CLOSING NIGHT - FEBRUARY 1970
Once again this title features a soundboard recording of the Las Vegas closing show from February 23rd 1970. Whilst segments from this show have been issued previously and a botched attempt was made last year to release the show in its entirety, Madison finally bring us the definitive issue of this special and unique concert. The liner notes state that this recording has been taken from the original two reels and is therefore issued complete for the first time, with the best sound achievable—in short, this is the one we have been waiting for!
Typically, Madison’s colourful 16 page booklet is a delight, containing an excellent mix of photos and information from the period, together with a comprehensive review of the show itself. Special mention must also be made for the stunning shots selected for the cover and rear artwork which are superb and succeed in capturing the mood of this engagement. As you would expect the packaging and design are simply magnificent.
Whilst the sound quality is certainly improved, it is important to accept that there are limitations as to what can be achieved, as the original soundboard was allegedly in poor shape. However the sound is unquestionably clearer and more dynamic, with Elvis’ vocals prominently up-front, giving more depth to this recording when compared to previous releases of this material. Imperfections accepted; it still sounds sensational to me.
For anyone wanting a detailed account of the main bulk of this show, please refer to my previous review under the same title (in the Import List). Instead, I will concentrate here on the differences and extra inclusions which make this edition unique:-
Firstly, on previous issues the ending of Kentucky Rain was clipped, whereas here it is perfect and does not detract from the flow of the show. The next difference is of far more significance, because after See See Rider we can now hear Elvis perform a great version of Sweet Caroline, which was only available before on the CD ‘Bilko’s Gold Cuts.’
In the musical intermezzo following Polk Salad Annie, the Sweet Inspirations chant and clap whilst Elvis, (in recovery mode) attends to his ringside fans. At one point he can be heard remarking, “That’s the ah..blackmail picture isn’t it?” The band introductions are next, where everyone except John Wilkinson and Bob Lanning are introduced as different celebrities. Afterwards there is a pause, during which he asks Glen Hardin if he can borrow his piano, adding, “This is something I seldom do but ah…hang loose.” Both of these tracks are released here for the first time and provide further evidence of Elvis’ relaxed mood.
All tracks after It’s Now Or Never are previously unreleased, allowing us to hear the end of this show for the first time. Elvis instructs his band to ‘Take it on’ for Suspicious Minds, which proves to be another committed performance. This is followed by a rousing ovation and his closing address where he gives special mention to Lamar Fike as his lighting man and Col. Parker, adding,” He’s not only my manager, but I really love him.” However it turns out that he is not in the showroom to receive this accolade, but in the casino, which must have been a particular disappointment to Elvis after such a heartfelt tribute.
He goes on to mention his forthcoming concerts at the Astrodome, joking, “I don’t know what we’re doing…riding steers man or whatever,” before launching into Can’t Help Falling In Love as his closing song. At the end, after the music has subsided, he can be heard shouting ‘Bye Y’all, further emphasising the informality of this last show. The closing announcement is also captured on this recording, advising fans of the availability of the ‘Complete Elvis Souvenir Photo Album.’ A reminder that Col Parker may have been in the casino but his organisation was in full flow.
Several bonus tracks follow this, starting with an acetate recording of Walk A Mile In My shoes from the 18th February. This is the same performance that was featured on the Import ‘Good Times Never Seemed So Good’ and is featured here complete with crackles, the same small skip around 14 seconds in, but in improved sound quality. For confirmation of this, check out the xylophone accompaniment. Of course it was always there, but now you can’t miss it and it sounds great!
Three takes from a rehearsal of The Wonder Of You are next. This rehearsal took place in the afternoon on the 18th February to tighten up three songs for the up-coming On Stage album. The other songs featured were See See Rider and Release Me which can be heard on the BMG Platinum set, as well as on the FTD title Polk Salad Annie. All of these takes were previously included on Madison’s Legendary Performer Vol 8. We start with Take 2 where both Elvis and the band appear very hesitant, but the mood is no doubt eased when he substitutes the word ‘constipation’ for consolation. Take 3 is incomplete and fades in during James Burton’s solo, featuring another attempt at the rousing final chorus, before the final take (4) which is the one included on the BMG titles previously mentioned.
Lastly we have a generous section of the Houston press conference recorded on the 27th February, a few days after his closing show and lasting almost 9 minutes. Once again, we had a small excerpt from this on the ‘Good Times’ Import album, but here it is considerably extended. It provides a fascinating insight into Elvis’ thoughts and feelings from this period, where he talks about starting out in Texas, appears enthusiastic to make some better films and comments on his influences and his return to live performances. This provides an interesting and appropriate end to this CD.
To sum up, this is without doubt the ultimate edition of this fantastic concert, which has now been issued complete for the first time. Elvis never looked or sounded better, still had the rawness to his voice from 1968 and was inspired enough to accompany himself on the piano and guitar at the end of a relaxed but focussed show. What further recommendation do you need? This is a terrific release, period.
SOUND RATING ***½
Reviewed by Mike Sanders (UK)