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Steamroller blues

Fort Baxter FB 2095 (Released 1994)

2001/ CC rider
I got a woman/ amen
Love me
Tryin' to get to you
All shook up
Steamroller blues
Teddy bear/ don't be cruel
Love me tender
Long tall Sally/ whole lotta shakin' goin' on/ mama don't dance/ flip, flop and fly/ jailhouse rock/ hound dog
Fever
Polk salad annie
Why me Lord
How great thou art
Suspicious minds
Band introductions
Blueberry hill/ I can't stop loving you
Help me
An American trilogy
Let me be there
My baby left me
Lawdy Miss Clawdy
Funny how time slips away
Can't help falling in love/ closing vamp
(recorded live, March 20, 1974, Memphis)

The title says it all, " I'm a steamroller baby, I'm gonna roll all over you! " This is the last show from the longest and quite possibly the best tour of Elvis' career. March of 1974 saw Elvis on the road from the 1st to the 20th, giving 110% at each show, and seeming to love every minute of performing to an adoring audience. Whatever problems had plagued him in 1973 were left behind with the successful Stax recordings in December. Memphis had to wait five years for Elvis to play his hometown, but he made up for it with the five shows he gave on the 16th, 17th, & 20th. Although he was no longer giving the "totally insane" performances of 69 & 70, he was still very physical in his presentation and his voice had matured into an awesome richness that left nothing out of his reach. RCA released a highly edited and overdubbed recording of this show in the summer of 1974, but we had to wait until 1994 for the fine people at Ft. Baxter to give us the complete show. The first half of this cd is from the mixing disk and the second half is from the master tape. The sound is excellent either way.

The cd begins in the middle of Theme 2001 and then Ronnie Tutt's fantastic drumroll leads to the best performance of "See See Rider" I have ever heard. Next, the familiar well-wells introduce an outstanding " I Got A Woman," first heard live on the RCA albumn of this show. After this terrific start Elvis greets his hometown audience and leads on into a fairly standard " Love Me." Next is a fantastic "Trying To Get To You" with Elvis displaying the full power of his voice throughout the chorus. "All Shook Up" is taken at warp speed, but is still a good tune. One of the best blues numbers that Elvis incorporated into his live shows was James Taylor's "Steamroller Blues." The version here is one of his very best efforts on this song and the band is right with him. "Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel" and "Love Me Tender" are next and pretty much the same as always. The medley of "Long Tall Sally, Whole Lotta Shakin', Mama Don't Dance, Flip-Flop & Fly, Jailhouse Rock, and Hound Dog" is anything you want to call it. Any two of them would have been great for this spot, instead we get them all shoved together.

"Fever" is highlighted by a very excited female fan who is encouraged to wait until after the show to do her thing! A thumping "Polk Salad Annie" gets the audience in a frenzy as Elvis cranks up the ending. Elvis had just started performing this song again in January and these "later" versions are as good as the ones from 1970. A little break is needed after that workout and Elvis asks J.D. Summner & the Stamps to sing "Why Me, Lord?" This song first appeared in January at the Vegas engagement when Elvis turned and asked J.D. to sing it with absolutely no warning. The song is very well done here with Elvis joining in on the chorus.

"How Great Thou Art " is next and it is indeed a masterful performance. So much so that Elvis would win his third grammy award for best inspirational performance of 1974. This song had been performed live since 1971, but had not been released until the RCA recording of this show. It was inexcusably left out of the movie ELVIS ON TOUR, not performed at Madison Square Garden or the Aloha show, but here Elvis delivers every bit of power and dedication he can muster. It is most definitely a career highlight. "Suspicious Minds" is shorter than usual, but still cranking, although I wish Charlie Hodges harmony vocal was less prevalent. The band introductions follow and are short and to the point. A little bit of "Blueberry Hill" prefaces an excellent "Can't Stop Loving You" as Elvis extends the final notes beautifully. "Help Me" is introduced as a song that he has recently recorded and is another excellent performance. Sadly this was the only song from the 1973 Stax sessions to be included at this show. Elvis' homecoming should have been the premier of "It's Midnight, Promised Land, If You Talk In Your Sleep," etc, etc. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

The Southern National Anthem "American Trilogy " follows and is impressive as always. "Let Me Be There" is given a very strong performance here complete with oncore and there is no doubt Elvis really likes the song. "My Baby Left Me" is a little repetitive, but "Lawdy Miss Clawdy " is fantastic! I have always liked the way this song was performed in the 70's, especially with the swinging orchestral arrangement. "Funny How Time Slips Away" is very appropriate here as Elvis last performed in his hometown in 1961. At it's conclusion Elvis tells the audience how "it's always been said that a person cannot return to their homtowns, but you've really made it worth while." This is echoed by the fact that the Memphis fans were so eager to see him, they sold out five shows in record time. Finally "Can't Help Falling In Love" brings the show to a close and "Elvis has left for Graceland."

This is one of a handfull of shows that standout from Elvis' live performance period of 1969 to 1977. It is a damn shame that no one at BMG has given this recording it's proper credit. I would have much rather have had a remixed and mastered version of this show than the ALOHA FROM HAWAII show. BMG gave us all a fantastic gift with AN AFTERNOON IN THE GARDEN, but they owe us this one. Ft. Baxter should be highly commended for bringing us this cd. They have brought us some of the best and most interesting titles from the "import" market and hopefully they can continue to do this.

Sound Rating ****1/2
Show Rating ******

Reviewed By Mark Littlejohn, USA