DRAGONHEART - BMG 82876 53366 2
1. Review by Oven Egeland
2. Review by Andy Urias
3. Review by Ken Jensen
4. Review by Patrik Ahlgren
|South Bend, October 1 1974
1: See See Rider
2: I Got A Woman/Amen
3: Love Me
4: It's Midnight
5: Big Boss Man
7: Love Me Tender
8: Hound Dog
9: Heartbreak Hotel
10: If You Love Me
11: Bridge Over Troubled Water
12: Band introductions
13: Lawdy Miss Clawdy
14: All Shook Up
15: Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel
16: Let Me Be There
17: It's Now Or Never
18: You Gave Me A Mountain
19: Johnny B. Goode
20: Hawaiian Wedding Song
21: Steamroller Blues
22: Can't Help Falling In Love
23: All Right, Okay, You Win (Detroit, Sept. 29)
24: Blue Christmas (College Park, Sept 28)
25: Trying To Get To You (College Park, Sept. 28))
|1. "The Pill-poppin' hillbilly"
(Review by Oven Egeland)
We have known it for a long time. Elvis in autumn 1974 isn't an easy listening, rather the opposite. This new CD from Follow That Dream is further evidence - perhaps one of the best - that Elvis had personal problems during these months, and a new, very strong indication that he abused medications containing narcotics in significant amounts.
On bootlegs from this era we already have a concert that Elvis held two days prior to the one featured on Dragonheart. This is among the worst ever released on tape (A Profile Vol. 2), but the show in South Bend on October 1 only fare slightly better. The difference is mainly that Elvis was a bit more awake in South Bend, and seemingly in a better mood. His voice is poor on both occasions and his behavior is unpleasant to say the least!
Already from the first note on 'See See Rider' you know what to expect later on. His voice radiates a mixture of lack of sleep, depression and artificially affected mood. Elvis isn't sympathetic the way he used to be, the wonderful humbleness that he normally displayed is washed away. It certainly isn't the Elvis that deserves recognition decades after his death.
Elvis soon tells the audience that there will be no requests taken this evening. However, later in the show he takes one and performs 'Steamroller Blues'. A nice attempt, but not a version you listen to very often. During autumn 1974 Elvis often stressed his musicians to play solos differently than what they usually played on stage. This lead to a classical number by G. Hardin in College Park on September 28, and lead to a song called 'All Right, Okay, You Win' in Detroit the day after. This number is featured on this CD as a bonus number. Elvis sings the song in a hysteric manner, in a key nobody could reach on an average day. However, when Glen D. Hardin plays the same tune two days later in South Bend, Elvis suddenly starts to sing 'Lawdy Miss Clawdy'. My goodness, did he pay attention to what was played or didn't he care at all. Hardin tries his best to readjust his piano playing. When he is in tune, Elvis is through singing...
Bootlegs show that Elvis would be better later on during the tour. Both concerts from Dayton, October 6 have been released and they are both of higher quality. Why FTD decided to release this show certainly puzzles me. It couldn't be due to good sound quality either as this CD features a rather poor soundboard recording. Lack of bass and something that reminds of digital flaunts "ruins" the sound throughout the show. It's even noisy. The bonus tracks have better sound in my point of view. Strangely enough FTD decided to include a version of 'Trying To Get To You' from College Park that Elvis totally ruins near the end. Is there a certain intention behind this release? After concluding 'Trying To Get To You' Elvis says "Let me just get out the way and shut up". Why not have included this quote as a perfect ending of the CD. No, I'm not kidding!
With such content in such a sound quality it is only natural that the artwork looks like it does. If nothing else, there is a system in the madness. Low quality is the common denominator.
A bummer this time from FTD!
, Norway, July 2003 - Thanks to Crister Berge for language corrections.
(Review by Andy Urias)
FTD has been releasing live shows with a little more consistency lately and this is a good thing. However, the quality of Elvis' performances is a whole other issue that should be discussed! The most recent show that has been released is the October 1, 1974 show from South Bend, IN entitled DRAGONHEART.
Reviewing post-1972 shows from Elvis can be difficult as many are lackluster affairs. There are bright spots here and there, but overall, you find yourself listening to an artist that is bored, uninspired, and stoned. People will sometimes say something to the extent of "this is a strong show from 76" or "the version of 'Polk Salad Annie' is top-notch on this day." These statements might be true for Elvis shows, but comparing these post-1972 shows to concerts from other artists of the time period really shed a negative light on the live reputation of Elvis Presley. A lot of the post-1972 performances are an embarrassment in general, but when one is slightly better than another from the period, it is worth noting, much like some of the mock quotes from above suggest.
Unfortunately DRAGONHEART is not the hidden gem one would hope for. This show has nothing remarkable to offer at all. There is no real need to look at individual tracks as there are no true highlights. Elvis' concerts from the fall of 1974 are notorious for being terrible. Some consider his show at College Park a few days earlier as bad as any performance he ever gave. Why would FTD showcase a concert from this time period? They already showcased lackluster performances from August 1974 in ITS MIDNIGHT! Isn't it about time for FTD to release something really special live? One of those great shows that Elvis is legendary for? They did release an audience version of the famous 1976 New Years Eve show, but there has to be other great shows from the hundreds of soundboards they have.
Will the upcoming 1973 Lake Tahoe performance help shed a more positive light on things? Keep your fingers crossed. It is funny that Ernst Jorgensen doesn't really see any value in releasing all 6 professionally recorded shows from August 1970 in Las Vegas because he thinks the market will be saturated with TTWII material. Yet, those concerts showcase Elvis at his finest, so why not make sure as much material as possible is available from them? The same can be said for the professionally recorded shows from 1969, who cares if the set lists are pretty much the same, the performances are incredible, why hold them back? While some fans have a special place in their heart for weak post-1972 shows and love certain tours from the mid to late 70s, a lot of these shows shed a real negative light on Elvis' legacy as a live performer. From a historical point, it is important for FTD to release these shows, but they must make sure they don't ignore his strongest years as a live entertainer while they continue to churn out these post-1972 concerts.
The positive thing is that FTD is committed to releasing various soundboards (and even audience recordings) from the 1970s. Some of the choices still might be confusing or controversial, but everyone should be thankful for the official releases. DRAGONHEART isn't essential listening by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a welcome addition to anyone's FTD collection.
© Andy Urias, July 2003
Other reviews by Andy Urias
|3. "Zonked Out"
(Review by Ken Jensen)
The artwork is tacky, which fits this release perfectly; after all, the show-recorded in South Bend, Indiana, October 1, 1974-is taken from Elvis's worst tour ever. Having listened to this show, it is evident that the King is drugged. My thoughts keep returning to that last night in Vegas. Elvis has difficulty controlling his voice. Time and again, he doesn't sing-he yells. He is on the verge of blabbering his face off, but he manages to hold it in. The bonus tracks 'Blue Christmas' and 'Trying to Get to You', from September 28, are sung horribly. Tucson '76 is magnificent in comparison. Listening to any concert from 1970, it's almost unfathomable that Elvis could degrade to this. In fact, you don't have to go that far back; in March, 1974, Elvis delivered an outstanding version of 'How Great Thou Art', which won him a Grammy for Best Sacred Recording. He sang magnificently during that March tour. In August, his singing was mediocre. In September and October, it was mediocre at best. Clearly, something had happened. Exactly what, we'll probably never know. It would be interesting trying to figure out, if only roughly, what went down. But since this is a CD review, I will settle for a closer look on the show.
The concert starts off with Elvis breaking into what is probably the poorest version of 'See See Rider' I've ever heard. After the song, Elvis says, "Don't go yelling songs at me", whereupon a guy in the audience shouts out 'Love Me Tender', to which Elvis replies, "Shut up, man!"
'I Got a Woman' / 'Amen' is another weak performance. Halfway through the medley, Elvis says to the band, "Don't let me down." Don't worry, Elvis, you're too high to be let down. Elvis then rushes 'Love Me'. Another throwaway. 'Blue Suede Shoes' is a disgrace. Quite possibly the shittiest performance of the evening! He was better in 1976. 'It's Midnight', included in the concert repertoire in August, is the first mediocre performance of the evening-and that comes as a relief; it's almost an epiphany to finally hear a song that rises to mediocrity. Elvis yells a few times during the song, which prevents it from being a good rendition. Elvis is unfocused on 'Big Boss Man', obviously as high as a kite. He then starts off 'Fever' talking to the audience. He says to a woman, "It's dark in here ... you grab the wrong thing, I'm in trouble", and, a little later, "Honey, oh my God don't have that child now, wait till the show is over; I'll give you one." The musicians have played for a full minute before Elvis starts singing. 'Love Me Tender' offers nothing new. 'Hound Dog' is decently performed. He even revs himself up in a way that is similar to both the August 19, 1970 Dinner Show and the August 24, 1974 Midnight Show. 'Heartbreak Hotel' is a crazy, high-strung performance. 'If You Love Me (Let Me Know)' is a mediocre rendition, but given Elvis's condition, it must be labelled good. After the song, Elvis says, "We hope we can do a good version of 'Bridge over Troubled Water'." Well, so do we, Elvis, so do we. The version is bordering on good, all things considered. However, it's a far cry from the versions from 1970 and '72. Elvis sings 'Lawdy, Miss Clawdy' during Glen D. Hardin's piano solo. If I'm being nice, it's a fair performance. If I'm being honest, it sucks ass. 'All Shook Up' and 'Teddy Bear' / 'Don't Be Cruel' take up disc space. I do not know one single fan who loves this medley. I want to blow my brains out when it comes on. 'Let Me Be There' is a good performance compared to the rest of the show. In reality, it's poor. What does that tell you about this show? It's disheartening listening to this concert. I'll never play this CD in front of anybody who isn't a devoted Elvis fan. 'It's Now or Never' is lousy, but with touches of greatness glimmering through, which makes it even sadder. 'You Gave Me a Mountain' contains some ominous spoken parts, which are quite reminiscent of the September 2, 1974 Closing Show version. I'm sitting here waiting for Elvis to substitute "you took my small baby boy" with "girl", but it never happens. 'Johnny B. Goode' is next; Elvis trying to rock, almost managing it. After the song, Elvis starts talking about the Band-Aids on his hands and fingers. This is cool, as the Band-Aids and tapes are visible on the various pictures on the cover. 'Hawaiian Wedding Song' is mediocre. Elvis is about to call it a night when he suddenly acts on a request from the audience. 'Steamroller Blues', although not an outstanding performance, brings some spunk to the show. Almost a highlight. Elvis yells more than he sings. 'Can't Help Falling in Love' is neither good nor bad, it just is. The next track is titled "Closing Vamp & Announcements", which is strange, as there are no announcements. This is sloppy. But that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, given that this is an FTD release. At least they have managed to divide the tracks correctly throughout the CD for a change.
The bonus tracks, then. 'Alright, Okay, You Win' starts immediately after the previous track, which is weird. Elvis sings what is probably the refrain. Funny thing is, short as it is, I have got this song on my brain already. Elvis performed this number during Glen D. Hardin's piano solo September 29, 1974. One day prior, Elvis steps up to a request for 'Blue Christmas'. It's a lifeless, soulless performance, just like the other tracks on this CD. 'Trying to Get to You', also from September 28, 1974, is slightly better. But that doesn't mean it's good. Far from it!
There are no highlights on Dragonheart, which is a rarity for an Elvis show.
I will recommend this CD as a piece of historic documentation; it focuses on Elvis the Human Wreck. Musically, I wouldn't play it in the presence of others-lest they are big fans, though.
Running time: 76:01.
Sound quality: Mediocre.
© Ken Jensen, Norway, July 2003
Other reviews by Ken Jensen
|4. "Dragonheart - a good release!"
(Review by Patrik Ahlgren)
Over the last few days, I have read a number of not so favourable reviews of the latest FTD-release "Dragonheart". The message has been, more or less, that it is wrong to release concerts of this poor quality... that displaying Elvis in this state is just trashing his legacy. I feel I have to defend this release, as I see things a bit differently.
Yes, it is obvious, even to the most die-hard fan, Elvis wasn't at his best in October 1974. Compared to any of the shows from 1969-1972, this show falls short by miles, no doubt about that. And I, just like everybody else, feel embarrassed by the awkward and unnecessary talk between songs. But there is more to it than that! Elvis, even at his rock bottom, is still Elvis Presley. We get good versions of "It's Midnight" and "Steamroller Blues", and even excellent versions of "Heartbreak Hotel" and "You Gave Me a Mountain". I think it's important to have access to all parts, good and not so good, to fully comprehend and understand the phenomenon of Elvis Presley.
Of course, a concert like this isn't fit for a general BMG-release. This is where the FTD-label comes in - a possibility for the fans to explore all sides of Elvis. To me, every unreleased soundboard concert is an unopened goldmine. If there are fans who feel they don't need another concert from 1973-1977...well, save the money for a forthcoming release instead.
If FTD decides to "censor" some of the concerts, then what would next step be? Should FTD consider cutting out some of the weakest numbers from the planned movie-releases? Should "Song of the Shrimp" be left out from the "Girls! Girls! Girls!" soundtrack because it is embarrassing and it's trashing Elvis' legacy? No, of course not! I think that FTD is doing a terrific job and I'm looking forward to many more releases, from all stages of Elvis' career.
© Patrik Ahlgren at "Patrik’s Elvis Corner", July 2003
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