The famous New years eve concert complete on two cd's.
This isn't Elvis at his live best (try anything from 1954-57, or the sit
down shows at NBC studios in 1968), but it is the best of Elvis in 1976.
It is a better performance than the immensely overrated "Aloha" broadcast
from 1973 and it is superior to any of the 1974 shows one can now hear on
"private" releases where EP is clearly unwell, yet on stage performing (try
"Desert Storm" for starters). In Pittsburgh he is, for whatever reason,
going for the high notes and singing songs with a lot of gusto (private
interviews he gave at the time indicated he was considering taking some
time off ... sure wish he had, don't you?).
Besides solid renditions of several standard set songs, he sings a terrific
off the cuff rendition of "Fever" (still omitting the bridge, though) and a
soulful "Love Letters". "Reconsider Baby", hardly ever played onstage, is
ably led by Elvis' acoustic guitar, although I'd trade a Boots Randolph sax
solo for James Burton's too "modern" slide guitar any day. It doesn't
touch the studio take, but it's still quite cool.
One of the highlights of the show is the most over the top "Hurt" Elvis may
have ever done, even doing the ending a second time. The building seems to
shake as he hits the notes again and holds them even longer! Yes, he liked
Mario Lanza! If you ever acquire the underground videotape of this show,
you will be amazed to watch Elvis sing this reprise while intentionally
FALLING onto his back, punching his fists into the air when it's over.
Both "Unchained Melody" and "Rags To Riches" are Elvis at the piano, the
former a solo performance (similar to the one from June 1977, released
undubbed on the "Great Performances" cd/video in 1990) which is just
gorgeous, even with Sherill Nielson "helping" on the last note. "Rags To
Riches" is a number that I don't believe Elvis ever did before or since
(the band certainly doesn't know it, as EP calls out the chord changes
while he plays), and it's another superb ballad delight. The 16,000 in
attendance drop into complete silence on these numbers, and well they
should have: they were hearing Elvis Presley, a great American artist, at
his best. I wonder how any of them felt seven months and two weeks later?
Obviously, for those of us who weren't there, the cameras and recorders
were out in force. This is an audience recorded concert, but one of the
best of its kind -- you're in the front row with screaming fans (both male
and female), and you can even hear Elvis direct the band (during "My Way",
to soundman Bill Porter: "Turn the piano down") or acknowledge little
comments from the crowd (woman: "Play it", Elvis [mock serious]: "Don't
tell me to 'play it', I will when I get ready, you understand me?")! The
TCB band and backing vocalists can be heard, the orchestra less so (no
great loss there), providing the listener with a complete late seventies
Elvis Presley gig. It was worth having as a two lp set back in 1977 (I got
it for Christmas that year) and it's worth it in this cd edition (from the
original tapes) now.
Sound rate ** 1/2