)

Bonus Feature:
2-12-77 Unchained In Hollywood (Audio and Video improved from the last release) 38 Mins
2-13-77 Live In West Palm Beach. 3.5 Mins
2-14-77 Live In St. Petersburgh, FL. 13 Mins
2-15-77 Live In Orlando, FL. 5 mins.
2-16-77 Live In Montgommery, AL. 22 Mins
2-19-77 Live In Johnson City, TN. 5 Mins.
2-20-77 Live In Charlotte, NC. 11 Mins

Go here for other relevant EIN 1977 articles:

FTD CD 'Unchained Melody'

FTD CD of Elvis' 'Spring Tours 77'

FTD CD Elvis New Year's Eve 1976

Elvis 'The Jungle Room Sessions'

Larry Geller's interview about Elvis' final years

EIN spotlight on 'Should Elvis In Concert 1977 be officially released on DVD'

EIN review of the Asian released DVD of 'Elvis In Concert'

CD review of 'Elvis Has left the Building'











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