A few months ago we reviewed ‘ReBooked’ the deluxe 4CD bootleg set of Elvis’ January/ February 1970 Las Vegas "On Stage" season.
Now FTD follows up with a marvellous "Classic Album" version that very cleverly matches the bootleg release giving us some brand new unreleased performances from that great season.
At the time in 1970 the 'On Stage’ album release was unique in featuring NO Elvis oldies and hits! It cleverly demonstrated that Elvis really was musically & professionally growing with the times, recording an album that showcased original material and which no longer had to depend on his own greatest-hits.
Elvis showed that he could find great country-funk-rock songs, like the stunning ‘Polk Salad Annie’ and ‘Proud Mary’, while at the same time put his very soul on-line with an amazing ‘Release Me’ and ‘Let It Be Me.’ Elvis even made the classic Everly’s 1960 hit seem contemporary.
The Original Album audio was Re-mastered by the great Vic Anesini for the 2010 40th Anniversary Legacy release and the recordings never sounded better. (see full 2012 'On Stage' album review here)
The album on CD at last sounds like the original vinyl release but with a stunning new clarity and deep, rich sound. The rich bass sound drives the concert along and with a new spatially open stereo mix - compared to the 1999 expanded 'On Stage' release - plus much less compression that the original vinyl version, it has a great and powerful overall sound.
Best of all this Classic Album FTD now features three Unreleased Elvis concerts that were recorded by RCA to compile the original album. All three concerts feature the “traditional” audio mix with drums left channel, Backing Vocals & James Burton guitar on the right and with Elvis and Jerry Scheff’s bass in the centre. This gives the concert a rich bass sound driving the concert along and with Bob Lanning's tight drumming it has a kick-ass feel.
Elvis had rehearsed his new songs including ‘The Wonder Of You’ on the afternoon of February 18th and it was the classic Feb 18th Midnight concert that provided three songs for the album, including 'Polk Salad Annie'. At last we now get that (near) complete concert and what a cracker it is. Elvis was always in better humour at the Midnight shows.
Disc 2 features the main parts of the Feb 18th Dinner Show (that provided 'The Wonder Of You' single) as well as the near complete Feb 19th Midnight show (FOUR tracks, even though only two are noted in the FTD booklet, made the ‘On Stage’ 1999 CD release) which was the last show RCA recorded and which captures Elvis at his most relaxed.
Here 'Release Me' is nicely laid-back and loose while 'Polk Salad Annie' is a power-house version with a different Jerry Scheff bass line towards the ending and some cutting James Burton guitars.
There is also plenty of fun Elvis interaction with his loving fans that we have never heard before, including Elvis changing his belt on stage! "I'm about to lose this damn thing. Get me a new belt!"
Similarly the fabulous 'Suspicious Minds' has Elvis playing around with The Sweets during middle break quiet section and you can even hear Myrna Smith giggle as Elvis creeps up and teases her.
The FTD includes a stylish 12-page booklet with some lovely photos of Elvis in action and usual memorabilia. (See above). The front cover of the FTD booklet is a gem.
The 'Behind The Scenes' section explains the time–line as well as describing producer Felton Jarvis’ plans.
The change with Elvis' second Las Vegas engagement at the International Hotel, in January and February of 1970,was that the repertoire would be songs that Elvis hadn't already recorded. The difference from a regular Elvis recording session was that all the songs were cover versions, with no new material from Elvis' publishing companies. The song selection included material from some of the new emerging singer/songwriter talents like Tony Joe White, Neil Diamond, John Fogerty, and Joe South. Felton Jarvis and RCA recorded at nine consecutive shows starting with the midnight show on February 15.
For reasons unclear, except for the midnight show on the 15th, Felton Jarvis didn't record complete shows, as he had done in August 1969, but concentrated on the new songs for the album. Why he still recorded a few versions of "Love Me Tender" and "Hound Dog" remains a mystery, but one explanation could be that he was not sure if Elvis would eventually prepare enough songs for a "new songs album", and that he would have to create a concert-like album that needed older songs, as well as new hits, like "In the Ghetto", "Suspicious Minds","Don't Cry Daddy". and "Kentucky Rain." "Can't Help Falling in Love" might then also be needed as a closing song for the album.
What a shame that the rehearsal described in the booklet including Pat Boone’s ‘Love Letter In the Sand’ & Leon Russell’s ‘Delta Lady’ weren’t recorded but in total the CDs do contain 23 officially previously unreleased live tracks, including two new versions of the wonderful ‘Let It Be Me’.
Overall Mini Verdict: An essential ‘Classic Album’ with 2CDs for the price of one. ‘On Stage’ was one of Elvis’ best-ever album releases and this double FTD version is a real treat. Three unreleased concerts all in great quality, with lots of fun Elvis banter and with him singing at his very peak – what more could you want! Congratulations to the FTD producers - yet another great value-for-money addition to our Elvis collection.
Looking Deeper into the shows and performances....
Audio engineers Vic Anesini and Sebastian Jeansson who did such great work on The Complete Elvis Masters’ did the audio restoration and remastering of these performances and they are in great quality.
Following the fabulous Original Album (see in-depth details via EIN’s "On Stage" Legacy review) is the important Feb 18th Midnight Show.
Feb 18th Midnight Show.
Elvis starts the show noting "The squirrels are loose tonight" and he was right.
All these shows are great to listen to since drummer Bob Lanning (who only played with the TCB Band on this season) adds a different punchier feel to the rhythm section. Lanning plays a much tighter drum sound and less bump-and-grind like Ronnie Tutt usually did.
It was the classic Feb 18th Midnight concert that provided three songs for the original album including the classic 'Polk Salad Annie' plus ‘Release Me’ and ‘See See Rider’. ‘Long Tall Sally’ on the 1999 CD release also came from this show
Elvis was on truly fine form and although he suffered from a cough/cold during this season it wasn’t so obvious in this show. During a couple of the songs he plays with the lyrics which must have so annoyed Felton Jarvis as he tried to record some Masters for an album release.
‘Don’t Cry Daddy’ is a hoot as Elvis turns it into the humourous "Don’t Cry Charlie" and notes "together we’ll put you on a bummer". But if Felton was annoyed, the crowd certainly weren’t! Elvis notes afterwards "If you happen to hear that recorded, the laughing is not included."
Who knew that it would only take 42 years for us to hear it!
‘Kentucky Rain’ gets the fun, Midnight show treatment as well with the pretty unique "Old grey-bearded fools" plus Elvis adding, "as he drove on through the rain, I realised he’s insane!"
The other tracks however are all brilliant performances, ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You' is a powerhouse version whilst 'Walk A Mile In My Shoes’ is only spoilt by Elvis’ slight cough.
‘Let It Be Me’ – a real favourite of mine - is yet another outstanding performance with a stunning "take It home" ending and almost a perfect Master.
In the Introductions Elvis acknowledges Frankie Avalon, comedian Marty Allen, Ray Anthony as well as Fats Domino "kind of an inspiration to me when I started out" during which he sings one line of ‘Blueberry Hill’ (as used in the On Stage 1999 CD release).
The show wraps with a powerful ‘Suspicious Minds’ very close to the Feb 16th ‘Master’ used for ‘On Stage’ 1999. Listen out for Bob Lanning’s very tight drumming and dramatic flourish, pushing Elvis to the final end.
Elvis sounds rightly worn-out during ‘Can’t Help Falling' stating at the end off-mic "Yes Sir, Thank you" and laughing "Who-Hoo."
The Colonel would have been proud of his boy this night.
Kieran Davis’ book "Elvis Live At The International" features super-fan Peggy Elzea’s diaries in which she describes the concert in detail noting…
"Elvis was joking a lot at this show and giggled his way through ‘Don't Cry Daddy’. He spent a lot of time kissing the girls at the front of the stage and after 'Polk Salad Annie’ I received my second kiss! Elvis came over to where I was sitting and several girls stood up. He kissed each of the girls in turn before reaching me. I put my hand out, and as he took hold of it he pulled me closer so that he could reach me. It was a quick kiss but beautiful."
This is the famous kissing-the-girls section released on the ‘On Stage’ album!
Scans from the FTD booklet
The second CD starts with five tracks from the important February 18th Dinner Show.
This was the first show after the special rehearsals and which gave us the #1 single ‘The Wonder of You’. This concert was also featured on the recent ‘ReBooked’ bootleg set.
Here however the tape starts one line earlier with Elvis asking the audience, "Am I closing here Monday? I may close tonight! Lord Have Mercy" before heading into a rocking ‘Long Tall Sally’.
Comparing the audio quality to the BackDraft bootleg, the FTD is off a cleaner tape source however the treble is more muffled here with Bob Lanning’s percusion obviously more hidden.
Glen D Hardin’s piano is more prominent in the mix as are the brass section and string section.
Elvis’ voice is higher however there has been reverb added here which is not the case on the ‘ReBooked’ release, which gives the bootleg release a purer Elvis vocal. No matter as both are excellent, if different, versions of the same show. (See the full Feb 18 Dinner Show review in detail in the ReBooked review)
On the FTD ‘Don’t Cry Daddy’ has Elvis’ vocal placed more prominently above the Charlie Hodge duet vocal, which I prefer and is a lovely version.
‘Release Me’ is the fabulous first live version "play it Jerry Lee" says Elvis and a treat especially with Glen Hardin’s piano licks kicking in.
Strangely on both the February 18th shows Felton Jarvis decided to fade the recording after ‘Walk A Mile’ before the ‘In The Ghetto’ segue starts. One wonders why.
February 19th Midnight Show
Here we have the most complete show on the FTD set, 15 tracks only missing the first two songs ‘All Shook Up and ‘I Got A Woman’.
This was the final concert recorded by RCA and like the last TTWII recorded performance Elvis is a little tired but also ready for fun. (See FTD ‘The Wonder Of You’ August 13 1970 review),
"Let’s do it again man, that’s all!" Elvis jokes at the start before rocking into ‘Long Tall Sally’.
This time ‘Don’t’ Cry Daddy’ "A new record, it’s been out about a month" is taken seriously. "Thank you, Charlie" someone says in the background as the duet starts. It is a cute version very close to the Master.
‘Hound Dog’ is an excellent version with some cracking drumming from Bob Lanning copying the original D.J. Fontana patterns. Elvis is in great humour laughing beforehand. Sadly the brass section is woeful and should have been removed from the mix.
‘Love Me Tender’ has Elvis kissing the girls as they go wild and shows Elvis in a very playful mood - "You have made my face turn blue!" Afterward Elvis laughs, "I usually make the rounds, up in the balcony, through the kitchens and kiss the cook!"
During ‘Kentucky Rain’ Elvis is sadly afflicted by his cough/flu and gets distracted which is a shame for this great song and again sings the "old grey bearded fools" lyric.
‘Let It Be Me’ and ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’ are both fine versions and great to add to our collections, even if not as perfect as other takes.
‘Walk A Mile' is the album original but here without the added overdubs - and sounding great paired with the segued ‘In The Ghetto’*, which according to the FTD booklet has never been released before. ‘In The Ghetto’ is unfortunately a little rushed and interrupted by his cough – the odd fact is that it was released on the 1999 expanded 'On Stage' CD - but it is still great to hear within the complete show at last. The fact that it was Elvis' last recorded show perhaps helps explain the lighter feel to Elvis' performance.
Afterwards Elvis jokes about losing his belt "I’m about to lose this damn thing. Get me a belt!" Bob Lanning starts up some stripper music!
Elvis jokes to the crowd, "Excuse us while we forgot what we were doing- because I lost control hours ago."
‘The Wonder Of You’ (Elvis’ 4th live version) has a great feel, this time sounding more unrehearsed than the day before! Tonight Elvis adds his own back-up vocal parts then noting, "Right!" to The Imperials. While a little rough - you would have thought it was performed before the single version of the previous night – it is very charming. Elvis even notes at the end "Damn right son!" to the band - and realising it was a little rough Elvis tells the audience "we were just learning that song." It’s a great addition to our collection.
At this point Elvis takes off his belt before performing a fabulous ‘Release Me’ although it does sound a little more laid-back that the previous night’s "Let’s play it hard now" Master. Listen out @ 02.15 for Elvis pushing the band along. Great mix of Glen D Hardin and James Burton’s cutting guitar. It’s an excellent alternate version.
‘Polk Salad Annie’ keeps the power going and is another near perfect Master - although Elvis does fluff the intro speech at the start and is a little more puffed than the previous night. This version has The Sweets backing-vocals mixed much lower, as well as the brass section also lower making a less "punchy" ending. But Elvis is still having a blast, "Whoa" he notes just before the Chick-a-Boom Sweets section.
Another fine new addition to our collections. "Damn right" Elvis notes to one and all at the end as the crowd gives him a standing ovation.
Note that the song runs the same length as the official version. Don’t be fooled by the 7.56 time noted on the FTD sleeve as 3 minutes is taking up with crowd kissing and female shrieks.
Elvis tells the girls, "I gotta go back or we’ll never end this show" but there is no doubting why he always caught the "creepin’ crud". (see Peggy Elzea’s diary entry below)
During the intros Elvis sneezes and coughs noting, "There goes the health" and there is no doubt he was suffering for his art.
‘Suspicious Minds’* is particularly good as Elvis delightfully teases the Sweet Inspirations. Listen out as during the middle break (at 03.05) you can hear Elvis walk over the The Sweets and sing straight at them "because I love you too much baby" causing Myrna Smith (and Elvis) to giggle, it’s a great moment. Afterwards Elvis cranks it up and throws in some great karate moves "Watch this" he notes at 03:23. Perhaps this was because it was the last show RCA was recording but it’s a wonderful end to a great performance.
(This version was also released on the 1999 expanded 'On Stage' CD, although this is not noted in the booklet)
"Thank you very much, You are a good audience" – and a more serious than normal ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love' and the RCA tapes stopped rolling. Another season's recording completed and done.
*Note that it was always believed that the two songs 'In The Ghetto' and 'Suspicious Minds' used on the expanded 'On Stage' 1999 CD came from the noted live "Masters" of February 16 Dinner Show.
Joe Tunzi's Sessions III book states this fact, as does the usually correct Keith Flynn website.
The notes within the FTD booklet also leads you to believe the same thing (it says they are yet unreleased) yet the BMG 'Live In Las Vegas' boxset says they are both from February 19 1970.
Thanks to Oven Egeland for the correction as both 'In The Ghetto' and 'Suspicious Minds' used on the expanded 'On Stage' 1999 CD do come from this marvellous Feb 19 Midnight Show.
- EIN highly recommends Oven Egeland's 'Elvis In Norway' website, as well as Keith Flynn's Elvis Presley Essential Lists.
From super-fan Peggy Elzea’s diaries (Elvis Live At The International) we know that Elvis was feeling a little ill at the start of the Feb 19th Dinner Show but he certainly made a great comeback at the Midnight performance..
February 19,1970 Midnight Show.
I don't know what it was with my seats tonight, but at the midnight show I got stuck in front of a bunch of obnoxious girls that screamed and shouted throughout the entire show. At every opportunity they were screaming for Elvis to come over. In situations like this, I have noticed that Elvis tends to stay away more as he is uncertain how these fans will react, so Judy and I weren't holding our breaths that Elvis would come over to our part of the stage very much. For most of the show our fears were confirmed and although Elvis did flash us a smile or two he stayed clear. However, after 'Polk Salad Annie' Elvis came over towards our table and bent down to give Judy a kiss,
"A tough way to make a living boy, I tell you for sure. You want to get serious or just fool around a little while?" Judy said, "Get serious!" and the audience laughed. To which Elvis said, "She wants to get serious" before giving her the kiss.
Now, you may be gratified to know that after Elvis had kissed Judy, he came over to me and gave me kiss number four, then stood up, grinned at those foolish, loud girls and said, "I gotta go back" turned around and walked away never kissing them. Ah, swift justice. The fiendish laugh on my tape recording was Judy just after he did that."
It’s so good to learn more of these intimate crowd moments to match with Elvis’ reactions on the released recordings. A shame that FTD didn’t think of using some of these extracts within the FTD booklet to provide even more information about this great season.
Note that EIN recently interviewed author Kieran Davis about his great book and to check whether FTD contacted him for this 'On Stage' project. Go HERE for our EIN Interview with Kieran Davis and more stories about meeting Elvis.
Overall Verdict: Three new Elvis performances from one of his finest seasons, two of them Midnight shows! If you need to replace your old RCA 1999 ‘On Stage’ release then this is a great deal with beautiful audio remastering. ‘On Stage’ was one of Elvis’ best-ever album releases and this double FTD version is a real treat. Three unreleased concerts all in great quality, with lots of fun Elvis banter and with him singing at his very peak – what more could you want! Congratulations to the FTD producers - yet another great value-for-money addition to our Elvis collection.
Review by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN April 2012
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