Vicky calls this the "Elvis Gospel Special." It features great Presley gospel performances, with J. D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet, plus three "secular" songs.
As with the other two volumes in this series most of the material contained in this CD is not in proper chronological order. Vicky's source material, as well as the similar MGM studio session master tapes, were edited and reassembled out of order for unknown reasons.
At the end of my review for "Complete On Tour Sessions" Vol. 3 I have tried to place some of these tracks in their proper chronological sequence, so if you have the three "Complete On Tour Sessions" volumes you can make a tape of those songs in their correct order in which they may have been recorded. See the review for "Complete On Tour Sessions Vol. 3"
Since all of the gospel tracks were performed along with piano Elvis' voice does not get drowned out by instruments as they were in the other two "Complete On Tour Sessions" CDs. However, the prominence of the vocalists in each recording depends on how close or how far that person was positioned from the microphone.
On this CD we get a rare glimpse of what Elvis and J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet did before each and concert performance; Sing gospel songs to warm up vocally or for fun. Singing gospel was one of things that Elvis liked to do the best in the 1970s. Most of Elvis' 1970s concerts had gospel groups for opening acts and his own set contained a number of religious numbers performed alongside his 1950s classics.
The gospel rehearsal/warm up material contained in "Complete On Tour Sessions" volume 2 are the only such material to surface on bootlegs and also seems to be the only instance where any such session was ever professionally recorded.
This review will deal with the quality of each song's recorded quality, give the brief notes as they were made by the documentary's soundman and provide some session information that is provided in "Elvis Sessions II" by Joe Tunzi.
Sweet, Sweet Spirit (trad.)...rec'd March 30, 1972
A brief 25 second snippet ending with Elvis saying "That's enough."
I, John (Johnson/McFadden/Brooks)...rec'd March 31, 1972
Bosom of Abraham (William J. Gaither)...rec'd March 31, 1972. Note: the CD lists this song as being "Rock My Soul."
Lead Me, Guide Me (Akers)...rec'd March 31, 1972
These are the same performances available on BMG's "Amazing Grace" 2 CD set. "Bosom of Abraham" and "Lead Me, Guide Me" appear in the "On Tour" documentary film. The three tracks on this CD are of comparable recorded quality to both mentioned releases, but in mono, and are presented in their proper sequence.
Sweet, Sweet Spirit (trad.)...rec'd March 31, 1972
Great acapella performance, but Elvis does not sing in it. All of the vocals are prominent in the recording since there are no instruments present. Well recorded.
Nearer My Go To Thee (trad.)...rec'd March 31, 1972
Elvis sings the lead on this track with piano accompaniment. He can't remember the words towards the beginning of the song, however, this does not mar this great performance. Elvis and the Stamps sing the last verse twice.
This same performance is available on BMG's "Amazing Grace" 2 CD set in stereo but the part where Elvis said he didn't know all the words was edited out.
Lighthouse (trad.)...rec'd March 31, 1972
Great rendition, but Elvis does not sing on this one either. This is the same performance that is in the documentary film.
interview; "George Klein Interview"
Unknown date. Possibly filmed at the radio station as seen in the film. George talks about knowing Elvis at Humes High School and after he became a star. Very interesting stories. Too bad that more of this did not appear in the documentary.
Funny How Time Slips Away (Nelson)...rec'd April ?, 1972
Recorded well. Elvis' voice dominates the recording except for during the repeated playing of the last lines of the song.. This is a rehearsal for the song and the beginning and the ending are repeated several times. Fun to listen to. Elvis and the band seems to be enjoying the rehearsal.
Proud Mary (Fogerty)...rec'd March 31, 1972
Good track but Elvis' distant vocals is drowned out by the bass, drums and lead guitar.
Always On My Mind (Carson/James/Christopher)...rec'd March 30, 1972
As with the track of the same song on volume 1, this is an unknown take recorded in Studio C. The prominence of the band and Elvis' vocals are balanced unevenly throughout the recording. Tunzi indicates that the song's master take, take 3, was used for "The Great Performances" CD and the "This Is Elvis" video. It is not clear which take this track is or how many takes were performed during this session.
Lighthouse (trad.)...rec'd April ?, 1972
I, John (Johnson/McFadden/Brooks)...rec'd April ?, 1972
I Need Your Lovin' (composer ?)...rec'd April ?, 1972
All three of the tracks are in their proper sequence and are impromptu performances. Elvis sings just a few lines of "Lighthouse" and "I, John" is partially accompanied by acustic guitar. Charley Hodge sings the first line of "I Need Your Lovin.'" Both "I, John" and "I Need Your Lovin'" are in the "On Tour" film and seems to have been the end of the rehearsal session held in a hotel conference room in San Antonio, Texas on April 18, 1972.
It is possible that more of the undated April material on the three "Complete On Tour Sessions" CDs were recorded and filmed at this location during this session.
It's Time To Praise The Lord (trad.)...rec'd March 31, 1972
D. J. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet. Elvis does not sing in this one but he is in the room.
The voice of the soundman interrupts the recording towards the beginning of the track; "Mike's going back to 13. Bob is still rolling. Don't know if he's cut or not."
Time has Made A Change In Me (trad.)...rec'd March 31, 1972
I Should Have Been Crucified (trad.)...rec'd March 31, 1972
D. J. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet. No Elvis. Both of these songs are presented in their correct sequence and are recorded well. The first few seconds of "Time Has Made A Change In Me" are missing.
interview; "Elvis Talks to the Film Director"
This is the most interesting track on the entire CD. 11 minutes of Elvis shooting the breeze with the film's director. Elvis reminisces about meeting J. D. Sumner, the Blackwood Brothers, talks about the kind of music he likes, and how he feels about performing in concert.
According to "Elvis Sessions II" some of the tracks from the March 31st session have been released by BMG on CD. The recordings of "I, John," "Bosom of Abraham," "You Better Run," "Lead Me, Guide Me," and "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus / Nearer My Go To Thee" are on the "Amazing Grace" 2 CD set. All of those were mastered from the studio session tapes and are in stereo. "You Better Run" is the only track on "Amazing Grace" that is not represented here on this CD.
"Complete On Tour Sessions Vol. 2" is a must for every Elvis fan. It contains fragments of rarely heard Presley and Stamps gospel jamming/rehearsals and the conversation between the director and Elvis is a treat. The fidelity of the recordings is very good to almost excellent. The advantage this CD has over the other two in the series is that Elvis is not drowned out by instruments simply because the gospel songs are accompanied by a piano or acustic guitar.
In my opinion the repeated playability of this CD is unlimited due to the pleasant nature of the music and the quality of the recordings. This is a hidden gem and should be listed among best Elvis "imports" ever released. However, in my opinion, if the sessions had not been edited and were presented in their complete form and in their correct chronological order this CD would be more better. Another shortfall is the fact that five out of the sixteen songs on this release do not feature Elvis' singing, but if you like J. D. Sumner and The Stamps Quartet, like I do, you will surely over look this.
Content Rating: ****1/2 out of *****
Sound Fidelity Rating: **** out of *****
Reviewed by Darren Nemeth
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