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ON TOUR - THE REHEARSALS - BMG 82876 66397 2
Songs recorded year 1972

Cover

CD

 1. Review by Oven Egeland
 2. Review by Andy Urias
 3. Review by Crister Berge
March 30 and 31, 1972

 1: Proud Mary (#1) [2:44] (March 31)
 2: Polk Salad Annie [2:46] (March 31)
 3: See See Rider (#1) [2:32] (March 31)
 4: A Big Hunk O'Love (#1) [2:09] (March 31)
 5: Johnny B. Goode [2:20] (March 30)
 6: Young And Beautiful [2:37] (March 31)
 7: Love Me [1:50] March 31)
 8: Hound Dog [1:23] (March 31)
 9: Lawdy, Miss Clawdy [2:15] March 31)
10: For The Good Times (#10)[3:09] (March 30)
11: El Paso [1:06] (March 30)
12: Funny How Times Slips Away [2:47] (March 31)
13: Help Me Make It Through The Night [2:38] (March 31)
14: Release Me [2:31] (March 31)
15: Burning Love (#2) * [3:15] (March 31) [Time Life]
16: Always On My Mind* [3:44] (March 30) [The Great Performances]

17: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face [3:53] (March 31)
18: Never Been To Spain [3:38] (March 31)
19: Separate Ways [3:38] (March 30)

* Previously released


1. Good times...
(Review by Oven Egeland)

This new CD from Follow That Dream covers material that have been heavily bootlegged since 1972. So far bits and pieces have turned up on different LP's and CD's and the material has always been taken from MGM's tapes. Follow That Dream has of course used the tapes owned by RCA/BMG. Thus the sound quality is much better. In fact the sound quality is VERY good, considering that we are taking about rehearsal stuff. The mixing done by Dennis Ferrante is fine and the amount of noise is less here than on the takes we got on Elvis 6363 Sunset three years ago, taken from the same source.

Before I comment the content of this CD further, some words about the presentation of this CD should be said. FTD is not known for extensive and accurate information regarding the CD's content, put it that way... This time it is even worse than normal. Except for the tracklist it only list March 30 and March 31 as recording dates. It doesn't say anything about each track, so it is up to the listener to decide. Also it fails to report that 'Always On My Mind' and 'Burning Love' are both previously released. And your eyesight better be good, because the text written is almost impossible to read. Small letters in colors almost blending into the background. Why this amateurish behavior?

But normally content counts more than packing... Elvis certainly took these rehearsal sessions seriously, more so than you get the impression of after listening to the different bootlegs containing this material. This CD contains several gems!

The CD starts with an energetic version of 'Proud Mary'. Nothing is lacking in my point of view. Then an equally good version of 'Polk Salad Annie' follows, now transformed into the classic "On Tour" version - rocket speed. 'See See Rider' from these rehearsals was released on Elvis 6363 Sunset, but the version we get here is different. Featured here is the first attempt and it is - not surprisingly - quite similar to the second version found on 6363 Sunset. The same words all applies in full to 'A Big Hunk O' Love'.

'Johnny B. Goode' has been available in very good sound before. The Laserdisc version of Elvis On Tour featured this song in stereo, but here the intro was slightly edited. For the first time this song is released in full in great sound. Too bad that FTD didn't include the session talk before, and too bad that it fades out so abruptly.

Several years ago Ernst Jorgensen talked about a rehearsal version of 'Young And Beautiful' done at these sessions. At that time he jokingly said that the version was too good to release. Finally some years later, here it is. It's a nice attempt, taken at a very laidback approach, but all the same complete and coherent. It doesn't have a single potential, but certainly adds to the store of rarities! Again FTD has chosen to fade out the song before the very end, always annoying!

'Love Me' and 'Hound Dog' are real run-through versions, just like they were on stage. 'Lawdy, Miss Clawdy', however, really cooks. This is a marvelous delivery in splendid sound quality. A real surprise!

Listing 'El Paso' as an individual track is just a joke. Elvis only sings the first words of the song, and the rest is just instrumental "goofing around". It adds atmosphere to the CD, but doesn't deserve an own track!

'For The Good Times', 'Help Me Make It Through The Night', 'Funny How Time Slips Away' and 'Release Me' are all very good versions. Elvis is quite laidback and sounds extremely relaxed and in full comfort when singing these tunes. 'Funny' is taken at slow speed, like the studio version from 1970, but on stage he would turbo-charge it. I like these slow renditions better.

'Burning Love' is a very good version as well. Previously released on a Time Life CD, but here it is nicely mixed, thus giving it more power than other versions I have heard. Elvis struggled with this song, and outtakes of the studio version from some days before proves that! Here he is more at ease with the lyrics, tempo, timing and overall feel.

'Always On My Mind' is the same version that was first used for an edited and overdubbed inclusion the documentary "This Is Elvis". Later it was released in undubbed and complete form on "The Great Performances". The song is also bootlegged a zillion times and this inclusion on "On Tour - The Rehearsals" doesn't add much.

'The First Time Ever I Saw You Face' is the only weak performance on this CD. Elvis' voice sounds worn out and he is slightly off-key several places. A disappointment, indeed! 'Never Been To Spain' is powerful, however. This song fits Elvis' vocal in 1972 perfectly!

The CD ends with the "On Tour" version of 'Separate Ways'. This is not the same take as previously released on a Time Life CD some years ago, but it is just as good!

I would have liked FTD to present this material in another manner. It would be better if they included more studio banter for overall atmosphere and it would have been better if they didn't fade out the songs like on this CD. Some fadings are really "nervous" and therefore detract some of the enjoyment listening to the CD. And, of course, the running time could easily have been longer. It is only 51 minutes and there's plenty of material to chose from...

Anyway, all these negative points doesn't prevent this new CD from FTD from being one of the best for a long time. It's a delight to listen to these recordings and hopefully a release a-la the Las Vegas box containing more rehearsal stuff and complete concerts will soon be available!

© , Norway, December 2004



2. ON TOUR - THE REHEARSALS
(Review by Andy Urias)

FTD releases can be so fulfilling and yet so frustrating at the same time. ELVIS ON TOUR - THE REHEARSALS is a perfect example of this. Not only did ON TOUR represent a 1972 tour of what many consider to be some of Elvis' last great shows, but a significant amount of rehearsal and concert performances were recorded in their entirety. It should be noted that the large amount of recorded material for ELVIS ON TOUR that exists in BMG's vaults has been for the most part unreleased for over 30 years. There has been great anticipation by many Elvis fans of finally having this material released. After BMG released the complete concert recording from San Antonio on their CLOSE UP release, it seemed only a matter of time for more ON TOUR material to officially surface. Aside from the 4 complete concerts available, some consider the real gems to be the rehearsal performances. In addition to the well known THAT'S THE WAY IT IS rehearsals, the bulk of rehearsals in BMG's vaults come from the ON TOUR project. The main difference here is the sound quality. The ON TOUR rehearsals are basically perfect sounding rehearsals that were professionally recorded. So when FTD announced their first release of ON TOUR rehearsals (aside from the few teasers on ELVIS 6363 SUNSET), it seemed that there was a lot to look forward to.

The positives can not be denied. The sound quality is very solid. Elvis' vocal performances and focus for the most part is top-notch. It is nice to hear 'The King' working out material for his upcoming tour and film without his backing orchestra; just running through songs stripped down with the TCB band and some of his back-up singers. 'Proud Mary' and 'Johnny B Goode' are smoking. Elvis slows down the tempo of 'Hound Dog' and 'Love Me' enough for them to actually be enjoyable (once those tunes hit the stage, they were ruined by his careless and bored approach). 'Young And Beautiful' is a nice rarity to finally have. 'Lawdy Miss Clawdy,' 'Never Been To Spain,' 'For The Good Times' and the previously released 'Always On My Mind' are other highlights. Essentially every performance is of high quality other than 'For The First Time I Saw Your Face' and 'El Paso' simply because 'El Paso' isn't really a performance.

Now to the negatives. There didn't have to be any, that is what is so frustrating. The CD runs a little over 50 minutes. Considering a CD can hold nearly 80 minutes of music, it is somewhat baffling that FTD decided to hold back so much material. Obviously there will be other ON TOUR releases and they must put a decent amount of material aside for a potential box set celebrating the film, but Elvis did multiple takes of a lot of his songs during these famous rehearsals. Certainly another 6 or 8 songs on this current release wouldn't have put a future ON TOUR project in jeopardy with regards to a potential lack of unreleased material. Considering the amount of money fans are charged for FTD releases, one would think it only be fair that the producers try to maximize the CD space with as much music as possible.

Aside from CD length, one has to question why the FTD decided to fade out a handful of performances. These are rehearsals; they don't need to have pretty endings. It is okay for a tune to abruptly end or to naturally fall apart. This is the one occasion when the fan should be able to hear this happen and not question the quality of the product or performance. In fading out songs the fan also isn't given the opportunity to hear any studio banter after the performance. Which raises another question, why did FTD exclude studio banter? Again these are rehearsals; it is okay to showcase some banter and interplay between Elvis and his band.

In the end, ELVIS ON TOUR - THE REHEARSALS is still a fantastic release and will most likely be on of the most popular releases on the FTD label. Elvis is in great shape here and he is performing with passion, focus and conviction. The major downside is the short CD length and the producers' desire to tidy up some of the performances with unnecessary fading. If FTD is so concerned with holding back a bulk of the rehearsal performances for potential future projects, then maybe they should have postponed this release until they knew what they were going to do with the material. That way they could have maximized this release's potential. In the end, it was worth the wait to have some of the famous ON TOUR rehearsals officially released. Hopefully this is just the beginning.

© , January 2005

  Other reviews of Andy Urias



3. "Rehearsin' for the cameras"
(Review by Crister Berge)

For the first time, webmaster Oven and I agree on everything...
After the recording session that yielded the much needed 'Burning Love' hit single, Elvis was asked if he would allow MGM to film him in rehearsal for the documentary Standing Room Only (later re-titled On Tour). He obliged and some footage was subsequently used in the film. This CD offers a most welcomed collection of songs from this occasion. The presence of a film crew made these sessions more serious with none of the obligatory ad lib rhymes. Elvis sounds a bit tired on some tracks, but he is focused and there's less silly stuff than what we're used to. Come on back to March 30 and 31, 1972!

Lead guitarist James Burton really shines throughout these tracks and I must say I'm very impressed with bass guitarist Emory Gordy; he'd never before worked with Elvis, yet he still manages to do a good job, sometimes with songs that he'd probably never played before. You can hear that there's a new musician present right at the beginning of 'Polk Salad Annie,' as Emory plays the bass intro slightly different than Jerry Scheff. I can only detect one fuck-up, and that's in the first chorus of 'Polk.' There are a few sour notes in other songs too (most notably 'Young And Beautiful') but we'll forgive him for that, shall we? Neither 'Proud Mary' nor 'See See Rider' were given much thought to regarding arrangement when Elvis included them in his stage repertoire in 1970. Two years later, they were vastly improved. The Creedence classic is played in the key of B and during the last choruses, it changes key three times, to C, C# and finally D. Also note that The King sings, "Left a good home in the city" right at the beginning.

In 'Johnny B Goode,' Elvis forgets to give Burton space for his solo the first time around, so consequently, he sings the "His momma told him"-verse twice. 'Young And Beautiful' is a revelation! This is nothing like Elvis fooling around with 'I Was The One' without knowing the words. It is in fact arranged and rehearsed, complete with a key change from E major to F major and Elvis clearly has got a lyric sheet in front of him. Pure magic. As far as I know, March 1972 was the first time Elvis tried out 'Lawdy Miss Clawdy.' I don't want to take anything away from Glen D Hardin, but in my book, Shorty Long did a better job at the piano when Elvis layed down the classic studio recording of it in 1956. The lyrics in the third verse are altered. In '56, Elvis sang:

You like to ball ev'ry morning / don't come home 'til late at night

While the "new version" is:

You leave home ev'ry morning / don't come back 'til late at night

'El Paso' is a joke. How rewarding to listen to James tuning his guitar! Note Elvis singing "Lying like a fool" in 'Funny How Time Slips Away.' 'Release Me' sounds almost exactly like 'Lawdy Miss Clawdy.' 'Burning Love' is a great rocker, although I must admit that I've never been able to figure out the bass line in the chorus. It seems to have been the song that both Elvis and band felt most unsure of. The musicians are apparently happy just to get through it as someone yells out "Beautiful!" after they've completed a far from brilliant take. Elvis seems unconvinced, muttering, "But how are we gonna fade it on stage?"... It's a mystery why Elvis never performed 'Always On My Mind' live.

According to Ernst Jorgensen (A Life In Music, pages 344 and 345), 'Until It's Time For You To Go' and 'I'll Remember You' were also recorded. I sure would like to have seen them included here (maybe instead of 'El Paso'?). This is an essential Elvis CD. If it hadn't been for the lousy cover, the blurry pictures, the almost unreadable track list inside the digi-pack, the horrific editing, the fade-outs, the inclusion of something that is entitled 'El Paso' and a not too generous playing time, I would have given this release a top grading.

Now I'll have to settle for a 4, on a scale from 1 to 5.

© Crister Berge, Stockholm, Sweden 2005 (E-mail: jon.burrows@lycos.com)

  Other reviews of Crister Berge

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