|Review by Oven Egeland
This concert was originally set for a double release, coupled with the concert at the same arena the day after. Fort Baxter changed their mind and released A Hot Winter Night In Dallas, instead. Now this October 14th concert is released on the Live Archives label. I guess Fort Baxter plans to give out the other concert on their own label later. The concert on October 15 was better I believe (I have never listen to it), and the track listing is more promising.
This release is a classic Fort Baxter release, (yes I know that it says Live Archives). There is no doubt that this concert has been worked by, mixed and printed by Fort Baxter. Especially the mixing is typical Fort Baxter; no way I'm wrong here!!
Well, it doesn't really matters which label name that appears on the bootleg; the content is of more importance. And Fort Baxter is known for good mixing, and this release indeed is. The sound is well balanced, focusing on the guitar of James Burton. It reminds a bit of the sound we find on America The Beautiful (King Records), but it is much better. Especially when Elvis sings the sound is good, but between the songs - when Elvis talks - he is very distant, and you hear some hiss. There is a lot of scratching on this release too. Not very dominating, but still easy to spot. It reminds very much about an old LP on its way to be worn out.
Before I go into the content of this release, I also must mention some strange points on this bootleg. Sometimes the sound is "off key", indicating that the tape is a bit destroyed. At the beginning of 'And I Love You So', it sounds like James Burton is off par (but it has to be the tape, as I have never heard James loose the key), and other places the music and also Elvis suddenly is off-key. Also during the introductions there has been some left-hand work. After the introduction of Tony Brown, they have edited in when Elvis ask Jerry Scheff to play "that Louisiana Swamp thing". Then Jerry starts, and seconds after they fade it out, come in again when Elvis says, "that was short", and then back to the right track again. What an idea!
The title "Chicago Beat" sounds promising, but doesn't fit this concert. Ok, it was in Chicago, all right, but "Beat" - No! Elvis seems extremely bored, really, although he sings well and is focused on almost every song. There is definitely something missing, and that is the "beat".
What else can we say about the concert? 'See See Rider' is ok, something between a classic summer 1976 version and the versions from the last December tour. 'Love Me' is weak, but 'If You Love Me' is good. In 'And I Love You So', Elvis suddenly starts to laugh, but he managed to continue the song perfectly. 'Fever' is very focused, no fooling around, but still a bit boring. 'Polk Salad Annie' is the weakest version I have ever heard. Personally I love this song, and during the 70's Elvis gave many great and different versions of this one. This day it is just a 4-minute long uninteresting piece of music.
During the band introductions Elvis stops John Wilkinson in the middle of 'Early Morning Rain'. "I'm not J.D. Sumner" he says, and then asks for a higher key. James Burton is introduced as living in Los Angeles, so Elvis wasn't 100 % focused after all. 'Love Letters' goes so slow you wonder if it will ever end. Elvis is strong in his voice, but due to the low tempo it is not a great version, sorry to say.
"We have a new records out, it has been out for a month", Elvis says before 'Hurt'. During the year 1976, Elvis introduced 'Hurt' as if it was a new release. When he did it in March it made sense, but in October is doesn't match so well.... 'Hurt', however is a great version, especially the reprise version. On this Elvis goes up some keys at the start of the song, and in the end. Great work, although you can hear that he is not completely fresh in his voice.
"I would like to do a little bit of my first record" Elvis then says, indicating 'That's Alright, Mama', but instead 'Love Me Tender' is done. Even this is a focused version, no fooling around, but as with 'Fever' a bit boring. 'Hound Dog' is as always. 'Mystery Train/Tiger Man' also differ very little from other known versions.
This is not an extremely interesting release. Good to have a soundboard release again, after months with nothing new on the "marked", but that's it. It will most likely not figure very high on the Import Top list. And the artwork is dreadful. The CD comes in a paper-back cover, just like Fort Baxters Spanish Eyes and Elvis at Full Blast, and the pictures on the cover has been added so much contrast that Elvis looks scaring and extremely sick. What is the point in doing so? There are a lot of nice pictures of Elvis on stage in Autumn 1976. Why not use some of these in their originally form?
, Norway, 1999