On July 31st Elvis flew to Las Vegas and the rehearsals continued for three days, including the backing-vocalists, starting on August 4th at the International Hotel’s Convention Centre. (Several songs from August 4 were featured as Bonus Tracks on the FTD ‘One Night In Vegas’)
On August 7th key rehearsals started on the showroom’s main stage with Joe Guercio and orchestra working with Elvis for the first time. Some of these, with Elvis in his red shirt, were also featured in the movie ‘That's The Way It Is’.
Now updated with YOUR COMMENTS plus reaction from FTD producer Ernst Jørgensen - See Below
Finally on August 10th, the very day of the Opening Show, there was a complete Dress Rehearsal in the Showroom before the single Dinner Show opening performance.
RCA were there to professionally record the first six concerts for the film’s soundtrack plus future album release and so tested their set-up and microphone levels by recording the majority of the dress rehearsal.
Knowing that none of this was going to be used for actual release they did not record any between-song on stage discussions and only started their multi-track recorder once Elvis had kicked off on a new song.
This means that almost every song they recorded was missing the first few bars or more of the song.
(as shown by the tape Legend below)
The cover is a basic digipack - a mini booklet would have been a nice bonus. And I am not sure why Elvis' bright RED shirt has become a purple shirt on the front cover (see right).
The FTD basic sleeve notes do however informs us that …
"The performances were all recorded on a 16-track tape machine, but almost all intros were missing.
We have reconstructed the opening of these performances using the best suitable recordings of these songs."
Two of the songs that were basically complete ‘Sweet Caroline’ and ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’’ were eventually released on the excellent 1998 ‘Elvis Aron Presley’ Silver box-set. Until now the rest of the recordings have remained unreleased except for the on the Bilko label bootleg ‘Hang Loose’ where the audio came from a pretty good cassette copy of the RCA tapes.
The new FTD ‘Stage Rehearsal’ finally releases this brilliant, RCA taped performance over 40 years after it was recorded, also adding 6 interesting Bonus Songs of other non-professionally recorded rehearsals of later years.
The REAL DELIGHT of this release is that the ever-dependable audio engineer Vic Anesini (The Complete Masters, Close Up, The Wonder Of You) has worked his audio magic in remixing and re-mastering the RCA multi-track tapes. They sound fantastic. The later Bonus Songs – sadly only of cassette quality - are also a fabulous addition to any fan’s collection.
The REAL DISSAPOINTMENT of this release is that the brief given to Vic Anesini was to repair and re-edit the 1970 rehearsals to give them a "more professional" feel.
While this includes fixing the missing intros, it has also meant fading-down Elvis’ off-beat comments or in some instances even editing out Elvis’ rehearsal comments completely! Plus the crazy idea of splicing two very enjoyable rough ‘Polk Salad Annie’ rehearsals together to create one smoother, not-so-crazy, version!
The final terrible mistake is the addition of audience applause to two songs. After all, removing the audience reaction from an on-stage performance would ruin a live recording so why add audience applause to a rehearsal release? It also destroys the required ambience.
IF these tracks were being assembled for another SONY mainstream public box-set such as ‘Close Up’ or ‘Today Tomorrow and Forever’ (perhaps they were?) then this could be forgivable and understandable.
However as a Fan Club Collectors’ release – where we pay good money to hear the real Elvis warts and all - this make no sense.
Of course this was the serious Dress Rehearsal on Vegas Opening Night so the variation in Elvis’ or the band’s performances are going to be slight. But if you want the professional "live-on-stage version" one only has to listen to the RCA live show recorded just a few hours later. ('One Night In Vegas')
Having got the hard facts out of the way, there is no doubting that the FANTASTIC sound of this dress rehearsal somewhat makes up for the let-downs and there are some real treats along the way especially with the Bonus Songs.
On previous releases, the old bootleg ‘Hang Loose’ was a muddled audio mix and of mono cassette quality. The Silver EAP box-set version of the two tracks ‘You Don't Have To Say You Love Me’ and ‘Sweet Caroline’ were also very narrow audio-mixes and somewhat strange with James Burton on the left channel and the orchestra rather absent. These new mixes and remastering by Vic Anesini really shine in comparison.
Every CD needs an introductory statement to set the scene. Whether it be a killer lead-in single or for a live concert CD the 2001 introduction and audience applause. Similarly this Rehearsal CD desperately needs the first track to explain that it is A Rehearsal. The old bootleg Hang Loose did this well choosing the loosest, roughest "Poke A Little Sock Salad Annie" as the lead in track.
Perhaps some of Elvis’ studio dialogue with the band from the RCA July 24th rehearsals could even have been used as a prelude to set-the-scene! For instance the chatting before the July 24th ‘Sweet Caroline’ tryout - where Elvis sings one line of ‘Love Me Tender’ and whistles the tune of Sweet Caroline while Ronnie Tutt sets up his drums and then Elvis chats to Glen Hardin. It is short and sweet, but in less than 1 minute we are totally aware that we are listing to "A Rehearsal".
Here FTD unfortunately do the opposite and choose a note-perfect ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ for the first track which is almost identical to the later evening’s concert version – but minus the audience applause and interaction. While it sounds truly splendid, it just doesn’t sound like a Stage Rehearsal. It’s almost disappointing that they don’t clap at the end!
From the same session it would have been better to use ‘You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'’ #2 where Elvis at the beginning says, "Is it back there? .. Why don’t you hold the bass right here?"- which helps inform the listener, and again sets the scene, that it IS a rehearsal. Sadly these appropriate comments from the original recording have been faded down in this FTD release. At the end Elvis also commented to everyone "There you go!" It’s a nice touch.
Then again for history’s sake, since this is a Collectors label, why not present the songs in the exact order they were rehearsed as shown on the tape legend?
(Shown below, thanks to Keith Flynn - see his fabulous Recording Sessions website here)
‘I Just Can't Help Believing’ – follows and while I applaud Vic Anesini for fixing up MOST of the missing intros (the splices are hard to hear) this ‘I Just Can't Help Believing’ rehearsal is completely spoilt when the audience suddenly starts applauding as Elvis sings the intro! With the first track being almost too perfect for a rehearsal and the audience suddenly clapping on the start of the second song the reality of it being a Stage Rehearsal is totally spoilt.
However, ANY version of ‘I Just Can't Help Believing’ is delicious to hear – and the audio quality here is beautiful. However this track would have been just fine with a fade-up at the start, only 40 seconds of the intro were missed. Elvis does mess with the lyrics a little at the start singing, "this time the bird is going to stay", but after that Elvis keeps it relatively serious. Like several of these featured rehearsals, Elvis never recorded this gorgeous track in the studio so this is fabulous to hear in this pristine (no audience) quality.
It is also interesting to compare it to the different arrangement & faster tempo version recorded at the July 29 MGM rehearsal (FTD The Way It Was). This version is without the Charlie Hodge duet-vocal and Elvis delightfully sings a long with the orchestra solo. On the middle break Elvis notes, "You all come in… one of those ridiculous things" and enthuses Jerry Scheff, "Play it Jerry", these are all nice "rehearsal" touches. Elvis sings the vocal very delicately without having to play to the audience and this is a great addition to our collection.
‘Something’ – All the production disasters are at the start of this CD as the third track also starts off with audience applause! It’s just so wrong. The rehearsal recording actually starts 10 seconds in with Elvis singing "attracts me like no other Mother" – but here we don’t join the real rehearsal until the following line. Once again this was a song Elvis never recorded for release in the studio and so this multi-track recording is the best we will ever have. Without performing to the audience Elvis again sings it very delicately and slowly - and it is a beautiful version. It is a shame that RCA did not catch the start of the performance as this would have been a great album track, the band gets it right and no further takes were needed.
At the end of the real rehearsal Elvis says a nice "Alrighty, alrighty" knowing that they had got it perfect. Disappointingly FTD leaves off this cute Elvis comment from this release.
The earlier August 4th rehearsal of ‘Something’ from FTD’s ‘The Way It Was’ is also intriguing in that Elvis’ phrasing is very different from this later final arrangement but it was a pretty poor quality. Good to compare.
‘Sweet Caroline’ – RCA got this track recorded from the beginning, hence its release on the Silver box-set. At the start Elvis comments to the band "Not me!" but this has been faded down here. Another song that Elvis never recorded for release in the studio and this multi-track recording is a very fine attempt. Elvis gets the slight giggles towards the start but overall it is a very strong performance and interesting for Elvis using different phrasing from what he would do in concert. Never one of my favourite Elvis tracks but this is one of my preferred versions. A nice addition in this quality.
‘Polk Salad Annie’ – While this has an appropriately rough-rehearsal feel there has been some major editing going on here to try and clean it up for this release. The original rehearsal tape had two versions – the roughest being infamously called ‘Polk A Little Sock Salad’ on the bootleg.
Here the two rehearsal versions have been spliced together to create a fake track. As a collectors’ release it is so unnecessary since Elvis’ original jokey off-the-cuff statements were neither defamatory nor rude.
Here Vic Anesini has tried to remove Elvis’ rather whacky comments like "Made the alligators turn queen" and "Spiteful, overweight old woman" @1.40 by fading out Elvis’ microphone track. However this not only reduces the "rehearsal" feeling but in any case you can still hear Elvis’ comments and laughter pretty clearly since they bleeding through the other microphones in the background!
The positives about this version are the great powerful driving sound and the fact that Elvis is having fun and really laughing along the way including crazy new lines like @3.05 "Cos her Daddy didn’t have no brain".
The #2 rehearsal from the original tape ended with some powerful Elvis chanting with the band on the final playout along with him stating at the end, "Damn right cousin!" but again that has been shamefully missed from this FTD.
From here on in however things do improve …
‘You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' (Vs.1) – A superb version with a fabulous mix and Elvis imparting pure emotion as only he could - listen out for his delicious "uuumm" @3.00. The rehearsal feel is not missed this time as he comments "Get me some lights" in the middle of the song. A very, very fine version.
‘I've Lost You’ – A delightful version but one that takes Elvis a while to warm up to. You can hear some slight background chatter from Elvis’ friends and Elvis giggles at moments, creating audio-feedback as he leans towards the speakers. Elvis was a little under-rehearsed for this trickily paced song (he still messed it up in the Opening Night’s show - see ‘One Night In Vegas’) and here he is unsure of the lyrics and pacing.
Another rehearsal was attempted (see below) but Elvis wasn’t concentrating, laughs throughout and it stops after just 2 minutes. This time FTD were right to leave out the second attempt.
‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ – Sadly over 2 minutes was missed from the start of this rehearsal recording but luckily the intro edit from the Opening Night works very well here.
However a comment from Elvis, "What you gonna do?" @2.50 has again been faded out to the background. Elvis sings the song very carefully in this rehearsal with less power than he would use on stage, almost sliding through the lyrics. It is a great rehearsal for everyone on stage and as Elvis notes at the end, "Damn right, son!"
‘Patch It Up’ – Only a few seconds was missed from the start here and this version ROCKS! The audio is great to crank up loud and the vocal mix with the Sweet Inspirations is just right. James Burton’s chicken-pickin’ guitar is excellent and the orchestra brass section gets a good work-out on this dress-rehearsal. Elvis is obviously in the mood and it is a cracker version although there was obviously no audience to play to.
‘Can't Help Falling In Love’ – It is interesting to hear the edit here which actually works pretty well. Elvis starts out sounding end-of-the-show tired (since the start is taken from the Opening Night) but recovers as the rehearsal edit kicks in, "Like a river flows" onwards. Since Elvis ended every show with this song it is fascinating that he even decided to rehearse it. The power ending without the usual crowd applause is cute.
‘You Don't Have To Say You Love Me’ Vs.2 – Another version, but this time Elvis plays with the words at the start, "and now you’ve hit the hay"! The band and orchestra are tight while Elvis takes them through their paces. Very short & sweet Elvis ends this time joking, "Damn right, cousin".
‘You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'’ Vs.2 – Again some of Elvis’ spontaneous comments have been faded down in an unnecessary attempt to make the performance more stage-worthy, even though they still bleed through in the background! Elvis says, "is it back there?" @00.20 and to Jerry Scheff, "why don’t you hold the bass right here?" @00.38 both of which have been removed which is a shame as they do impart that rehearsal feel. Otherwise Elvis puts his soul into another very strong vocal and his voice is well-balanced against the Sweets call & response. For that and the clarity of the mix it is a lovely version – listen out for Elvis’ fabulous intake of breath @3.40!
The six 1972 and 1973 bonus songs that end this CD are of a completely different calibre. This time unfortunately they were only recorded on a low-fidelity cassette recorder - BUT they really are rehearsals in the true sense. Two songs have never been officially released before, while others like 1972 tryouts of ‘Any Day Now’ and ‘True Love Travels On A Gravel Road’ are a revelation. These are a delight to have, albeit in pretty poor audio that might disappoint a few fans.
‘Any Day Now’ Aug. 2 1972 – Part of this Vegas Showroom rehearsal has been out on bootleg before but not in this improved audio quality (even if it is still off low-quality cassette). It is unbelievable that Elvis was rehearsing this great 1969 Memphis song for his 1972 shows, especially as he didn’t rehearse it for his 1969 or 1970 shows. This is a true Gem! Although previous on bootleg in poor quality, this extended unreleased rehearsal is quite spectacular! Elvis tells the band "A little too fast" towards the start while the final-section has Elvis enjoying a previously unheard second run-through, working out the "don’t fly away my beautiful bird" ending. If only this had been recorded in multi-track! A great addition to our collections.
‘True Love Travels On A Gravel Road’ Aug. 3 1972 – "Charlie get back over here, they are doing everything right. You stay over here, you tree-trunk looking bastard!" Elvis jokes at the start. Another 1969 track that Elvis had never sung live and here it has a wonderful soulful feel. Elvis even makes a "Dear Georgie" crack! Again a stage rehearsal with full orchestra, one wonders how much more might be on this 1972 tape. This version is taken nice and slowly with Elvis’ vocal working perfectly with the J.D. Sumner & the Stamps backing-vocals. Elvis puts an amazing emphasis on the line "and hearts are in danger" @03.40. A truly fascinating 5 minutes albeit in low-fi quality. What a shame these two American Studio songs never made Elvis’ set-list as they would have been a worthy update.
‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ Aug. 3 1972 - Only a few lines that last just 30 seconds. Elvis apparently sang this song once in 1972 on April 19 1972 in Albuquerque and listening to this mini August run-through with JD Sumner is fascinating as, in the end, Elvis would not use it in concert until a year later. While Elvis sang this a couple of times live since releasing it in 1971 it wouldn’t be until the Las Vegas 1973 Summer Season that Elvis then featured this song in almost every performance.
‘Fever’ Aug. 3 1972 - While most fans know Elvis’ classic live version of ‘Fever’ from the Aloha concerts it is somewhat surprising to learn that Elvis performed this delicious ‘Elvis Is Back’ song over forty times in 1972! Even more surprising is that only one live 1972 version has ever been officially released so far, on FTD’s ‘Summer Festival’.
Elvis added this song to his set-list for the 1972 Vegas August season, so while hearing the rehearsal here is perhaps nothing new, this is an insight into Elvis adding this "brand new" song to his stage show! The tape is unfortunately missing the first part as it starts at the third verse "Romeo loved Juliet" but it is obvious that Elvis is having some fun running this through oldie and that it would be great addition to the shows. Elvis would perform it live for the first time (since 1961) two nights later August 5, 1972 Opening Night.
‘Portrait Of My Love’ Aug. 3 1972 – This starts with a delightfully impromptu "Gentleman & ladies, I have to go and so I bid you an affectionate…" followed by Glen D Hardin joining in on some clever blues riff getting Elvis to sing along. It is a classic moment that leads into the delightfully spontaneous jam on ‘Portrait Of My Love’ sounding much better than the previous bootlegged versions. Elvis would have probably been familiar with the version by Steve Lawrence who took the single into the US top ten in 1961 and who also performed on the Steve Allen TV show.
Great to have this finally released officially, this is one song that will be new to most Elvis fans, as is the final song on this album.
‘I'm Leavin' It All Up To You’ Jan. 25 1973 – A US number one smash for ‘Dale and Grace’ back in late 1963. Elvis included the song twice in his February 1972 Vegas shows but unfortunately before RCA managed to set-up their recording equipment for the possible ‘Standing Room Only’ live album. Here, nearly a year later, Elvis tries it out in rehearsal and it’s another spontaneous Elvis moment, luckily captured in pretty good sound – the best quality bonus track here. The tape fades as Elvis suggests a try out of ‘Faded Love’. A very fine ending to this collection.
|NOTE: I need to note that I was the first reviewer to spot what fantastic work audio engineer Vic Anesini could bring to Elvis’ musical legacy (‘Close Up’ and onwards) and have highly praised every release he has been involved with so far. He even managed to remix a somewhat tired Elvis performance of August 13th 1970 (the final TTWII concert) into a marvelous FTD release ‘The Wonder Of You’. It is therefore with somewhat a heavy heart that I have to state that his meticulous work here has watered-down the spontaneity of the Elvis "rehearsal" experience, which is surely not the point of a CD called "Stage Rehearsal"?
Overall Verdict: This big surprise here is that the FTD Collectors’ label could mess around with and ultimately spoil what longtime collectors have always known as a fascinating 1970 Stage Rehearsal. On a big positive, the multi-track audio quality is magnificent, the majority of the fixed song introductions work and you can certainly enjoy loud on a great Hi-Fi set up. However a large part of the "Rehearsal" feel has been removed – as well as the bad error of judgement adding obvious audience applause to two tracks. The second surprise however is what a joy the low-fi Bonus songs bring to this rehearsal compilation. While any new multi-track recordings of Elvis are brilliant to have I would only recommend this one to collectors with a few reservations.
CLICK HERE and have YOUR SAY - Do you think EIN has been to harsh with this review? What do you think of this new rehearsal show?
SUGGESTED FIX – To create a more enjoyable rehearsal experience from this CD.
Firstly fade out the added audience applause at the start of ‘I Just Can't Help Believing’ and ‘Something’ – it is easy to do with most CD software.
Secondly place a looser more "rehearsal’ sounding track at the start to set the scene for instance ‘You Don't Have To Say You Love Me’ Version 2.
This time there is no doubt that collectors will not be throwing away their bootleg warts-and-all ‘Hang Loose’ version of the same night despite the audio remastering.
Review by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN August 2011
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
He said he knows there's a group of people who want everything start to finish, without cuts or changes. In fact, he said, "I understand; I sympathize with that."
But he said they try to make each disc an enjoyable listening experience, and they viewed the missing openings as a "problem." The careful matching of the live versions was the solution they found, and, he said, the leftover audience applause was an unfortunate side effect but could not be mixed out.
My follow-up question was going to be whether, in hindsight, he would do it the same way again. But his final remark that "It’s totally acceptable for us if people criticize us for it, but that doesn’t mean we agree with all the criticism" seemed answer enough.
Gems such as any day now, true love travels, portrait of my love, leaving it all up to you, twelfth of never are appreciated now. If only they would have been appreciated then an elvis would have left the oldies on fans turntables at home. He needed to. Grow as an entertainer an artist. Should have dumped the colonel parker September 3rd 73 hired a guy like Steve Binder to repair his career as an actor an entertainer. If only.....hearing this cd reminds us of how fantastic Elvis was!!! I miss him.
There are flaws included on this cd but overall this cd does not disappoint.
Buy it and enjoy the treats! A satisfied fan.
What is going on with FTD? Their publicity made this rehearsal release sound like a such great update of the old poor souding bootleg Hang Loose. Having played it I am so dissapointed. The added crowd clapping totally messes up the feeling of a elvis and band rehearsal. This could have been FTD's best release of the year as it was such a great list of songs he rehearsed and the Bonus tracks sure are good. What a mess it turned out to be. Thanks for the edit idea to correct it, I will try it wehn I have time.