A THUNDER IN THE NIGHT

Review by Mike Sanders

This is the fourth release from S+R Records and this time we have an audience recording of the1st August midnight show from Elvis’ first ever season at Lake Tahoe in 1971. As usual, the artwork is very attractive, consisting of an 8 page booklet containing some great photos and detailed liner notes putting this show into historical perspective and explaining how they worked to improve the sound. Unfortunately, even though remastered, the resultant sound quality is still below average with much of the dialogue difficult to make out. However, collectors already in possession of this show will find a significant improvement from copies previously in circulation. The hiss has been completely eliminated, the signal is now more stable and the sound has slightly more depth than before, which is to be welcomed.

The CD starts during the opening vamp along with shouts of anticipation from some very vocal female fans close to the recorder, whose enthusiastic comments can be heard throughout the show. Elvis opens with a very solid That’s Alright immediately followed by Proud Mary, to shouts from the girls who are clearly overwhelmed by his presence. He then introduces Jailhouse Rock, referring to the fact that it had been screened on television the other night. He performs a 3 verse version with an extended ‘Dancing to the jailhouse rock’ chorus, concluding with the slow ending as featured on the NBC TV show. After this he launches straight into All Shook Up, surprising his band, which results in a false start. Unfortunately, on his second attempt he forgets the words, ending it abruptly with a “That’s it ….next song.” Love Me Tender which follows, is introduced as his favourite movie and this is performed to even more desperate shrieks from the female fans who can be heard calling out repeatedly for his attention. Afterwards he says “Those of you who got kissed-I’ve got the flu. The ones I’ve missed-I’ll get you later.”

You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me and You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling following this, are good performances and Polk Salad Annie features the full spoken ‘Some gal never lived down south too much’ introduction. It’s another good version and afterwards, during the intermission, while he is getting his breath back, he sings the line- ‘If I can dream.’ However, it is difficult to discover the reason for this, as the dialogue is very difficult to make out . A selection of his gold records are performed next. Of these, Love Me is sung slowly and with genuine emotion, compared to versions of this song in later years and Blue Suede Shoes features a verse of Whole Lotta Shakin in the middle. One Night is particularly gutsy with the early rawness in his voice also evident in Hound Dog. Then it’s back to the contemporary songs with a good version of Suspicious Minds. From the female fans’ comments, we learn that the ending featured a karate workout which Elvis later comments upon, mentioning that he has a 4th degree black belt and likes to show off!

Before Hound Dog, Elvis can be heard directing some light hearted comments to Paul Anka, who is in the audience, regarding their higher pitched voices during the ‘50’s, singing one line of his hit Diana, in a high falsetto to emphasise the point. After the band introductions, he introduces him to the audience and recounts a story about the difficulty in finally getting to meet him, as he (Paul), had originally requested a meeting 12 years ago. He tells them that he was working at Las Vegas for the first time, at the New Frontier, but the meeting had not taken place because he had no idea what he looked like! “The next time” he says… “I called him”. Later of course, Paul Anka’s composition-My Way- would go on to feature regularly in his repertoire.

A good version of I’m Leavin, introduced as his latest single, follows. Afterwards, his band begins to play Bridge Over Troubled Water, which he stops, deciding instead to sing The Impossible Dream, his closing song from the day before. Lawdy Miss Clawdy and I Can’t Stop Loving You are then performed in quick succession, before taking a break, apparently to give out several 4LP record sets to the eager crowd (according to Stein Eric Skar’s book-Elvis:The Concert Years 1969-1977). Endless shouts of ‘over here’ are given way to shouts of disappointment from unlucky fans. Sensing this, Elvis, anxious not to disappoint anyone, goes on to say “I’ll give the piano away in a minute”, before reattempting Bridge Over Troubled Water. This version features various lyric changes early on but concludes with a committed and rousing ending. Interestingly, this song was occasionally used as the concert closer at this time. Not tonight however, as he goes on to perform a rare gospel song, I John, which he had recorded two months previously, back in June, for his spiritual LP He Touched Me. Surprisingly, after this there is no closing address before he begins his last song, Can’t Help Falling In Love, which lasts for a mere 16 seconds before this recording ends.

In conclusion, this CD contains a strong and varied concert, with every song given a committed performance. It is, in addition, a rare and historically important show from his first season at Lake Tahoe. Unfortunately though, even after digital remastering, the sound quality is only likely to be acceptable for serious collectors. Despite this, the spirit of this performance is preserved intact and credit is due to the producers at S+R for giving us the best possible sound from the sources available and for its attractive artwork making it a worthy collectors item.

Sound rating * ˝