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Standing Room Only,
This review is from: Burning Love (Audio CD)
On January 26, 1972 Elvis kicked off his now customary late winter Las Vegas season with the usual mixture of old favourites and newer material. As a number of songs had been added to Elvis' stage repertoire that he had yet to record in the studio, RCA's mobile recording unit arrived at the Hilton Hotel in mid February, and recording commenced on February 14th through February 17th.
Two of the songs recorded by RCA, namely, "It's Impossible" and "It's Over" had been introduced into Elvis' stage act during his previous two Las Vegas seasons in 1971. "It's Impossible" had actually replaced "Can't Help Falling In Love" as Elvis' closing song during his first Las Vegas season of the previous year, and was obviously a favourite of Elvis', who was considering the song for a future single release. "It's Over" (not the Roy Orbison song), like most of the other new songs Elvis' had added to his stage repertoire documented the break up of a relationship, and was indicative of his own personal situation at the time.
The Marty Robbins hit "You Gave Me A Mountain" fitted into the same genre, whilst the Perry Como hit "It's Impossible", was also given sombre treatment from Elvis. The more contemporary "Never Been To Spain", a hit for Three Dog Night, was also covered in fine style, along with Mickey Newbury's "An American Trilogy", which was basically a new arrangement of "Dixie", "All My Trials", and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" that the patriot in Elvis identified with strongly. The song was beautifully performed during this Las Vegas season, and went on to become the centrepiece of many Presley concerts during the '70's.
Although the majority of the songs recorded by RCA were of a reflective, and personal nature, the performances couldn't be faulted, and RCA captured Elvis in fine voice. In addition to the new material the '50's classic "Hound Dog" has been given a new arrangement for this Las Vegas season, and was now performed in a slow funky blues style, before a tempo change towards the end of the song. Elvis had also re-introduced the medley of his 1961 hit "Little Sister" and The Beatles 1969 hit "Get Back" into his act (the song had first been performed in this way during August 1970), whilst his 1959 hit "Big Hunk O' Love" had also been given a new arrangement, featuring some fine piano playing from Glen D. Hardin. These performances, amongst others, were also recorded by RCA, and a fine live album was beginning to take shape.
Whilst Elvis had been performing in Las Vegas plans were underway for a second MGM live performance documentary, which would concentrate on his tour shows, rather than his Las Vegas performances. Elvis was due to record further new material at RCA's studios in Hollywood in late March, and the MGM cameras would be present for the tour rehearsals, which would also take place in RCA's Hollywood studios, after the recording sessions were completed.
The RCA session lasted three nights from March 27th to March 29th and produced seven masters. Like the new material RCA had recorded in Las Vegas the previous month, most of the songs Elvis chose to record were ballads that reflected his own personal situation, but again there were some fine performances amongst them. The first song Elvis recorded, "Separate Ways", was the most personal of the entire session, and had been written for him by his long time friend Red West. This was followed by a cover of Kris Kristofferson's "For The Good Times", another lament to lost love that Elvis obviously identified with at this period of his life.
The final song to be recorded on the first night "Where Do I Go From Here" had the same theme as the previous two, but wasn't really up to the same standard. However, Elvis still recorded eight takes before he was satisfied with his own performance.
On the second night Elvis' producer Felton Jarvis was keen to get Elvis to record a version of the Dennis Linde penned rocker "Burning Love". The song, which had already featured on an album by Arthur Alexander, had obvious hit potential but Elvis was in the mood for more reflective ballads, and wasn't keen to record it. It took Felton, and the majority of the guys in the studio with Elvis to persuade him that the song was worth trying, and after six takes, the master take which would become a Presley classic, and his biggest hit single stateside since "Suspicious Minds" in 1969, was in the can.
Whilst Elvis had every right to be satisfied with his recording, it didn't change the direction of the rest of the session, and he followed "Burning Love" with "Fool", another big ballad about the breakdown of a relationship.
The first song to be recorded on the final night of the session, "Always On My Mind", continued in the same vein, but it was a excellent country ballad written by Johnny Christopher ("Mama Liked The Roses") and Mark James ("Suspicious Minds"), that had obvious hit potential. Once again the personal nature of the song brought out the best in Elvis, and the recording is now regarded as one of his best '70's performances.
The last song that the session produced, "It's A Matter Of Time", whilst still addressing the subject of relationships, had a more optimistic feel, and produced a good performance from Elvis, who had the master nailed by the third take. The song was penned by British writer Clive Westlake, and originally issued as the flip side to the "Burning Love" single.
Finally, some 27 years after the tracks were originally recorded, and thanks to the efforts of Ernst Jorgenson and Roger Semon, the album Elvis could have been proud of in 1972 was released, and it makes a welcome addition to any serious collection of Presley recordings.