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Nice review about Close up from San Antonio paper

Tue Jul 01, 2003 2:23 pm

This article was brought to my attention from a member of another forum I go to.
NEW: S.A. concert from ’72 has feature role in new Elvis box set

By Hector Saldaña
Express-News Staff Writer

Web Posted : 06/30/2003 11:57 AM

Elvis Presley never forgot how Texas first welcomed him when he was just a skinny, up-and-coming hillbilly cat shaking up the lonesome back roads of the South.
His record company is delivering a belated thank-you Tuesday.

The King of Rock ’n’ Roll is reborn yet again with the release of a fascinating four-CD box set, “Elvis: Close Up” from BMG heritage/RCA, that will especially please Alamo City fans.

All 89 tracks –– covering four distinct career phases –– are previously unreleased and include rare stereo recordings and outtakes from the ’50s and a complete concert recorded in San Antonio in 1972.

Presley expert, record company executive and author Ernst Jorgensen says Presley's appearance at the Convention Center Arena on April 18, 1972, before some 11,000 screaming fans ranks among one of his greatest live performances ever.

“I love the show. That's the reason for releasing it,” said Jorgensen, president of BMG Records/Denmark.

He is credited with overhauling Presley's RCA catalog since 1991, including last year's No. 1 album “Elvis 30 No. 1 Hits” that sold 9 million copies worldwide and spawned a deejay remix of “A Little Less Conversation,” the biggest-selling single in the world outside the United States.

Sixteen-track master tapes of the San Antonio concert collected dust in an RCA vault for years. Unlike past finds, they are not bootlegs or lost acetates. Source quality is pristine, and Jorgensen said, “You're not going to find Elvis sounding better in the ’70s than on this show.”

Indeed, the 23-song concert soundtrack, which opens with the grandiose “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (“2001: A Space Odyssey” theme) and rocks out with such classics as “C.C. Rider,” “Never Been to Spain,” “Polk Salad Annie,” “All Shook Up,” “Hound Dog,” “Suspicious Minds” and “Burning Love” is like having a front-row seat.

Well, almost.

San Antonio News writer Bill Graham reported in 1972 that pandemonium erupted when Presley, decked out in a sequined white jumpsuit and red-lined cape, threw pink scarves into the audience. Graham also wrote that “How Great Thou Art,” a gospel number, “stunned the audience to silence.”

Then Elvis left the building in a limousine waiting behind the stage.

In 1972, MGM wanted a documentary of Presley on the road. Three shows were filmed and recorded. Originally titled “Standing Room Only,” the feature film was released in November 1972 as “Elvis On Tour” and won a Golden Globe Award.

The concert here was the 14th show of a whirlwind 15-stop tour in 15 days.

“It was decided that certainly we should record and film a concert in Texas because Texas was where Elvis made his first early claims to fame,” said Jorgensen, who wrote the definitive book on Presley’s recording sessions, “Elvis Presley: A Life in Music” (St. Martin's Press, 1998).

Before fame came, Presley played Alpine, Gladewater, Cherry Springs, Gainesville, Seymour, San Angelo, Lubbock, Abilene, Big Spring, Tyler, Odessa, De Kalb, Midland, Beaumont, Houston and Corpus Christi “driving like mad,” Jorgensen said.

Texas listeners, because of the legendary “Louisiana Hayride” radio shows from Shreveport, La., knew Presley since October 1954.

Elvis, who didn't arrive in San Antonio until 1956, inspired San Antonio News columnist Paul Thompson to write that the gyrating, duck-tailed, “atomic powered singer” caused riots and “gives voice to an odd creepy chant”.

“In the first 18 months before ‘Heartbreak Hotel' even was a success, he had played every place you could think of in Texas. He was all over Texas before he ever made it to the top,” Jorgensen said.

“He found his most fanatic audiences in Texas. Elvis was keen to recognize every time he went to Texas, he always talked about how Texas greeted him before anybody else did,” Jorgensen said. “Texas was home territory for Elvis.”

“Elvis: Close Up” offers four CDs: “Unreleased Stereo Masters From the '50s,” “Unreleased Movie Gems,” “The Magic of Nashville” and “Live in Texas 1972.”

The live recording is a spine-tingling, if occasionally schlocky, time capsule. Jorgensen calls it “the ultimate Elvis concert.” Presley also debuted the unreleased “Burning Love” in San Antonio. “If we goof this up, just bear with us,” Presley told the crowd.

The King even offered up Willie Nelson's “Funny (How Time Slips Away).”

“What you get here is Elvis at the height of his ’70s career before he started to wear down,” Jorgensen said. “Elvis is on top here. It's nine months before ‘Aloha From Hawaii.' It's just a few weeks after he recorded ‘Burning Love,' and it's two months before his famous concert at Madison Square Garden.”

Dr. Barry Browne, 59, a former writer at the San Antonio Light, attended the concert. He recalled Presley “as a gracious star.”

“It was a Las Vegas-style show,” Browne said from Temple. “Elvis would wipe his brow with a pink scarf and throw it into the audience.”

The other three discs (many are alternate takes of well-known songs) are equally compelling as the Beatles “Anthology” outtake series and the Rolling Stones newly restored ABKCO catalog.

Heretofore unavailable stereo/binaural tapes of the young Presley are a revelation. His first hits were all monaural recordings. But Presley's approach to recording-as-enshrined-performance, live in the studio, is to be marveled, stereo or not.

“You're going to find a lot of early stuff from 1957 that you're going to hear in stereo for the first time ever because we recently found early stereo tapes before records even came out in stereo. They had machines that could record that way. And we were able to locate that,” Jorgensen said.

“Some people are going to freak out when they hear ‘Jailhouse Rock' in stereo or ‘Peace in the Valley, and say, ‘Jesus, that sounds different.' Because it does!”

Hearing Presley goofing around and joking between takes humanizes the mythical rock ’n’ roll icon, too.

But the young idol could be petulant, too. Before a take of “(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care,” Presley mutters: “You're just gonna be wasting tape. It's too late in the day for all this (expletive).”

“The unguarded moments are perhaps the most valuable,” Grammy-winning pop music scholar Colin Escott writes in the set's extensive liner notes.

“It's a behind-the-scenes look,” added Jorgensen, who is most impressed with the way Presley often directed musicians, not unlike the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson.

“It puzzles me how the media, after his death, painted this portrait of Elvis as Col. Parker's puppet. When it came down to the music, Elvis was his own producer. It was all instinct. He was very much ahead of his time in that way.”


Tue Jul 01, 2003 2:49 pm

Great review!

Thanks for posting it, it makes me want this set even more...if that's possible. :D

Tue Jul 01, 2003 6:12 pm

This is not a review :!:

It is very astute use of the RCA press releases.

Nowhere does the writer actually talk about the tracks on a personal basis.

A preview - yes. A review -no.

Wed Jul 02, 2003 2:09 am

Thanks for the correction KA.