Of all the available live 1950's Elvis performances, this must be
considered the best. The only other complete shows available are from his
Tupelo benefit gigs of September 25, 1956 (see "Elvis - A Golden
Celebration"), and as great as they are, the sound is shrill and harsh.
The quality on this disc is amazing, considering it probably consists of a
single microphone pointed at the PA system. Elvis' vocals and stage
comments are clear as a bell, Scotty Moore's guitar roars, the Jordanaires
harmonize and the rhythm section rocks! This escape, uh, release cannot be
underestimated. Anyone who digs Elvis Presley, early rock and roll,
American pop culture or US history must have this.
This "late show" was taped May 16, 1956 by a local Arkansas dj at the
Robinson Memorial Auditorium in Little Rock, Arkansas, following a
backstage chat with Elvis (this interview also survived and is included as
well). We are all fortunate that he was able to record this (guess the
Colonel was out front selling Elvis balloons). Can anybody tell me how
this lay undiscovered for THIRTY-THREE years? The entire seven song set
is, for the most part, complete ("I Was The One" is missing its ending) and
it's in your face music. Elvis is in incredible form -- this is unlike
anything ever seen or heard before -- the crowd goes insane from the get-go
and Elvis rides the frenzy like the pro he was (with almost one year and 10
months of live appearances under his belt).
Elvis subtly acknowledges the racist accusations regarding the rock'n'roll
"fad", introducing a dynamic "Long Tall Sally" ("this next song here is
real hot around the nation and some parts of Africa"), he changes song
lyrics, eeriely, just like he would in the seventies ("I Was The One": "
... who learned a lesson when she broke my leg ...", "Blue Suede Shoes":
"You can burn my wife, steal my car ... "), he indulges in pre-song
interplay with bassist Bill Black on "I Got A Woman" (much like he would
with James Burton's guitar later on) and just has a ball. Someone asks for
Roy Orbison's "Ooby Dooby", released on Sun Records, to which Elvis replies
they don't know, but wish they did.
Unlike the Las Vegas show from about a week before (as heard on "Elvis Aron
Presley"), there is no tentativeness; this is the first and maybe greatest
rock and roll band strutting their talents. You can hear Bill Black's
whoops and hollers all over the place (think about the April Milton Berle
tv spot), Elvis laughing all the way. Scotty Moore defines rock and roll
lead guitar with blistering solos -- "Money Honey" is metallic! On "I Got
A Woman" Scotty's lead is aggressive beyond belief -- the audience goes
bananas! The set closes with "Hound Dog", still almost two months shy of a
definitive studio treatment. Here the band is closely following the
Freddie & the Bellboys arrangement, which they picked up during their Vegas
visit. Elvis' vocal is surprisingly husky, much closer to Big Mama
Thornton's original than anything else, especially obvious on the slow
blues reprise of the tune. He slays the audience.
The bonus pre-show interview again shows the polite and honest young man
who seemed such a contradiction to the "wild" on stage singer. He mentions
that Kim Novak is his favorite actress (remember, he wouldn't meet
Ann-Margaret for seven years) and states quite definitively where his
"unique" style came from: "I was a pretty close follower of religious
quartets, that's where I got the idea from".
This disc is now available on many other issues, although the Bilko
original has the nicest cover, a send up of "Life" magazine. But you must
have this material. It is undeniably essential Elvis.
Sound rating *** 1/2