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Tue Apr 29, 2003 5:39 pm

Stephen -
Your points are all valid. But I still find it strange that there are no soundboards from May and June 77 (or, at any rate, none that are documented) regardless of the quality of Elvis' performances. Going by the information in Tunzi's book, from 1974 on the majority of shows were recorded on soundboard. But when we get to July 75 (arguably his best tour since Nov. 72, or June 73 at the very least) there is only one documented show! There are a plethora of late spring/summer 1976 soundboards, a period when many of Elvis' performances (from May-August) were about the same quality as the Rapid City show. Soundboards exist of shows from Feb. 77. Felton recorded the March & April tours (A.K.A. the "spring tours") on multi-track. Yet when we get to May and June - nothing! This is why I find it strange.

Tue Apr 29, 2003 8:00 pm

Pete:

You are right about the inconsistencies regarding soundboard recordings. However, you mention the July 1975 tour. How could it possibly be known at the time that this was to be a show worth recording? Elvis certainly didn't think like that. And I don't wish to open a can of worms here, but there is a key difference between the "soundboard" and "multi-track" recordings, and that is that the multi track recordings of March-May 1977 were commissioned due to record company pressure, the kind of which does not exist today for an artist of his stature. Soundboards were commissioned internally, by Elvis, the crew or the band, for their own purposes, which is why they were not recorded using professional equipment. Elvis did the Spring 1977 recordings probably because he felt he had to and it was easier not to argue, but there is no reason why he would have wanted to commission any sound recordings of his own, undoubtedly because he knew how they would sound.

Tue Apr 29, 2003 9:54 pm

By the summer of 1977 RCA had exhausted the format of the live Elvis album, and with Elvis’ stage act not progressing there’s no way they would have planned a live album from the June tour without the added publicity that the CBS TV special could give to such a release. If Elvis had lived longer than August 16, 1977 I doubt the special or the resulting album would have seen the light of day.
Due to Elvis’ reluctance to record in the studio in later years, any “new” songs that had been introduced to Elvis’ stage act had been recorded during the spring, and used on the “Moody Blue” album, and RCA had no use for any further multi-track live recordings unless there was to be a significant change in Elvis’ stage repertoire. Unfortunately the CBS special was not seen as a big enough challenge to warrant such a change.
This leaves soundboard recordings, which were never intended for release and used only for reference at the time. On the subject of whether Elvis would have wanted to hear playbacks from what became his final tour in June 1977, I would have to agree with Stephen’s assessment that the likely answer is no.

Tue Apr 29, 2003 10:32 pm

By 1977, do you really think Elvis was bothered artistically to listen to his songs? He seemed to be reluctant to record in the studio at all. RCA could have sued him for breech of contract, as he wasn't recording what he should have been.

The 1977 recording session was cancelled and Elvis was simply "going through the motions" with his live shows. The fact that Elvis kept to the well known live songs could have been due to it being a lot easier to do a show when heavily on medication. Concentration would have been impared due to Elvis's state of mind and he probably found it easier to breeze through the shows, doing the same songs.

I often wonder if Elvis paid much attention to his recordings in 1977. Even the "Moody Blue" album had a 1974 live track on it because Felton was struggling to fill the album.

I heard that Elvis watched the Omaha show and thought it was bad and tried to do a better show in Rapid City. Was that true? Even in the Rapid City show, Elvis appears to be on lots of medication and struggling. Did he really sit down and view the tape of the show? I find it unlikely he could be bothered to watch it. If he did, surely he would have seen that he shouldn't have been on stage in the state he was in.

Was the fact that some of his shows were not up to standard that RCA were not interested in setting up professional equipment to record him?

Tue Apr 29, 2003 10:37 pm

Just some comments to Stephen and Rebel -
Regarding the "Spring Tours" multi-track recordings: these weren't so much commissioned by RCA as they were an act of desperation on the part of Felton to try to come up with enough previously unreleased live performances to make up the remainder of the Moody Blue album. With the exception of one track, "Let Me BeThere", Felton pulled it off (albeit by the skin of his teeth LOL). By not cutting a vocal track for "There's A Fire Down Below" the previous October, pulling a no-show at the January Nashville sessions (and the subsequent "damage control" Graceland session) he really put Felton in a bad position! "Ol Felton did manage to pull a rabbitt out of his as- err - hat!
The 75 tour: every previous tour from March 74 through June 75 have numerous soundboard recordings (per Joe Tunzi), yet when we get to July 75 only one show is documented as existing on soundboard. I just don't think it's credible that they suddenly changed their "modus operandi" for this tour! I think it's highly probable that other July 75 soundboards exist -but aren't in BMG's possession and therefore are undocumented.
The May & June 77 tours: the same logic as stated above applies here as well. As for Elvis' interest in soundboards from these last two tours, I don't think Elvis was truly interested in much of anything during the last 6 months of his life. As tragic as it is, I think he just reached a point during this time where the only thing he desired was oblivion.

Tue Apr 29, 2003 11:04 pm

I agree with your point about the spring tours Pete, and I wouldn’t discount the possibility of some of the soundboard tapes that are unaccounted for being held by private collectors. It’s just that as there is nothing documented from the June tour at all, it seems like a reasonable assumption that they weren’t recording the shows anymore. I don’t know this as fact, but judging by the varying quality of the shows and Elvis’ health and state of mind it makes sense to me. Having said that, if there are any soundboards that we haven’t been told about yet, I’ll be quite happy to be proved wrong on this one.

The inclusion of “Let Me Be There” on “Moody Blue” is perhaps an indication of how dissatisfied Felton was with the spring recordings. I know no other “new” songs were committed to tape during those tours, but recordings of songs such as “Polk Salad Annie”, “Big Boss Man” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” were also available to him, and would have at least provided the fans with a new version of a particular song, rather than a straight re-issue. However, in all cases the standard of these performances was so much lower than Elvis’ previously issued versions of the same songs, and I think this together with Elvis reluctance to record in the studio really highlights the problems Felton had when trying to piece the “Moody Blue” album together.

Wed Apr 30, 2003 2:18 am

Pete:

If you read my last post again, you'll notice that I used the phrase "commissioned due to record company pressure", which means that, whilst RCA may not have commissioned the recordings themselves per se, when Felton came up with the idea, I imagine that RCA's response was Just Get Something. I think that up until February 1977 there was always a small glimmer of hope, that Elvis might rise to a challenge, to pull himself out of his self-destructive rut. After the failed recording sessions and the subsequent tours, all that hope seems to have disappeared.

Rockinrebel:

Your assessment of the Moody Blue album is spot on. Even a new Polk Salad Annie or Big Boss Man would have gone down better than a previously released master, and a poorly edited one at that. Moody Blue ended up a shameful hodge-podge, an embarrassing coda to a career full of riches. It would have been better not to have released it at all, but (sigh), times were different then.

Wed Apr 30, 2003 5:59 pm

Stephen -
Regarding the Moody Blue fiasco, I wasn't taking issue with your statement at all. I just wanted to sharpen the focus on Felton's pivotal role in the whole business. And I do agree that RCA's attitude was most likely "get something (anything!)". All things considered I think Felton pulled it off rather admirably, if not downright heroically! LOL. Elvis really did put Felton in a very tough spot. Sadly, I don't think Elvis even remotely gave a rat's rump! As for the Moody blue album itself, your 100% correct that it is a hodge podge, but I personally wouldn't go so far as to say it's "shameful" or "embarassing". I can still recall my impressions of it when I first got it and listened to it back in July '77 (I was one of those who got the first issue blue pressing - a gimmick to bolster sales if ever there was one!). I thought it was much more enjoyable than the rather depressing From EP Boulevard. There was more variety, and I thought at the time (and still do) that Elvis had given us another masterpiece with "Unchained Melody". An absolute tour de force! He seemed to be carried outside himself on the one, his voice just soars. I thought all of side 2 was strong, particularly the 4 single sides. "He'll Have To Go" was a bit long, but it reminded me of a 1970 Nashville track soundwise and I liked Elvis' performance. "Let Me Be There" did have me scratching my head though.
Getting back to the June tour, judging from what I've heard and read on this mb, it seems that after Omaha Elvis' performance level gradually improved with each show. This makes me wonder about the quality of the 2 shows prior to Omaha. Were they better or worse than the Omaha show? How do these 2 shows compare to Lincoln, and Rapid City? If anyone has any information on these shows, please let us know.

Wed Apr 30, 2003 7:40 pm

Pete:

Thanks for your reply, and I think you have hit the nail on the head when it comes to Felton's dealing with a plainly disinterested Elvis. The reason why I thought (and still think) that Moody Blue is a shameful and embarrassing albums is that it is plainly obvious that Elvis' lack of interest rubbed off on everyone else. I wonder, if Elvis, had not died, how much longer he would have been an RCA recording artist. The sequencing of the album is awful, most of it is turgid, and the version of Unchained Melody is an amateur spray-paint job when compared to the soaring heights he achieved in Rapid City in June. The cover art is, well, blue. Not the end that a great artist deserved, but to be fair Elvis did create his own ending.

Thu May 01, 2003 12:36 am

I gotta say Stephen that I find our polar opposite opinions of the Moody Blue "Unchained Melody" interesting to say the least. Classic example of the "it's a matter of personal taste" that's so frequently mentioned on this mb. I like both versions. The Rapid City one is undeniably powerful, but at the same time, more effortful as the labored breathing strongly suggests. To my ears, his voice on the Moody Blue version has more of a suppleness and grace to it that makes it the winner. But to each his own!

Thu May 01, 2003 3:08 am

I was very fortunate to attend 3 shows on ELVIS' last tour!
I met him at the airport in Kansas City both upon arriving and departing!

June 18th - Kansas City
June 20th - Lincoln, NE
June 23rd - Des Moines, IA

I do know when we purchased our tickets for the Kansas City show, the "talk was" CBS was going to be filming ELVIS in Lincoln along with the other two cities. However about a week or so before the Lincoln show, we got word CBS WOULD NOT be filming Lincoln due to insurance reasons.
Needless to say, we were very disappointed.

Of the 3 shows on the last tour I attended, I thought ELVIS was at his best in Lincoln! He was in a GREAT MOOD...joking, laughing and carrying on!
I have some great photos from all three shows (also audio of Lincoln & Des Moines) I took and they are PRICELESS to me!

Too bad I don't know how to post a pic...I'd share one with you!

maeflower

Thu May 01, 2003 7:01 am

Pete:

Listen to the version from Rapid City and compare it to the version on the Spring Tours 77 CD - the undubbed master, if you like, of the Moody Blue version. There is simply no comparison. Elvis himself admits "I've done it better." The Moody Blue version is so coated with sugar that any of Elvis' original power is sapped away.

Thu May 01, 2003 7:05 am

Maeflower:

Many thanks for sharing your views on the concerts you witnessed. Your post seems to confirm the idea that Elvis was greatly relieved at not having the CBS cameras present in Lincoln, which, if memory serves me correctly, was the original subject of this thread. As I was an 11-year-old English kid at the time of Elvis' death it is a source of great regret that I was never able to witness Elvis in concert, so your post is much appreciated.

Fri May 02, 2003 1:37 am

Surprisingly I have yet to receive a response from Graceland regarding the origin of this thread--whether or not RCA was on hand to record (audio) the show in Lincoln for the use in Elvis in Concert. When I have sent questions in the past, they have been quick to respond. Again, if and when I receive a reply, I will post.

A lot of well-stated opinions on this subject and 1977 in general.

Elvis Fan

my main gripe with ST77

Sat May 03, 2003 9:20 am

If this has been discussed before on here, I apologize, and my gut tells me it has. On the subject of Unchained Melody, do you all hate as much as I do how loud Sherrill Nielsen was turned up on the ending of this song on Spring Tours '77? It really irks me!

It's like, that was FTD's opportunity to give us the real, unadulterated version, the way it was, and they blew it. First of all, what was done to the ending on the 1977 release is a crying shame, and I hope that goes without saying to all of you. Dubbing Sherrill Nielsen over Elvis...it just makes me think of Milli Vanilli--it is that wrong!

But then to turn Sherrill way up in the mix on the undubbed version as well...it's like they were trying to achieve the same effect, or like they thought that was how it was supposed to be. Well for one thing, in doing that, it just becomes more obvious that we are hearing someone take over where Elvis leaves off. And for another, that is simply not the intent of Nielsen's vocal there! If it was, then wouldn't Elvis have held that pose with his mouth open until Sherrill stopped singing? Yes, but he never did anything like that and thus was obviously not trying to pass off that vocal as his. It's what they call a background vocal!

You can hear the way this performance was meant to be heard, which is the way it was heard that night in Ann Arbor, on an incomplete soundboard recording of that show. That is how it should have sounded on Spring Tours '77, and for the life of me I cannot figure out why it didn't. I hate to complain about anything FTD is doing, but what could their logic possibly have been for mixing that song that way?

The way they did it, they "blew it sideways!" :wink: Anyone else see it this way?