FTD CD - Elvis Live March 1977
- Review by Geoffrey McDonnell -
Elvis' second tour of 1977 kicked off in Tempe, Arizona on March 23rd. He had just returned from his final vacation in Hawaii and was hopefully rested and recuperated.
This previously un-released March 24th Amarillo concert was the second concert in the two-week tour and hopefully Elvis would be in better form than was often the case in 1977. In fact Felton Jarvis started recorded some songs professionally for the 'Moody Blue' album from Norman, Oklahoma the very next day.
The new Amarillo FTD focuses on this second tour and includes 11 Bonus tracks creating a very packed CD.
Elvis soundboard super-collector Geoffrey McDonnell looks for the highs and lows of this new FTD release....
Sadly Elvis’ recent vacation in Hawaii just 3 weeks before appeared to have done him no good….
As everyone was preparing for the flight to Tempe, Arizona for the start of Elvis' second tour of the year, Billy Smith found Elvis in a depressant-induced stupor in his Graceland bedroom.
With a show just a few hours away, the situation seemed catastrophic. "... He didn't look like he could make it", Billy Smith later recollected, "He was at Graceland, and we were supposed to leave ... Nurse Tish was talking to us outside. She said 'There's no way he's going to make it. If he was my son, I'd have him in the hospital.' Vernon said, 'Well, do what you can. He's got to make this.' So Dr. Nick put all these IVs in him, trying to get him built up. Tish said, 'I can't believe they're doing this.'
All the way to the airport, Elvis sat slumped with his hat over I his eyes. He didn't say anything. Then when he got on the plane, he was just groggy, slurring his words. We thought, ‘This is one time he really won't make it.' All the way there, we thought the same thing. And when we got to the dressing room there at the Coliseum, I said to Jo (Smith), "There ain't no way".
Then right before he stepped out on the stage, Elvis stopped and looked at us and said, 'You didn't think I'd make it, did you?"'.
Pictures from the show that night reveal an entertainer with heavy-lidded, tired looking eyes, and a newspaper reviewer described his movements as "slow and deliberate", but the same reviewer also commented "At times Elvis flashed the old brilliance which first put him on top."
(Excerpt from The Final Curtain)
I received this FTD CD some 2 1/2 weeks after others in Europe had this CD... as distribution takes a little longer to this land down-under! Anyhow having received it, what’s it like?
The cover sports a picture from Austin, Texas on 28th March 1977! In his King of Spades Suit he wore alternately during this tour with the Mexican Sundial Suit.
Anyhow it shows how Elvis related to the audience and he certainly takes to the audience with much banter on 24th March 1977 show.
Inside (shown right) are 3 shots of Elvis on stage at the Abilene 27th March show and it looks like Marty Harrell (who replaced Joe Guercio on several 1997 tours) behind Ronnie Tutt conducting.
Behind the CD tray and on the back of the CD we see pictures of Elvis in Tempe, Arizona on the first day of the tour 23rd March and not looking good with very puffy eyes.
The actual CD compilation comprises (mostly) of the Amarillo show on 24th March, but including bonus songs completely fills up the CD space, all 79 minutes, with 30 different songs from his March tour.
The 5 mono soundboards used here for the CD are all decent sounding in the mix of Elvis’ vocal up-front, then vocalists and band members behind. A pleasing mix for the listener on this FTD.
Of the Bonus Tracks, two songs from Abilene ‘Trying to get to you’ and ‘Fever’ from Alexandria on 30th have been heard before on the multi-track ‘Spring Tours’ FTD. This is a little strange to create a whole ‘new’ CD why didn’t we get ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’ from Norman on 25th and either ‘Love Me Tender’ from Norman on 26th or ‘Fever’ from Austin on 28th? Anyway that’s a very small complaint about this really well put together CD that truly DOES represent Elvis during his March 1977 Tour.
It was 3 years since his last Amarillo show and tonight he appears in front of 7,389 Fans.
The Soundboard from AMARILLO is incomplete missing at least ‘C.C.Rider’ and ‘I Got a Woman/Amen’ and if you believe the newspaper review (?), then maybe ‘Love me Tender’ as well? The sound is not bad and with Elvis up-front, singers then the band all audible.
That’s All Right which kicks off the CD is a similar sort of good version to "In Concert" on 21st June and I liked it (apart from the start being clipped).
Elvis then engages with the fans and says his mouth feels like "a cotton-patch back home"! He then jokes about a female fan in the audience wanting his cup - "I'm not wearing one" he jests.
However although he sounds in fine form, as soon as he starts Are You Lonesome Tonight it reminded me of the error he made in his Charlotte 21.2.77 show as he embarrassingly had to be fed the words to the song. He forgets the words and even hums the tune (reacting to a fan's suggestion) before starting a 2nd time.
Once he starts he gets the first part right, except that doing his ‘Gay routine’ with Charlie Hodge misses the last line before the ‘spoken part’. The spoken part is awful when if Elvis is not laughing, he’s missing the words out and changes them such as ‘Kiss You’ changed to "Kicked You"- and he also doesn’t sound anywhere near as good Vocally as the Rapid City version. To be honest I was extremely thankful when he ended his worst ever performed version - that makes both Norman on 26.3.77 and Rapid City on 21.6.77 versions sound ‘not bad’ at all by comparism. Also a bit of ‘hiss’ is heard in the quiet parts on the soundboard.
Then Elvis attempts to start Reconsider Baby "We did a Blues song" before losing interest and chatting with the audience (what a crying shame! If only the crowd hadn't distracted him), before eventually singing Love Me, which is better.
If You Love Me ("let me know or move it", as Elvis says) is ‘fair’, You Gave Me a Mountain is better – even ‘average’ as Elvis puts some extra power into the ending causing fan screams. Jailhouse Rock that follows is just about ‘passable' considering it is 1977.
O Sole Mio/It's Now or Never is ‘ok’ and yet next Little Sister is quite good! Elvis then stops and starts Tony Brown on the Teddy Bear/Don’t be Cruel medley "That's the first time you have ever been late" which is forgettable as usual.
My Way which is performed next before the intros truly shows us that Elvis is sounding NOT drugged or slurred (as some have suggested), but basically just worn-out and tired, sounding weak and lacking his usual power. The tiredness in his voice adds a sadness and emphasis lending the song a very different emotion to the earlier 1973 versions. The crowd certainly give Elvis a rapturous reaction.
The introductions next are actually from the Abilene show on 27th (presumably the Amarillo soundboard tape was stopped) and Elvis at least sounds a bit better here.
Early Morning Rain is ‘fair’, What'd I Say/Johnny B. Goode is ‘passable’. Ronnie Tutt played really well on this whole tour and his solo here is outstanding - and you can hear Elvis' appreciation! Bobby Ogden also seems like he’s fun and trying his best as a ‘newbie’ on this tour. Jerry Scheff plays his ‘Battle of New Orleans’ bass solo - "I like that ending".
And Marty Harrell plays Hail Hail Rock n’ roll.
Back to Amirillo and disappointingly Hurt is only a fair version and despite being loud at the ending, Elvis sounds like he is struggling at times. Hound Dog is completely forgettable!
At this point it was the end of the show and Elvis mentions that he appreciated the good audience and also apologised for being late due to a "little personal problem"!?
Can’t Help Falling in Love is ‘fair’ and it’s clear that Elvis did enjoy himself during this show but one wonders about the press and fans who labelled the show as "He's fat and 42, but he's still got it," and Missy Turner who got a white scarf from the show remembers Elvis as "Swollen"
It is worth noting that Elvis was no doubt unwell and he should not have been onstage, since he had to cancel last 4 shows of the tour. No wonder he was worn-out. And supposedly slept 24 hours upon being treated at Baptist Memorial Hospital.
The Bonus Tracks - Well so far really only That’s all right and Little Sister stood out as ‘good performances’, so what do the ‘Bonus tracks' offer?
We start with four more from Alexandria on 30th March with Elvis disgruntled with his sound Engineers Bruce Jackson and Felton Jarvis before ‘And I Love you So’– in which Elvis changes the lines to ‘how bad the sound has been’ (which gets Elvis giggling) it’s NOT a good performance, then ‘Fever' is actually very good (but then i already knew that from hearing it on Spring Tours FTD!) both Love me Tender and Blue Suede Shoes are instantly forgettable performances, then its onto Austin, Texas on 28th for 2 more unheard performances.
(EIN note- Somewhat surprisingly Elvis hardly ever performed Love Me Tender in 1977, practically dropping it from his set-list from mid 1976 onwards. Elvis only performed ‘Love Me Tender’ seven times in 1977 - also leaving it out of his CBS TV shows - and this is the only live 1977 version officially released so far.)
Steamroller Blues is ‘super rare’ being his only and last ever version in 1977 and it’s a decent version with a bit of fire at the end-a highlight and great it was captured on soundboard.
Help Me next pales compared to the Ann Arbour version one month later.
Four Gospel performances are next from Alexandria on 29th March and these are ‘ok’ as Elvis breaks up J.D.Sumner on ‘Why Me Lord’ and although Bosom of Abraham/You Better Run is a nice addition this 3rd live performance is easily the least good one. It is worth adding that while this pairing was also sung once in 1975 and 1976
this is the only official release of this live pairing.
How Great Thou Art is ‘ok’ (apart from Elvis shouting out "Dammit") and a so-so performance of ‘Trying to Get to You’ from Abilene on 27th - the only time Elvis would sing this song on this tour - finishes off this packed CD.
Overall Verdict: Having heard this tour ‘represented’ here one sadly realises this isn’t as good a CD as the ‘Spring Tours’ FTD CD because the performances are weaker. NO Polk Salad Annie, Unchained Melody and really its only How Great Thou Art, My Way or Hurt as the powerful songs left. Elvis getting back to basic Guitar songs in about half the shows is what makes this March tour memorable and yet-unfortunately Are You Lonesome Tonight nearly ruins the whole Amarillo show- it’s that bad! Hearing his performances it's clear why RCA had no choice to save Little Darlin, Unchained Melody from the next better tour- this tour may be the only one he didn’t have a female companion with him and he seems much worse in overall health because of this, not sleeping much he sounds tired most of the time and simply worn out- I wonder whether this tour was Elvis’s worst overall 1977 tour? Still This is Elvis and it’s how he was during the March 1977 tour - THANK-YOU FTD for giving us the chance to listen!~
Review by Geoffrey McDonnell.
-Copyright EIN July 2011
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
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At the EIN highly recomended Francesc Lopez website 'Elvis Presley In Concert', reviewer Geoffrey McDonnell takes a look at - "Elvis: My Way - A review of 100 versions"
As he notes of Elvis' 1977 versions of this classic song .....
Whilst vocally Elvis often had his problems in 1977, MY WAY always was a concert highlight in 1977, mostly because it was so well and meaningfully performed and in a voice so rich that weight was added to EVERY SINGLE WORD, therefore myself I really DO think his best interpretations of MY WAY come from 1977. Since 1975 Elvis was starting to rely on typed lyric sheets for songs such as 'MY WAY' or 'BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER' but his dramatic dropping of the lyric sheets during the song somehow seems extra 'dramatic' compared to not using them!. Sometimes Elvis would also do 'spoken lines' which again make very memorable versions-with the brilliant Abilene 1977 version begging for a soundboard release on some future FTD project. With Elvis the certainty of feeling in the version from 'In Concert' makes it an outstanding performance in its own right. Elvis certainly lived the life! . . . .
Go here for his very detailed complete "My Way" article.
'Amarillo '77' - FTD June 2011 release #506020 975027
Recorded live at the Civic Centre, Amarillo, Texas, March 24
That's All Right
Are You Lonesome Tonight?
Reconsider Baby (intro only)
If You Love Me
You Gave Me A Mountain
O Sole Mio/It's Now or Never
Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel
Early Mornin' Rain
What'd I Say
Johnny B. Goode
Can't Help Falling In Love
And I Love You So (Alexandria, March 30)
Fever(Alexandria, March 30)
Love Me Tender (Alexandria, March 30)
Blue Suede Shoes (Alexandria, March 30)
Steamroller Blues (Austin, March 28)
Help Me (Austin, March 28)
Why Me, Lord (Alexandria, March 29)
Bosom of Abraham/You Better Run (Alexandria, March 29)
How Great Thou Art (Alexandria, March 29)
Trying To Get To You (Abilene March 27)
FTD CD Credits: Compilation and art directed by Ernst Jorgensen & Roger Semon.
Compiled and researched by Ken Jensen. Mastered by Lene Reidel.
||The original front cover image taken by photographer Ave Bonar -"I made this photograph of Elvis for the Austin Sun when Presley performed at Palmer Auditorium in Austin (March, 1977). Tickets were $15." As part of the Austin Sun Retrospective exhibit, a print of this image hung at the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture through 2010.
Go here for more info.
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The Elvis Information Network has been running since 1986 and is an EPE officially recognised Elvis fan club.