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Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis (1974)

Fri Jul 01, 2005 12:25 am

"Don't believe them!"

"Elvis's fifth live album, Live On Stage In Memphis, is (most people will tell you) his worst. Don't believe them."

Author Paul Simpson ("The Rough Guide To Elvis") then gives a short and sweet review of one of Presley's most underrated and overlooked albums of the 1970ies and explains why it isn't his worst live album. Since "Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis" has recently been discussed superficially in another thread, I'd like to give it some kind of review right here in the review section of this messageboard.


The two strongest arguments for being his worst live album have always been that 1.) the recording was edited and didn't feature all of the songs performed during this concert, and 2.) audience reactions and applause have been overdubbed for release. Well, while the overdubbing surely is not only annoying but completely silly somehow (did Elvis Presley really need fake applause on his first hometown appearance in 13 years??) the other argument doesn't hold: The first two live albums after Presley's 1969 live comeback (In Person and On Stage) didn't contain a complete concert also. And in its original release the latter one even had additional audience reactions overdubbed, too.

"Elvis", "Memphis", "Hometown"

So, while Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis didn't feature the complete performance of March 20th, 1974, it's still a worthwile listen. This isn't Elvis giving the "once in a lifetime" kinda performance he did in Hawaii 14 months earlier to this giving him the last #1 album of his lifetime. On the other hand this is probably more Elvis than "Aloha" was. Being his first concert in his hometown Memphis in 13 years (let's say "his first recorded and released concert in his hometown Memphis in 13 years", 'cause he already had performed there some days before) this release plays with the ideas of "hometown", "Memphis", and hence "early career" and "rock'n'roll" somehow.

With "I Got A Woman", "Trying To Get To You", "My Baby Left Me" and "Lawdy, Miss Clawdy" this album features some of his earliest songs, most of them rarely performed in concert. Track 5, a medley, even contains some other early performances like "Mama Don't Dance" and "Flip, Flop And Fly" (besides the rockers "Long Tall Sallly" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" that have already been issued on "Aloha).

Mainly new material

Focussing somewhat on Elvis' musical roots the album also features three top-notch gospel performances ("Why Me Lord", "How Great Thou Art" and the recently recorded but not yet released "Help Me"). "How Great Thou Art" even provided Elvis with his third Grammy award for a gospel recording in 1974 and is the best version available on record. "Let Me Be There", a recent hit for Olivia Newton-John, was just another new song that hasn't been heard by Elvis before. It remained a part of his show after the Memphis concert as some kind of a shop stopper. Here it's sung with confidence and soul and even a little reprise. When Felton Jarvis was searching for material to add to Elvis 1977 album Moody Blue it was "Let Me Be There" that was included. It the kind of fun song to sing along with that wasn't there on the New York or Hawaiian concert.

The album opens and closes with "See See Rider" and "Can't Help Falling In Love" but you can't really blame it for doing so since both were regular numbers of his live concerts in 1974. So, "An American Trilogy" and "Love Me" remain the only two songs that have been released on two of his five live albums before. While "Trilogy" really didn't ask for a third release, "Love Me" is performed in a somewhat different mood making the song more enjoyable than on his Madison Square Garden concert.

"I Can't Stop Loving You" has also been released on both his MSG and Hawaiian album. But combined with another early rock song, "Blueberry Hill", by one of Elvis' musical idols, Fats Domino, this is a neat addition. IMO it's better sung than on the two release that preceeded this album.

A "worthwile" performance

Different from both As Recorded At Madison Square Garden and Aloha From Hawaii, Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis presents us a good-humoured Elvis all the way through this performance. After two personally difficult years Elvis finally seemed to have regained fun in live performance in 1974. This album has him joking and chatting with the audience like he did only on In Person and On Stage.

His voice had matured during the years giving him the opportunity to sing songs like "Why Me Lord" or "How Great Thou Art". Still the oldies are performed in a no less than amazing way. "Trying To Get To You", "My Baby Left Me" and "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" alone are worth buying this CD. When he goes into the high notes with "Wheeen I read your loving le-he-teeeeeer, then my heaaaaart began to si-hi-hiiiing", it makes your heart flutter. The same goes for "There was nothin' that could hold meeeee, oooooooor could keep me away from you", presented with a roughness that only the King Of Rock'n'Roll or Mick Jagger could come up with without seeming totally silly at the age of 39 or fifty-something respectively. During "Lawdy, Miss Clawdy" he encourages his piano player ("Play it, Glen!") and obviously seems to enjoy the song when he commands his band, a god-damn hunk o' background singers and a whole orchestra with a short: "One more time ..." Folks believe it or not but that's just gorgeous!

Obviously Elvis also enjoys "I Can't Stop Loving You" much more than the years before (1972 and '73) and gives an amazing vocal performance. At one point he incorporates a little joke when he sings "I made up my mind / To live in Tennessee - uh - memory". His laugh only a few notes later shows that it was an Elvis who was feeling pretty well performing his hometown in front of 12,500 people.

The cover of this album is something special, too. For the first time ever it didn't feature a picture of Elvis but his Memphis mansion "Graceland" instead. When during the last bars of the "Closing Vamp" it is anounced that "Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis has left for Graceland. Thank you, good night. This concert was recorded live right here in the Midsouth Coliseum in Elvis's hometown Memphis, Tennessee ...", this is something special somehow. Though overdubbed later it never fails to give me some great goose bumps.

For its CD release the concert has been "digitally remastered" and provides a pretty good sound (forget the overdubbed applause) and made Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis one of my favorite concert albums ever. All in all a pretty "worthwile" concert experience. I pretty much prefer it to the Madison Square Garden concert that's just sounding terribly IMO and "Aloha" which features some rare and unique material but doesn't even have a spark of fun or enjoyment.

"It's always been said that a person cannot return to their hometowns but you have just disproven that theory completely - and you really made it worthwile."

So, if you still think this is "is worst live album" - it really isn't.

Fri Jul 01, 2005 12:56 am

It is a very good live album. The only thing is, it took 30 years and FTD to make it that way.

Fri Jul 01, 2005 1:15 am


Thanks for the great review.

I've always liked Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis very much. May have something to do with the fact that it was one of only three Elvis albums my parents owned and it was the first live album I knew.

But I think it's more than that. While it wasn't released in its entirety until recently, it did contain the better part of a rather typical but at the same time definitely better than average Elvis concert.

Both Aloha from Hawaii and As Recorded at Madison Square Garden lacked the usual atmosphere of an Elvis concert and In Person and On Stage, great as they are, only offered highlights from Vegas shows.

Fri Jul 01, 2005 8:32 am

this is indeed the greatest live album of Elvis ever, he is in true top form! this cd is one of my faves and finds a lot of time on my cd player. quite simply, Elvis never sounded better, i've listened to EIC, ALOHA, a lot of the RCA Las Vegas recordings, and the EOT concerts, and it just does not match up. Elvis is better than ever singing 'steamroller blues', 'trying to get to you', 'polk sald annie' 'how great thou art' and heaps of awesome songs. i can not express how good this album is :D :!:

Fri Jul 01, 2005 2:22 pm

It's an awesome album! I remember being 15 years old at the time and listening to this album everyday in 1974. Thanks for the review btw.

Tue Aug 23, 2005 10:43 pm

It´s an atrocity to say it´s the worst Elvis´concert :shock: :shock: :shock:

Anyway, it´s one of the best concerts from his career! Nice review too. :wink:

Sat Aug 27, 2005 8:55 pm

Rob wrote:It is a very good live album. The only thing is, it took 30 years and FTD to make it that way.

I think that's over-stating it. I don't have the FTD yet, but find the '94
CD to be fine, despite the flaws we know about, namely
apparently overdubbed applause.

Besides, everytime RCA or FTD expands the songlist - such as for the
later "ON STAGE" CD- it does tend to change the original album feeling.

That said, I look forward to the FTD.

Sat Aug 27, 2005 9:21 pm

Gregory Nolan Jr. wrote:I think that's over-stating it. I don't have the FTD yet.

Get the FTD first. Then I look forward to hearing from you.

Sun Aug 28, 2005 7:17 am

I'm working on it, Rob, but I really think the original album stands up
just fine, meaning, to say it took 30 years insults the original vinyl
slab released in his lifetime. I know the spirit you say this in, though,
as many also raved that way and only made me want it more!

I also recall some audiophiles getting angry about the new sound.
Personally, I can't imagine that the sound is "bad." You weren't bothered
by it, were you?

Sun Aug 28, 2005 1:30 pm

Greg -
I was very happy with the sound. Especially while listening through headphones. Like I have mentioned before, I saw two Elvis shows. One in 1974 and one in 1977.

The Memphis FTD through headphones is the closest that I have ever heard to what it sounded like in Freedom Hall on those two nights in Louisville, Kentucky.

Mon Aug 29, 2005 7:06 am

Thanks for the recommendation ROB!!!

I haven't pulled out my headphones in ages, but I soon will and play this concert again and post my newer, updated headphone review!

Mon Aug 29, 2005 8:45 pm

I just got the FTD version this week and listened to it through headphones - there's one point early in the show between song where you can actually hear a conversation in the crowd! I think the sound is great on this version.

The cover scan seems a bit 'dirty' to me - look at the right hand edge of the original cover and it looks a little worn and discoloured.

I really look forward to (fingers crossed) Madison Square Garden in this format with remixed and remastered sound.

Mon Aug 29, 2005 9:03 pm

Somebody on this site had a fit over the "bad" sound on this FTD.

I find it hard to believe.

Having heard many worn Lps over the years, I kind of chuckle
at some of the audiophiles. Maybe I'm wrong.

Mon Aug 29, 2005 9:25 pm

Greg -

You wrote:
Having heard many worn Lps over the years, I kind of chuckle at some of the audiophiles.
Maybe I'm wrong.

When it comes to live concerts, there is no such thing as a 'perfect mix'.

What pleases some, leaves others feeling pissed off.

Tue Aug 30, 2005 5:56 pm

Bad mix and sound ...good show tho. :twisted:

Tue Aug 30, 2005 6:02 pm

"Bad"? I don't want to press the point because I don't own it,
but how come some rave over it and others call it "bad"? :shock:


Tue Aug 30, 2005 6:05 pm

Greg -

You wrote: come some rave over it and others call it "bad"?

Did you read my post ?

It's simply a subjective thing.

Tue Aug 30, 2005 6:06 pm

Okay, that settles it, Colin. I'll log off and go home. :wink:

Tue Aug 30, 2005 6:14 pm

Greg -

You mean you're at work ?

Your boss wants to see you right now !

Seriously, there is no point in trying to apply logic or reason when discussing the mixes on Elvis' live stuff.

There is absolutely no agreement on what is good & what isn't !

Should his voice be more forward in the mix ?

Or further back ?

Should the drums be more prominent ?

Or the piano ?

Some want James' guitar louder - some don't.

Perhaps the largest area of concord would be with JD's rumbling bass tones - mix them out !

Tue Aug 30, 2005 7:03 pm

I'm at the local library, silly. :D

I guess it's the venom that comes from the irate audiophile
that bothers me:

"The new FTD's sound is an outrage!"

No, you are. :lol:

Wed Aug 31, 2005 1:47 pm

Colin! mix the whole folk on stage up...apart from hodge...and jd.

Sat Sep 10, 2005 3:39 pm

Listening to the FTD right now (currently half way through Suspicious Minds), dang this CD is awesome! Sounds is great, the 'feel' is great and best of all I've got the volume UP!

Mon Sep 12, 2005 10:21 am

Matthew wrote:Listening to the FTD right now (currently half way through Suspicious Minds), dang this CD is awesome! Sounds is great, the 'feel' is great and best of all I've got the volume UP!

That's the spirit matthew!!!

krank that F*cker UP :!: :!: :!:

Mon Sep 12, 2005 10:41 am

Gregory Nolan Jr. sadly wrote:I don't own it

What seems to be the problem here? Do I need to order it for you?

Let's get the lead out!

Mon Sep 12, 2005 1:07 pm

I was surprised with this Suspicious Minds version. Elvis and the band rocks here!