48 hours to Memphis
"What I remember about the opening isn't so much the song, but it was the lights being turned off on the stage. The drums were pounding and almost everyone in the entire Coliseum was shooting photos, so there were flashes going off all over the place and people were screaming. When the lights were turned on and he came on stage, it was awesome. It gave me goose bumps at the time, and I still remember this moment. It was quite the experience. -
Glenn Clark, son of Wallace Huey Clark (photographer) - from the FTD sleeve notes
The original "Elvis Live On Stage In Memphis" was the only single-CD performance released by FTD with the deluxe "Classic Album" 7" packaging. Now the Richmond March 18th concert recorded just 2 nights beforehand also gets the same high-quality packaging - and what a treat it is!
The fold-out cover features some good colour photos of Elvis in action while the 16-page booklet features some very informative liner notes plus another pile of photos, including some candids of Elvis heading off from Memphis Airport on the day of the concert.
This would be Elvis’ second concert in Richmond during this March 1974 tour due to the high-ticket demand.
While Elvis weight (and moods) fluctuated during 1974 he looks in fine form in his ‘Aqua Blue-Vine’ jumpsuit and possibly because he had spent the last few nights sleeping at Graceland, Elvis is full of energy from the very start.
This time the FTD has been compiled and researched by Robert Frieser who also provided FTD with the tape of the concert. In part of his extensive liner information he notes …
From the moment FTD and I decided to release this show, I started researching for information, photos and other materials.
Although there could be several explanations for this unofficial recording, it's possible that it served as a backup recording in case something went wrong recording the "real" live album in Memphis two days later. In addition, maybe they could always use a song from this show for the Memphis album if something didn't work out. My research led me to people who were present in Richmond, and saw Elvis perform. They all said that Elvis was extremely good looking and looked like he was from another planet. During the "Rock & Roll medley", total pandemonium broke out; leaving nobody in their seats, as the crowd rushed to the stage.
The sixty-strong police force had their hands full, as they tried to stop people from getting on the stage as well as helping people who fainted in the crowd. The reaction of the audience encouraged Elvis to show an even wilder side of his persona. During "Fever" it seemed as if something like a giant earthquake shook through tile Coliseum while the flashing lights from people's cameras filled the hall. The room was full of electricity. The fans that saw Elvis in Richmond and heard a part of this tape, say that the sound has the same atmosphere they remember from witnessing him live on stage.
- Robert Frieser, August 2011
The Music – 64 minutes
In the past this concert was released as the bootleg ‘Guaranteed To Blow Your Mind’ which was a sensational find for fans and was one of the best quality bootleg releases.
Despite the initial Disappointment when we all thought FTD had found a stereo master-tape, the real positive now is that the excellent audio engineer Vic Anesini (The Complete Elvis Masters, etc) has mastered this tape and the sound is even better now. While the tape is "mono" there is actually some slight stereo reverb across the two channels and it sounds very good indeed.
Elvis’ vocal is nice and high in the mix (far more that FTD’s “Memphis 74” release) as well as Glen D Hardin’s piano which was also fairly hidden in the live Memphis album. The very intimate ‘Help Me’ sounds extremely different to the “full-auditorium feel” given to the Memphis concert and is truly delightful.
While there is more-than usual added reverb especially on Elvis’ vocal track, this has never been an issue for me as it gives the feel of Elvis playing this big arena. Fans who have attended these concerts state that it really sounds as if you were there! The mix is the same as on the earlier bootleg but the audio quality much improved with a nice rich sound thanks to Vic Anesini.
The band is nice and clear with the orchestra section mixed as well as any professional release. The other oddity in the mix is the rather high tambourine level that ocaisionally drowns-out Ronnie Tutt’s percussion.
As soon as the concert starts it is noticeable how a professional audio mix really captures the excitement of the audience and being at an Elvis concert far better than a regular soundboard.
Elvis played Richmond over 15 times in his career – he was always popular in the early days - and he had a huge fan following in the area with the crowds always enthusiastic. It seems to me that Elvis and the band were not aware the RCA tapes were rolling as the bonus with this concert is that Elvis is more relaxed, having more fun and the band are rocking out with the excitement of it all. Of course Elvis’ would concentrate harder for the Memphis live recording as well as including a few rarer songs for the RCA album but this is still a cracker of a concert.
Of course there are many similarities to the RCA ‘Memphis’ concert recorded just 2 days later but here the band is under less pressure and seem to be having fun and rocking out more at times.
The obvious difference can be heard with Elvis’ great adlibs during a fabulous ‘Steamroller Blues’ and the ‘Rock’n’Roll Medley’ is exceptional with Elvis really rocking out – not surprising that "total pandemonium broke out"! Both ‘Help Me’ and ‘Fever’ get very cute renditions.
The audience reaction is well-placed in the mix and with the exceptional audio quality you can feel the obvious excitement of the crowd as the rumble of ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ starts. This is going to be a ripper-show!
Flying in from Graceland means that Elvis was ready to rock from the start - and there is a noticeable happiness in his voice as he rocks into 'See See Rider' and checks out the appreciative crowd. Ronnie Tutt plays some blistering drums tonight as well.
A sincere ‘I've Got A Woman/ Amen’ follows with Elvis making JD Sumner repeat his deep-ending and like the Memphis version two days later it's short & sweet compared to the rambling versions of later years.
Elvis played Richmond a few days before and greets the audience jokingly saying, "It's a pleasure to be back here in Hampton Roads…. errr Richmond!" – "Just kidding, just kidding!"
‘Love Me’ is played pretty straight tonight without the usual playing with audience and has some great James Burton guitar work in it.
A cool treat added to his set-list in 1974 was 'Trying To Get To You' and this is another great version showing Elvis’ enjoyment of this Sun oldie. Tonight Elvis even puts some serious energy into the short but crowd-pleasing ‘All Shook Up’ laughing a few times as he plays along with the backing singers.
'Steamroller Blues' is one of the funkiest versions ever, with Elvis putting a really bite into the lyrics. "I’m a steamrolling snake" indeed! Elvis rocks out putting far more energy into it that the laid-back Aloha version over a year before. In this audio mix Elvis’ vocal is nice and prominent and there’s some great piano work for Glen D Hardin. Elvis pushes his voice even further in the final verse "I’m a napalm bomb" and the call-and-response from The Sweets is excellent. A real highlight.
More crowd-pleasing oldies follow ‘Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel’ and ‘Love Me Tender’ with Elvis again enjoying them more than he usually would.
The Rock’n’Roll Medley is another highlight with Elvis putting in more energy than usual obviously playing to the enthusiastic crowd. For some reason Elvis sounded a little out-of-breath on the famous ‘Live In Memphis’ version, but not here where the medley is also taken at a slightly faster tempo. Its great as you can hear the crowd getting louder and louder as he drives ‘Jailhouse Rock/Hound Dog’ along at the end.
At the start of ‘Fever’ Elvis acknowledges the loud shrieks from the crowd, "I haven’t done anything yet, wait a minute." Elvis has a real blast with this one teasing the crowd and swivelling his hips, getting the giggles along the way. It’s a real crowd pleaser, less messed around with than two nights later, and they go wild, "why you all laughing?" Very cool and great fun. At the ends he laughs, "Thank you very much. That's a fun song to do."
‘Polk Salad Annie’ follows and is another cracker, funky 1974 version with some great work backing-vocals from The Sweet Inspirations and more fine piano from Glen D Hardin along with James Burton’s guitar. "Play it James, sneak up on it Ronnie" Elvis tells the band during the instrumental. Great audio, great mix and Ronnie Tutt goes wild on the drums backing Elvis’ karate moves at the end. "Whoo!!" notes Elvis afterwards.
Elvis takes a breather while J D Sumner and the Stamps sing a powerful and sincere ‘Why Me Lord?’ Of course Elvis would sing the Grammy winning 'How Great Thou Art' in Memphis two nights later but sadly not tonight. In fact it is amazing to realise that the Memphis recording of 'How Great Thou Art' was only the second time Elvis had sung the song since 1973!
'Suspicious Minds' is similar to the ‘Live On Stage’ version not having the feel of the stunning earlier versions but still sung with great energy. Elvis still sings the "Oh let our love survive" break with great sincerity, but this all-time classic would soon be dropped as a regular on Elvis' set list after June 1974. I am sure on this Richmond night it still sounded as great as always to the adoring crowd.
In the Introductions Elvis thanks the regulars noting in particular that JD Sumner is sounding "pretty good despite having a bad cold". Elvis jokes to Duke Bardwell,, "Bardwell? What kind of name is that? It’s as bad as Elvis!" There’s a strange reaction from the band when Elvis thanks the John Marshall Hotel "where everybody’s staying".. I wonder why.
‘I Can't Stop Loving You' is a powerful version with Elvis singing his heart out tonight and shows off Elvis' rich 1974 voice adding his dramatic falsetto ending!
"This next song is a song we just recorded. I hope you like it" leads into a delightful 'Help Me' with a nice gospel feel to it - The mix truly shows off Elvis’ vocal .. "Lord Let me see" and the feeling is VERY intimate compared to the Memphis version. It truly sounds like Elvis standing alone on stage pleading to God in front of hia doring followers. Another highlight, the audience really applauds the performance and Elvis adds a sincere, "Thank you, I’m glad you liked it."
'American Trilogy' with the added reverb again has a powerful feel of being in this huge auditorium, similar to FTD’s ‘Live On Stage’ play it loud and feel the experience. Listen closely to the 'All My Trials' section – this is a beautiful recording, one of the very best.
'Let Me Be There' – a new song added back in January 1974, is another quality version of the Olivia Newton John standard and James Burton’s guitar picking adds a little extra to this country song this time round. Like the version two nights later, the songs gets a deserved reprise.
Elvis asks for the house lights to go up "let me take a look at you. Well, well, well"
‘Funny How Time Slips Away’ has a lovely relaxed feel with Elvis at one point laughing about "a big old ghost in the corner."
Elvis is still obviously enjoying the show but sadly the time has come and with 'Can't Help Falling In Love' Elvis bids then "an affectionate adios" and you can hear the crowd go wild.
The Bonus Songs
Sadly these are not multitrack recording but off regular soundboard.
‘Sweet Caroline’ – Elvis had dropped this song off his regular set-list after February 1974 and in fact would perform it a handful of times more in concert. While by no means a great performance this night, taken at a slower pace than earlier versions - and without the orchestra strings in the mix - this is an enjoyable version. It’s obvious that Elvis is enjoying it as well.
'Johnny B Goode' – a regular on this tour but for some reason dropped from the last three shows including the final Memphis concert. A pretty standard version, probably would sound great on multitrack, but nice to have the fact noted that Elvis sang it on this March tour.
‘That’s All Right’ – A real highlight, this makes up for the lack of ‘How Great Thou Art’. Elvis asks, "This is the first record I ever recorded, I just want to do it right now, ok?" Never performed in 1973 this is likely to be Elvis' second only version since June 1972!
With The Sweets call-and–response this has the feel of later versions but Elvis is obviously having ball singing along all the way with James Burton’s guitar solo. From the Memphis March 17th performance a one-off special for his hometown crowd.
Glenn Clark remembers: "My father printed a few pictures from the show on the 12th and took them to the show on the 18th where he gave them to Col. Parker, who took them to Elvis and Elvis signed one to my mother -"Dear Helen, Best wishes, Elvis Presley."
Elvis said that he really liked them, and was going to keep the one taken from above the stage where the girl has her arms on the stage and, it appears as if he had just bent down to touch her and was going back on stage.
(From the FTD booklet)
Finding new multi-track professional LIVE recordings is a real rarity and has to be appreciated by Elvis fans. While perhaps not quite up to the standard of the amazing Memphis concert two days later – what a shame Elvis didn’t try out ‘How Great Thou Art’ this night - this is a brilliant find and a great release for FTD. Elvis is having a little bit more fun than he did when he knew the tapes were rolling for the Memphis performance and the “Elvis up-front” audio mix is a treat especially on songs such as ‘Help Me’. A great sounding concert, rightly deserving the "Classic Album" packaging this is what FTD should be all about. The sleeve notes, photos and research make this a terrific presentation and also value-for-money.
Review by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN November 2011
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