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

Wed Aug 02, 2006 11:46 am

A GREAT REVIEW...

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

Bob Palmer, Rolling Stone, 8/31/72

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.

Wed Aug 02, 2006 5:48 pm

Cool stuff..
Thanks for posting :wink:

re

Mon Aug 14, 2006 11:03 pm

i know glen hardin but i don t know glen hardman :lol:

Re: re

Mon Aug 14, 2006 11:58 pm

tcb4 wrote:i know glen hardin but i don t know glen hardman :lol:

Betcha don't know Sun Ra.

Stupid, pointless "jokes" aside, this is indeed a terrific, intelligent and balanced review from when "Rolling Stone" was still THE hip, edgy music source.

Some dumbbells on this MB have tried to claim Elvis got no praise from this "hippie" magazine in the 1970s, but of course the truth is something different.

Sadly, it's a safe bet Elvis never read this.

Tue Aug 15, 2006 1:33 am

Elvis was actually praised in the magazine in the 1960s and 1970s. Even as late as 1975, records like "Today" were receiving positive reviews. Some of the pieces in the magazine like Peter Guralnick's brilliant reviews of "From Elvis in Memphis" (It's interesting on how he's changed his mind on several songs over the years.) and "Elvis Country" rank with the best pieces ever written on Elvis. When Elvis died in 1977, Rolling Stone was the only publication that got it right. I think it's safe to say that while Elvis did dominate the magazine's pages in the 1970s, he was always seen as a benevolent father figure for their current heroes and treated extremely respectfully as were other early rock stars like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Dion, Ricky Nelson, etc. who all received positive coverage in the magazine as they were being ignored by the rest of the mainstream media. In Ed Ward, Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh, John Morthland and others Rolling Stone had a staff that was steeped in the roots of the music.

It was only in the 1980s and after where the magazine began to adopt, on the impetus of founder Jann Wenner as well as marketing studies, a 60s-70s center of the pop universe.

Robert Palmer was a terrific critic who was another expert in roots type music. He wrote often of the blues and soul especially Sam Cooke in particular. He also had a taste for psychedelia, metal and hard rock. His book "Rock and Roll an Unruly History" is a terrific alternate universe type history of rock. I was very sad when he died in his mid-50s shortly after writing it in 1995.

(By the way kudos to Palmer for his praise of this "I Can't Stop Loving You" which is an urecognized work of genius IMO.)

Tue Aug 15, 2006 8:31 am

I saw this review awhile back on that website devoted to the King's stand at the Garden. It's a good read, and LTB lays out how RS changed over the years. I like the tone and commentary.

I'm not so sure if Guralnick "got" TTWII or other '70s releases (if memory serves and his often unenthusiastic take in Careless Love ) but the he and that group you mention really did the King a great service.

I knew Robert Palmer originally for being the author of one of the foremost books on blues music : his classic "Deep Blues," which traces the music from the South to Chicago and beyond.

His production work with "Fat Possum" label blues acts from the Mississippi hill country was a final highlight before his untimely '90s death.

Tue Aug 15, 2006 8:40 am

One of the very best concert reviews i have ever seen was from Rolling Stone writer Jon Landau, he gave a long and very beautifully written review, praising Elvis like he was a god when he performed in Boston 1971 AKA One Night Only. Its way too big for me to type here, so i just encourage you to buy the Concert years book, or look for it on the internet. Well worth checking out 8)

Tue Aug 15, 2006 8:55 pm

Gregory Nolan Jr. wrote:I knew Robert Palmer originally for being the author of one of the foremost books on blues music : his classic "Deep Blues" ...

I don't believe Bob Palmer of the above "Rolling Stone" MSG review and Robert Palmer, author of Deep Blues," are one and the same -- can anyone confirm? Also Robert's death at 52 in 1997 was anything but untimely -- he suffered from alcoholism for a very long time.

Tue Aug 15, 2006 8:59 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
Gregory Nolan Jr. wrote:I knew Robert Palmer originally for being the author of one of the foremost books on blues music : his classic "Deep Blues" ...

I don't believe Bob Palmer of the above "Rolling Stone" MSG review and Robert Palmer, author of Deep Blues," are one and the same -- can anyone confirm? Also Robert's death at 52 in 1997 was anything but untimely -- he suffered from alcoholism for a very long time.


Copied and pasted this info Doc,

Early career

Palmer was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, the son of a musician and school teacher, Robert Palmer Sr. A civil rights and peace activist with SNCC in the 1960s, the younger Palmer graduated from Little Rock University (later called The University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR)) in 1964. Soon afterwards he and fellow musicians Nancy Jeffries, Bill Barth, and Luke Faust formed a psychedelic music group blending jazz, folk, and blues with rock and roll, called the Insect Trust. The band recorded its first, self-titled album on Capitol Records in 1968. He continued playing clarinet and saxophone from time to time in local bands in areas he lived throughout the rest of his life.
[edit]

Later period

In the early 1970s, Palmer became a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He became the first full-time rock writer for The New York Times a few years later, serving as chief pop music critic at the newspaper from 1976 to 1988.

He continued his journalism work for film magazines and Rolling Stone; meanwhile, he began teaching ethnomusicology and American music courses at colleges, including at the University of Mississippi. In the early 1990s, he also began producing blues albums for Fat Possum Records artists like R. L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. After living near Memphis from 1988 through 1992, he spent about six months at a country estate near Little Rock before relocating in early 1993 to New Orleans, Louisiana, his home base until his death.

Two of his better-known books are his 1982 Deep Blues historical study and his 1995 book Rock & Roll: an Unruly History, the latter of which was a companion book to a ten-part BBC and PBS television series on which he served as chief consultant.

Throughout his life, Robert Palmer published scholarly liner notes on albums by dozens of top jazz, blues, rock and roll and world music artists, including Sam Rivers, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Yoko Ono, John Lee Hooker, Albert King, Ray Charles, Ornette Coleman, the Master Musicians of Jajouka, and many more. He worked as screen writer, narrator, and music director on the documentary films The World According to John Coltrane and Deep Blues (based on his book by the same name). He additionally worked as codirector with Toby Byron on The World According to John Coltrane.

Tue Aug 15, 2006 9:17 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
Gregory Nolan Jr. wrote:I knew Robert Palmer originally for being the author of one of the foremost books on blues music : his classic "Deep Blues" ...

I don't believe Bob Palmer of the above "Rolling Stone" MSG review and Robert Palmer, author of Deep Blues," are one and the same -- can anyone confirm? Also Robert's death at 52 in 1997 was anything but untimely -- he suffered from alcoholism for a very long time.



Thanks to Joe Car for the confirmation. I knew it was the same guy, as I first came to know him through his blues work, which inevitably referenced his career as a Rolling Stone veteran. I think that "History of Rock'n'Roll" or whatever it was titled was also was of his final notable projects, as seen in book form and also on film as shown on PBS and available on DVD and video. The Elvis portion was just part of this excellent project.

In my book, anyone who is just past 50 is "dying before his time. " His alcoholism was hardly public knowledge, especially given his prolific work at the end with liner notes, producing, etc. He did look awfully sickly in one or two of those documentaries near the end of his life.

Tue Aug 15, 2006 9:54 pm

Gregory Nolan Jr. wrote:Thanks to Joe Car for the confirmation.

What confirmation? I knew he worked for "Rolling Stone," but it is my understanding his byline was always Robert Palmer, thus my query. Can anyone confirm the 1972 Presley MSG review was written by Robert Palmer?

Tue Aug 15, 2006 10:26 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
Gregory Nolan Jr. wrote:Thanks to Joe Car for the confirmation.

What confirmation? I knew he worked for "Rolling Stone," but it is my understanding his byline was always Robert Palmer, thus my query. Can anyone confirm the 1972 Presley MSG review was written by Robert Palmer?


You're welcome Greg. Doc, perhaps a thank you for the effort at least would be nice, whether the answer is correct or not. Had the situation been reversed, I would have extended you that courtesy.

Wed Aug 16, 2006 1:09 am

If it's not the man known as "Robert Palmer" it's an amazing coincidence considering the name, the magazine and most importantly the writing style and references.

Wed Aug 16, 2006 1:14 am

Joe Car wrote:Doc, perhaps a thank you for the effort at least would be nice ...

Joe, my apologies for the oversight -- thank you most kindly for the information.

Bike, maybe your observation is on the right track. Because of the overly generous prose in the piece, perhaps it was a drunk Robert Palmer who reviewed MSG for "Rolling Stone" as Bob Palmer.

Wed Aug 16, 2006 1:18 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:
Joe Car wrote:Doc, perhaps a thank you for the effort at least would be nice ...

Joe, my apologies for the oversight -- thank you most kindly for the information.

Bike, maybe your observation is on the right track. Because of the overly generous prose in the piece, perhaps it was a drunk Robert Palmer who reviewed MSG for "Rolliong Stone" as Bob Palmer.


No problem Doc. The odds look pretty good that they are one in the same, though you never know.

Wed Aug 16, 2006 4:11 am

likethebike wrote:If it's not the man known as "Robert Palmer" it's an amazing coincidence considering the name, the magazine and most importantly the writing style and references.


It's too obvious a connection (the writing style alone), but I can contact a Missisippi resident who I believe who have known him who also was (is)both a blues music industry biggie as well as an outspoken supporter of Elvis (to this day.)

I've assumed this review was from "the" Robert Palmer (music critic) for years (aware, too, that he comments with wisdom on Elvis in the 1981 book "Deep Blues: A Musical and Cultural History of the Missisippi Delta"), but I suppose a true confirmation is always helpful. Maybe I'll send out a line and get back to y'all.

The bio in the front of this book says he moved to New York City in 1970 from Arkansas. It calls him the New York Times chief pop music critic (still missed!) and a "frequent contributor" to Rolling Stone and others.


Here's Robert Palmer's entry on Wikipedia, including terrific audio from NPR, at the time of his death in '97, including an interview with him. At least one person, Anthony DeCurtis of Rolling Stone, refers to him as "Bob" and "Bob Palmer" repeatedly.:wink:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Pal ... roducer%29


Gotta love that site!


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