Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Thu Jul 08, 2010 12:59 pm

If I had to submit one album to prove Elvis as a mature, relevant (even now) and gifted singer, then I would probably select Elvis That’s The Way It Is, the original album.

It’s a travesty that it has for the large part been overlooked by the so-called experts. Perhaps there is a double distraction in that it’s a soundtrack album by title but not in content. The Rolling Stone reassessment is spot-on : “(it) may be Presley’s most grown-up collection of songs”.

Over the years, I have found that the opener, “I Just Can’t Help Believin’”, is frequently admired by non-fans. The arrangement is wonderful and to say that it is technically well recorded is an understatement. The sound is exquisite and that can be applied virtually to the whole album, studio and live. The ballads are consistently brilliant in all respects and Elvis is totally focused : Twenty Days And Twenty Nights / How The Web Was Woven / Mary In The Morning / Just Pretend / The Next Step Is Love. The latter song takes me back to the heady days of 1971 when I must have seen the film approaching 30 times in the cinema.

Of those ballads it’s very hard to choose a favourite, but “Twenty Days” is sublime : from the beautiful guitar intro, the classy orchestration, the urgent drumming on the last verse and Elvis’s superb vocal . . . “I just couldn’t ring the bell without her”. Stranger In The Crowd has a shuffle beat reminiscent of Save The Last Dance For Me and is close to the latter in pop perfection. James Burton’s guitar solo is one of my favourites in all of Elvis’s recorded repertoire. Incidentally the live version of ‘Stranger’ doesn’t do it for me - it lacks subtlety.

Patch It Up is unmemorable, but seems to fit and breaks up the mood nicely. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me is somewhat bombastic, yet I love it. Dusty Springfield’s original (?) comes from a completely different direction, being totally compliant and submissive, and I often wondered what she might have thought of Elvis’s treatment.

The other two live tracks, I’ve Lost You (a great song) and “Lovin’ Feeling” are excellent. The latter far outshines the rather dreary (by comparison) Righteous Brothers original, despite mistakes in the lyrics (“tenderness” too often substituted for “welcome look”) and the slightly tiresome (by repetition) “suit too tight” interjection. Overall, though, it is magnificent both visually and aurally and is probably the single best performance from Elvis's whole career to show to a non-believer.

The only let-down for me on the original LP was the botched “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, with the ridiculously low volume on the opening verse and the dubbed applause at the end. I was always annoyed that they didn’t include the live version instead, though Elvis’s consistent failure to sing the right lyrics equally annoys me : “when time gets rough” instead of “times”, and “when darkness falls” instead of “when darkness comes”, which has an entirely different meaning.

Elvis was at an absolute vocal peak in 1970 and totally focused on making good music. It is so sad that the slow decline started even as the final curtain fell at Vegas in late summer. No one, however, can deny the legacy of those June recordings and those magnificent filmed performances in August. Elvis, mate, you were the best !

Steve Morse

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:08 am

The review, written more than 25 years after Elvis' death, bases the comment that Elvis' concert was a self parody more on what was to come than on the fine concert presented on that set. Without knowledge of the future, no one could find much fault with this concert. If a few of the 50's standards were less powerfully performed here than one year ago, they still entertained and, along with the rest of the wonderful performances, produced a wonderful concert experience.

The original album has to be among Elvis' best albums so yes, it's one of the greatest albums ever.

Steve L.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:25 am

stevelecher wrote:The review, written more than 25 years after Elvis' death, bases the comment that Elvis' concert was a self parody more on what was to come than on the fine concert presented on that set. Without knowledge of the future, no one could find much fault with this concert.

As per my comments on page 1, any critic with knowledge of what Elvis sounded like in 1968, let alone 1956, would be able to hear and comment on the difference in his commitment to the older material. As Ronnie Tutt noted in an interview, Elvis was no longer enchanted with his self-described "spastic" period, and it showed.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 8:20 am

The classic 1950's Elvis songs in this Aug 12, 1970 performance are not performed as well as they were in 1956, 1968, 1969, or February, 1970. However, they are not so poor, and the whole concert is so good, that a reviewer would not talk about self parody without the benefit of knowing what was to happen with Elvis' shows. It is like seeing TTWII and commenting about the fat, Vegas Elvis. It's not there yet, but people see it because they know it is the popular narrative.

Doc, you and I do not disagree that the decline is evident at this August 1970 engagement. I don't think it was as clear in late 1970 when things seemed to be going so well.

Steve Lecher

P.S. How was Sir Paul?

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:11 am

stevelecher wrote:... they are not so poor, and the whole concert is so good, that a reviewer would not talk about self parody ...

I disagree.

---

Sir Paul -->

Paul McCartney blows San Francisco away
http://www.elvis-collectors.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=54229

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:43 am

To me it would have looked strange, if Elvis would have performed his 1950s songs the same way in 1970. In August 1970 he did his classics in a charming and entertaining way. Certainly sloppy in some cases, but nevertheless fun to watch and hear.

THAT'S THE WAY IT IS -of course- isn't the best album ever made. To me the King has recorded better albums, but not too many.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:10 am

The Welz wrote:To me it would have looked strange, if Elvis would have performed his 1950s songs the same way in 1970.

That's not the core issue -- it's the contrast between lack of commitment for these massively successful 1956 singles, and the later songs, where he really goes for it.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:18 am

What we need is a legacy edition featuring TTWII/EOT

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:19 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
The Welz wrote:To me it would have looked strange, if Elvis would have performed his 1950s songs the same way in 1970.

That's not the core issue -- it's the contrast between lack of commitment for these massively successful 1956 singles, and the later songs, where he really goes for it.

Have to agree here to a degree.... a real shame that somebody with influence could not have gotten through at the time to Elvis how ground-breaking those 1950s tunes really were.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:36 pm

But how many people actually listen to the live disc on the TTWII set and think "Elvis's live performance had descended into self-parody by this point"? That is a blanket statement that doesn't even make a distinction between the old and new material but tars an entire performance. Yes, the oldies are somewhat rushed, but they're not yet throwaways either. It doesn't help that the writer can't even keep the individual performances straight, as his "Hound Dog" flub indicates. I find the author's taste bizarre and questionable--someone who finds an unwieldy compilation like TTWII to be a great album but can't appreciate a very good Elvis-in-his-near-prime live show certainly has a interesting perspective, but not one I care to share.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 8:22 pm

TTWII is one of my top 3 favourite albums -- and probably his longest running studio album. Other than the poorly mastered BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER with false applause (corrected decades later) and the repetitive PATCH IT UP, it's a terrific album by the best.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:33 pm

Revelator wrote:But how many people actually listen to the live disc on the TTWII set and think "Elvis's live performance had descended into self-parody by this point"?

Good point. I think it is for the cognoscenti that it is obvious. To the casual listener it is great and fun. My exgf loves the live album that came with the special edition of TTWII and a lot because of the 'oldies'. So it is a matter of perspective.
Critically though, one can not deny the throwaway versions, fun or not. I 'hate' them. Give me 68 or even 69. Or even feb 70. But for the majority of the oldies, that was the end of the line.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:36 pm

Revelator wrote:Yes, the oldies are somewhat rushed, but they're not yet throwaways either.

I disagree. A song is either done well or not -- the examples listed on page 1 are not.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:50 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
Revelator wrote:Yes, the oldies are somewhat rushed, but they're not yet throwaways either.

I disagree. A song is either done well or not -- the examples listed on page 1 are not.


I think there's room for variation, because performances exist on a continuum, rather than a binary good/bad scale. I would certainly rather take the TTWII oldies than the much sloppier versions from just a couple of years later.
Last edited by Revelator on Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:54 pm, edited 3 times in total.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:53 pm

Revelator wrote:I would certainly rather take the TTWII oldies than the much sloppier versions from just a couple of years later.

As would most fans -- but that does not negate the fact that he is already throwing the examples on page 1 away in Aug 1970.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:58 pm

"Hound Dog" is performed very well during this show. The way he builds up the expectation before the song is amazing, and so is the power with which he rips into the song. It’s a tour de force.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:04 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
Revelator wrote:I would certainly rather take the TTWII oldies than the much sloppier versions from just a couple of years later.

As would most fans -- but that does not negate the fact that he is already throwing the examples on page 1 away in Aug 1970.


Yes, they're faster and feel more obligatory now, but they're not yet toss-offs. "Love Me Tender" is thrown away, but for kissing rather than bad singing, "Love Me" never worked after 1956, and "Hound Dog", "Heartbreak Hotel" and "One Night" may not rise to the level of the 50s or '68 versions, but they're still solid, if less exciting performances, and not the flaccid goo from the later years, which really are throw-aways. And the larger issue is that the writer of the article, unlike yourself, did not bother making a distinction between the songs when he dismissed the whole concert as self-parody. One can grant that Elvis had become a little tired of his 50s hits, but what about the rest of the concert? Worse, the writer's standpoint reinforces the conventional wisdom that Elvis's 70s live work can be easily dismissed as self-parody, thus reinforcing the preconceptions of thousands of Rolling Stone readers, telling them there's little reason to seek out those recordings. That is enough to sour the review for me.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:15 pm

Revelator wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:
Revelator wrote:I would certainly rather take the TTWII oldies than the much sloppier versions from just a couple of years later.

As would most fans -- but that does not negate the fact that he is already throwing the examples on page 1 away in Aug 1970.


Yes, they're faster and feel more obligatory now, but they're not yet toss-offs. "Love Me Tender" is thrown away, but for kissing rather than bad singing, "Love Me" never worked after 1956, and "Hound Dog", "Heartbreak Hotel" and "One Night" may not rise to the level of the 50s or '68 versions, but they're still solid, if less exciting performances, and not the flaccid goo from the later years, which really are throw-aways.

Love Me Tender isn't just derailed because of "kissing" - the arrangement is also extremely pedestrian lacking all soul. It is a total "showroom" rendition by both band and vocalist. For the most part, the 50's tracks were more or less a sentimental, crowd-pleasing affair lacking all that originally made them great and significant. Heartbreak Hotel maintained some semblance of legitimacy due to the bluesy arrangement and execution, but most of the 50's gold were rushed, sloppy, and tossed away without a second thought.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:16 pm

Revelator wrote:Yes, they're faster and feel more obligatory now, but they're not yet toss-offs.

We'll have to agree to disagree.

Elvis could have made each and every one of those songs a moment to remember, but he did not because, for a number of reasons, he no longer had any appreciation for his early work.

Watching Paul McCartney last night was a sober reminder of how songs from an entire career may be regarded. Tracks cut between 1963 and 2008 were all given robust, joyous renditions -- not one was tossed off.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:40 pm

midnightx wrote:Love Me Tender isn't just derailed because of "kissing" - the arrangement is also extremely pedestrian lacking all soul.


But the arrangement isn't much different than that from 1969. It isn't very creative, and perhaps the best route would have been just to have Elvis alone with his guitar, but it doesn't represent self-parody quite yet.

Heartbreak Hotel maintained some semblance of legitimacy due to the bluesy arrangement and execution, but most of the 50's gold were rushed, sloppy, and tossed away without a second thought.


By or after 1971 all those adjectives would be true. Before that, rushed would be the only one I'd be sure about.

drjohncarpenter wrote:Watching Paul McCartney last night was a sober reminder of how songs from an entire career may be regarded. Tracks cut between 1963 and 2008 were all given robust, joyous renditions -- not one was tossed off.


Well, I agree with you there--I think we all wish that Elvis had survived in as good shape as McCartney. And had I been Elvis's manager in, say, 1973, I would have told him to rearrange the oldies and slow down the tempo. In a way, McCartney, with his impeccable onstage recreations of his original hits, is on the opposite spectrum from someone like Bob Dylan, who aggressively reinterprets and rearranges his songs when playing them live. If McCartney represents the "classicist" method, Dylan represents the "revisionist" strand. I sense that when Elvis returned to live performing in '69, he went--very, very mildly one must admit--for the revisionist approach, using different arrangements and tempos to keep himself interested in his old material. Unfortunately, the grind of too many performances created the very situation Elvis has wanted to avoid, and he became bored by his own hits. By this point, Elvis could have staved off boredom by going the "classicist" route and trying to better recreate the feel of the originals. And once he'd become bored with that, he could have returned to the revisionist approach. One sorely wishes that Elvis had been a much less passive man, and one more given to endless tinkering. Alas, he liked to coast when he could, and the last person to shake him out of such habits would have been his manager.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:52 pm

Revelator wrote:
Heartbreak Hotel maintained some semblance of legitimacy due to the bluesy arrangement and execution, but most of the 50's gold were rushed, sloppy, and tossed away without a second thought.


By or after 1971 all those adjectives would be true. Before that, rushed would be the only one I'd be sure about.

Then we aren't listening to the same versions found on: Elvis At The International, All Shook Up, In Person [disc two], The Wonder Of You, Live In Las Vegas [disc two], TTWII-Special Edition [disc two]. There is nothing rushed about those versions of Heartbreak Hotel.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 11:23 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
Revelator wrote:Yes, they're faster and feel more obligatory now, but they're not yet toss-offs.

We'll have to agree to disagree.

Elvis could have made each and every one of those songs a moment to remember, but he did not because, for a number of reasons, he no longer had any appreciation for his early work.

Watching Paul McCartney last night was a sober reminder of how songs from an entire career may be regarded. Tracks cut between 1963 and 2008 were all given robust, joyous renditions -- not one was tossed off.


Is not the main part of this issue that Elvis himself was of the impression that Hound Dog and the likes did not live up to the standard of i.e. Yesterday?
imo that would explain why he treated some songs the way he did. Not that i agree, but i can see his point to a degree.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 11:49 pm

epf wrote:Is not the main part of this issue that Elvis himself was of the impression that Hound Dog and the likes did not live up to the standard of i.e. Yesterday?

Apparently so -- but I'd rank the July 1956 recording of "Hound Dog" about a thousand places higher in any poll of essential 20th century recordings. Back in 1970, such thinking was far from the norm. And Elvis read a lot more than people give him credit for.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 11:58 pm

Elvis had matured, lived two lifetimes and entering a third, his musical tastes were completely different at this point. I would not care to ever hear Hound Dog or Heartbreak Hotel unless it was the "50's Elvis" singing them. To see a fringed jumpsuit "70's Elvis" hopping around the stage humping a microphone just would not look right. I much prefer to hear Elvis sing Suspicious Minds or Burning Love than the teeny bopper songs he sung in the 50's. I think it is quite obvious that Elvis prefered that as well. It would seem to have worked out pretty good for him considering the hundreds of sold out shows. That being said I can see how the "Rock Purists" could be offended when he did the throw away takes, I believe he would have been better suited to just leave them alone than to try and make everyone happy. If he didnt like that music anyl onger he should have just left it alone.

I do not consider Love Me Tender a throw away, he arranged this song in a purposeful fashion to go along with his stage show.

Re: TTWII --> One of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made"

Mon Jul 12, 2010 11:59 pm

my biggest disappointment on the 70's box was " The Last Farewell" was omitted.


Elvis should have recorded a duet with Roger Whittaker on that one... :wink:

Thanks for the nice article, Doc! TTWII is really a "mature" album. I would have liked a better arrangement for "How The Web Was Woven" but that's all of the negative things I can say about the record.