LIVE IN LAS VEGAS - BMG 07863 69354 2
||Las Vegas Box
Finally a "complete" live concert from 1969 is released, and for the third time we will also get a complete August 1970 concert. BMG also release previously released material from February 1970 and February 1972 (disc 3). Finally - on the last disc - different soundboard recordings from May 1956, August 1974 and March and December 1975 are featured.
Some might question the inclusion of the '56 concert. Ernst Jørgensen says that BMG had to have it on the box. There is nothing from 1971, 1973 or the final Las Vegas season in December 1976.
The Las Vegas box-set contains a book with pictures and an essay on this aspect of Elvis' career.
1. Click for review by Kevin Walters.
2. Click for review by Andy Urias.
3. Click for review by Jeffrey J. Courouleau.
4. Click for review by Daniel Slate.
5. Click for review by Steve Morse, Boston Globe.
6. Click for review by James Devereaux.
7. Click for review by Mark Littlejohn.
8. Click for review by Marco Lofino.
CD-1 contains the dinner show from August 24. However, BMG has edited out the monologue and placed this at the end of the disc (in other words after the concert). Unbelievable!!
Opening Theme - Blue Suede Shoes - I Got A Woman - All Shook Up - Monologue - Love Me Tender - Jailhouse Rock/Don't Be Cruel - Heartbreak Hotel - Hound Dog - I Can't Stop Loving You - Johnny B. Goode - Monologue (Life story) - Baby What You Want Me To Do - Runaway - Are You Lonesome Tonight - Yesterday/Hey Jude - Introductions - In The Ghetto - Suspicious Minds - What'd I Say - Can't Help Falling In Love - Monologue (Life story)
The complete concert from August 11 1970.
This is the show with the "Men With Broken Hearts" poem. From this show we already have 'Heartbreak Hotel', 'Something' (edited) and 'One Night'. With this CD, we will have 3 complete concerts from August 1970, all three within a year! As a 'bonus', an audience-recording of 'When The Snow Is On The Roses' ends the disc.
Opening Theme - That's All Right - I Got A Woman - *Hound Dog - Love Me Tender - *There Goes My Everything - *Just Pretend - I Just Can't Help Believing - **Something - *Men With Broken Hearts/Walk A Mile In My Shoes - You've Lost That Loving Feeling - Polk Salad Annie - **One Night - *Don't Be Cruel - *Love Me - Instrumental Vamp - **Heartbreak Hotel - Bridge Over Troubled Water - Suspicious Minds - Can't Help Falling In Love - When The Snow Is On The Roses (audience recording, Aug. 24)
* Released on The Lost Performances (VHS)
** Released on The Essential 70's Masters.
Live recordings from February 1970 and February 1972. This CD is a study in how to re-release something just released.
CD-3 will be On Stage (1999) and Burning Love (1999) one more time...[Except from live takes 1969 and studio takes]
See See Rider - Release Me - Sweet Caroline - The Wonder Of You - Polk Salad Annie - Proud Mary - Walk A Mile In My Shoes/In The Ghetto - Let It Be Me - Don't Cry Daddy - Kentucky Rain - Long Tally Sally - I Can't Stop Loving You - Suspicious Minds - Never Been To Spain - You Gave Me A Mountain -It's Impossible - It's Over - Hound Dog (slow version) - Little Sister/Get Back - A Big Hunk O' Love - The Impossible - American Trilogy
Different soundboard recordings from 1974 and 1975, and the live performance in 1956 (First released on Elvis Aron Presley)
Several new versions from soundboard are released. Just a small amount have been out on bootlegs before! A real plus to BMG on this decision.
1: Heartbreak Hotel (May 6, 1956)
2: Long Tall Sally (May 6, 1956)
3: Blue Suede Shoes (May 6, 1956)
4: Money Honey (May 6, 1956)
5: Promised Land (August 19, 1974)
6: It's Midnight (August 21, 1974 M.S.)
7: If You Talk In Your Sleep (August 21, 1974 M.S.)
8: I'm Leavin' (August 21, 1974 M.S.)
9: Why Me, Lord (August 21, 1974 M.S.)
10: Help Me (August 22, 1974 M.S.)
11: Softly As I Leave You (August 21, 1974 M.S.)
12: My Baby Left Me (August 19, 1974)
13: It's Now Or Never (August 27, 1974 M.S.)
14: Hawaiian Wedding Song (August 21, 1974 M.S.)
15: Trying To Get To You (August 20, 1974 D.S.)
16: Green, Green Grass Of Home (March 22, 1975 M.S.)
17: You're The Reason I'm Living (March 22, 1975 M.S.)
18: Big Boss Man (March 28, 1975 M.S.)
19: Burning Love (March 28, 1975 M.S.)
20: My Boy (March 30, 1975 D.S.)
21: And I Love You So (December 6, 1975 M.S)
22: Just Pretend (December 6, 1975 M.S)
23: How Great Thou Art (December 6 1975 M.S)
24: America (December 6, 1975 M.S)
Relevant background information:
Las Vegas, Season 11 1974... Las Vegas, Season 14 1975...
Las Vegas, Season 12 1975... Las Vegas, Season 15 1976...
|1. Review by Kevin Walters
caveat emp·tor (mptôr) n. The axiom or principle in commerce that the buyer alone is responsible for assessing the quality of a purchase before buying.
Let me say that my review is not "the gospel". Everyone who listens has different expectations. But mine were very high. And several aspects of the box fell short for me:
I arrived at Tower Records at 11:45pm on July 9 in order to purchase the box at midnight, July 10. In my car, I carefully removed the plastic and opened the box set with childlike anticipation. "Finally, a real 1969 live show", I thought to myself as I placed the CD in my car stereo. My great expectations for the box were quickly dashed.
The 69 disc is definitely a different concert than Here I Go Again - but not as good IMHO. RCA has better, more exciting, more explosive live performances from the 69 season (such as the Aug 23 shows). Again, with CD 1 of the Vegas Box, we have Dennis Ferrante's infamous "selective-revisionist-instrument-exclusion syndrome". This is the process whereby Ferrante decides to delete certain instruments from the mix, such as a piano, as if they were never part of the original show! Ferrante doesn't give you the show as it happened, but rather, as he believes it should have happened. It's his revisionist attempt to make the show sound more contemporary and "ROCKIN". The problem for me is that "instrument disappearance" becomes really transparent and annoying because the faint trace of the eliminated instruments can still be heard due to microphone leakage on other instrument/vocal tracks.
Remember those wonderful piano fills that Larry Muhoberac uses to dress up 'In The Ghetto', which we've heard on Here I Go Again? Well, you're going to have a difficult time even hearing the keyboard on MOST tracks on disc 1. Absolutely bizarre. The Ferrante/Jorgenson decision to virtually eliminate (and make sub audible on MOST tracks) Larry's piano is VERY troubling. Let me say that again. Virtually no piano on disc one - on most tracks. A shame because this was Elvis' only season with Larry. And Larry had a unique, soulful, "gospelly", and very funky piano conception. He was good, and it's refreshing to hear someone other than Glen Hardin for a change (nothing against Hardin).
It should be said that the 69 materials were professionally recorded on 1 inch 8 track open reel tape, at 15 inches per second by RCA. These are excellent recordings. The potential for a good mix was there. But they blew it. Of course, since the original recording was good, the sound is crisp and clean. But the vibe is WRONG -no piano- just throbbing bass and rhythm
guitar. It just sounds sort of lifeless. Crisp and clear, but lifeless! I must conclude that Ferrante's ear for a proper, historically accurate mix continues to be "suspect". The guy is not consistent.
I was really looking forward to finally hearing this 69 material in all its glory. RCA has never released a complete, unedited show from the 69 season. And they still haven't, as this show does have it's monologue cut and re-sequenced. Why would Jorgenson be so worried about people having to listen to a monologue? Jorgenson, here's a question for you: How difficult is it to press the "skip" button on a CD player if you don't like the monologue in it's rightful, historically accurate position? Your decision to edit the show reveals your lack of confidence in the consumer and undermines the historical value of the box. Further, the re-sequencing of the monologue for "playing convenience" (as Jorgenson calls it) does not make sense because most track numbers--most songs on the 69 disc - begin not with music, but with 40 seconds of babbling. Know what I mean? If Jorgenson feels the need to edit the monologue babble, why not also consistently encode each track to begin immediately with music and leave the babble at the tail end of the
previous track? Jorgenson's actions are inconsistent, and confirm that he is not the best man to be producing Presley's posthumous legacy. This is a man who likes to "dumb-down" the releases-so that you, the consumer, can fully appreciate their true "greatness". Jorgenson knows what's best for you.
A very good show. Elvis was at a peak in August 1970. This mix is well done. In fact, all the instruments are so clear now - compared to disc 2 of TTWII Special Edition. To hear how much Ferrante deleted from the mix of last years concert on the TTWII CD, compare 'Walk A Mile in My Shoes' with the one on this box. On this box, you can actually hear and follow the piano!!
That surprised me. The backup singers are also audible in this box!! In short, the mix on the Vegas box in more honest and "accurate" than the one released last year for TTWII. In other words, Ferrante, "got it right" with his mix for disc 2. This is very similar to Bruce Botnick's excellent mix for the TTWII DVD re-release.
Nothing new. Same crap. The February 1970 Ferrante mixes aren't really that great. You've heard it before. You've purchased it on Elvis On Stage (1999), and Burning Love (1999). Now you are repurchasing it again. Isn't Jorgenson great! These MIGHT be the same exact mixes Ferrante did in 99. Not sure about that though. The 1972 material is better recorded than the February 1970 date...but we already knew that.
Let's repurchase the '56 Vegas performance shall we? I'm not sure it sounds much better than the 50's box version...they sure hyped it like it would be a massive improvement...but it's not. The mid 70's Vegas soundboards are interesting, but perhaps of lesser interest, as the King is not quite in his prime. Still there are some good performances here. Sound quality is better than expected, considering many of these nonprofessional soundboards were dubbed off a cassette made by the house soundman at the Hilton.
Packaging is "nice". Includes several apparently rare photos inside, along with some that have been around the block a few times. The notes could have been more "in-depth". They were kind of "fluffy", considering the supposed "historical significance" of the box. As is typical with BMG, it's more
about style than substance.
Overall, I'd give the box a 6.5 out of a possible 10.
Disc 1: Mediocre, quasi-uninspired 69 show. Substandard mix. When I say mediocre, I mean mediocre for a 69 show. A 69 show, by its very definition, should KICK ASS. Remember, Elvis was in his prime in 69; therefore, I have very high standards for this performance. This dinner show doesn't even compare to some of the blistering performances he gave on Aug 23, which were included on the 1990 release, Collectors Gold. The disc is a let down. 32 years later and they still can't get the 69 materials "right". Why not give us a concert with some rare songs on it: 'My Babe', for instance.
Disc 2: Excellent explosive performance. Excellent mix. Aug 1970--Elvis at his peak. Jorgenson and Ferrante did a good job on this one.
Disc 3: Feb 70 and Feb 72. Very good performances -but you've already bought it anyway. Why no alternates from the Feb 70 shows? Would you like some Vaseline with that?
Disc 4: More stuff you already have, plus a host of quasi-mediocre fidelity soundboards of respectable, if not exceptional performances. The main appeal here is that much of these songs were rarely performed live and/or recorded on tape. Apparently, these mono cassette soundboards (non-professionally recorded) were too poor in audio quality for Mr. Ferrante to even consider associating his "golden name" and prestigious "reputation" with them, so he gave them to Mrs. Reidel for mastering. To bad Ferrante's talent isn't as large as his misinformed ego.
The box was a great concept on paper. But as a whole, I believe the producer fell short of fully delivering a product worthy of Presley's legacy. Jorgenson failed himself, Elvis and the consumer. Pretty packaging does not make up for the POOR PRODUCING: the inexcusable EDITING of a "complete show", the selection of an average, pedestrian 69 performance-instead of a stellar one, the virtual ELIMINATION of Larry's piano in the mix on most 69 tracks, encoding each track to begin with 40 seconds of BABBLE instead of
immediate music, giving us the same Feb 70 and Feb 72 material WE ALREADY OWN, and making us REPURCHASE the 56 material for a third time.
It's a confused release, from a confused producer and an inconsistent mixing engineer. (Disc 2 is a keeper though, making this the most expensive single CD BMG has released to date.). Oh well, sit back and watch the damn thing win a Grammy. Life is full of injustice.
© Kevin Walters, July 11 2001
|2. Review by Andy Urias
I have very mixed emotions about this box set. This is partly due to the fact that before the content was ever announced, the idea behind a box set devoted to Elvis' Las Vegas years had so much promise and potential. Once BMG announced what the content would be, I would imagine most Elvis fans were somewhat disappointed.
Some of Elvis' finest moments in concert occurred on the stage of the Las Vegas Hilton and it is widely known that a handful of those performances were either available on soundboard recordings or from professionally recorded tapes. This release originally held so much promise because of all the material available to use. Unfortunately, BMG really failed to deliver. The only thing that saves the release at all is the fact there is 3 CDs of mostly unavailable material. Aside from the front cover, the artwork is absolutely horrendous. The photos are pretty weak and the few that are nice are so small and buried in strange collages, that it is difficult to enjoy the presentation. There are no attractive pictures of the showroom or of the hotel the way it looked during the 70's. The liner notes have nothing enlightening to say. A very vague and general background is given about some of Elvis' Vegas career. A lot more should be expected from a project of this magnitude.
Let's start with Disc One. Finally BMG released a complete concert from 1969. However, as usual, Ernst Jorgensen felt the need to edit the content, which almost always is a guarantee of ruining a recorded show. There was absolutely no reason to move Elvis' monologue to the end of the concert. One should never alter the course of a recorded concert, as it is a historical document in a sense, especially in Elvis' case. Ernst says that the monologue has been moved to the end of the show for "playing convenience." At the same time, the packaging says that priority has been given to historic content with regards to sound quality. Isn't the original sequencing of the concert 'historic content?' There is enough banter between songs that a 6-minute monologue would not have changed the flow of the show that much. Knowing that the show has been tampered with, the listening experience is in some ways ruined. Aside from this huge error on BMG's part, the show is pretty solid. However, a reasonable question could be, is this the best show from 69 that they had to choose from? Performances of 'Memories', 'Inherit The Wind', and 'Funny How Time Slips Away' are available from other shows, which is a sign that some of his 69 shows had more variety in terms of the material than this particular show we have here. Overall, this show is solid, but most likely there are better shows from 1969. Hopefully BMG will give the fans another show from 69 (unedited) on the FTD label, as this is certainly a year from his live performances that needs to be further exposed.
Disc Two showcases Elvis' August 11 performance from his summer run in 1970. Overall, this is a great show. Ernst has said the August 12 show that is featured on TTWII-Special Edition is "probably" the best show they have. There is no question that it is a great show, but this August 11 show is just as good if not better. After hearing some material from his August 13 performance, I was hoping BMG might release that show as it sounds like it was a beauty. Maybe the fans will get the chance to own it from FTD. The bottom line is that it appears that all the performances recorded in August 1970 are gems.
There was a certain explosive passion and power that can be heard in the 1969 shows that was never truly evident again, however, by 1970 Elvis had honed his craft to new heights and his performances were very well balanced and for the most part brilliant live events.
The addition of 'The Snow Is On The Roses' is nice to hear. However, if this entire box set was configured differently, it would have fit better on another disc. It does seem a little odd to have this one audience recording isolated in the middle of this box set.
Disc Three is an absolute disaster and waste of space. Yes, the songs and most of the performances are great, but most likely everyone that purchases LIVE IN LAS VEGAS will already own these songs. There is no excuse for BMG re-releasing these songs again. It is a typical decision by BMG and it is a rip-off and a scam, but more importantly, it shows a great deal of disrespect for Elvis' fans. Every single one of these songs has been released at least once if not multiple times. It isn't like these particular performances represent the best versions of the actual songs. In 1970 and 1972, Elvis usually performed these songs consistently well. If BMG was determined to use these songs, they could have at least given the listener some alternate versions. I can guarantee that there are alternate versions of these songs that are just as good or better. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that BMG was under any obligation to make sure they didn't use previously released material for this box-set, but for them to include previously released material as an entire CD in this 4 CD set, is absolutely ridiculous. A few previously released songs here and there mixed with unreleased material would have been just fine.
Another problem with this disc is actually the content. There is so much more that could have been done. No one would have complained about having a complete show from 1972 or even from February 1970. Even a soundboard from 71 or 73 would have been nice. If not another show, some alternate versions of songs along with some unreleased stage rehearsals and audience recordings of rare songs (this is where "The Snow Is On The Roses" would have fit in just nicely) could have been effective. The bottom line is that this is an extremely disappointing disc and coupled with the unforgivable editing of the first disc, it is easy to see my mixed emotions so far.
Disc Four: Well first of all, why is the 1956 Las Vegas performance once again included on a BMG box-set? The Complete 50s Masters and the Elvis Aron Presley (Silverbox) is enough. It is a waste of space, and again, most everyone who purchases LIVE IN LAS VEGAS will own the 1956 performance. This is yet another example of BMG re-releasing something on this box set. Their logic is understandable by wanting to include this short 4-song performance, but sense this box-set obviously isn't a true overview of his entire Vegas career, the motives to include the '56 show go unjustified.
The remaining content is various soundboard recordings from 1974 and 1975. To someone that doesn't have a huge amount of bootleg recordings from Elvis' mid-seventies Vegas performances, it is nice to have these performances. There is some great stuff on this disc and the sound quality is quite good on some of the performances. It is interesting that BMG chose not to include any performances from 1976 (at the same time, they skipped 71 and 73, so its not a huge shock). Ernst states in a recent issue of ICE Magazine that the '76 recordings are the worst of all in terms of sound quality and that this is the reason none of them were included. I don't see how they could have sounded that bad, but I also think Ernst was probably looking for any excuse to not include something from 1976 as this is definitely a period where the overall quality of Elvis' performances became questionable. An interesting note to this is that the booklet shows some hand-written lyrics to 'My Way' that Elvis used on stage Las Vegas in 1976. It would have been nice if BMG had actually included the song and not just a picture of the lyrics.
Nothing else can really be said of the content. It is what it is. Disc one has some great performances, but maybe could have been better with a different show and without the shameful editing. Disc two is great. Disc three should not have been included. Some nice and previously unavailable soundboard recordings from the mid-70s save disc four. So what was the idea behind this whole package? If it was supposed to be a comprehensive overview of Elvis' Vegas career, it is an absolute failure. Ernst has said this package is supposed to appeal to the general public. Well no matter how much BMG promotes this release, the general public isn't going to be the primary purchaser. In fact, most of the general public would probably pick up a greatest hits package rather than a box set filled with live performances from Las Vegas. This type of release is geared toward fans, no other way around it. If a consumer from the general public is going to purchase an Elvis Presley box set, it will probably be The 50s Masters or Artist of The Century.
If BMG really wanted to create a package that was an overview of Elvis' career in Las Vegas, it should have been at least 6 CDs instead of 4. There is a lot of material from many different years that needed to be included, but no one has ever said BMG/RCA is sensible. A good example of what a record label should do when attempting to showcase an era of a legacy artist's career is what Columbia Records has done with Miles Davis' catalogue. He is a huge legacy artist and Columbia has enjoyed repackaging and reissuing his catalogue and material as much as BMG has with Elvis'. But when it has come to showcasing certain eras of his career, Columbia has done a brilliant job. Last year they released a box-set showcasing Miles' collaborations with John Coltrane and they created a 6 CD box set with apparently everything available in the vaults from the two Jazz giants’ collaborations. It was a project aimed at the fans, but also the general public. The fans got everything available with incredible packaging and liner notes and if the general public wanted it, they got a package that was complete and properly done. They didn't shortchange anyone just to fit everything into 4 CDs and certainly didn't aim the project at the "general pubic". To be properly done, the project required the length of 6 CDs. Some time after, they released a single CD compilation aimed more at the general public and casual listener from the box-set entitled, "Best of Miles Davis and John Coltrane". The "general public" logically would more likely purchase a single CD compilation rather than a huge box set with more material than they might want to digest.
BMG could learn something from Columbia. They could have made this at least a 6CD box set and really covered Elvis in Vegas properly and then released a single CD of highlights from the box set for the "general public". On 6 CDs they could have released complete shows from more than just 2 years and had room for stage rehearsals, audience recordings, soundboard recordings and of course their coveted 1956 Vegas recording (which I'm sure will find its way onto another future release). This isn't an idea or an unrealistic wish from a fan who always wants more and that is never satisfied. This is a legitimate idea and concept that has been used by other record labels for other important artists. There are a lot of box sets out there in the marketplace that deliver the goods and that make sense. BMG has the ability to create quality releases, but they don't seem to have the right people in charge of Elvis' catalogue.
LIVE IN LAS VEGAS is certainly worth purchasing. The edited '69 show, the '70 show, and various soundboard recordings from '74 - '75 are worth the price of admission, but for a box-set that originally had so much promise, it really is a big disappointment. At least we know there is a lot of material left over for potential FTD releases. One thing is for certain, Elvis Presley and his Las Vegas legacy deserved much more than this.
© Andy Urias, July 12 2001
Other reviews of Andy Urias
|3. Review by Jeffrey J. Courouleau
I always make a habit of looking forward to official releases of Elvis material, whether through RCA or FTD.
So, today, I check my mail to find this there, and I opened it up full of expectations, and here are the observations I have after listening to the whole set once through.
I really, really like the live material I have so far from 1969, including Live At The International Hotel, the 3rd disc of Collector's Gold, and assorted bootleg material (among others). Both of the official releases I mention have what I consider to be wonderful, warm sound, with good instrumental separation that allows each player to come through and rock out, but not
overpower the mix.
My first thought of this disc, by about the time I was into 'I Got A Woman' was "why is this so cluttered?"
The mix on this disc, while sonically imposing, seems to be too busy. Instrument separation suffers so that a very bass and guitar saturated environment is created. It seems that as previous reviewers have noted, that at times, Dennis Ferrante's mixing capabilities have a way of confusing everyone but him.
There is also the problem that, content-wise, this disc's performances are slightly weaker than the ones on the other releases I mention above. Elvis seems to be giving 90% effort for this concert, when his best performances come at 110%.
This disc blew my mind. Off the bat, the mixing is much, much better than disc 1. There is also the fact that 1970 live performances are my favorite, so I'm probably biased. After having seen TTWII: Special Edition at the exclusive birthday screening this year, I enjoyed the full, gritty, but intense mix of disc 2 of the TTWII re-release on CD. So I put disc 2 of Live In Las Vegas on expecting the wonderful gritty type mix, and got an ultra-clean, VERY well separated mix, and a concert that is the equivalent of the full concert released on TTWII in every way.
Content wise, I was impressed throughout at the sheer power of Elvis' voice. An extraordinary performance, with possibly the most intense and driven performance of Suspicious Minds' I know of, barring the wonderful Live At The International Hotel version.
Well... I have all this on other releases. And Dennis Ferrante used the 1999 On Stage mix for the songs that were taken from that album. Even to the point of cutting Elvis' introduction to Let It Be Me (which, curiously enough, appears on the 70s boxed set).
In addition, while I appreciated having crossfades and such between songs, some of them were... how do I put this... clumsy. I've done better on my home digital equipment. There are a few sudden changes that make a person scratch their head as the source of applause changes to move from song to song. And while it was nice to have all of these tracks collected in one place (I suppose), I could have gone for 3 fairly unreleased discs, and 1 containing material from the Vegas years not covered in this set.
My first and only problem with this disc (beside the 50s appearance being here at all), is that the 50s material sounds MUCH worse here than on the 50s boxed set (at least to me). Though the quality of recording of the late 70s Vegas soundboards were not as high as the early 70s soundboards, they chronicle my favorite period of his career. Plus, the song selection here appeals to someone like me who likes album cuts as well as "greatest hits".
So... in short... disc 1 has great content, and average sound. Disc 2 has both great content and great sound. Disc 3 has the same sound it had when we got it the first few times, with chancy crossfades thrown in. And disc 4 has great content, and OK sound (which can be put aside due to the content).
I give RCA kudos for 'When The Snow Is On The Roses', but a thumbs down for telling us that "Elvis and Elvis Presley are registered trademarks of Elvis Presely Enterprises". You'd think that as much money as they make on Mr. "Presely", that they could get his name right (or that they'd screw up something difficult like "Murfreesboro").
I give this release a 7.5 out of 10 for content, but a 6 out of 10 for sound.
© Jeffrey J. Courouleau, July 13 2001
|4. Review by Daniel Slate
DISC 1: Okay. Fine. It's not as good as what's on Collector's Gold, with rarities like 'Inherit The Wind' and 'This Is The Story', but at least they didn't try to sneak what sounds to me like an obvious studio rehersal version of 'Rubberneckin' into the middle of a live show. (Is that what they did on Collector's Gold? It sure sounds like it to me...)
And it is a real concert instead of a patchwork, which is good. Anyway, it's a noisy mix and, sure it was really stupid and pointless to move that monologue, but it's a pretty nice disc overall.
DISC 2: Disc two is fine. Great even. 'When the Snow is on the Roses' should not be on this disc though. It should have been on disc 4 with the other "rarites".
DISC 3: This disc makes me wanna "kill" Jorgensen. I mean, they obviously did it just to screw the fans into spending money for something they already have. Besides that, why focus all of disc 2 and then half of disc three on 1970? Especially when the half on this disc is previously released? I mean, what about 'Snowbird' from 1/29/70? Most of us have heard the bootleg, and it's better than a lot of what they stuck on here. What about the 8-19-74 show with all those rare tracks like 'Down in the Alley'? Hell, what about at least putting the version of 'Let It Be Me' from "A Legendary Performer, Volume 3" instead of the ultra-common version here? THIS DISC SHOULD NOT EXIST!!!
Disc 4: Oh, listen: It's Elvis' 1956 New Frontier performance again. What the hell do we need the same 4 songs, in the same quality, to appear on THREE DIFFERENT BOX SETS for?? C'mon!! Disc 3 should've been the August 19, 1974 Vegas opener and Disc 4 should've left off the '56 stuff and focused on a few more rarities, like 'Snowbird'(1-29-70) and 'True Love Travels On A Gravel Road' (1-26-70). I've heard both of these in equal or better quality than some of this set's content. How about 'Until It's Time For You To Go' or 'The First Time Ever I saw Your Face'? There are no officially released live versions of any of these, yet we have to have space taken up by 4 songs that have been on two other sets! We are being screwed!!
The cover is fantastic and the accompanying booklet is horrible. No track by track liner notes, just a very general overview of Elvis in Las Vegas with some of the worst pictures I have ever come across. They even spelled Elvis' last name incorrectly at one point. I would say that absolutely no care went into this booklet, and very little care in the whole project. It's really sad. The cover, however, is absolutley stunning.
© Daniel Slate, July 17 2001
|5. Review by Steve Morse, The Boston Globe
Trends come and go, but the marketing of Elvis Presley is here to stay. Elvis continues to sell 4 million to 10 million albums per year -- stunning figures for an artist who died 24 years ago. And while the Beatles pop up every so often with a mega-reissue, Elvis never seems to take any time off.
"There are many differences in the way the Beatles and Elvis are handled," says Michael Omansky, senior vice president of strategic marketing for RCA Records, which controls Presley's catalog. "The Beatles have more peaks and valleys than we do, but we're an ongoing business. Where the Beatles do things occasionally and in a big way, we sell year in and year out. But both franchises are doing very well. You don't have to take a collection for either side."
That's for sure.
Elvis sales have gone up 94 percent in the past six years, since Omansky took over and realized that Elvis was "underutilized" by the previous regime. The latest release is the four-CD box set Elvis: Live in Las Vegas, featuring 53 previously unreleased performances. Another must for collectors, it combs 20 years of Elvis' shows in the desert city, where he began by opening as a nervous kid for Shecky Greene and the Freddy Martin Orchestra at the Frontier Hotel in 1956 before rising to headline the International and Hilton Hotels, where he played to 1.5 million people in the early '70s alone.
"Vegas was a comfortable environment for him and his manager (Colonel Tom Parker). It was a good showcase, it paid well, and he got a lot of notoriety from it," Omansky says.
The new box is a historian's delight. It starts with two CDs taken from complete performances at the International Hotel on Aug. 24, 1969, and Aug. 11, 1970. The first was Presley's return to the live stage after nine years (discounting his 1968 Comeback Special on TV), an absence caused by his making of mostly bad movies in Hollywood.
He is clearly glad to be back in front of a live crowd, but shows some rust by oversinging and by waffling through some strange, though friendly, banter.
"This is my first appearance in nine years live," Elvis says. "I appeared dead a few times, but this is my first live appearance. Before the evening is over, I will have made a total fool of myself. I hope you get a kick out of watching it."
But when he rocks, he rocks hard, as on Blue Suede Shoes, Jailhouse Rock and a cover of Ray Charles' What'd I Say. And he shows a sense of humor when he recalls his pre-music days right out of high school: "I was driving a truck and was training to be an electrician. But I got wired the wrong way, baby. That's what happened to me."
Musically, the second CD is much better. Taken from a performance a year later, it shows how Elvis has readjusted to the stage with new confidence. He is more vital, not only on his early rockabilly nugget That's All Right, but on emotive covers of George Harrison's Something and Paul Simon's Bridge Over Troubled Water.
The third and fourth CDs are from a variety of shows, starting in 1956 (a scorching treatment of Little Richard's Long Tall Sally) and going on up to 1975, and the remastered sound quality is excellent. Elvis explodes on Chuck Berry's Promised Land, but also shows his spiritual side on Larry Gatlin's gospel tune Help Me.
As for the previously unreleased performances, Omansky says, "We actually reacquired some tapes that had wandered away from RCA in the last couple of years, from the Las Vegas sessions. Tapes had wandered everywhere." Part of this was because RCA moved and lost tapes in the transition, but also, as in the case of some Elvis studio efforts, tapes fell into outside hands.
"Even though we have the rights to put the product out, somebody else might have physical possession of the master (tape). So we're perpetually searching to get back masters," says Omansky, who even has a team of "authenticators" who weed out bogus tapes. "They're often somebody else singing on a tape, trying to sound like Elvis, but we can sniff out very quickly if it's real." For security reasons, he won't explain how the team does this, but hints that it's a combination of scientific analysis and human legwork.
© Steve Morse, The Boston Globe, July 15 2001
(Provided by Wade Chism, Indianapolis, Indiana)
|6. Review by James Devereaux
"For the first time we could hear ourselves when we played out of tune, after the show our nerves were pretty frayed, and we would get together in pairs and talk about whoever wasn't around to defend themselves". "They weren't my kind of audience, " said Elvis. "It was strictly an adult audience. "
(Bill Black, 1956 after the Vegas opening at the New Frontier)
"Presley, like a wild beast, roar[ing] through a long list of the songs that made him famous... as ladies lost years and threw themselves at the feet of their leader in frenzied glory".
(Record Mirror Newspaper, August 1969 amidst the second Vegas opening)
Before I begin my review of the Live In Las Vegas box set I would first like to explain why I chose to introduce you to this piece of writing with two such influential quotes. In my opinion, there has been no other performer that has ever undergone such a renaissance in their career, to the extent that from one appearance to another, reactions to their performance were at opposite sides of the spectrum. I believe this must be remembered when approaching such a marvel of entertainment history, and that in a perfect world, any box set of music highlighting this era should reflect this too.
As an introduction to the story we are treated to the first officially released complete show from 1969 (August 24th dinner show. The midnight show was released on DAE titled Here I Go Again). The first thing that we notice is that if you've read the track listing of all four CD's by now, you'll find the closing show in '56 at the beginning of CD 4. Obviously no plans to keep the whole thing in chronological order we see. However the show is a good one with many hyperactive moments and overly aggressive vocals on numbers such as 'Hound Dog' and 'Jailhouse Rock' that fit the descriptions in the second quote perfectly. The controversial element being that BMG slapped his customary speech about his career at the end of the show, and although this damages the live feel and frustrates hardcore fans the advantage of this is dramatic emphasis. In most instances this would have not been the case, however this speech is particularly potent and a compelling listening experience so we'll let them off this time. A solid mix however it often feels a little flat compared to other recent releases such as An Afternoon In The Garden and That's The Way It Is box set.
Moving onto CD 2 the question we ask ourselves is "Do we really need ANOTHER show from August 1970? ". The reason being this is the third complete show within three days of one engagement already released. Putting the skepticism aside however we do find that this show has its strong moments, delivering fresh comedy and interesting versions of all the songs we know backwards by now. Unfortunately on the whole the numbers are a little sloppy (e.g. 'Polk Salad Annie', 'You've lost That Loving Feelin'' and 'One Night') and the mix again a bit distant and boring, only until 'Suspicious Minds' does it noticeably pick up, performance and mix, which is short lived of course because we only have 'Can't Help Falling In Love' and a beautifully improvised but poor quality version of 'When The Snow Is On The Roses' from toward the end of the engagement before we're scrounging around for the next disc. Nothing will beat the 12th of August M.S. in my opinion.
CD 3 is ironically the biggest topic of discussion in this box set. Not for what one would expect, the freshest and most interesting content of the lot, but the source of all hardcore fans annoyance, the inevitable previously released material that nobody finds particularly interesting by now. Yes we've got basically the re-mastered On Stage and all the songs from February '72 that were featured on Burning Love. On a positive note, the mix is good and the running order puts together an interesting set, (Starting off with a 1970 version of 'C.C. Rider' and numbers such as 'It's Impossible', 'You Gave Me A Mountain' and ending with 'An American Trilogy' creating an on the whole ballad CD) however it's BMG's defense of the this material which I believe should be contested. There reasons for using this well-known material was that "This is a box set for the general public, not just Elvis fans".
I would argue that yes, (although it clearly isn't for the general public) that's your own interpretation of the set and you're entitled to it, but, are the general public really going to care if it's new material or not. It's only Elvis fans that actually care about having all new material on releases. Casual fans will buy the set for other reasons. People wouldn't decide NOT to buy the set because it was all new stuff would they! So in my opinion it's a worthless excuse quite frankly. If you didn't have this material before then it is worth having because many of these numbers, especially form '72, are in their earliest form and are some of the best versions around.
So finally we take a trip back in time (once again) to 1956 to hear Elvis try desperately on the closing night at the New Frontier to get some kind of reaction from the crowd while we listen to just a few of the hits we associate Elvis with. 'Heartbreak Hotel' and 'Blue Suede Shoes' the most obvious to all you ‘casual' fans out there. However this does not last long with the arrival of several live August 1974 numbers that have been unusual to official buyers to this date. Such as 'If You Talk In Your Sleep' and 'Green, Green Grass Of Home' to name but two. My opinion had always been of disdain when it comes to August '74. From what I had heard the majority of shows were horrible listening experiences, however hats off to BMG for finding the best moments of this engagement, with several funny monologues and giggled numbers that try to tell us the same message we've been hearing over the past few CD's. "Elvis was always fun and in good voice on stage". A nice false reality we can escape into. A few numbers from December '75 in a poor but surprisingly clear mix tops us off, with one of those token performance of 'How Great Thou Art' that everyone claims is the best ever recorded. Although purely in my opinion it is quite obviously the 10th of June 1975 version in Memphis that shows Elvis' voice at it's best.
So as summary we can ask what did we miss in the box set. Well, we've got nothing from 1971, 1973 or 1976 which is a tad disappointing. Especially 1971 and '73 wise as the December '76 run is a bit short and after the first few nights is not really worth hearing. However on a positive note this set, for what it does include, is a very well put together overview of Elvis' career in Vegas, which paints a very positive picture of his time there. Which from the point of view of the Presley Estate and BMG is the exact intended result, and for this it is an achievement to be proud of.
© James Devereaux, August 8 2001
|7. Review by Mark Littlejohn
Live In Las Vegas is a great box set giving the serious fans a chance to hear Elvis in peak form during his first year back on stage. The set comes with two complete concerts (Aug. 24, 1969 DS and Aug. 11, 1970 MS), plus two cd's featuring additional cuts from Feb. 1970 & 1972, Aug. 1974, and Mar. & Dec. 1975. The last two cd's are okay, as most of us already have that material in multiple forms. The first two cd's are the strength of the set. If RCA had quit there, they'd have done just as well. Hopefully they will give us another show from '69 on FTD such as the Aug 25 Midnight Show which had seven songs on the In Person album, (PLEASE!!!).
CD-1 is a great example of Elvis busting his ass show after show to entertain the people. Having not performed in front of a live audience in years, he had a manic energy about himself that just had to be released. Some have said he spent the rest of his life trying to top those shows. The disk is full of energy, with Elvis and band banging away on such classics as 'Blue Suede Shoes', 'All Shook Up', 'Heartbreak Hotel', 'Hound Dog' and 'Johnny B. Goode' while equally dramatic and soulful on 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?' and 'Can't Help Falling In Love'. The rock songs are played with an almost mean edge to them, I think I read somewhere (a long time ago) that it was a "I'm gonna shove it up your ass" type attitude. This is what blew away audience and critics alike. How could this guy from the fifties who made all those dumbass movies in the sixties, do this to an audience? The answer is simple, while making all those movies in the sixties, we all forgot that ELVIS was and will always be rock and roll's first badass. If you're lookin' for trouble, you came to the right place. If we could bring the guy back in this form; Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones, Motley Crue, etc., etc., wouldn't keep up with him. I have about five minutes of film on VHS of him from this engagement, he's so active on stage it reminds me of the Tasmanian Devil from the Bugs Bunny cartoons. You don't know whether to stand and admire him or have him locked away in a mental hospital.
The mix is excellent, loud and proud as we say in the military, although I wish the piano was more prominent (such as the In Person album). Elvis sounds as though he might have a touch of cold, but if you turn the bass down a bit it seems to help. The intro of 'Baby, What You Want Me To Do' is thunderous, and so is the show until it finally peaks with an awesome 'Suspicious Minds'. Along the way Elvis tells some funny jokes, introduces longtime friend George Hamilton, and dedicates 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?' to Col. Parker's wife. I don't know about you, but I'm going to play this CD until it's worn out.
CD-2 shows Elvis a year later while filming "That's The Way It Is". This August 11 midnight show is prime evidence of the consummate entertainer he had become. He has been on stage for a year now, tweaking the show here and there until he had it just where he wanted: thunderous opening, recent hits, choice covers, handful of oldies, and all mixed together with perfect pacing. The competition didn't have a chance.
The show begins with a very hot and bothered 'That's All Right', and I think this one is better than the one from Aug. 12 MS. The drumming of Ronnie Tutt is louder and more rhythmic, as if that was possible. Other highlights include 'I Got A Woman', 'There Goes My Everything', 'Just Pretend', 'I Just Can't Help Believing', 'Something', 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling', 'Polk Salad Annie', 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', and finally 'Suspicious Minds'. I think in the case of this particular show a lot of these songs sound more intense because of a slightly different mix, featuring louder drums and bass in particular. The show has more ballads than a year earlier, but the rock and roll is just as hard. Elvis would also introduce his band during the show, giving them the recognition they richly deserved. After filming and recording was completed he would settle the show down to a fairly steady set list, but during the first five shows it was quite a varied show. We are very fortunate to have three of the shows after having to wait thirty years for RCA to do what it should have done in the first place. I just hope they will give us one more show: the August 11 dinner show. If we make enough noise, maybe Ernest will give it to us on FTD.
You can draw your own conclusions about the rest of the set. I have sixty soundboards, so I have CD-4 in many forms. BMG could have picked better versions for some of the songs such as 'I'm Leavin', 'It's Midnight', and 'If You Talk In Your Sleep'. They also could have added 'Steamroller Blues' and 'Burning Love' from January 73 as they have some of those shows on tape. CD-3 is a total waste since they did not bother to put even one unreleased song on there. What happened to 'See See Rider', 'Proud Mary', and 'Until It's Time For You To Go' from February 1972? And surely they have some other cuts from February 1970? But since beggars can't be choosers, we take what we can get, and gladly so. I personally will buy any concert BMG releases from 1969 to 1972. I would also buy a re-mastered Elvis Live On Stage In Memphis (this is my pet project), which could be sold through the gift shops at and around Graceland. They sell some records--you have to see the bins full of CD's to believe it. I bought this set a week before it hit the streets at one of the shops there (don't ask me which one). I've been playing it on a frequent basis since. Hope the rest of you enjoy it as much as I have, the first two CD's are worth the cost alone.
© Mark Littlejohn, September 17 2001
Other reviews of Mark Littlejohn
|8. Review by Marco Lofino
To tell the truth, I have waited for some time before purchasing this product. It is definitely worth having, but it is undeniable that BMG could have done a better job.
At first I read some reviews and I noticed that most of them were skeptical and in conclusion they all expressed dissatisfaction.
Now after some time. I can say that I agree with them.
Let's start with disc 1.
When I bought "Elvis In Person" I was really happy for the marvelous intro of 'Blue Suede Shoes' with an audible piano performance by Larry Muhoberac. On this CD, which features the dinner show from August 24th, the piano is inexistent and the result is a pretty good show (absolutely not the best from those that RCA recorded late August 1969) with a terrible sound manipulation by Dennis Ferrante. Sometimes I think how Elvis could react if he was alive hearing a sloppy sound treatment like this one...
Anyway, as I've just said, the show is pretty good, even If Elvis sounds more inspired in other shows of the same Vegas season. There are no rarities or surprises but in complex the result is quite enjoyable. The monologue at the end of the CD is absolutely a disaster, with no meaning at all. But anyway, go on with the review...
DISC 2: A GEM!!! This concert is pure dynamite! I think this one is even better than the Midnight show from August 12th 1970, which came out in the TTWII Special edition. I think that Elvis was at the highest point of his career, powerful on rock and roll pieces and simply unreachable for any other singer in performing wonderful ballads as 'I Just Can't Help Believing' and 'Just Pretend', the last one seen in the great video "THE LOST PERFORMANCES".
Here RCA engineers and Jorgensen did a real good job, so I thank them for choosing this great performance from August 1970.
DISC 3: In two simple questions, I would ask BMG "What's the meaning of this?", "Who are you trying to fool?" This disc can be great only for those who didn't buy On Stage 1999 Edition and Burning Love. A pity! This disc should have featured a show from January or August 1973. We didn't have anything of all this. The result is a sloppy product, I repeat, with no meaning at all.
DISC 4: Again some songs from 1956. Why? Another question with no answer! Was it really necessary to add these songs we have listened to for several years?
Then we have a nice collection of songs taken from soundboards from August 1974, March and December 1975. Some of this material have already been published on some import albums, but they are really nice to have anyway. For those who claim (the truth is they the don't know Elvis at all) that Elvis ended his energy after the overrated Aloha show, here we have the demonstration of the contrary. Especially in March 1975, with great renditions of songs like 'Burning Love' and 'Big Boss Man', and the rarely performed live 'Green Green Grass Of Home'.
FTD are planning to publish a soundboard concert in October 2002. If they have it in their vaults as I guess, a show from March 1975 would be a nice surprise.
This box is nice to have, but it should have been projected and produced better, with more attention and care of the details. If I were Jorgensen, I would have done a different job: DISC 1, ok, a concert from late August 1969 with a different sound treatment; DISC 2, ok; DISC 3, a show from August 1973 or the August opening night 1974; DISC 4 an entire show from March or December 1975.
Was it so difficult to do?
© Marco Lofino, May 3 2002
Back to BMG news