Anything about Elvis
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Tue Jun 10, 2003 9:39 pm

Since today is the 31st anniversary of the big events recorded by RCA,
I thought I'd reminisce and post this review from Rolling Stone Magazine.


As Recorded at Madison Square Garden
Elvis Presley
RCA 4776
Released: July 1972
Chart Peak: #11
Weeks Charted: 34
Certified Platinum: 5/20/88

This is a damn fine record, friend, and you're going to like it whether you like it or not. There's Wagnerian bombast, plenty of your favorite songs, some jukebox music and some Las Vegas lounge music. There's even some old fashioned rock 'n' roll. And most of all there's lots of Elvis, doing what he does best, strutting his stuff before adoring fans. There's even historical interest; this was Elvis' first New York stage appearance, and you can bet plenty of folks had been waiting since 1956 for a little of that Elvis magic. Well, they got it, and you can hear them getting it right here, the whole thing, from the opening whisper of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" to the MC announcing that "Elvis has left the building. Thank you and good night."

When Elvis became a rock 'n' roll singer he was picking up on a good thing, namely black blues. White Southerners had been recording black blues since the Twenties, but Elvis was the first one to become a star. He had the looks, the dynamism, the appeal of violent, impulsively sexual white trash. He could sing and he had that rhythmic drive. Even when he was starring in some of the worst exploitation movies ever made you knew he was just one step away from stepping out of his jive role and rocking the joint. Since he's started performing in public again he's discovered that his fans range in age from pre-teen to menopausal, and he's done his best to satisfy them all. Madison Square Garden, though, is his rockingest record in a long time, so Elvis fans who like it when he gets down are really going to dig it.

Every great rock and roll singer needs a great rock and roll band, and Elvis has got one. James Burton, the guitarist, can pick Sun era rockabilly, country twang, laid-back bluesy fills and sharp, ringing single string leads. Bassist Jerry Schiff and drummer Ronny Tutt are super tight; when they nail down the beat, it stays nailed down. Pianist Glen Hardman knows when to honk and when to tonk. The backup singers are the Sweet Inspirations and J.D. Summer and the Stamps, the one a black gospel group, the other white gospel. Church music of the sanctified, shouting kind has never been far removed from blues and rock & roll, so these two groups are perfect complements to Elvis' gospel-tinged voice. Kathy Westmoreland of the Inspirations sings graceful obbligatos way up high, and Mr. J.D. Sumner is the most authorative bass singer you could imagine, especially when he ends a song with one of his long, perfectly timed slides down from the dominant to the tonic. Of course there's also a flaccid orchestra sawing away in the background, but it's used like the orchestras on some of the classic Phil Spector records, to reverberate around the core of band and singers and occasionally come out with a sweet lead line.

Elvis and the band were in excellent form for their Saturday night Madison Square Garden concert. The record spares you the lukewarm opening set by the Sweet Inspirations and the public crucifixion of a sacrificial comic, not to mention the cries of the vendors hawking Elvis souvenir booklets and balloons. As it begins, the orchestra strikes up Zarathustra, which somehow seems more appropriate for Elvis than for Grand Funk, and the King himself comes bounding out, straps on a prop guitar, and roars into one of his early Sun hits, Big Boy Crudup's "That's All Right." Elvis doesn't even sound like he's tired of the song, and the band is giving him a lot of push. His voice has deepened and mellowed, but he can give it that old stridency when he wants to, and he matches the band with some pushing of his own, laying right into the beat and building up an overpowering momentum that is over all too soon. James Burton out-Creedences Fogerty on "Proud Mary" and then the band rocks on "Never Been to Spain," with a sinuous vocal from Elvis and soaring treble-string fills from Burton. Not even a string-heavy arrangement can make "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" into a complete anticlimax, and orchestra and band get together to make "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" a memorable cut. "Polk Salad Annie" roars, and Jerry Schiff has a rumbling bass solo that consists of a few notes, perfectly placed, that build up some head of steam.

The record keeps on mixing up old favorites like "Teddy Bear" and "Don't Be Cruel" with more recent things like "Suspicious Minds." The latter has a thrashing, Cecil B. DeMille finale highlighted by Tutt's thundering drums. "I Can't Stop Loving You" is a surprise. Here it's a medium rocker with weeping guitar, more kicks from Tutt, and a powerful vocal that manages to find things to do with the song that even Hank Williams and Ray Charles didn't get to. "Hound Dog" includes some humor, Elvis starts it several times and lets it drop. "Now you don't know what I'm going to do yet," he tells the audience. When the tune gets started, it's a funky semi-boogaloo with wah-wah guitar and a deftly rhythmic vocal from Elvis that tenses the releases like a tightly coiled spring. Then the whole band falls right into the rocking tempo of the original, without missing a lick.

Even Mickey Newbury's pretentious "American Trilogy" -- which is really just "Dixie," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and "All My Trials" strung together -- is fun, with Elvis laying some funky inflections on the grandiose orchestral and choral parts. "Can't Help Falling in Love," "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," and "The Impossible Dream" are pretty Lake Tahoe, but still, you've got to admire Elvis' singing. He brings a touch of home-style raunch to even these saccharine evergreens.

So all things considered, just like I said before, this is a damn fine record. Elvis may not generate the polymorphously perverse hysteria the Rolling Stones arouse, he may not move around and jump into the air and wiggle his hips like he used to, but he's come through superstardom without forgetting what it means to rock, that's the important thing. Now I personally feel that he could save a lot of money and tighten up his act by firing his orchestra and making do with a couple of timpanists and the Memphis Horns, and if he just did stuff like "Polk Salad Annie" and "That's All Right" and forgot about Las Vegas for awhile, I'd like that too. But there's lots of people rocking and rolling to Elvis who wouldn't be caught dead at a Faces or a Stones concert, people who don't know the difference between Sun Records and Sun Ra but who will be more than happy to tell you what they like. And what they like is remembering sock hops and looking forward to that big Vegas vacation. So everybody gets enough of what they want to get what they need.

- Bob Palmer, Rolling Stone, 8/31/72.

Tue Jun 10, 2003 10:07 pm

Thanks for the memories, Brad.


Tue Jun 10, 2003 10:16 pm

31 years ago! “Ain’t It Funny How Time Slips Away…”

Thanks for posting the review Brad. I have seen it before, but it is a good review that is well worth reading for those who either haven’t seen it, or would like to refresh their memories. There are some great album reviews archived on the Rolling Stone site. I would also recommend Peter Guralnick’s 1971 review of “I’m 10,000 Years Old – Elvis Country” if you haven’t already seen it.
Last edited by rockinrebel on Wed Jun 11, 2003 1:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

Wed Jun 11, 2003 12:37 am

You know, even way back then, Rolling Stone can't help but take a jab at Elvis and how he is not as cool as the flower children.

Elvis rocked and it was slammed into their faces time and time again. Most tried to count out the man in the 60's, but he just kept on coming.

Rolling Stone never got it(didn't they only put Elvis on the cover when he DIED!!) and they never will. Shame how they missed the opportunity to put Elvis on the cover when he hit #1 recently. But of course...Elvis is still not as cool.

Still elvis-fan thanks for the review. I liked reading it anyway.

Wed Jun 11, 2003 4:48 am

Rolling Stone never got it(didn't they only put Elvis on the cover when he DIED!!)

The 1972 LP review is spot-on and written by someone with something called "perspective" -- a quality you'll never possess.

Another attribute you desperately need is knowledge.

Elvis Presley first appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone's 12 July 1969 issue, #37:

Last edited by drjohncarpenter on Wed Nov 02, 2011 10:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Wed Jun 11, 2003 6:36 am

That is a great cover pic Doc.


Thu Jun 12, 2003 12:55 am

Yes it is.

And it was placed on a 1960's "Rolling Stone" cover -- the "sixties" not yet over -- and Elvis Presley alive and well. Isn't it great to learn something new about the man?

Thu Jun 12, 2003 2:02 pm

Thanks for that Elvis-fan and Dr John - Palmer needs a few corrections with names but that review is pretty accurate!

Thu Jun 12, 2003 3:53 pm

This album was the very first Elvis album I ever purchased!
To hear Elvis belting out those rockin' versions of Thats Alright, Proud Mary, and Polk Salad Annie really got me hooked on his music.

I do hope that RCA will remaster it and also ad back in the footage they edited out on the original.

Thanks Elvis, and thanks RCA for this one!

Thu Jun 12, 2003 4:10 pm

I'm a real fan of this show.

The songs (on their own) may not all be the best versions he did live, but the entire show
really stands up as testimonial to the magnitude of his showmanship.
(Man, what a mouthful!!!)

Without question, he was an outstanding entertainer.
He has stood the test of time and his legacy only continues to grow.

Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden is the man at the height of his powers.

He was and always will be "THE KING".