ACROSS THE COUNTRY VOL 2
As with volume 1, this release contains an assortment of live material taken from several shows, this time featuring concerts performed during 1975-6. All selections are previously unreleased, with the exception of two songs from the main Huntsville show (I Can’t Stop Loving You and I’m Leavin’), which were included on the FTD title; Southern Nights. As the first five opening songs: (See See Rider, I Got A Woman / Amen, Love Me, If You Love Me (Let Me Know) and Love Me Tender) were not recorded, the producers have added additional bonus tracks to fill out and complete this CD.
The presentation is superb, consisting of a sixteen page booklet containing some of the best photos I’ve seen from this 1975 tour, with many others relating to the other featured performances. The booklet includes a review of the main show and is lavishly illustrated with a record breaking fifty colour photos inside and throughout the artwork. All in all, the quality and design are reminiscent of a Madison production, so satisfaction is guaranteed in this regard.
The sound quality is very good throughout this CD, especially for the Huntsville show where the sound is the best we have had for a show on this tour. The Sweet Inspirations set proves to be the weakest, with their vocals mixed much higher than the rest of the band, whereas the later binaural recordings, although very clear, are limited by the mix. However, all selections are interesting and a pleasure to listen to in this quality.
The CD starts during the Sweet Inspirations opening act, from their performance in Minneapolis on the 17th October 1976. It commences fittingly with their 1968 single—Sweet Inspiration, followed by a great version of The Last time I saw Him and finishes with an extensive Stevie Wonder medley, providing an entertaining build-up to Elvis’ show.
The evening Huntsville show from 31st May 1975 follows this, with the drums higher in the mix and a lot more depth to the sound, resulting in an exciting listening experience. The recording starts with All Shook Up, immediately followed by the Teddy Bear / Don’t Be Cruel medley. The band sound to be in fine form, but Elvis sounds tired and his speech is a little slurred, which I found surprising as this is not noticeable on other shows during this tour.
The Wonder Of You is performed next, followed by a powerful and committed Burning Love with enthusiastic accompaniment from his band. The group introductions follow this and feature some fantastic solos from the band, proving beyond doubt that they were ‘on fire’ this evening. Towards the end of the proceedings Felton Jarvis receives an rare mention, with Elvis asking, “What did you do last night Felton?....I heard you were streaking down the hallway of the hotel.” Sadly Felton’s response to this accusation is not audible on this recording.
I Can’t Stop Loving You was a rare inclusion in the set-list for this year and proves to be a good version, followed by T-r-o-u-b-l-e which he introduces as his latest record. After this there is a prompt from Charlie Hodge for I’ll Remember You, but Elvis responds to an audience request and decides to sing the Hawaiian Wedding Song instead. There is then a short pause where he is heard remarking, “I gotta to get in the mood Sherrill, y’know… I don’t want to smile like a mule in a briar patch.” A nice version ensues.
Let Me Be There is performed next, with a reprise afterwards, followed by Why Me Lord, which features the usual joking at J. D. Sumner’s expense. Later, during American Trilogy, there are several instances of speaker distortion, causing Elvis to ad-lib, “You know the sound system’s bound to die,” to widespread laughter. Yet more humour is generated by the trumpet player who proceeds to fluff his solo, making Elvis laugh out loud, adding, “The trumpet player just blew his lips off.” However despite all these distractions, he goes on to perform an outstanding climax to this song, effortlessly demonstrating his amazing vocal ability.
Hound Dog follows this and afterwards the house lights are turned up, which results in some audience banter where he gives out several guitar picks to an eager crowd. He continues with Funny How Time Slips Away, ad-libbing after the line ‘Never know when I’ll be back in town,’ with the comment…“Tomorrow I guess.”
A fun version of Little Darlin’ is sung next, where he affects an exaggerated deep voice during the spoken bridge. This is followed by I’m Leavin’ which was another song rarely performed this year. It starts with him giving directions to the sound crew and leads to a great committed performance. After thanking the audience and a mention for his two shows the following day, Can’t Help Falling In Love closes the show, with the instrumental play-out fading before the closing announcement.
The next two selections are binaural recordings, featuring the lead guitar on a separate track and are taken from the opening show performed in Johnson City on the 17th March 1976. The first track starts with Elvis sounding extremely weary and breathless during his introduction of Shane Kiester, who was the new pianist for this tour. After this, he performs an impressive improvised piano solo to which Elvis ad-libs a chorus of What I’d Say. Though short, it’s a nice moment.
This is followed by a really great sounding version of And I love You So, with James Burton’s soulful guitar licks to the fore. Despite Elvis stopping this performance mid-song to admonish his sound engineers, this is a nice performance due to the amazing clarity of this recording. It certainly whets the appetite for the rest of this show in this sound quality.
The final three songs (If You Love Me, You Gave Me A Mountain and Help Me) are also binaural recordings from his show in Orlando, performed on the 15th February 1977. Here the mix is completely dominated by the piano, with nothing else but Elvis’ vocals audible. Although these tracks are previously unreleased, other binaural recordings from this show were included on the Straight Arrow release; ‘Going Back In Time.’ Limitations accepted, they are still good to have and provide a nice bonus for those interested in the arrangement of his concert songs.
In conclusion, this is an extremely enjoyable and high quality release. Not only is the presentation a delight, but the sound quality is excellent throughout and the bonus inclusions are all previously unreleased. If you had any doubts after volume 1 of this series, rest assured; this one’s definitely a winner!
SOUND RATING *****
Reviewed by Mike Sanders (UK)