THE TALK OF THE TOWN
This CD is the fourth release by the Audionics partnership and features a
soundboard recording of the opening show performed in
It comes with a 16 page booklet, containing an informative essay on Elvis’ shows at this time, together with a variety of photos from the same year. The notes mention that American Trilogy was the show stopper during this period, earning standing ovations each time it was played. Moreover this, along with five other new songs, was performed live for the first time in this opening show, making this a significant show indeed. The other new songs were: Never Been To Spain, You Gave Me A Mountain, Until It’s Time For You To Go, A Big Hunk Of Love and I’ll Remember You.
The sound quality is slightly better than we have had before, with levels boosted and clarity improved, but truthfully the overall improvement is minor rather than major. That said, any improvement is a welcome bonus, especially on an important show like this. Elvis’ vocals are both clear and up-front, which is paramount, as his performance of these new songs is quite unique, with the arrangements in their infancy and yet to be developed.
As before, the recording starts midway through See See Rider, which was the first time this song was used to open a show. He quickly proves to be in excellent voice, with an attractive urgency in his vocal delivery. Proud Mary is equally energetic, after which he continues with the first ever live performance of Never Been To Spain. Although sung well enough, it would sound even better later on.
After this, he introduces himself as Howard Hughes and jokes that he went to
Until It’s Time For You To Go is introduced as his latest record and taken at the same tempo as the studio recording, which seems to place greater emphasis on the lyrics. Even so he can’t resist a joking aside, but this is a minor distraction in an otherwise committed performance and a beautiful version. Polk Salad Annie is the usual energetic workout, which ends with a drawn-out “Phew” afterwards.
Love Me is performed at a pace reminiscent of his original ‘50’s recording. During the proceedings, he calls out, “I do my own choreography too, Sammy,” to Sammy Davies Jnr. who regularly attended shows at this time. Even the ending is faithful to the original classic cut, making it special. Little Sister is next, which segues into a couple of chorus’ of Get Back, after a guitar break where he makes reference to Andy Kaufman. All Shook Up is followed by the Teddy Bear medley, where he pokes fun at his backing singers’ rhythmic accompaniment.
One Night is next, after which he sings the line, “Lord God have mercy,” in reference to the relentless pace of the show. Hound Dog is introduced as a ‘message song’ and performed in two tempos. It ends with a fan stealing his thunder by calling out the last line during his staged pause on the ending.
A Big Hunk Of Love is another song performed live for the first time. Here Elvis makes an effort to recreate his original rasping raw vocals and calls out a teasing, “C’mon Jerry Lee” during Glenn Hardin’s superb piano solo. Later he forgets the lyric, singing, “You’re a natural born sumthin,” but all told, it’s a fantastic performance.
Bridge Over Troubled Water is performed next and provides a welcome respite from the relentless pace. It has an echo on the opening verses to create an intimacy, which nicely compliments the sincerity of his performance. After singing the line ‘I’ll take your part when darkness falls,’ he calls out an emotional “You know I will,” demonstrating his personal involvement with the lyric. By contrast, Lawdy Miss Clawdy has a revivalist feel, perhaps due to the arrangement and prominence of the backing singers.
A hushed silence precedes the first ever performance of American Trilogy. A
highly emotive version follows, where he sings his heart out, even joining in
with the backing singers on the ‘I wish I was in
The group introductions follow this, where J.D.Sumner is described as “The World’s lowest bass singer….in more ways than one” and Charlie Hodge is credited as “The guy who gives me my scarves and hound dogs.” I’ll Remember You is then announced as the next song, which prompts Charlie to ask for a minute to ‘bring up the scarves.’
I’ll Remember You follows, in a superb arrangement with gorgeous orchestration, sounding very similar to the studio recording. It’s another wonderful performance. Afterwards, he goes straight into Suspicious Minds, which includes the ‘Shove it up your nose’ quip. The crowd are obviously rowdy throughout this song, because at one point he makes reference to ‘rope burn’ and people can be heard shouting, “Order please.” It also has a protracted ending, punctuated by accented drumbeats, indicating an extended karate display.
Tired from his exertions and with nothing left to give, he calls out, “Thank you, you’re fantastic,” before finishing with an extremely breathless version of Can’t Help Falling In Love. During this song he name checks both Sammy Davies Jnr. and Red Skelton, adding “We love you very much,” before a final heroic effort on the ending. The recording ends with a low key closing riff, which eventually fizzles out.
In conclusion, this is a fabulous concert and a personal favourite. It’s also an important release, as it includes first time performances of almost all the new songs introduced during this engagement. In short, it’s impossible not to be delighted by Elvis’ performance, as he proves to be in top form and makes an effort on virtually every song. This one’s a revelation…which makes it essential in anyone’s book.
SOUND RATING ***½
Reviewed by Mike Sanders (