1971 was a year of ups and downs for Elvis. When this show was recorded it was almost 1972, and the raw excitement of doing live performances was starting to wear off. Elvis was also away from Priscilla and Graceland more and more because of his constant touring, which increased dramatically during 1971, as opposed to 1970. The variance of live songs was also on the decline. How many times can you perform "Hound Dog" and "Blue Suede Shoes" and still invest as much energy into it as you did 15 years ago, or even a few years ago for that matter? But in this concert and during 1971, instead of the same old songs, Elvis was starting to experiment with some different ones. The set that appears here ("Proud Mary", "You Don't Have To Say you Love Me", "You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling", etc.) is very similar to the New York Madison Square Garden Concerts that Elvis would do in June of 1972.
Elvis' great mood is very present throughout this show. "I Got a Woman", "Proud Mary", and "You Don't Have To Say you Love Me" are performed the standard Elvis way. "You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling" is excellent and Elvis laughs just after the 2nd line of the song, so you know that he is going to have a good time. The intro of "Polk Salad Annie" is really fun to listen to, as I don't think he ever laughed and joked with this intro more as he does here. It shows Elvis' great mood and it is a powerful and rocking version. "Love Me", "Heartbreak Hotel", and "Blue Suede Shoes" are all the standard versions, but Elvis invests more into these versions than he would do later in his career as we all know.
"How Great thou Art" feels intimate for being performed in such a big venue, but just when it gets going, it fades out. The producers tell us that the ending of the song, and the beginning of the introductions were not recorded by the sound engineer. Then we have one of my favorite songs; "I'm Leavin'". This version is pretty good too. Elvis says that "I'm not gonna sing it, I'm just gonna do it". After the song, without getting a chance to catch his breath, he calls out "Bridge" and again Elvis and the band can dish out a very wonderfully intimate and soft version in such an arena. "I Can't Stop Loving You" is the same standard version, but this one is sung with a lot of passion, more so than the famous "Aloha" version. With "Love me Tender", Elvis sings a complete version but messes with the lyrics. "I'll be yours through all the years, till we blow our minds". "Can't Help Falling in Love" is good and even the "Closing Vamp" rocks as Elvis leaves the stage. We then have "The Image, The Man" Press Conference excerpt from the Jun.8 1972 press conference in New York. Although the speed is a little slow to my ears.
"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" is very softly performed in Graceland's setting, and has Elvis playing guitar as well. The other 2 songs recorded this session that have surfaced; "Baby What You Want Me To Do" and "Spanish Eyes", were released in 1997 on Fort Baxter's "Goodbye Memphis". The sound here almost sounds like the rehearsals from Elvis' dressing room for the '68 Special. It shows that even after all the live performances, Elvis still had it and could give a great performance. There are also some different lyrics as opposed to the well-known "Aloha" version. Since the 1971 Soundboard CD's are few (to my knowledge there is "All Things Are Possible", "Lean Mean and Kickin' Butt" and this CD available) one should try and grab a hold of this disc. Out of the 3 CD's, Elvis is in the best of moods in this concert, the concert is lengthy and Elvis performs a variety of hits, and there are a couple of excerpts and the "home recording" thrown in. This CD is also the longest out of the three; so for the money spent it is very worthwhile having. This is not the rocking Elvis of 1970, or of June 1972, but Elvis' last documentary "On Tour" was coming up in March of 1972 and Elvis must have been preparing for it. That is why he seems so focused and in such a great mood in this concert. Because of the limited availability of 1970 and 1971 Soundboard Elvis shows, one should get this disc. Any documentation of Elvis is special, and to have this great concert is a gift for the Elvis fan and collector. Well done Captain Marvel Jr.!!
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Sound rating ****