The quality of the package is excellant. The informative booklet is complete with great pictures. The re-mastered sound has produced a genuine improvement in clarity that is definately noticable even to the untrained ear. The Madison Square Garden experience was an event, a peak in a carear of a solo star that has no equal.
There are those would suggest there some that could challenge The King, but in the end there was only one genuine King. The, one that that took the Rock 'n' Roll to mass market, the one that forged the path for popular music (and culture) to be what it became, and the one after all these years is still the one that the fans love and miss above any other. When considering Elvis, everyone should remember he had no "template" to follow, he had to discover the peaks and the troughs and all the difficulties associated with being the ultimate public figure.
This package captures the occaision, the understated warmth of the man and the dynamic and versatile nature of his performance. Who else, could have mix blues, rock, and "For the good times" without it seeming anything other than a natural part of the journey Elvis takes you on. It would seem odd, even bizarre, for example, someone like Meat Loaf after singing "Bat Out Hell" to sing something like "I just called to say I love you". Yet Elvis could switch the between genres of music so effortlessy it is all too easy to not to notice how poles apart some of the material actually is. Is this one of the secrets why this material still sells? As an Elvis fan since 3 years old and now being 42 myself, I know I appreciate the old ballads, much more than I did as 6 year old playing "Blue Suede Shoes" over and over because I loved the energy.
I can't envisage many people remembering the words to any of the current chart entries in 40 years time. But I bet "Heartbeak Hotel", "Suspicous Minds", and all those other familiar classics will still be widely known.
This package is great testiment to the unique achievement what was and is simply "Elvis", the genuine legend so much more powerful than today's short term "celebrities".
If there is a weakness, the gaps in the 8mm fan footage could have been better filled in, but we are really lucky to have the footage considering the concerts were not professionally filmed. A complete visual of "That's All Right" is a treasure, as is the concluding footage of "Suspicious Minds".
I have had these CD's of these concerts dating back to 1989 / 1997, so I know the material, but I think you can tell, I am so pleased I bought this package.
on 12 November 2012
At this stage in his reborn career, you could forgive Elvis Presley for starting to coast, which is what he did six months' later on the Aloha From Hawaii televised concert.
However, there is a power and intensity in these concerts which is even far removed from Elvis On Tour, filmed in April 1972: it is as if the vibe from his cover of Arthur Alexander's Burning Love had spilled over into this, and that Elvis still had plenty to prove.
Madison Square Garden certainly brought the best out of Elvis, after all it was where the Concert For Bangladesh took place, and also where, in 1969, the live recordings for the Rolling Stones' Get Yer Ya Yas Out took place. Even one of his contemporaries, at the height of his powers, and in his Annus Mirabilis, 1969, Johnny Cash performed an amazing concert in the Garden, which was only issued in 2002.
However, like Vegas in 1956, and New York in 56 too, Elvis didn't exactly go down a storm: he needed to redeem himself. In 1969, he came back with a vengeance in Vegas, performing with a unparalleled intensity, and with a new band. In 1972, he also needed to redeem himself in New York, and he was equally intense, equally on the ball. He opened, not with Ma Rainey's CC Rider, but rather with 1954's That's All Right, Mama, channeling the intensity of that apparently bygone era. He continued both sets with his versions of contemporary rock, i.e John Fogerty's Proud Mary, Hoyt Axton's Never Been To Spain, Dusty Springfield's You Don't Have to Say You Love Me, and You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling. He then truncated Polk Salad Annie, but the bass by Jerry Scheff, was on a par with Duck Dunn's bass on Tony Joe White's live version on That On The Road Look, and Elvis knew, in 1972, that his band could rock just as hard as any other band. However, the pure swampiness of both Annie, and Never Been to Spain, suggest that, as opposed to the maudlin ballads that Elvis preoccupied himself with from 1973 onwards, Elvis would have been better singing material from the pen of Tony Joe White and Bobbie Gentry. The swampy southern rock side really suited Elvis, and he should have done a lot more, having had the perfect opportunity recording in Stax.
After Polk Salad Annie, Elvis decided to do some of his oldies. Unlike the 1974 performances, where he medleyed them, he really went for them with a great intensity. Blue Suede Shoes may have lasted only a minute, but it was a minute of pure intensity. Likewise, Reconsider Baby highlights that James Burton could really play the blues: a fact that Elvis Costello picked up on, when he recorded Eisenhower Blues for King Of America in 1986. You also get Heartbreak Hotel, and a really quick, intense tear through All Shook Up. The only time, however, that Elvis is in any way perfunctory is when he bounces into Teddy Bear / Don't Be Cruel, and you can hardly blame him. After all, the success of Teddy Bear led to Rock A Hula Baby, No Room to Rhumba, and countless other movie songs. It really does show the ensuing emasculation of the great artist, yet Don't be Cruel retains its excellence.
The home stretch shows that Elvis was even turning his hand to show tunes, i.e. Man From La Mancha's Impossible Dream, but that there was an edge to them. He wasn't, yet, the bloated balladeer crooning Softly As I Leave You, Hurt, or The Last Farewell. He still had the quality control on his music, and he had the intensity to turn Impossible Dream into a work that suggested he was still looking for a musical something, a musical hidden gem, and personal quest allied to the hidden wonder of music.
Elvis continued with An American Trilogy, a Romneyesque flag-waver, far-removed from Mickey Newbury's original from the Mabel Joy album. Newbury wrote it from the prospective of Vietnam, street fighting, and as a protest. Elvis saw it as him uniting the states; it was his state of the union, medleying the southern Dixie with the Battle Hymn of The Republic, and the Negro spiritual All My Trials. It became what Elvis envisaged himself to be, without any comments on Vietnam, Mayor Daley, etc. It was Sinatra's House Where I Live In for the 1970s, and the air of the apolitical entertainer. It was also a side-step from If I Can Dream and In The Ghetto to An American Trilogy. One does wonder what would happen if Elvis performed it stripped down a la Newbury, but Elvis probably saw himself as losing income if he criticised the union. I also wonder how, in this instance, Elvis would have approached Robbie Robertson's Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, but it would, probably, just have been a form of entertainment for him,a nd not a protest.
The country-esque approach continues with Funny How Time Slips Away and I Can't Stop Loving You. Elvis would have heard Willie Nelson, pre outlaw, pre marijuana, performing this bluesy country ballad. He may have been familiar with Bobby Hinton's version, and with Jerry Lee Lewis on Country Songs for City Folks, Again, the intensity remains undimmed, yet Elvis is also good-humoured. His work on I Can't Stop Loving You is radically different to Ray Charles's country meets blues version, with a neat false ending. Bob Dylan borrowed the Presley false-ending on Peggy Day on Nashville Skyline, but here Elvis takes it back wonderfully.
Both concerts close with Can't Help Falling In Love, which was the usual concluding track. You may ask which concert was my favourite. I would state the Afternoon concert, as it is intense yet looser. However, where did it all go wrong ? In six months, Elvis's perceived peak was Aloha From Hawaii, yet Aloha was an unstructured ballad heavy mess in my opinion. Elvis knew, at this concert, how to structure his shows, and wasn't going through the motions.
The drugs certainly took a hold from 1973 onwards, and concerts became extremely hit or miss affairs. Stories abound of unfocussed 40 minute karate demonstrations, of rants about being strung-out, of Suspicious Minds performed to the tune of What Now My Love, and of the same old songs being churned out as if they were live equivalents of the movie soundtracks. It just seems, on the basis of the two CDs and DVD contained herein, an horrendous shame that Elvis, himself, was caught in a trap from which he couldn't walk out.
on 14 November 2012
THIS IS ELVIS - What more can you say?
This is a reminder of why Elvis is still the most important thing to happen to music, probably ever! You can compare him to whoever you like, but there is no way this guy is going to be beaten!
This DVD/CD package is so perfect! It is what fans have been waiting for, year after year. Not only for the footage (which is amazing) but for the whole release. We all know and love the hits, but Sony release more of this, please! Combination of the book, the remastered audio and the footage makes it well worth the price tag.
The excitement of the concerts literally pores out of all aspects of the package. That's no exaggeration! Even the book, full of photos and press clippings makes the hairs on your neck stand up.
The concerts themselves are full of so much energy even on Super 8 quality footage! In fact the few minutes captured this way rivals a lot of what was filmed for Elvis on Tour, on pro equipment, for the pure excitement factor.
After watching/listening to the complete package, I felt unbelievable excitement, but also sadness. The press conference especially really highlights the innocence and modesty of Elvis, the real Elvis that by '72 had reached a level of no other performer had achieved, and up to this day, still hasn't.
And I find it such a shame, that here is a man, giving his all on stage, for other people, not seeing himself as anything other than an entertainer that in the end was picked apart by others. Whether you like his music or not, wherever you rate him in music history, you can not argue that this man was a phenomenon.
I recommend this package to anyone; I would be surprised if there is a better product released in the next 18 months.
This is Elvis!
on 21 November 2012
Initially the package looked very attractive. Once opened though, my enthiusiasm quickly ran cold.
The outer packaging is seductive, no question, but inside it's a different matter altogether. The three discs are housed within a flimsy tri-fold out card which has been so poorly designed that they barely fit inside making it a struggle to remove them. As a result it will only be a matter of time before the card sleeves tear or the discs get scratched by this process. Very disappointing.
By contrast, the booklet looks nice, containing photos from the period and shows themselves, so at least that's a plus. However, now we come to the real meat - the audio and the footage. For years fans have been asking for a re-mix of these shows and now we have it. What a shame it wasn't worth waiting for.
The audio overall sounds compressed and muffled, albeit with increased audience noise, a boost in bottom end frequencies and a liberal dose of reverb to provide ambiance. All this has been applied on top of a remarkably similar mix to that which we had before, creating a wall of sound over a limited soundstage which quickly becomes claustrophobic. In short it's a muddle with Elvis' vocals curiously detached from the band and backing singers. It's also headache inducing played at high volume on a decent hi-fi set up. Not good. Hopes dashed once again.
So that leaves the footage. Firstly the documentary is too lightweight an affair to be worth watching more than once, consisting as it does of the usual suspects and other talking heads continually repeating how good Elvis was as a performer at this time. As a result it quickly gets boring because we already know this anyway. Nothing new is revealed except a brief excerpt of footage from the evening show which merely serves as a reminder of the extra footage available which is not included on this release.
Likewise the footage of the Press Conference turns out to be disappointingly incomplete and whilst good to have, it is frustrating to hear questions asked which are not answered as the footage skips on a beat, particularly when you have to strain to hear some of the questions asked in the first place. Apparently complete audio for this event does exist. It's a shame that we don't get it here.
And now to the real treat - approximately 20 minutes of footage from the afternoon concert. As expected it's great to see, albeit a little grainy and frequently breaks up as it was filmed in short bursts, but hey, it's a miracle it exists at all. Certainly those responsible for finding it deserve credit, but sadly even here the designers of this product messed up.
Footage has been skillfully synched with the featured audio but rather than include a separate section in the menu for viewers to access all songs with footage, you are left with no option but to listen to the entire concert audio with footage fleetingly coming and going on a blank screen. If the footage was dispensed evenly throughout the show this would be understandable but whole songs come and go with images briefly resuming before disapperaring again for another extended bout of audio only. As the screen is more than often blank, this is hardly a satisfactory option and indicates a complete lack of imagination by the production team.
So three stars only I'm afraid for a product that initially showed great promise - what a shame.
For a more detailed rundown of the footage, here's what you get:
Pre Show / 2001 (1 min 10 secs)
Thats Alright (2 mins 19 secs) complete
Proud Mary (1 min 23 secs)
Never Been To Spain (2 mins 45 secs)
Polk Salad Annie (2 mins 10 secs)
Heartbreak Hotel (1 min 36 secs)
Reconsider Baby (11 secs)
Hound Dog (2 mins 4 secs)
I'll Remember You (1 min 3 secs)
Suspicious Minds (2 mins 50 secs)
Introductions (25 secs)
American Trilogy (2 mins 39 secs)
CHFIL + Outro (49 secs)
Please note that the footage is incomplete and breaks up repeatedly during most songs, for example Suspicious Minds is filmed in four separate sections. Still nice to have though, hence the three stars.