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DESERT STORM (Fort Baxter 2200) (Released 1996)
Desert Storm Desert Storm    1. Review by Michael Cheah

   2. Review by Daniel Slate

   3. Review by Morgan Sjöberg

   4. Review by David F. Willson

   5. Review by Brandon Matsler

   6. Focus on Autumn 1974
Microphone Dialogue - I Got A Woman/Amen - Karate Dialogue - Until It's Time For You To Go - If You Love Me - It's Midnight - Big Boss Man - You Gave Me A Mountain - Priscilla Dialogue - Softly, As I Leave You - Hound Dog - American Trilogy - It's Now Or Never (# 1)
Band Introductions - *Bringin' It Back (Voice) - *Aubrey (S. Nielsen lead/Elvis bass) - Band and Celebrity Introductions - It's Now Or Never (# 2) - Let Me Be There - If You Talk In Your Sleep - Drugs Dialogue - Hawaiian Wedding Song - Jewelry Dialogue - Can't Help Falling In Love - Closing Vamp
Content: 4-  Sound: 4 -  Artwork: 3
1. Review by Michael Cheah

The "desert" was the Las Vegas Hilton on the night of Sept 2 1974. It was the close of his latest season in America's gambling capital. The "storm" referred to was an onstage outburst against press stories linking him to drugs (particularly heroin use) and a paternity suit lodged against him. Elvis was paranoid and made his troubles part of the show, using the stage to exonerate himself. This show is the stuff of legend. It was first mentioned in Roy Carr and Mick Farren's Elvis - The Complete Illustrated Record published in 1982. They quoted extensively from it. "During a 1974 Las Vegas season, Elvis went so far as to stop the show to deliver a tirade against press stories which dealt with a paternity suit against him and alleged that he was using heroin."

That tirade has finally been made available on disc two. "From three different sources," ranted Elvis, "I heard that I was strung out on heroin... I've never been strung out in my life..." Then Elvis explodes, "If I find or hear the individual that has said that about me", he threatened, "I'm gonna BREAK your GODDAMNED neck, you SON OF A BITCH! These reports are dangerous," he emphasized, "are damaging to my little daughter, to Priscilla, to my father, my doctor, my friends, everyone on stage and," he motioned to the audience, "to you...." Then he pointed at his invisible accuser, "I will pull your GODDAMNED tongue from the ROOTS!!!" he thundered.

Inexplicably, he chose to sing Hawaiian Wedding Song to calm himself. The show closed with his trademark 'Can't Help Falling In Love' as the horns blare his closing vamp.

Elvis' record company put out his last live album in 1974 (until his death in 1977 when a posthumous live album was released). They released Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis in June. It was taken from a March 20, 1974 show in Memphis. He was deemed to be too unstable to record live as this September show proved. Also the way his shows were structured, with medleys of old hits, they became repetitive. Live On Stage In Memphis sold much less than his two previous live albums, reaching No. 33 on the charts. The lost years from 1975 to 1977 are now much in demand by collectors eager to listen to every Elvis show. For some, it is to savour every little bit of a unique talent who died young.

For others, to listen, with hindsight, for clues of what other direction he could have taken to pull himself out of the dumps. These were the years when the music press avoided covering Elvis, for fear of embarrassing a cultural hero or because some felt he was irrelevant. It was left to the tabloids to spin their yarns about his excesses and to print pictures of the "fat Elvis."

But a listen to Desert Storm will open your ears to how, despite the repetitive nature of the songs and the shows, each performance was unique. Whether he ranted about drugs, his divorce, his numerous girlfriends, his music or even his karate, Elvis had a magnetic personality and he poured emotion into his singing. He couldn't hide his boredom. Listen to his hurried 'Hound Dog' on disc one. He's also inspiring when he sings 'You Gave Me A Mountain' about the hugeness of his problems and his determination to overcome them. He was also downright embarrassing when he introduces his ex-wife next to his girlfriend and then discusses their divorce right there on stage. This was the lead in to the next song 'Softly As I Leave You'.

While the individual performances were polished and had the structure of a routine, Elvis' mercurial, moody nature kept his band and singers forever on a knife's edge not to be caught out. The tension and drama is what you're listening for, long after the tunes have been memorized. To date, Elvis' record company has not put out a live album that captures this aspect of the man. And they should! After all they did officially release Having Fun With Elvis On Stage on October 1974 which contained nothing but Elvis' comedic in-between song banter.

The recording quality of Desert Storm is first class and the sleeve boasts it was taken from the "master tapes". The shows from 1975 to 1977 may not sell a lot but surely they are required uneasy listening to study the ever-popular tortured artist effect, only in Elvis' case, it was true.

© Michael Cheah, August 14 2001

2. Review by Daniel Slate

I know there are several reviews of this CD already, but I really wanted to say few things about this absolutely remarkable concert recording. This is REQUIRED listening for any Elvis fan. It's stunning! Almost everything he sings is done drastically different than it has ever been done before. The versions of ‘It’s Midnight’ and ‘You Gave Me A Mountain’ are downright frightening in their desolation. Priscilla was in the audience and she must have been beside herself. I mean, I like both these songs and always have, but can you imagine being the woman character in the songs?

From that point of view, the two songs can be a little disconcerting, and Elvis sang both of them with Priscilla in the audience. He even says, "listen Cilla" during 'It's Midnight'. Sure, after "Mountain" he explains that the song is not about him and Priscilla, but his rendition on this night is the most personal reading he has ever gave. When he screams, "she took my reason for living!" (and he does scream it) it's extremely creepy!

Anyone who says Elvis was in a good mood this night is crazy. I've never heard Elvis slip into profanity so much onstage. There's some fun in parts of the show, but there is a serious edge to Elvis' voice during this show that is scary. He mentions having a toothache at one point, and I wonder if he is perhaps taking a little something to kill the pain. Well... more than a little something.

The "I'll break your goddamned neck you son of a bitch!" line during the "Drugs Dialogue" is just unbelievable. I can't believe he stood onstage in front of people and said these things. I'd read about this for years, and somehow never really believed it was quite as bad as it is when you finally hear it. I constantly found myself saying "Oh my God Elvis! What the Hell are you thinking?" This show is constantly shocking. In the beginning of 'Softly As I Leave You' he actually seems annoyed with the audience and asks that they be quiet so he can tell the story of the song. Of course, after that, he goes on to praise the audience for the rest of the show. He's just so strange throughout this show. He doesn't even sound like himself towards the end when he tells the audience that they paid for his jewelry. I do kinda like the fact that he says he knows that Col. Parker is off playing Roulette. That was a great little aside.

Then, Elvis actually mentioning Mike Stone by name and saying that he's no stud! Good God! And with Priscilla and Lisa Marie in the audience. Unbelievable!

This is like the Barbara Walters Interview Elvis never gave. It's extremely revealing and eye opening and incredible. I recommend this disc very highly on shock value alone. The sound is good and Elvis' voice is fine, but the star of this show is his personal life, which is on display. I'm not surprised Bill Cosby disappeared before Elvis could introduce him...

© Daniel Slate, August 31 2001

3. Review by Morgan Sjoberg

The less one says about this embarrassing album the better. This is Elvis at his lowest and it's probably the worst show I've ever hear him do. A double album would normally signal a longer and better than usual show, but not in this case.

Instead of hearing Elvis singing his heart out we get to hear him talk, talk and talk. There is more than 30 minutes of dialogue on this weird album. Elvis is rambling on with whatever happens to cross his medicated mind, such as karate, his divorce, the rumors about his drug abuse, his jewelry and much more. It's absolutely heartbreaking to hear Elvis in this condition, a low point in his career if there ever was one. This Vegas engagement started quite promising on August 19 (as we can hear on Fort Baxter's "If You Talk In Your Sleep", but by September 3 the inspiration was obviously all gone, as we can hear on "Desert Storm".

This is most definitely un-easy listening and not for the more sensitive souls among Elvis' legion of fans.

The cover is quite nice and the sound quality is of the usual high Fort Baxter standard, but to the audience present it must have been "like watching a train wreck", as Ernst Jörgenson pointed out.

A buyers beware, indeed.


© Morgan Sjöberg from Malmö, Sweden.

4. Review by David F. Willson

One of my favourites - and one that has spawned an awful lot of drivel to be written about it, check out the scurrelous description of this concert in Peter Whitmer's book 'The Inner Elvis'.

A Closing Night show this performance has an 'end of term' feel to it with Elvis in jovial and playful mood and obviously having fun!!

I think this album has everything that distinguishes Elvis from all others, great performances, drama, humour, passion and pure raw emotion.

It also shows what a tight inspired set of musicians and singers Elvis had around him, loose and confident they have an energetic synergy that greatly compliments and follows all the vocal deviations Elvis can throw at them...

© David F. Willson.

5. Review by Brandon Matsler

I love any new Vegas show I can find, but this is by far the weirdest one yet. The first track is missing, so the first thing you hear is Elvis griping about the microphone...

Elvis was by no means in a good mood as you can tell during 'Amen', he calls his bandmates "son of bitches". I rather like the version of 'You Gave Me A Mountain'. The dialogue afterwards is pretty hairy, but 30 some odd minutes altogether of Elvis talking about what ever was on his mind at the time, and you almost wish you could help out with his problems.

'Big Boss Man', 'If You Talk In Your Sleep', 'It's Midnight' (listen, Cilla as he says), and 'Until It's Time For You To Go' are reasons enough to purchase this album, they are rare for Elvis live albums (RCA).

The infamous drug speech is probably the coolest thing I've heard along with basically the same content said in College Park (26 days later). This may not be remembered as Elvis' greatest period, but who cares we got all the time in the world to listen to the live stuff.

This is worth a purchase for anyone who wants a weird, but good concert.

© Brandon Matsler.

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