ELVIS AT THE INTERNATIONAL - BMG 74321 97713 2
1. Review by Oven Egeland
2. Review by Crister Berge
3. Review by Ken Jensen
|Las Vegas, August 23 (M.S.)
Blue Suede Shoes
I Got A Woman
All Shook Up
Love Me Tender
Jailhouse Rock/Don't Be Cruel
Mystery Train/Tiger Man
Baby What You Want Me To Do
Reconsider Baby (*)
Are You Lonesome Tonight?
In The Ghetto
What'd I Say (*)
Can't Help Falling In Love
* previously released on Collectors Gold
|1. Featuring Larry Muhoberac...
(Review by Oven Egeland)
During an Elvis convention in Norway I was fortunate enough to be able to listen very closely to FTD newest CD (due out for a week or so). I thank Henrik Knudsen of Elvis Unlimited for this exclusive opportunity!
Elvis At The International contains a show from Las Vegas, August 23 (MS). Bearing in mind the terrible mixed show that was featured on Live In Las Vegas, I was anxious about the sound quality...or more precise; how is this show mixed? I'm glad to tell everyone that the sound is fantastic. Every instrument is audible...yes, even Muhoberac on piano. Listening to this CD makes you wonder what ever went wrong when Ferrante mixed the show for Live In Las Vegas. Ok, that's history!
There's a lot of ambience on this CD, thus containing the live feel a concert CD should have. The audience is there with you all the time, without taking away the charm of any instrument or any vocal.
The concert is very typical for 1969. There really weren't a lot of changes from show to show. However, Elvis' mood varied a bit. On this show, Elvis is very talkative. There are moments when he sounds a bit drunk, actually. He's in that mood.
The CD opens with the opening riff, going into 'Blue Suede Shoes'. Quickly over to 'I Got A Woman', just after some "well, well" interaction. After a brilliant 'All Shook Up' it certainly was time for introduction. "Welcome to International hochell". After this Elvis spends 2 minutes of talking, before going into a beautiful 'Love Me Tender'. This song works very well on stage, when done seriously. Sure there are "silent" moments when Elvis reach for a girl (or the other way around), but it doesn't take the charm away from the song.
Then more talking before launching into what could be called a "sonofabitch-version" of 'Jailhouse Rock/Don't Be Cruel'. After 'Heartbreak Hotel' Elvis spends 2 more minutes to talk. What does he talk about? Well, how he though about a message song for the evening and came up with this... "I looked here square in the eyes...she said, is that your pick? That's a weird looking pick". Elvis barely can collect himself during this part of the show. It all lead into 'Hound Dog' of course.
'Memories' is a nice version, although it gets a bit messed up due to a lot of kissing. I like the version on Collectors Gold better.
"One of my first records" leads into a brilliant 'Mystery Train/Tiger Man'. After this song there is an "UGLY" edit on the CD. FTD has obviously cut out something - ok - but how they can edit a cut so badly is a mystery. It goes from almost silence to full applause!
Elvis' life story comes next - this time in the show, and not after as on Live In Las Vegas. It's runs for over 8 minutes and 30 seconds and tends to get tedious along the way. This is not something you find funny every time you listen to it. Personally I prefer Elvis' life story version as found on the bootleg Opening Night '69 from Fort Baxter.
After quickly stating that he is unable to play the guitar, Elvis steers into 'Baby, What You Want Me To Do'. He then sings 'Runaway' of Del Shannon, before it is time to play the guitar again. Elvis now performs the previously released 'Reconsider Baby'. Even more beautiful in the right context and in this sound quality, than it was on Collectors Gold!
More guitar playing, as Elvis wants to sing 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?'. In my point of view it can't be done any better than on this show. A shame Elvis didn't continue singing this song seriously over the years that followed. Cissy Houston is a bit of-key at one point, though!
'Yesterday/Hey Jude' is really a demanding version! It goes on (the 'Hey Jude' segment mostly) for ages, or 5 minutes and 50 seconds to be exact! Not something I listen to over and over again!
"Charlie, this is Jerry..." - "Tutt Scheff anyway you look at it!" "Muhaverik.... Muhoverak!". It is Elvis introducing the band.
Somehow I think Elvis sang 'In The Ghetto' too rough in 1969. It sounded better in 1970 than it does on this show, I my view.
'Suspicious Minds' however, never sounded better than during August 1969. Running for almost 8 minutes it is a delight. Already in February the next year Elvis would start to rush this song, and it would never again be performed with the blues, soul and Gospel flavor he puts into the song this day.
'What'd I Say' is rushed already in 1969 on the other hand. This is the same version as found on Collectors Gold, and is mostly instrumental. After closing 'What 'd I Say' Elvis quickly dedicates the next song to the audience and sings 'Can't Help Falling In Love'
This CD will be one of the most popular CD among Elvis fans I believe. A great show in great sound quality is all we can ask for. Running time is 79:10. A Winner!
, Norway, August 2002
|2. "My wish came true..."
(Review by Crister Berge)
Finally, a 1969 concert is released by FTD. I've been waiting for three years for this, so thank you, Ernst! It's the midnight show from August 23 and we're treated to what I'm guessing was one of the longest shows from this Vegas stint; Elvis is at work for no less than 79 minutes! [As compared to the show on CD #1 (Aug. 24) on the box set Live In Las Vegas that lasted 62 minutes.] Elvis plays the guitar in quite a few numbers, and as always it's out of tune. And this was a time when The King still enjoyed singing old rockers like 'Jailhouse Rock' and 'Hound Dog', just listen to him kick-start the latter: "YOU AIN'T NUTHIN' BUT A HOUND DOG!" Great stuff.
Elvis is extremely talkative and in a rambunctious mood. He's having a hard time controlling his laughter, and it's just wonderful to hear him in such great spirit. Also, he is not as hoarse as on other shows from this period. Only 'Reconsider Baby' and 'What'd I Say' are previously released. When you play the CD you'll notice that tracks four and five are actually encoded as one track, and as a consequence the track numbers are out of sync. I also noticed that Flaming Star's senior writer Eivind Haug gets a "special thanks" inside the digi-pak - what a shame they misspelled his first name!
Track number four is entitled "Welcome" - oh, wow, an unknown song that we've never heard before? Nah, it's just Elvis greeting the audience. They should have named it "Elvis welcomes the audience", as on Live In Las Vegas. As always, Elvis says this is his first live appearance in "nine years". Why didn't anyone correct him - it was EIGHT years, for God's sake! His next statement reveals his self-loathing: "Before the evening is over I will have made a complete fool of myself. I hope you get a kick out of watching it." The audience is informed that the stuff Elvis is drinking is Gatorade, a sports drink that was new at the time. Says Elvis, "It's supposed to work twelve times faster than water... looks like it's already been used to me...". The monologue leading up to the "message song" 'Hound Dog' is really weird, and a little dirty, even. Sadly, the performance of 'Memories' is destroyed as Elvis is busy kissing dames throughout the song.
Track eleven (which has several tape edits) is Elvis reminiscing about his career for nine minutes. Imagine that he held this "speech" 57 times! On this occasion, his tongue slips several times. When he's supposed to say, "I went to make a record", it comes out, "to make a girl". "Hit record" becomes "rit hecord" and "hotel" is "hochell". Here are a few excerpts from the monologue. His line of work before entering the world of showbiz: "I was training to be an electrician and I got wired the wrong way." He gets his first real laugh when he impersonates Ed Sullivan, and when telling the story about the basset hound he was singing to at the Steve Allen Show, he says the dog was "in heat", which I recently learned means "ready to mate"!
As Elvis talks about his pre-army Hollywood films, he cannot hide his disappointment with the Colonel's decision to let Elvis be a regular G.I. Joe. Elvis says he was "living it up": "I'm a movie star! I'm a sonoffabitch! Eatin' hamburgers and drinkin' Pepsi-Colas. Then I got drafted... and shafted." According to the Myth, Elvis was happy to serve his country and enjoyed the army. Not so. We now know that Elvis hated the service and that he never forgave the ol' man for depriving him of two years of his life. A glimpse of the sobering army life: "The guys in the army must get awfully lonely, 'cuz they called each other 'mother' a lot." An unknown movie is also presented: "I did a black and white 8 millimeter underground film called 'Up Your Nose'. It's not out yet, they're still editing the rough parts." Finally, it's interesting to hear Elvis tell the "smitty on a hearse" joke, as it was used by controversial author Albert Goldman as an example of Elvis' sense of humour. The thing I enjoyed the most was Elvis' aural emulation of a "goonie bird" - absolutely hilarious! He finishes by saying, "Hope I didn't bore you too much." Certainly not, Elvis!
Note the lyric change in Del Shannon's 'Runaway': instead of "the things we've done together", Elvis sings "the times we had together". I will not comment on 'Reconsider Baby', but refer to my review of Collectors Gold, which you'll find at: http://www.elvisinnorway.com/collectorsgold.html. In 'Yesterday', Elvis alters the line "I'm not half the man" by replacing "man" with "stud". The song is elevated by exquisite piano playing by Larry Muhoberac. Funny that Elvis never got Larry's last name right... 'Suspicious Minds' is pretty faithful to the studio original; Burton tries real hard to copy Reggie Young's guitar sound and style (the opening riff). It's a fantastic performance but surely way too long at eight minutes? Elvis really wanted to plug his new single.... 'What'd I Say' is the version from Collectors Gold. I wonder if Elvis left the stage during James' lengthy solo? And why the Hell isn't JB's guitar brought to the front??!
Anyhows, a fine show it is, Elvis is in top form and lots of rock & roll. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
On a scale from 1 to 5, I give it 4.5.
© Crister Berge (E-mail: email@example.com), Sweden 2002
Other reviews by Crister Berge
|3. ELVIS AT THE INTERNATIONAL
(Review by Ken Jensen)
Remembering what BMG did the last time they issued a 1969 Las Vegas concert, I looked forward to this one with concern and excitement. As always when listening to officially released live Elvis records, disappointment struck. It seems to me Ernst Jørgensen is completely incompetent when handling live material. This CD has got several shortcomings. For starters, Elvis has got an amazing—and slightly weird—introduction to 'Hound Dog'. This is one of the highlights of the show, a truly outstanding performance. The problem is that they have cut the introduction off the song and glued it onto the end of 'Heartbreak Hotel'. What the hell would they want to do that for? If I play 'Hound Dog' separately, I miss out on the introduction, which is a major drawback. The only way to enjoy the introduction is suffering through 'Heartbreak Hotel' every single time. By all means, 'Heartbreak Hotel' is a great song (one of my favorites), but when I want to listen to 'Hound Dog' complete with introduction, that is what I want to do. Is that too much to ask? And if that's not enough, the CD is listed with twenty-one tracks, when in fact there are twenty. They have also misspelled Eivind Haug's name. The cover art is excellent (an idea of Eivind's), but the title is ridiculous. It really doesn't portray the contents of the CD, which a title should do. This could have been any given concert from 1969 or 1970. What shall we call future releases from this period? Elvis at the International II or Here We Go Again, You Big, Freaky International? I think it would have been better if they had called the release Elvis at the International, August 23, 1969, Midnight Show. Awfully wordy? No matter, let's have a second look at the front cover, which is an act of genius. Look at that picture! It reeks of power and vitality. Elvis stands with legs wide apart, guitar draped over his crotch, and the microphone held in a clenched fist, level with his hips. This is the Tiger, King of the Castle, the Horny Stud in a merry go-round with the Las Vegas mares.
The show is magnificent, but it gets a little ruined by the incompetency of the BMG/FTD staff. If you can bear with this, there are plenty of things to take pleasure in, especially Elvis's life story, which is placed correctly this time (as opposed to the August 24, 1969 Dinner Show found on the Elvis Live in Las Vegas 4 CD Box Set). Elvis touches a variety of topics. He admits to being "crazy", which is funny, considering—as we have come to learn over the years—that he was mentally unstable. He had the habit of shooting at TV sets every now and then. A person who is fully balanced and in touch with himself doesn't do a thing like that. Not to mention that the dude almost shot Linda Thompson in the head during a Las Vegas engagement some years later, while she was in the can and he lay sprawled on the bed, bored out of his poor wits. Who in their right mind pulls out a loaded gun and starts blasting away inside a hotel suite?
Elvis erupts in nervous, constrained laughter several times during the concert. He almost sounds psychotic when he cracks up. He gives his best to satisfy the crowd. At times, he seems desperate. He is steamrolling with high-strung energy. Elvis sweats his balls off. He knows what's at stake. He knows he must deliver. And boy does he.
The show is a must! Don't dare miss it.
© Ken Jensen, Norway, September 2003
Other reviews by Ken Jensen
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