IT'S MIDNIGHT - BMG 74321 91141 2
1. Review by Crister Berge
2. Review by Andy Urias
3. Review by Marchino Lofino
4. Review by Sergio Luiz
|Las Vegas August 24 1974 M.S.
1: See See Rider
2: I Got A Woman/Amen
3: Love Me
4: If You Love Me
5: It's Midnight
6: Big Boss Man
8: Love Me Tender
9: All Shook Up
10: The Wonder Of You
11: I'm Leavin'
12: Softly As I Leave You
13: Spanish Eyes
14: Hound Dog
15: You Gave A Mountain
16: Polk Salad Annie
17: Introductions (incl. speech on painting angels)
18: If You Talk In Your Sleep
19: Why Me, Lord? (August 29, 1974 D.S.)
20: Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel (August 29, 1974 D.S.)
21: How Great Thou Art (August 29, 1974 D.S.)
22: Let Me Be There (August 29, 1974 D.S.)
23: Early Morning Rain (August 29, 1974 D.S.)
24: Hawaiian Wedding Song (August 29, 1974 D.S.)
25: Can't Help Falling In Love (August 29, 1974 D.S.)
|1. Review by Crister Berge
The last FTD release?
In his recent - and final! - interview with Arjan Deleen, Ernst Jorgensen said that BMG have 274 soundboards safely locked in their vaults. Well, they sure haven't dished them out in a generous manner through the years. Elvis died 24 years ago. To this date (January, 2002), they have released four!! And we'll probably have to wait a while for them in the future, too.
The FTD label's release rate has been breathtaking, some people even say it's hard to keep up with 'em. I think now's a good time to take a closer look at the 15 releases issued so far: The very first live concert released on FTD was the first soundboard issued in twenty years (!!!) and it was preceeded by four studio outings and one that contained home recordings in awful sound. In total, only four FTD albums have been live recordings (three soundboards), and still to this day, not a single song from the fabuolus Vegas '69 comeback has been released on Follow That Dream. The bootleggers have been churning out live concerts of varying quality in great packaging since the mid-90's. And we have yet to see a release with a 50's theme from FTD.
According to my calculations, BMG have enough material for SEVEN more studio releases on FTD, if the high quality is to be maintained: one more CD with film songs, one more with various 70's alternates, one more gospel, one more Burbank enterprise, maybe two more with 60's outtakes from Nashville recordings and, possibly, a compilation of 50's material. After that, the barrell is dry. Finito. No more. Adios. Then what? What's left? 263 (?) soundboards. If every second release comprise of live material, that is. Two years? Three? And when I read about the deep crisis of the record industry, I start thinking; is this it? Well, it was fun while it lasted. Thank you, Ernst. Goodbye. Farewell. Take care. All good things must come to an end. See you in the great beyond.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot; I have a CD to review. Here we go:
IT'S MIDNIGHT comprise of soundboard recordings from two different shows during Elvis' stay at the Hilton Hotel in August 1974. He had just three years left to live. BMG has several tapes from this month. A batch of songs from this Vegas visit were released on the recent LIVE IN LAS VEGAS box set. The shows that Elvis put on were extraordinary (by anyone's standards) in many different ways and the sweetest thing is that it's thoroughly documented on various "import" releases. Opening night (Aug. 19) was a revelation: it was the last time Elvis really made an effort to change and upgrade his live repertoire, delivering a diverse song list. The downside was that Elvis sounded dead-bored, his voice was subdued and he seemed very tired. Two weeks later, Elvis was out of control, as he held long rambling speeches on all kinds of bizarre subjects: raving about karate; denying the constant drug rumours; using profane language; even issuing death threats from the stage in a disastrous show.
If you're interested in this time period and want to know more, go out and get these CD's from Fort Baxter and Rock Legends:
IF YOU TALK IN YOUR SLEEP (Aug. 19): Contains rare songs such as 'Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues' and 'Down In The Alley.'
NIGHT FEVER IN VEGAS (Aug. 30): Lots of karate talk. Towards the end of the show, Elvis says "Fuck you!" to a person in the audience.
DESERT STORM (Sept. 2): The infamous concert that really sheds a different light on Elvis Presley and offers a fascinating insight in the man behind the myth. He is extremely talkative.
You might even wanna try to get a hold of a copy of MAGIC MOMENTS, which is a rehearsal for this engagement, featuring songs like 'Your Love's Been A Long Time Coming' & 'The Twelfth Of Never.'
23 songs and a medley (none of them to be found on bootleg) are squeezed into this disc which leaves us with an amazing playing time of 79:31. Track 1-18 are from August 24, MS and track 19-25 are from August 29, DS. Elvis sounds more together on the latter. I saw a picture yesterday on Willem Kauuw's site from this show, where Elvis is wearing his glasses on stage. Never did understand why Elvis always persisted with the "Well, well"-routine during 'Amen,' as this merely drags the tempo. You can't hear it when he's singing, but when Elvis talks, a slight slur is apparent. 'If You Love Me (Let It Snow)' was a brand new addition to the repertoire. J.D. is way up in the mix. The title track (what's with that exclamation mark?) was reportedly a song Elvis had high hopes for and it was released as a single in October. His current 45 was long-time buddy Red West's 'If You Talk In Your Sleep.'
'Fever' is complete with obligatory shrieks and lyric changes. 'The Wonder Of You' was rarely played in '74 and the musicians are baffled as Elvis doesn't interrupt the intro. After 1970, he always ruined the song by start singing immediately. Needless to say, the 1970 versions were better. 'I'm Leavin' was clearly regarded as a contemporary song at the time. I love the haunting intro and the beautiful verses, and had it not been for the "Tried so hard"-segment, this could have been a truly great song. It was a total flop when released as a single in the summer of 1971. If it hadn't been for Elvis' abominable recitation, I think I could have enjoyed 'Softly As I Leave You.' One of the last songs that Elvis recorded at Stax Studios in 1973 was 'Spanish Eyes' and here it is performed as a duet with Sherrill Nielsen. It's a rare number, the only other live version I've heard of it dates from May, 24, 1974.
There's lots of wailing before Elvis starts a throwaway 'Hound Dog', James Burton does not get a solo and Elvis mumbles the words. At this time, James had played with Elvis for five years, and he must have felt his hands (or his chicken pickin' fingers, that is) were tied behind his back. But as they say, "he probably cried all the way to the bank". After introducing the Sweet Inspirations, Elvis suddenly starts talking about how he never liked the decorations in the show room ("These big, fat angels up there") and tells the audience the story of how he and Red West snook in during the wee wee hours of morning and painted one of the angels black. He then proceeds with the introductions. The musicians were not yet obliged to play instrumental solos. First time that occurred was actually on closing night (Sept. 2). On a spur of the moment, Elvis asked James to "pick a little something" and olÚ! - the band solos were part of the Presley show until the end. The female singers really break up when Elvis says he uses stay free pads ("in case I have a nose bleed").
Vicki Carr's in the audience: "One of my favourite female singers - - - she sings from the gut out." After the show, she came back stage to meet Elvis and a few pictures were taken. Instead of using one of those, a photo of Jackie Wilson and The King is reproduced in the digi-pack. Towards the end of the Aug. 29 show, Vernon and Elvis' physician dr Elias Ghanem are introduced - tape edit - and we fade in on the second verse of an all too fast version of 'Early Morning Rain.' Following this number, Elvis informs the crowd of the wishes of the hotel: "They don't like me to be on longer than 55, 58 minutes, really." How 'Hawaiian Wedding Song' could be "one of the most requested songs" is beyond me. Before the perennial closing number, Elvis talks about his suit and his jewelry, finishing off on an explanatory note: "The reason I'm telling you this is because (dramatic pause) - you helped pay for 'em!"
This is a good show in decent sound. But honestly: it should have been released 10, 15, 20 years ago! Highlights are the rare songs: 'Spanish Eyes' and 'Early Morning Rain,' even though the latter is not complete and played at rocket-speed. And isn't this the first official release of 'Big Boss Man'? Question: Why did Elvis hire - and keep! - such an amateurish bass player like Duke Bardwell? Anyone? Jorgensen writes: "This show [Aug. 24] was selected because of Elvis' outstanding performance." Well, if this is an "outstanding performance", I don't think we need to hear anymore shows from this stint...
On a scale from 1 to 5, I give IT'S MIDNIGHT a 3.
© Crister Berge, Sweden 2002 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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|2. Review by Andy Urias
IT'S MIDNIGHT! might be the worst release by FTD so far. It is widely known that Elvis' August/September Las Vegas engagement was one full of triumphs and tragedies. A lot of these performances have been documented on various bootlegs and on official releases by BMG. Here we have parts of the August 24 and 29 midnight shows. The confusing aspect to this CD is why were these performances chosen for release by FTD at this time? Just for a badly edited Early Morning Rain? It doesn't make much sense.
So much unreleased live material remains in the vaults, yet this mediocre live album is released. As bad as the performance on TUCSON 76 is, the release is a fascinating one and stands for what FTD is all about. The performance on IT'S MIDNIGHT! is very average. Even though BMG probably can't do much with the sound and the show has been bootlegged before, the famous opening night show from this Vegas engagement might have been a nice BMG/FTD release, as many fans have voiced their desire for this to happen. At least FTD would have released a historical audio event. Or maybe, FTD should have just created a mix of songs like disc 4 of LIVE IN LAS VEGAS to showcase more soundboard material and highlights from this 1974 engagement.
Meanwhile, almost an entire year passes before the SPRING TOURS 77 material sees the light of day. A complete and unedited show from 1969 still sits in the vaults. How about another complete show from August 1970, who can ever get tired of hearing Elvis in his prime? The February 1970 material from Vegas is still being heavily guarded and the winter 1972 live material from Vegas is still being ignored. There has to be some intriguing soundboards from hard to find years like 1971. How about the Lake Tahoe Show from 1973, which keeps getting held back? Ernst recently said in Memphis that the Tahoe show hasn't made it to the production line because "better" ideas come along. How was releasing IT'S MIDNIGHT! a better idea?
There is really no enjoyment when listening to this CD. Elvis sounds extremely bored and flat. JD Sumner is way up in the mix on some of the tracks (nothing FTD can do about, but nevertheless, it is very annoying). The sequencing doesn't match the track listing near the end of the disc (nice production error guys!). 'Early Morning Rain' is cut at the beginning, what happened? This strangely edited song is supposed to be the showcase of this pathetic release? Why is there a picture of Elvis and Jackie Wilson inside the cover, what does he have to do with this CD or the performances on it? Hardcore fans will want this release as they welcome any unreleased performance BMG has to offer, but if you are a casual listener, stay away and wait for the next FTD release showcasing movie soundtrack outtakes!
© Andy Urias, September 12 2002
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|3. Review by Marchino Lofino
When this show was planned to come out on FTD, I was really excited. Jorgensen introduced the show as "outstanding" so I thought it was something similar to the great opening night of some days earlier in August 1974.
After a few days of listening, I was quite disappointed. I have to be fair, the show is not bad (the album includes the August 24th Midnight show with four bonus tracks from August 29th 1974 Dinner Show), but this is NOT an outstanding concert. Elvis is focused on some songs, less on others (For example on 'Fever' and the usual boring stuff from the fifties like 'Hound Dog' and 'All Shook Up') but all in all we have a decent performance.
The tape starts with 'See See Rider' without the Ronnie Tutt's intro. Good version, followed by the usual routine 'I Got A Woman/Amen' and 'Love Me'. 'If You Love Me' was a new piece on the repertoire at the time and the song sounds quite fresh on my ears while listening to it. 'Big Boss Man' is solid, as nearly in all versions from 1974.
'I'm Leavin'' and 'It's Midnight' are marvelously delivered as usual in 1974. A pity Elvis wouldn't perform these songs more often after 1974-75.
Really great are 'Spanish Eyes', performed live only in 1974 and 'If You Talk In Your Sleep', whose live version are in my opinion better than the one recorded at the Stax Studios in Memphis nine months before. In my opinion outstanding shows, as regards 1974, could be considered those played during the great march tour of that year. But this is not the case. For those who love rarities we have an unfortunately incomplete version of 'Early Morning Rain' which would become a regular number during the introduction of John Wilkinson from 1976. This version is quite different from the ones from 1976-77, but it is quite enjoyable with Glen Hardin's piano very audible.
The sound is not bad, but still not great. Elvis' voice seems not to be up front while piano and bass are up too loud. There are a lot of import CDs with a better sound. Recommended if you like Elvis in 1974, but don't get crazy if you don't grab it.
In conclusion: This CD is nice to have, Elvis is still great but on some moments he starts to show what would happen in the closing night, when he spent too much time on raving and showing his unhappiness instead of focusing on songs.
FTD has planned for the next autumn a very interesting reel-to-reel recording from December 13th 1975 at the Las Vegas Hilton. The track listing seems promising... Let's wait for a real outstanding show dear Jorgensen...
© Marchino Lofino, Italy, September 2002
|4. Review by Sergio Luiz
I always felt that the Vegas summer festival of 1974 was kind of a lost gem in the Elvis world. Ok, I admit that this was the precise space in time were the rot, that would soon consume Elvis, set in, but amidst of this, I think that his effort to turn the game in a more favored way to his career was one of his bravest moments. We all know how this tale begins and we surely know the sad way it ended. But it is the between part of this story that Ernst and the good folks at FTD decided to tell us.
It's Midnight! contains the August 24 Midnight show, and the ending of the August 29 show, as the first tape was incomplete.
The show is a solid performance. Better than most of his early '73 performances and sure much better than most of his '76 shows. Elvis is in fine voice, he is relaxed, and the performances are solid. His is in very good humor throughout the show, although his a little acid in some of his jokes, maybe a side effect of his disappointment in have to be back to the old pattern.
But the show itself is interesting because he kept the base of the new concert, so all the new songs are here: 'If You Love Me (Let Me Know)', 'It's Midnight', 'If You Talk In Your Sleep', 'Softly...', omitting only 'Promised Land' and 'Good Times Charlie's Got The Blues'.
The value of the disc increases with the inclusion of some rare and unusual songs for the time, being they 'Spanish Eyes', 'The Wonder Of You' and 'Early Morning Rain'. The first is one of the highlights of the show, is very entertaining and works effectively in a "live" environment although is not one of his greatest songs.
'The Wonder Of You' is not like the 1970 performances but it's better than his latter efforts ('75). He sings it in a relaxed way, even given some time for the musicians do the intro.
'Early Morning Rain' is unfortunately incomplete, about the whole first verse is missing, and its done in a fast tempo than the usual. Nice overall, but Elvis will do it better in the years to come.
For me, the best songs of his new program are 'It's Midnight', 'I'm Leaving' and 'If You Talk In Your Sleep', and they are no exception here. 'It's Midnight' is very focused and the overall performance is one of his best. W. A. Harbinson, witnessed several shows from this engagement: "Never mind his rushed version of 'Hound Dog'. He found the truth in 'It's Midnight' and that, whether or not you like it, is what Rock'n Roll is all about". A nice perspective!
'I'm Leaving' is a very haunting song, one that express a great loss and due to the circumstances of Elvis personal life at this time, his rendition only adds more meaning to the song.
'If You Talk In Your Sleep', is one of those neglected songs of the 70's. And boy, does this song work perfect live.
Another songs worth a listening are 'If You Love Me (Let Me Know)' (that unfortunately features DJ way too much in the spotlight) 'Softly, As I Leave You', one of the "spine chill" moments, 'How Great Thou Art', always a classic and a crazy version of 'Let Me Be There'.
Overall the disc is full of good stuff and the total running time is over 70 minutes. Thanks Ernst and company for delivering a great show that will surely be much more than a cabinet filler.
© Sergio Luiz Fiša Biston, Brazil, December 2002
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