As a natural comparison, given how good a performance "Burning in Birmingham" was, the Elvis of 1969 or 1970 is far better. Discs such as "Opening Night '69", "Make the World Go Away" and "Good Times Never Seemed So Good", to name a few, show us this, because that is the real Elvis, before constant performing and drugs took their hold over him. Also with the Birmingham concert, we had a complete soundboard show but not featuring the best sound quality. But now Fort Baxter follows with a show a day before the Birmingham concert in a much better, superb sound quality. Fort Baxter again demonstrates their great mastering skills in another must-have recording as we had with their last triumphant 2-CD release, "Brightest Star on Sunset Blvd. Vol. 1 & 2".
Now what kind of show were the fans in Dallas treated to? On "See See Rider", Elvis attacks the notes from the very first get-go with a strength and passion not found in years! Given that, the "I Got a Woman/Amen" medley sounds fresh and powerful. Elvis jokes around quite a bit as well saying, "Hey folks, this is a concert not an orgy!" Or "If I die tonight, it will only take a year to get the smile off my face". It shows that he is in such a happy and giving mood and because of this many songs are attacked with an energy and intensity that has been misplaced in the last few years by Elvis. Most notable are "You gave me a Mountain" although incomplete, a powerful "Tryin' to get to you", and a very touching "My Way".
Also a full version of "Early Morning Rain" which Elvis says "keep it going" midverse contains great guitar work by John Wilkenson. We are also privy to an exceptional "Hurt" where Elvis' voice cracks on the very high note in a most flattering way, complete with a reprise. Elvis also says that they started doing "Unchained Melody" the night before, so he decides to do it again here, calling out chord changes and playing piano himself. It seems that on this night Elvis wasn't quite sure whether to emphasize the strong notes, or perform a verse more softly since the song was fairly new. When Elvis sings the part "You know time, goes by, so slowly", he captures a softness and beauty nowhere duplicated and then his voice grows with strength and commitment. The result is absolutely breathtaking.
Many people want to know if this disc is as good as "Burning in Birmingham". Because of the great sound, and of course, the performance, I really enjoyed this show. Although on the Birmingham concert, Elvis did perform a few more rare songs like "For the Good Times", "The first time Ever I saw your face", which is just fantastic, and a really rocking "Mystery Train/Tiger man". Given that, both CD's should be in every collection. For this was a special and magical time in Elvis' life and it is a real treasure to have this period documented on soundboard. There is no comparison between the Elvis here and the man who played Vegas just a few short weeks earlier for the last time. It shows how quickly things change for Elvis!
As was said before, while the vast majority of 1976 concerts reveal a man whose health is deteriorating, this short tour is an exception. Rumor has it that soundboards also exist from the Dec. 27 show in Wichita, KS, and the famous New Years concert in Pittsburgh. If they are also in this great sound quality then we can all celebrate for having these special shows present for all of us to share in. Meanwhile, it doesn't matter if you are a fan of the early 70's Elvis, or the latter Elvis, any live fan of Elvis in the 70's should have this disc!!
Reviewed by Patrick Charland, Canada