ROYAL GAMBIT IN
This release by Straight Arrow contains an audience recording of the show
It comes with a 16 page booklet containing 14 superb colour photos from the actual show, with a review of the concert written by the renowned Elvis photographer Bob Heis. Here he recounts presenting a sign to Elvis at several shows on this tour, which he retrieved at the end of each performance to use at the next, until Elvis began to recognise it. Further facts and details are provided regarding this October tour, with more photos featured on the artwork, inlay tray and the disc itself. Suffice to say it’s another nice production.
The sound quality is much improved on this re-issue, being both clearer and better balanced with considerably more depth than before. Consequently, it’s far more dynamic and therefore provides a more vivid impression of the crowd atmosphere and excitement of the occasion. The tape speed has also been adjusted, which together with the extra inclusions, accounts for an increased running time compared to the former release.
After the 2001 introduction, the crowd go wild as the drums begin the opening vamp, leading into the usual See See Rider. I Got A Woman follows, leading to a five verse Amen chorus which falters at one point before Elvis extends it for an extra verse. Afterwards the reaction is so enthusiastic that he remarks, “Good grief, I mean what is this…the Astrodome?”
Love Me is sung next, with an impressive reach on the ending, followed by a seemingly unrehearsed Fairytale, where he forgets the lyrics and the Sweet Inspirations miss their cue to end it. This causes him to apologise to the crowd, saying, “I’m sorry about that, we haven’t done that in quite a while and I, uh, forgot the words to it tonight.” A good version of You Gave Me A Mountain follows this, before an enthusiastic performance of Jailhouse Rock, which has him laughing at the end.
All Shook Up and the Teddy Bear / Don’t Be Cruel medley are next and receive a rapturous reception. And I Love You So is introduced as And I l Love HER So and sounds tremendous, with Elvis’ rich vocals echoing around the auditorium. After this he calls out “Little Darlin’,” but quickly changes his mind after a couple of bars, deciding to do Fever instead. From the enthusiastic shrieking throughout, it proves a popular choice.
America The Beautiful is sung next and sounds great with his voice soaring majestically on the ending. Polk Salad Annie is another good performance, where his band proves to be in fine form, relishing the funky arrangement. The group introductions follow this and are largely predictable, with the usual array of jokes and short bursts of Early Morning Rain, What I’d Say and Johnny B. Goode. Nevertheless, all the band solos appear fresh and inspired tonight, with Love Letters sounding better here than on other occasions where the tempo was prone to drag.
Afterwards he introduces Hurt as his latest record, which receives a magnificent performance with an even better ending on the reprise. Light relief in the form of Hound Dog follows this, which begins with a teasing, “We aint, you aint, ya’ll aint…depending on what part of the country you’re from” introduction.
Sherrill Nielson is then invited to sing Danny Boy and Walk With Me, which are performed well enough, although Sherrill’s vocals sound a little harsh and strained on occasion. Of course it remains a shame that Elvis didn’t perform Danny Boy himself, but this interval was most likely used to provide an extra break in the show when his stamina was low. Keen to reassert his authority, he follows with a good version of Heartbreak Hotel.
Afterwards he remarks, “I’ll never let you outdo me son, we’re gonna do How Great Thou Art.” This duly turns out to be a fantastic performance, with his voice soaring powerfully and gracefully on the demanding ending. At this point the house lights are turned up and he informs the crowd that he will continue a little longer tonight as he was late starting the show. Mystery Train follows, which has him laughing good naturedly when he mixes up the lyrics early on, but proves to be a committed performance nonetheless.
After this he thanks the audience and his sound engineers (Bruce Jackson and Bill Porter), before closing the show with Can’t Help Falling In Love, which features an impressive vocal reach on the ending—a clear indication that he was inspired and in fine voice this evening. This is followed by an extended closing vamp with the closing announcement which was missed from the earlier release.
In conclusion, this concert is a great show for 1976, with no signs of the strain and problems that often characterised performances during this year. As such it is extremely enjoyable, especially in this sound quality, which is very good for an audience recording. It’s another quality release, as you would expect from this label and is therefore highly recommended.
SOUND RATING **½
Reviewed by Mike Sanders (