The overall packaging is nice with a picture from the June 1st, 1977 Macon, GA. show on the front, and with one shot on the back and inside from the May 28th, 1977 Philadelphia, PA. performance. I think Elvis looked better during both previous tours and pictures from the actual tours would had been much better. I guess FTD only used what they had access to. There's also an article from the Ann Arbor News under the CD tray and this is a nice touch here.
I thought those recordings from the Spring 1977 tours would sound much better than the ones from February of the same year, but it isn't really the case. I don't mean here it doesn't sound good, but moreover than the ones from February were certainly recorded into the exact same manner. Elvis mentioned in Charlotte, NC. at the February 20th 1977 show prior to Unchained Melody "….we are recording this live…" and to my ears most of the stuff from the first tour of 1977 sounds as good as this. I guess the " import world " didn't have access to first generation tapes, and therefore suspect BMG's recordings from February must be excellent.
The CD is starting with 6 tracks recorded during the March 1977 tour. The first three are from Norman,OK. And the CD kicks off with That's All Right which is a pretty good version followed with Are You Lonesome Tonight ? and Blue Christmas from the same show. Then we are in Abilene,TX. with Trying To Get To You and Lawdy Miss Clawdy, both are very good and the latter track being one of the highlights for me. I don't want to compare with the versions from 1972 or 1974 as there are all different. This version stands on its own and done at a slower pace, for not saying a "bluesier feel " with some nice guitar licks from James Burton and funky piano by Tony Brown. Elvis never really performed this song often after 1974 and does an excellent version, even though it was clearly unrehearsed. The next track is Fever from Alexandria which is rather similar to all the versions we've got.
Next stop is Heartbreak Hotel from the April 25th 1977 show. Elvis didn't sing this one that often after 1974 and we are treated with a very good version here, always loved this one " live " and that's another highlight for me. Now we're moving to Kalamazoo, MI. for the next two songs, at first we are getting If You Love Me Let Me Know which sounded to me as the " undubbed master " and perhaps always wrongly identified as being from Ann Arbor, MI. (Ernst Jorgensen mentioned they didn't have the first part from the Ann Arbor, MI. version, so it's not impossible a splice was done by Felton with the one from Kalamazoo back then !!!??? ) . It's Now Or Never is also pretty good and Elvis definitely enjoyed doing this one live in 1977. He was getting a great response from the audience with this song, which isn't really surprising as it's one of his biggest single.
At this point we have next three songs from the Ann Arbor, MI. show ; Little Sister, Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel and Help Me. There's a few lines of " Blue Hawaii " before Little Sister but clearly no ones knew it too much and it fell apart rather fast and Elvis went directly into Little Sister quickly followed with Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel. Help Me is another favorite of mine and a highlight as well. I do like the Ann Arbor, MI. tracks as they have some kind of natural echo, and that makes a nice added feel to this gospel track. We are back to Norman,OK. for Blue Suede Shoes before Hound Dog recorded in St-Paul,MN. and followed with Jailhouse Rock (Austin,TX.) and Polk Salad Annie from Milwaukee,WI. I think no recordings will ever captured the electricity felt into the arenas when hearing the first notes of this song. I never got tired to hear this Tony Joe White song no matter from what year, and there's no exceptions here. A little fact unknown to many fans reading this, at the end of the Milwaukee concert Elvis fell flat on his back when coming down the stairs while leaving the stage that night. He got back on his feet quickly with the help of Joe Esposito but afterwards some of the shows suffered from this, especially the following night in Green Bay,WI. where you could see he hurt his back as he tried not to move too much.
My next two highlights were recorded in Duluth,MN. I really enjoyed this show overall and we are treated here with an excellent version of Bridge Over Troubled Water and Big Boss Man. The sound quality is excellent but wished Elvis' voice would be a bit more upfront on these two tracks, especially on Bridge. Fairytale is from the second Chicago,IL. performance and overall a very good version although not the best version from this year. Mystery Train /Tiger Man from the closing show is the very last time Elvis performed this song, strangely enough I find the mix here not the best and miles away from what it really sounded that night in Saginaw,MI. We have the undubbed masters of Unchained Melody and Little Darlin' which were first released on the "Moody Blue" LP and finally My Way from the first Saginaw,MI. show previously released on "Platinum".
In conclusion I did enjoy this CD a lot and almost certain most fans will love it too. This is generally better than " Elvis In Concert " (always hated the mix on the second LP) and more representative of what was Elvis' last months on stage. I think Joe Public would deserve to hear this CD, and some fans might change their views as well re. 1977 live recordings has to be bad. I'm certain FTD will sell a lot of these and that's good because it deserves to be heard.