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Probably the Best of his live albums
on 26 May 2012
Elvis doesn't release all that many live albums, but when he does he pulls out a cracker of an album.
More often than not, Elvis's live tracks appear as bonuses on reissues, i.e the live recordings on the 2cd sets of Almost Blue, Punch the Clock, Goodbye Cruel World, and King of America. I know these are now long-since deleted. Likewise, I think the collaboration with Bill Frisell from 1995 at the Meltdown Festival is also deleted. Archive recordings from El Mocambo and Hollywood High have been issued, but we tend not to have anything contemporaneous. This, however, redresses the balance.
Now the contentious issue: who's better, the Attractions or Impostors ? By far The Impostors, as Bruce Thomas' tenure was becoming impossible. The Impostors backed Elvis on, quite possibly, his greatest album, The Delivery Man, and on the amazing River In Reverse with Allen Toussaint. They also show, as evinced from this album, that they can be brilliantly subtle on God Give Me Strength and All Grown Up, unlike the Attractions.
I would also add that the opening salvo, from I Hope You're Happy Now through to Radio Radio, are improvements on their previous recordings. Steve Nieve's organ work has certainly improved from his time, way back when, as an Attraction. It is also a nice tip of the hat to the Nick Lowe basher productions. I would also add that Every day I Write The Book is a great improvement upon the over-produced Clanger Winstanly version on Punch The Clock.
Years' back, in 1995, Elvis supported Bob Dylan at Brixton Academy. I had the pleasure of hearing God Give Me Strength for the first time. Herein, it retains its greatness, and is on a par with the My Flame Burns Blue live album version. I would also add that Watching the Detectives follows, and is given a wonderful treatment. I prefer the Bernard Hermann influenced version from My Flame Burns Blue, but this is almost as good.
I Want You is nine minutes of a tour de force. I have always liked this track, be it with the Attractions at Royal Albert Hall, in which Elvis medleyed it with I Say A Little Prayer, or with the Rude Five during an unplugged session. It is nice to see a live version of it on an official album.
The surprise of the album is Out of Time, a cover of Aftermath era Rolling Stones. The Stones wrote some corking Brit pop, be it Yesterday's Papers, Who's Been Sleeping Here, Mother's Little Helper, She Smiled Sweetly, which influenced Elvis on This Year's Model. I think he refers, within the sleeve notes to Girls Girls Girls, as using Aftermath as an influence. Here he returns to this influence with aplomb.
What else do I like about this album ? The fact that Elvis revisits the 1986 Spinning Wheel vibe by collaborating with The Bangles on Tear off Your Own Head. The Bangles appeared in 1986, supplying harmonies on Blood & Chocolate's Next Time Around. They also covered Tear Off your Own Head, too. I would add that it was nice to see this underrated track appear, as When I Was Cruel seriously slipped under the radar, and is, in my opinion, the most underrated of Elvis's back catalogue.
Furthermore, I also like the fact that Elvis returns, albeit more maturely, to the revenge and guilt era of the 1970s and 1980s with Lipstick Vogue and Man Out of Time.
All in all, this is a fine album, and anyone that thinks that Elvis has lost his voice, and that he is destroying his back catalogue is a Man Out of step, out of time.