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Walk a mile in my shoes

Fort Baxter 2092 (Released 1992)

All shook up
That's all right
Proud Mary
Don't cry daddy
Teddy bear/ don't be cruel
Long tall Sally
Let it be me
I can't stop loving you
Walk a mile in my shoes
In the ghetto
(Recorded live, February 1, 1970, 8 p.m. )

Beginning in 1992, the Fort Baxter label began to release fabulous soundboard concerts, complete and unedited. "Just Pretend" was a magnificent start, and the follow up to it was "Walk A Mile in My Shoes." Although the disc is only 28 minutes long and only contains ten songs, it is still a fantastic disc which highlights Elvis' January-February 1970 appearances at the International Hotel. In my eyes, he never sounded better than during these shows, because his voice was full of passion and aggression, and unlike in 1969, he wasn't learning how to win over a Vegas crowd; he simply knew how to slay them. For his first Vegas stint of 1970, Elvis brought back most of his original line-up (Bob Lanning replaced Ronnie Tutt on drums) and he added more Memphis material to his act, as well as some recent covers and familiar older material. The material on this disc is part of a dinner show recorded February 1st, and boy, Elvis is in breathtaking form!

The show opens with the sound of Bob Lanning's drum solo, and then, almost immediately, the TCB band kicks into the riff for "All Shook Up," a #1 hit for nine weeks back in April-June of 1957. Unlike latter versions of the song, this version is complete, and there is no fooling around on the part of Elvis. It is just pure Rock 'n' Roll! As one notices very early on, the sound quality is excellent, but sometimes Elvis' voice dominates the mix a little too much, and this causes his vocal to be a tad distorted. In addition, the orchestra is less dominant in the mix, than on some of the latter Fort Baxter releases, which only enhances certain songs, especially "All Shook Up." Elvis preceeds the next number by saying, "My first record, uh, ladies and gentlemen," and with that he strums his guitar, playing the opening bars of "That's All Right." Followed as ever by the TCB band, Elvis is off and running. This version is a little slower than the standard version that can be found on the Madison Square Garden releases, and this pace allows Elvis' vocal to be more deliberate. In a real sense, this song has the bluesy pace of Aurthr Crudup's original. Elvis' vocal is still a lit distorted and the background vocals are less prominent.

Next up, Elvis mentions the fact that this is his 2nd appearance in nine years, and that he is going to sing some songs made famous by other artists. Without hesitating, he launches into the first few bars of Dean Martin's 1964 #1 "Everybody Loves Somebody." Another off-the-cuff rendition of this song can be found on "True Love Travels on a Gravel Road." With the audience still laughing, James Burton hits the riff for "Proud Mary," a #3 hit for Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969, and Elvis rocks on another classic number. Again this version is slower than the later Vegas versions, and it is much more like the version contained on the "On Stage-1970" album, except it doesn't have that version's kick yet. Also, James Burton's fills are less prominent than on the released version, and thus, there is less action in the performance. This is understandable because the song had been performed for less than a week by Elvis and his band. A standard Vegas version of "Don't Cry Daddy," beautifully performed though, follows.

I really wish that Elvis had performed this along with other Memphis material in his post-1970 concerts, because they deserved as much attention as the hits from the 1950s. Speaking of 1950s material, Elvis, again with his acoustic guitar, launches the band into a medley of two of his biggest 1950s hits, "Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel." This is probably one of the first times that he performed this medley, and like the version found on disc 4 of "Profile on Stage - Volume 2," it is slower than standard Elvis version were used to hearing. Although it is slower, Elvis is much more into it than he would be in a just a couple of years, and he really makes the medley cook. "Teddy Bear" is longer in length than it soon would become, and during "Don't Be Cruel," Elvis' vocal is much more adventurous. It is an outstanding and solid version of two of his eighteen number one hits. Announcing it as, "my message song for the night," he leaps into a full length version of "Long Tall Sally," one of the few songs he performed in Las Vegas in 1956. Unlike later versions of the song, it is not performed as part of a medley, and thus, the song has much more power. James Burton's extremely fast solo captures the high intensity of this Little Richard cover.

Elvis follows the excitement of "Long Tall Sally" with the sweetness of the ballad "Let It Be Me," a hit for both the Everly Brothers in 1960 and Jerry Butler ("Only the Strong Survive") and Betty Everett in 1964, respectively; Elvis probably got his version from the latter one, but one never knows with the catholic taste of the King. In any case, it is very strong performance and again one of the first times he performed it on stage. Unlike some of the other songs in this show, this version does not deviate at all from the two released versions by RCA/BMG. Following the tender ballad, Elvis walks around the stage to catch his breath, and as he walks, he notes, "Well, that just blew my image, but its been blown before!" With the audience still laughing, he retorts, "Image, Image!" "I Can't Stop Loving You," powerfully performed, similar to the version on the 1969 live album, "From Memphis to Vegas," follows. It is an extremely solid performance and the orchestra provides powerful backing.

Before continuing with "Walk a Mile in Shoes," Elvis says, "In an album, I did this ... no I'm lying." Elvis performs the contemporary Joe South hit in a wonderful soul version that still manages to rock quite a bit. This version is also a little slower than the version taped two-and-a-half weeks later, which was later released on the "On Stage" album. James Burton's fills are also less prominent, and listen during the 3rd verse as the strings become extremely prominent. "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" seques right into "In the Ghetto," Elvis' message song from 1969 and a #3 hit in the spring of that fantastic year. Like all the versions in existence, it is a fabulous version, and with these two socially conscious songs, Elvis had truly performed his "message song[s] for the night. Like "If I Can Dream," Elvis wanted peace and brotherhood to reign in his native land. Unfortunately, with this song, the disc comes to a close, and this is a real shame because Elvis was performing wonderfully in this show. I know of no February 1970 show where he didn't perform brilliantly; at this point in his life, Elvis still had something to prove to the world and this disc proves it. This is certainly a must have for all Elvis fans, particularly if one wants to hear how Elvis could perform when he was at his absolute best. It is highly recommended, despite the fact that it is short, and if one wants to hear more from this round of appearances, check out "True Love Travels On A Gravel Road," and "Good Times Never Seemed So Good."

Reviewed by Mike Cavino, USA

Sound rate *** 1/2