'Elvis In Florida April 1975'
- In-depth FTD review by Geoffrey McDonnell -
Mid 1975 found Elvis back in good form and having fun on stage. Officially we have so far heard almost nothing from the first part of Elvis' Tour #13 April 24 - May 7.
As the St. Petersburg Times commented … "But Elvis' forte is still the rockin' stuff, and he shows he hasn't lost what it takes. His Burning Love puts shame even to his own record version. When he launches into a slow, torchy Heartbreak Hotel, the inflections are vintage 1956"
FTD decided that this interesting selection deserved a release in the larger 7' format.
Elvis soundboard super-collector Geoffrey McDonnell checks out this previously unreleased concert and unexplored April '75 concerts ....
|Back in 2006 Ernst Jorgensen talked about Elvis' 1975 Spring tours.
"Ernst J: On those tours in the Spring of 1975 Elvis’ repertoire was about 40 songs. So whatever we covered on the original ‘Dixieland Rock’ FTD show we felt that there were all these other great little bits and fabulous versions and new songs. So we needed a sequel to fully document what that tour was all about.
Ernst J: I mean its’ cool for me at least to go in and put a CD together where you get versions of ‘Trying To Get To You’ and ‘Big Boss Man’ and some of the cuts that some fans think are cool and not necessarily very Las Vegas type and that to us was important in this context. I’m not sure that we’re going to release another soundboard from those particular spring tours. But one of the observations I made is that when Elvis is feeling really good about himself and having fun, that’s when he changes the repertoire a lot because he’s playful, he wants to do different songs and he’s very motivated. And I think that ‘Southern Nights’ with its actually very nice cover I would say, we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back it’s certainly Keith Alverson's photo that makes it.
Keith Alverson is a great guy and he’s got the most fantastic photos of Elvis from a lot of shows in the 70’s."
At the time Ernst Jorgensen was talking about the excellent FTD compilation 'Southern Nights' released in 2006 which mainly featured the famous Huntsville performances from Elvis Tour #14 May 30 - June 10.
Officially we have so far heard almost nothing from the first part of Elvis' Tour #13 April 24 - May 7, except for three tracks from Atlanta, April 30 - also on 'Southern Nights'.
Mid 1975 has always been a popular period with Elvis fans with Elvis back in fine form and having fun on stage. It was a positive comeback from the emotional roller-coaster of 1974 and before the slide of 1976.
The Dallas June 6th show was the first official soundboard release for fans, featured in the E.A.P silver box-set, while ‘Dixieland Rocks’ from the end of Elvis’ April tour in Murfreesboro was one of the first FTD issued concerts. Since then we have also had 'Dixieland Delight' focusing on Elvis' Huntsville shows and the alternate 'Southern Nights' FTD compilation from this period.
The St. Petersburg Times review of Elvis' Tampa April 26 1975 concert included some insightful comments - although it seems obvious that they expected to see a skinnier "Aloha" period Elvis.
......"The energy that a younger, slimmer Elvis Presley would have out into his on-stage gymnastics is not lost; instead, that force manifests itself in the man's music, and in his inexhaustible personal magnetism. The Elvis Presley that brought down the house Saturday at Tampa's Curtis Hixon hall retains that famous smile, charm and that voice - what a voice! It was as if Elvis knows he had to compensate for his physical lackings by putting his all into his sound. And that he did.
As Elvis belts out C.C. Rider and I Got a Woman, two early rock 'n' roll classics, he executes a slow bump and grind, joking, "Let' see if it all works," then stops, clutching his leg in mock pain. He smiles, and the communication with the audience is total. Without spelling it out, Elvis is saying "Look, I'm not everything I used to be, but I still have a lot to give." The audience acknowledges each slight body movement with the expected screams and tumultuous applause.
He still sings his early classics like Love Me Tender, Teddy Bear and Don't Be Cruel but he does so in self-parody, laughing at his own legend by altering the lyric and the tempo. He still works up a sweat and hands out perspiration-stained scarves to adoring stage-side fans, and provokes jealous screams by planting kisses on their cheeks. The animal Elvis has mellowed with age, but that beast in him remains.
The most impressive thing about this rotund Elvis is his musicianship, no longer eclipsed by his choreography. When he slides into his recent ballad My Boy you know it comes from deep down. His voice is full, robust and resounding, in perfect pitch. And so it is with the other ballads on the program I Remember You, It's Midnight and the stirring American Trilogy. For middle-of-the-roaders, Elvis turns in respectable but unimpressive pop versions of Funny How Time Slips Away, If You Love Me Let Me Know and Let Me Be There, the latter two tunes recent Olivia Newton-John hits.
But Elvis' forte is still the rockin' stuff, and he shows he hasn't lost what it takes. His Burning Love puts shame even to his own record version. When he launches into a slow, torchy Heartbreak Hotel, the inflections are vintage 1956."
This new FTD ‘soundboard’ mainly features a previously unheard show from Lakeland Florida April 27, plus bonus songs from the early part of the same tour. The ‘idea’ of this release is a good one because it not only gives us most of a completely unheard show but also a good selection of interesting bonus songs to fill up the disc to 71 minutes.
The packaging - in large size 7” ‘Classic Album’ format - and 12-page booklet are very well done featuring actual photos from the shows itself taken by Keith Alverson. As Ernst noted Keith Alverson managed to take some of the best concert photos of Elvis from this period.
Newspaper reviews included in the booklet note that Elvis was pale and lacklustre with his Lakeland show performances, but that he got better each show.
Soundboards from the start of this tour all have the same inherent ‘problem’ a HEAVY bias towards Piano! In this FTD there is also a STRONG J.D.Sumner Vocal presence too-which actually is far more pleasant listening than too much Charlie Hodge and as Elvis mentions he read an Article in the paper all about J.D (from Lakeland) it seems appropriate.
However the different sound mix can be of interest as we have several quality soundboards already from Elvis’ MAY 1975 concerts with a full-mix and similar set-list. This, at least, offers something different. It is, for instance, a less “rocking” compilation compared to ‘Southern Nights’ and with a gentler mix. It is mastered by Jan Eliasson from the original somewhat sub-standard soundboard tapes.
Some of the tracks sound almost a capella with only piano and backing-vocalists as accompaniment, along with some bass. There is very little drums or orchestra in the mix.
It is of little disappointment that soundboards from this tour start with ‘Love Me’ and ‘If You Love Me (Let Me Know)’ and miss out on 'See See Rider' and 'I Got A Woman / Amen'.
The CD starts with Elvis announcing “Good Evening my name is Wayne Newton” and it is obvious that he is in good humour. You can hear laughter in his voice during ‘Love Me’ and the first two songs are both routine and passable, although the mix does help show that Elvis’ voice hasn’t truly warmed up yet.
Next the ‘Love Me Tender’ version is without the joke False Start - typical in the June 75 tour - followed by ’Teddy Bear/Don’t Be Cruel’ which are again the ‘usual’ throwaways.
At this point the concert picks up a notch as now it sounds like Elvis is singing the songs he is interested in, rather than the usual crowd-pleasers.
“A new song we had out about a year ago” Elvis says before ‘Help Me”. This is a reasonable version, made all that more interesting with the different mix. When Elvis sings, “Let me see, Lord let me see, Just where I fit into your master-plan” it sounds all that more emotional being almost a capella with only piano and The Stamps for accompaniment.
Elvis’ little comments between songs show him in good self-depreciating humour and having fun with fans. Noticeable at this show is his good, solid performance of songs and it is only a ‘joke’ version of ‘Why Me Lord’ where he makes fun with J.D that is not taken seriously.
‘Burning Love’ is ‘ok’ but here the lack of drums doesn’t help – although Elvis pushes the songs with a longer outro - and then they don’t seem to know when to end the song. It sounds ‘weird!’
The 'Introductions' again make ‘special’ mention of J.D Sumner coming from Lakeland and it’s a nice genuine moment. Also worthy here is Jerry Scheff’s BLUESY BASS Solo - rather nice thanks!
After the intros ‘My Boy’ is a nice version here and for once NOT over-blown and featuring genuine tender sadness in this well performed ballad. The lack of orchestra in the mix here is a plus.
‘T.R.O.U.B.L.E.’ “A new record, been out four or five days” is a good version as Elvis gets to work out on his new single. Beforehand Elvis jokes, “Give me some water Charlie before we get on this horse!” and knowing the lyrical challenge, “Let me stumble through this song first!”
Always a piano driven tune, the high piano bias of the mix seems to fit the song lyrics better. You can clearly hear Elvis’ enjoyment, "Mercy, look what just walked through that door”, but once again Elvis pushes along the “hey, hey” finale and they don’t know how or when to end the song!
‘I’ll Remember You’ is also a decent version and again benefits from the lighter mix. There are points again where Elvis is almost singing alone to the piano. It sounds more like an intimate club performance rather than a big arena show. Delightful.
A fun ‘Let Me Be There’ follows before ‘Why Me Lord’ - "Since this is J.D’s hometown..” - which is a pure LAUGH and probably the best recording of J.D’s amazing deep BASS voice!
Afterwards ‘Hound Dog’ is the ‘usual throwaway version’ however ‘An American Trilogy’ that follows is certainly THE concert highlight.
The mix for ‘An American Trilogy’ is piano focused and very different with less orchestra and with the Flute solo is hardly audible. Elvis for once forgets to say “Sing it fellas” but what a solid / decent version with no goofing around (I always dread Elvis is going to ruin another version by substituting Dixieland with Disneyland –yuck!) - probably the best version this tour apart from Atlanta May 2nd 1975.
The crowd seem to give Elvis a standing ovation after woods and it is amazing to hear! Apparently this song was also THE highlight from the A/S the same day also. Elvis is notably moved by the reaction, “It makes it all worthwhile” he tells the crowd.
Wisely after such a ‘high moment’ Elvis closes with ‘C.H.F.I.L’ and it’s a final goodnight.
Overall this is a well sung show in better than I expected sound (from previous on-line reactions I had read) and a very enjoyable “brand new show” to listen to.
After this we are treated to eight Bonus Songs to complete this look at Elvis in April 1975
Some of these Bonus Tracks have come out before on a Jacksonville bootleg of 25th April 1975 (A Damn Fine Show) but compared to the previous tracks ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’, ‘Big Boss Man’, ‘It’s Midnight’ and ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’ all sound slightly more ‘thin’ in sound. The mix is again piano biased and now there is also a background buzz in the mix. Unfortunately they are mainly only average performances. Elvis’ voice at the start of ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ particularly weak which is a shame as he never performed this song again after 1975. This is nothing like the power of his earlier 70’s performances, and the audio mix doesn’t help.
‘It Midnight’ however does benefit from having less orchestra in the mix, sounding more intimate than usual. Having performed this song regularly since August 1974 Elvis would surprisingly only perform this song a handful times more in his career.
‘Big Boss Man’ is more interesting for being the piano based mix and Elvis does at least sound enthusiastic noting, “Woo Lord, Play It son” during the solo.
Two brand new songs feature on this FTD from the end of the same Jacksonville show and interestingly the performances of ‘That’s All Right’ and ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ are with a bit more gusto.
On ‘That’s All Right’ Elvis sounds enthused at last, perhaps due to the chance to get away from his regular set list. This was the first time Elvis had performed the song since October 1974 and he laps it up. At last James Burton’s guitar is in the mix and Elvis sings along during the solo. Elvis only performed this classic number a handful of times in both 1974 and 1975 before re-introducing it to his regular set-list in 1976.
‘Heartbreak Hotel’ again only Elvis’ fifth performance this year and again Elvis approaches it with more enthusiasm.
The final 2 tracks have previously been released on a bootleg from the end section of the Lakeland 28th April 1975 show but both ‘The Hawaiian Wedding Song’ and ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’ sound better here and are also acceptable and enjoyable performances.
Overall Verdict: FTD have given us 25 tracks from the beginning of the April tour in a cohesive and well sung show, which I have enjoyed playing several times already because Elvis sounds ‘together’ on stage and is putting out a decent / solid performance. ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’ for example is vastly superior to Elvis’ later 1976 performances! This is a well-chosen release – which despite un balanced sound recording is a pleasure to listen to and includes a selection of rarer performances. Combined with the larger 7’ inch well assembled booklet the package is a quality look at Elvis’ April 1975 performances. Well done FTD, more content like this please!
So all I want next from FTD to make me happy is the Jackson unheard May 5th 1975 ‘benefit show’ on soundboard please.
Review by Geoffrey McDonnell - with added comments by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN December 2014
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'Elvis In Florida April 1975' - FTD October 2014 release
Lakeland, April 27 1975 ES
1) Love Me
2) If You Love Me
3) Love Me Tender
4) Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel
5) Help Me
6) Burning Love
8) School Days
9) My Boy
11) I'll Remember You
12) Let Me Be There
13) Why Me Lord?
14) Hound Dog
15) American Trilogy
16) Can't Help Falling In Love
17) Closing Vamp
18) You Don't Have To Say You Love Me
19) Big Boss Man
20) It's Midnight
21) Funny How Time Slips Away
22) That's All Right
23) Heartbreak Hotel
24) Hawaiian Wedding Song
25) Help Me Make It Through The Night
- Jacksonville, April 25
- Lakeland, April 28.
FTD CD Credits: Compilation produced by Ernst Jorgensen & Roger Semon. - Mastered by Jan Eliasson.
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