Here we have another live recording from American Bicentennial year,really
very hard period for Elvis - he played in more different cities than any
other year, despite his deteriorating health. This time the sound engineer
taped first Elvis show in San Francisco Cow Palace since November 13, 1970.
Between October and December 1976 Elvis looked considerably better than in
previous months, however he was still a bit heavier than he could be, and
also his performances at that time were more inspired with very monotonous
summer 76 shows in comparison, as he was in much better mood now - maybe it
was connected with his new love, Ginger Alden. Also repertory was more
variable and stronger as he sung songs like "Burning Love","Little Darlin'",
"Steamroller Blues", "My Way", "Such A Night", "Bridge Over Troubled Water",
"Hawaiian Wedding Song" and other songs omitted in summer, when he gave some
of his worst concerts like in Charleston, Hampton Roads, Houston ...
Elvis also wearing jumpsuits from 1974/1975 again and some new Bill Belew
creations like "King Of Spades" or "Flame" suits.
The November tour began in Wednesday 24th in Reno, Nevada, and continued
through Eugene and Portland, Oregon, second Eugene visit 27th and next were
two "Frisco" gigs before great closing performance in Anaheim 30th (some
nice footage exist !). And only two days later was Elvis already to perform
in Las Vegas for next 10 days.
This CD is second release from "KING" label (20th Anniversary Edition Vol.1)
and its cover artwork is much more professional than on their first CD
"Running For President", in fact I must confess that is it one of the best
designed import CDs I've ever seen ! It contains 8 page booklet with nice
photo of Elvis in front, behind him you can see an evening picture of
"Golden Gate" bridge. Apart this one, there are eight other photos of Elvis
in his "King Of Spades" jumpsuit, my only (very small) critism is that all
pictures are details from his shoulders up, any "Elvis in action" images,
unfortunately, but it doesn't much, they're all of highest quality, colour
and very clear. Also sleeve note and full details are included of the
musicians and back up vocalists and ADD type of digital restoration. CD
alone is lovely designed picture disc.
On disc you'll find the main part of San Francisco 28th November gig, but
unfortunately last couple of songs probably wasn't recorded by soundman or
it was later destroyed on mastertape, also first part of "And I Love You So"
is missing. When I've heard it for the first time, I was quite disappointed
with the sound quality, because here is constant background buzz (especially
in quiet parts) and it could detract your listening pleasure, but otherwise
sound is very well balanced and as producers states on cover, "Thanks to the
binaural recording, the piano of Tony Brown has been put well in evidence" -
they're right !
I wouldn't describe every song, some are very good, some could be better.
The opening numbers are good and you can hear that Elvis voice is
strong."Love Me" sounds O.K., "If You Love Me" and "Mountain" are both very
well performed and real highlight of the first part of show is "It's Now Or
Never", carefully done and with beautiful intro. Oldies aren't so bad as
usual. For me personally , biggest disappointment of the whole CD is that
"And I Love You So" isn't complete, I was very angry when I've heard it for
the first time, because Elvis sang it so beautifully ! Before the title
song, patriotic "America" , you can hear as Elvis thanks to someone in crowd
for beautiful bouquet arranged in the form of an American Eagle -he received
it backstage - and other dialogues with audience.
Band introduction is preceded with weird "Polk Salad Annie" ; personally I like these later (74-77) versions more than early 70's ones ; they're harder and more
interesting from musical view. Last song from Nov. 28 is great "Hurt" and
people from "KING" added good versions of "Hound Dog" & "I Can't Help
Falling In Love" from Tuscaloosa 30.8.1976 show (whole 30.8. concert was
released on "OLD TIMES THEY ARE NOT FORGOTTEN" by D.A.E in 1995 and highly
recommended not only because its absolutely SUPERB sound quality, but also
because great quality of the show itself). In fact, missing final tracks
from "Frisco" are : "Hound Dog" , "Hawaiian Wedding Song" , "Blue Christmas"
, "That's All Right, Mama" and "I Can't Help Falling In Love" (you can hear
them if you posses audience recording of this show) , and apart irritating
background buzz, this is only other weakness of this otherwise very good
release. Also I should mentioned second San Francisco show from Nov. 29 where
Elvis gave great renditions of "Bridge Over" and "Hawaiian Wedding Song" - it
was released on "NATION'S ONLY ATOMIC POWERED SINGER" CD, but is it only
fair quality audience recording, interesting only for hard collectors.
"AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL" CD could be recommended to all "Elvis live" fans, is
it good concert, not as good like Birmingham or Pittsburgh 76 , but I'd rate
this attractively packaged CD high above 150 - 200 others.
Reviewed by Oto Meszaros, CZECH REPUBLIC.