BACK WITH A BANG
This is the fourth title in the series of Classic Concerts re-issued by the Audionics partnership and contains a soundboard recording of the Las Vegas Midnight show from the 22nd March 1975, previously released as disc 4 on volume 2 of the Profile Box sets. However we now learn that the opening songs from this Midnight show were not recorded and were substituted instead from the Dinner show on the 20th. It also appears that an impromptu verse of Roses are Red was sung before Love Me, which has been included on this release as a bonus track, albeit from an audience recorded source.
It comes with a 16 page booklet containing 20 photos from this season, with more included on the back cover, inlay tray and the disc itself. The liner notes are the usual mix of background information, details about the season and interesting observations regarding the featured show. Of course the main reason that this particular concert is special is because it contains the only documented performance of The Reason I’m Living, apparently sung on a whim.
The sound has been reworked from a DAT copy of the original mono tape, resulting in a slightly fuller sound than before, with repairs made to improve tape damage and dropouts. However, more importantly the speed has been adjusted, resulting in a running time of 61.01, compared to 62.49 on the Profile set where it ran too slow. Consequently it provides a better listening experience, making this a welcome upgrade.
The CD starts with the full 2001 intro, leading into a noticeably laid back See See Rider from the Dinner show on the 20th. After a short ‘Well, Well’ preamble, he continues with I Got A Woman in similarly relaxed fashion, but a mistake with his timing causes him to stop it saying, “ I’m sorry, wait a minute, hold it, I missed the son….” The song is quickly resumed and goes on to feature a one verse Amen chorus with an extended monologue during his gyrating routine, where he jokes that the origin of his curled lip was a fishing accident involving his uncle!
After welcoming the audience, he explains that he has the ‘creeping crud,’ adding that, “If you want to catch it, I’ll be glad to give it to you.” Love Me is performed next, during which he can be heard laughing and kissing his ringside fans; at one point exclaiming, “She’s got it!” in response to a loud squeal. With no detectable edit, If You Love Me Let Me Know follows this as the first song from the Midnight show on the 22nd.
He continues with a superb version of And I Love You So, a new song for this season which is sung with unmistakeable sincerity and conviction. Afterwards, he calls out, “Quick, get on with the next songs.” This provides the cue for Big Boss Man which has him shouting out at various points as a measure of his involvement. An emotional performance of It’s Midnight follows this, with a particularly heartfelt “God I miss you,” during the final chorus.
Promised Land is next, which was undoubtedly great if you were there, but seems to lose much of its impact in this mix and sound quality. Green Grass Of Home is another new song from his recording session earlier in the month, along with Fairytale, which he introduces as having been originally recorded by the Pointer Sisters. Both receive good performances.
The band introductions follow this, where Elvis proves to be in great spirits and trades jokes with the Sweet Inspirations about their hairstyles and his shoe size. At one point he asks them where they are from and they respond by singing, “In the ghetto” in unison. It’s a good humoured occasion, leading up to the band solos which all sound inspired tonight, apart from Duke Bardwell’s bass solo which lacks guts and seems lightweight by comparison.
The show continues with My Boy, his latest single, which features some passionate vocalising at the end, followed by I’ll Remember You, where his involvement with the ringside fans almost causes him to miss the final line. Afterwards, he says, “I’ll let you be there,” as the cue for the next song which he goes on to sing with obvious enthusiasm and is later reprised.
He then performs a medley of his early hits, starting with Teddy Bear / Don’t Be Cruel followed by Hound Dog, where he misses his cue for the final line causing it to end awkwardly. “You see Joe, you gotta tell me man…I don’t read music,” he says by way of explanation, before a successful second attempt.
After this he sings a line of I’ll Be There in response to an insistent fan, which then inspires him to request a C chord and launch into a spontaneous version of You’re The Reason I’m Living. This results in a surprisingly committed performance where he directs the band through the chord changes, before finishing with an extended final chorus. At the end he says, “That was and you can probably tell, totally unrehearsed. We’ve never done that song in our natural born lives.”
In his closing address, he reassures the audience that both he and his father are recovering well after their recent spell in hospital and goes on to wish everybody a Happy Easter before closing the show with Can’t Help Falling In Love. After this there is an unlisted bonus track, consisting of the verse of Roses Are Red, which was apparently sung at this Midnight show but not captured on soundboard. It provides a nice surprise and an imaginative end to this CD.
In conclusion, this is a significant concert as it contains the only performance of a brand new song, making this an essential inclusion in any collection. Moreover, Elvis proves to be in fine voice and a great mood throughout which makes it an uplifting and entertaining show. In my view, the restoration of this recording has been done with skill and care, with the speed correction proving crucial. This factor alone should prove decisive to anyone questioning the merits of this worthy upgrade.
SOUND RATING ***½
Reviewed by Mike Sanders (