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The Burbank sessions, Volume 3

Audifon AFNCD 627968 (Released 1990)

Intro & Dialogue
Heartbreak hotel/one night
Heartbreak hotel/hound dog/all shook up
Can't help falling in love
Jailhouse rock
Don't be cruel
Blue suede shoes
Love me tender
Dialogue
Trouble
Dialogue
Baby what you want me to do
If i can dream
(Recorded Live, Burbank studios, June 29, 1968, 6 P.M. Show)
Intro & Dialogue
Heartbreak hotel/hound dog/all shook up
Can't help falling in love
Jailhouse rock
Don't be cruel
Blue suede shoes
Love me tender
Dialogue
Trouble/guitar man
Dialogue
If i can dream
Recorded Live, Burbank studios, June 26, 1968)

Here is Elvis, clothed in black leather and backed up by a live house band (including studio pros like guitarist Tommy Tedesco and drummer Hal Blaine) and strings, in front of a real audience for two performances alone in the "boxing ring" stage. Maybe performance is not the best term -- the plan called for Elvis to do kind of a medley of hits and then tape additional "insert" spots to fulfill director Steve Binder's idea of the show as the story of a "guitar man" finding his way in a harsh, uncaring world. Thus, these "concerts" become messy towards the end of each set, as things break down or need to be re-set. This disc, unfortunately taken from the original 1978 vinyl release rather than a tape source, remains essential because of its content, these two "stand up" shows, taped at 6pm and 8pm on June 29, 1968.

Elvis never looks more handsome, or seems more vibrant than when he taped his TV show. But the most glorious portions of the program, save the opening "Trouble/Guitar Man" and closing "If I Can Dream" segments, are the "sit down" shows. Director Steve Binder's idea to capture Elvis alone on stage is also great, but only due to Elvis' singing, which is magnificent. For whatever reason, guilt, anger or fear, Elvis invests several of these songs with an absolute fury. On the slower tunes there's a tenderness and a maturity, although his focus on ballads would reach its fruition in the early '70's.

The biggest problem with the "stand up" shows is the horrific "modernized" arrangement of many classic Elvis songs. They all sound dated today and lack the power of the originals -- to shove all-time great songs like "Heartbreak Hotel", "Hound Dog" and "All Shook Up" into a medley is a terrible idea, unfortunately one which Elvis took to heart when he returned to the live arena in 1969. "Don't Be Cruel" contains a ridiculous flute solo! There is a sense that these are "silly old songs", only worth a quick run-through. On every one of them, though, Elvis sings like there's no tomorrow.

The best moments come with "Jailhouse Rock" and "Can't Help Falling In Love", which Elvis did at both shows. In the former he sings like a man possessed and it includes a great slow blues vamp ending; with the latter Elvis seems to recognize how much the song is symbolic of his relationship with his audience (and their relationship with him) as much as anything. At the end of the 8pm version, the crowd applauds well before the song is finished.

There's lots of amusing banter with the audience during "dead" spots, including Elvis warbling bits of "Tiptoe Through The Tulips" and "MacArthur Park". At one point he plays some electric guitar and suddenly he and the house band are off on a spontaneous version of "Baby, What You Want Me To Do"! Listen for the band getting lost during one of the lame arrangements of "Blue Suede Shoes" (very apparent on video -- just look at Elvis' obvious frustration), to which Elvis just jams some more until they find themselves.

It's worth noting that for some reason both cuts of "If I Can Dream" find Elvis just lip-synching to the studio track -- if one acquires the video for this, notice that he's wearing the black leather outfit rather than the familiar white suit!

In spite of the inferior arrangements, Elvis is just incredible. This music is part of the artistic rebirth of one of the greatest performers of the century, and it makes Volume 3 worthwhile.

Reviewed by Johnny Savage, USA

Sound rate ***