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Elvis : That's The Way It Is 5-LP Box Set
Still sealed Special Deluxe 30th Anniversary Limited Edition 5 LP Box-Set made in the EU 2000 (RCA Records/BMG-Castle Music ELVIS-102). The complete original album + 45 unreleased performances.
Personnel: Elvis Presley (vocals, guitar); James Burton, Chip Young, Eddie Hinton, John Wilkinson (guitar); Charlie McCoy (harmonica, organ); David Briggs, Glen D. Hardin (piano); Norbert Putnam, Jerry Scheff (bass); Jerry Carrigan, Ron Tutt (drums); The Imperials, The Jordanaires, The Sweet Inspirations, Millie Kirkham, Mary Green, Mary Holladay, Ginger Holladay, Temple Riser, June Page, Sonja Montgomery, Dolores Edgin (background vocals); Charlie Hodge Orchestra.
Principally recorded at The International Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada on August 12, 1970.
That's The Way It Is CD Reviewed By David Luckin
The mail is in and the fresh copy of 'That's The Way It Is' is now in my hands and like the opening song says, 'I Just Can't Help Believin' that it has finally arrived. After much anticipation and waiting, the set is here. The package is very cool, clear plastic slip cover with silk screen print and 3 digipacks and booklet. After seeing the film TTWII in 1970, I bought the album of the same title to find that it was not a soundtrack of such an outstanding performance, but rather a collection of new songs. Some of the songs were good, but not great - like the Live in Las Vegas performance that had my eyes glued to the screen in a dark theatre... I mean 'How The Web Was Woven' wasn't going to win a Grammy. So, needless to say, the best of this CD set is not the 1st disc which is basically the original album with some bonus tracks from the same period. It's the 2nd and 3rd disc of this set, which have to be rated as some of the best live performances ever committed to tape and film by Elvis or anyone else for that matter.
Disc One opens with a nice live version of the BJ Thomas hit 'I Just Can't Help Believin' followed by a couple of fair songs 'Twenty Days And Twenty Nights' and 'How The Web Was Woven' . Up next is a live version of 'Patch It Up' and then 'Mary In The Morning'. After being a huge Elvis fan since I was a kid, hearing Elvis cover Al Martino's 'Mary In The Morning' can only be described as disappointing especially in 1970 with Janis and Jimi and Blood Sweat & Tears blasting from most record players. But to restore my faith, Elvis covers the Dusty Springfield hit 'You Don't Have To Say You Love Me' I even bought the 45. Up next, the cover of the those Blue Eyed Souls, the Righteous Brothers hit 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling' . It's live and has a whole lotta feelin'. It's an excellent version with passion, and the band and the Sweet Inspirations make it seem like the song was always an Elvis song. Next 'I've Lost You' followed by 'Just Pretend' is one of the better songs from the original album with a piano open that feels more like a gospel song than a pop song. The rest of this first CD is fairly predictable and really makes me want to jump to the second CD for the action that only a live concert can provide. 'The Next Step Is Love' does capture my imagination with the typically late 60's early 70's lyrics and instrumentation. It's a very pretty song with a fine performance from Elvis. 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' is a brave choice given the song is a huge hit for Simon and Garfunkel. But it makes sense for Elvis to cover this one when you know that Paul Simon says when he wrote this song he wanted this song to build like a Roy Orbision song and build it does. The bonus songs on this CD are from the 'Love Letters' and 'Elvis Now' sessions.
When you load the second CD into your CD player, you know you're in for a treat because it's live and you close your eyes and you're there. What has to be said from the outset is that the sound quality is superb. The best thing about the version of his hit 'That's All Right ' is that he is still giving the early songs the treatment they deserve much like the famous '68 NBC TV Special first aired on December 3, 1968 and repeated in August 1969 a week after Woodstock. 'Mystery Train' and 'Tiger Man' rock and you can only wish you were there. James Burton on lead guitar shines like never before. James Burton also played with Ricky Nelson, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell and a host of other great musicians and he is given room to stretch. 'Hound Dog' & 'Love Me Tender' are next and 'Hound Dog' gets the how fast can we get through this one treatment that would become standard after what is known as The Slide. 'Love Me Tender' is the kiss the girls number, so no doubt it will play better on the DVD. Elvis is definitely having fun on this one when you hear him say, 'tough way to make a living boy I tell ya for sure'. 'Just Pretend' gets a nice treatment and 'Walk A Mile In My Shoes' really shines. There are a good deal of covers like 'There Goes My Everything' from Eddy Arnold, 'Words' by The Bee Gees , the Neil Diamond hit 'Sweet Caroline' and 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling' all done the Elvis way with a lot of heart and soul. And the version you get here of 'Polk Salad Annie' that's Polk Salad... is the best you will ever hear!! He's into to it before the first verse is even is started; can't wait to see this one on the film, wow! 'Heartbreak Hotel' is one you won't forget especially with the true to the original presentation with piano and all done nice and slow and hot... 'Play it James' and check out the organ - what a way to back up the King! 'One Night' shows his natural love for the blues. I hear this and think how lucky I was to see him in 1972. 'Blue Suede Shoes' and 'All Shook Up' round out the trip to the 50's glory days of Rock and Roll. Then we move to 1961 with 'Little Sister' tied to the 1969 Beatles smash 'Get Back'. The two blend very well. Then back to the classics with 'I Was The One' even with Elvis forgetting the words this one is a treat to hear again . 'Love Me' is sung with the passion of 14 years earlier and is followed by 'Are You Lonesome Tonight '. Once again we get 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', 'Suspicious Minds', which is great as always and the disc ends with 'Can't Help Falling In Love' .
With the third disc, we get more live performances before we get to the rare part of this release, the rehearsal sessions. I won't go over the songs on this disc, but suffice it to say this is some great, great stuff . Elvis never sounded better and, this is the perfect follow to the '68 NBC TV Special and the Historic Memphis Sessions. The best part of TTWII is the sound quality of the concert, because it is as good as it gets. It might as well have been recorded yesterday... and you should run right out and buy this set because your collection won't have the best live concerts until you do. Thank you RCA/BMG for this release. The only thing that will top this will be the TTWII DVD due out January 2001.
We can only hope the 'Elvis On Tour' from 1972 will get the same treatment with the complete CD and a DVD Film version.
And if you want the perfect compliment to this set, find the 'Collectors Gold' Elvis box set RCA 3114-2-8 from 1991 because the third disc in the set has a complete 1969 live Vegas concert. It fills in some holes with live versions of songs originally recorded in the Memphis Sessions plus some reprises of some of the material from the '68 NBC TV Special. It is worth seeking out. David Luckin
Review by Dan Siciliano
When Elvis decided to take to the Las Vegas stage over 30 years ago, I'm sure he had no idea the preparation and work he would have in store for him. Now from the great minds at BMG/RCA we have a rare intimate glimpse into what would become the greatest live performances of Elvis' career.
The 30th anniversary edition of 'Elvis, That's The Way It Is' Is truly a masterpiece of modern music, a work in progress retrospect of the world's greatest entertainer, Elvis Presley! This 3 disc set contains the complete album as released in 1970, plus two 'filled to the brim' CD's containing a complete concert from august 1970 and some rare songs and rehearsals capturing Elvis at his artistic best.
The first disc contains the complete 1970 album plus bonus songs from the same recording sessions, nothing new here, but in the best sound quality released to date. I think that they could have included some alternate takes instead of cuts from the 'Love Letters' album, even though they are from the same recording sessions. I always regarded the 'That's The Way It is' album as one of elvis' most serious and beautiful, the sheer nature of what was to come for Elvis' and the determination to get back on top after a great comeback in 1968, is heard in every note of every song.
The second CD is the gem. This complete concert from august 1970 is nothing short of FANTASTIC! From the classic opening riff to the close of the show, elvis gives 110%! The liner notes claim 'this is probably the greatest concert we have'. I think they mean that this a concert from the greatest time in elvis' adult life as he proves once again, he is the 'King'. The songs are great. A fantastic opening to 'that's all right' and elvis just rocks right into 'Mystery Train / Tiger Man' without loosing a breath. The version of 'Words' is one of the best I've ever heard and elvis gives a powerhouse version of 'you've lost that Lovin' feeling' complete with reprise! Although elvis seems a little nervous at the beginning of the concert, he soon grabs the audience and takes them on the ride of a lifetime. It's nice to have a concert that is 'un-edited' and all the in-between song banter left in.
It helps to set the mood of the show and create a personal performance not heard on most releases. Elvis many times during the show tells the audience to 'hang loose' and that's just what they do, they are really into the show. The clapping during the opening of 'Polk Salad Annie' tells us how fired up they really are! The sound quality on this concert is excellent, and it has much better sound than last years 'on stage' special 're-release' of similar material from 1970. The mix is clean and not dated and elvis' voice is front and center.
The third CD contains some extra live songs from the same concerts, some of which we have heard on the 'Lost Performances' video released some time ago, but in much better sound quality. The real gems on this disc are the rehearsals before the concerts. There have been bits and pieces release before on the 'Platinum' CD, but this is all new stuff. Elvis seems loose but very determined as he laughs and jokes his way thru these songs, entertaining both his entourage and the 'hollywood cameras'. Some neat songs including 'Mary In The Morning' and the film version of 'That's All Right' where the microphone falls off the stand, and 'Johnny B. Goode' (just fun stuff to listen to). None-the-less, is gives us a very rare glimpse of Elvis the artist, polishing up and experimenting with songs and arrangements that would be the catalyst for the greatest concerts of the greatest performer of our time! This is the elvis we all love to hear, at his best just knocking 'em dead. Las Vegas was his town and would never be the same again!
The soon to be released re-edited movie just adds to the excitement of the CD release and I can't wait to see all the splendour I have heard on the CD's. 1970 was the start of the transformation of elvis, from 50's teen idol to fading movie star of the 60's, to the cementing of him as the 'comeback' king of rock and roll in 1968! Those lucky enough to see Elvis during the early 70's in Las Vegas have memories they will never forget, those who were not so lucky, or those who just want to relive the magic again and again, this is for you......this is pure, unfiltered, bottled at the source.....ELVIS! Dan Siciliano
Total playing time: (65:22)+(72:44)+(72:20) = 3:30:26
After months of waiting, and more and more information being released to stimulate the interest, the most loudly tauted release for a long, long time I here: The classic Elvis : That's The Way It Is album from 1970, expanded to no less than three CD's, including a full, almost completely unreleased live concert from one of Elvis' best seasons and a plethora of other unreleased tracks. Being, undoubtedly, THE major release of the year, it deserves a thorough investigation. Therefore, this review will be divided in three parts: First, a description of the release as such; second, a review of the specific contents of each of the three CD's; and third, a critical view on the concept behind the project as a whole.
The packaging of this release is unlike anything I've ever seen. The three CD's come in separate digipacks with various black and white pictures on white background. All three CD's and the accompanying booklet is housed in a clear plasticbox the size of a regular CD-cover with name, title and sort of a rainbow in yellow, orange and brown printed on the front, allowing to see the cover of the top CD through this image! Sort of minimalistic psychedelism, I'd call it, and I actually think it's quite OK although major criticism has already been voiced against it. But thumps up from my side - a refreshing attempt to do something different. The three CD's are subtitled 'Special Edition', 'The Concert' and 'The Rehearsal', respectively, and with a total playing time of more than three and a half hours, there is in this respect nothing to complain about.
However, the booklet is a disappointment. Only a very short text - apparently written by a person by the name 'The RCA Records Label'! - and a number of very familiar photos and stills, and some apparently very interesting document but reproduced too small to read. Surely, someone (e.g. Stein Erik Skar) could have written a intelligent essay on who and where Elvis was in these crucial months on the summer of 1970? The information regarding musicians, singers etc. is for once detailed and correct.
The first CD is simply an upgraded version of the original Elvis : That's The Way It Is in the same manner as the other upgrades we've received recently. Twelve original cuts plus in this case seven additional bonustracks. The twelve original tracks comprised of eight tracks from the marathon sessions in Nashville in June, 1970 and four live recordings from the august concerts in Las Vegas. The album has been widely criticized for having not much to do with the picture, to which is was labeled as a 'soundtrack', as only two songs on the album was actually heard in the picture. Unfortunately, this is still a very relevant critique, as apart from the title this CD (especially the studio recordings) has got very little in connection with the other two CD's.
Never the less, it still boasts some fine performances. The June, 1970 sessions has in posterity been somewhat overshadowed by the Memphis sessions the year before, but yielded a large number of exceptionally strong performances, heard best on Elvis Country and this album. Elvis performed with a crack band led by James Burton with Chip Young, guitar; Norbert Putnam, bass; Jerry Carrigan, drums and David Briggs, piano (who many years later came to play in Elvis' live band), who were all stalwarts of Rick Hall's legendary FAME recording studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where they'd been backing people like Percy Sledge, Wilson Picket and Aretha Franklin. Accordingly, the soul influence was probably the most important influence to these recordings.
Unfortunately, a number of these recordings were badly scarred by too heavy overdubbing of horns, strings and vocals, that dragged them away from the country-soul well, that they sprang from, and much closer to standard MOR fodder. This is especially true in the case of this album, as songs like 'Twenty Days And Twenty Days Nights', 'You Don't Have To Say You Love Me' and 'Mary In The Morning' are virtually drenched in syrupy overdubs. Compare with the alternate and, in this case more important, undubbed takes on ONE HUNDRED YEARS FROM NOW and make your own judgment. The fact that on all three of the 70's alternate collections we've had so far (A Hundred Years From Now, Rhythm And Country and The Jungle Room Sessions) almost every outtake version of a particular song is far superior to the released master, has got to make you wonder, what the hell the RCA boys were thinking of in the 70's. Who were they catering for? The Roger Whittaker/Nana Mouskouri audience?
Overall, in spite of some great tracks ('I Just Can't Help Believin', 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling' and 'Stranger In The Crowd' in particular), this was never one of Elvis' best albums, and when furthermore the original, completely embarrassing overdubbed applause on the studio recording of 'Bridge Over Troubled Water has been retained for unclear reasons, it borders on the ridiculous. The cover of the original albums was, on the contrary, one of the best covers of the 70's and is now nowhere to be found above thumbnail size.
Unfortunately, the bonustracks only makes matters worse. They're comprised of 'Love Letters' (from Love Letters From Elvis), 'When I'm Over You' (same), 'Something' (live recording from 11.8.70, previously released on Walk A Mile In My Shoes), 'I'll Never Know' (also from LOVE LETTERS), 'Sylvia' (from ELVIS NOW), 'Cindy, Cindy' (LOVE LETTERS, once again) and 'Rags To Riches' (recorded 22.9.70 with almost the same band save for the magnificent Eddie Hinton taking Chip Young's place, originally the B-side of 'Where Did They Go Lord'), and apart from 'When I'm Over You' and 'Rags To Riches' the songs are simply not of the same high standard as the other selections. After releasing ELVIS COUNTRY and THAT'S THE WAY IT IS, by the time they got around to LOVE LETTERS FROM ELVIS, not to mention ELVIS NOW, they were pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrell.
One last point to be made from this 'special edition' is that it now seems very definite that only about half of the 70's albums are going to exist in the future as e.g. albums like LOVE LETTERS FROM ELVIS have been chopped up and used as bonustracks on other releases. My guess is that ELVIS NOW, GOOD TIMES, Elvis (Fool) and GOOD TIMES, ELVIS (FOOL) and From Elvis Presley Boulevard have also been deemed 'recorda non grata', and while none of them were ever very good albums in their own, I have mixed emotions about this policy. I mean, does this mean that their existence in the first place was a mistake, and that they're not as 'real' Elvis albums as other titles? In my opinion, this termination of original albums borders on rewriting of history, and I don't think it's the right way to administer the back catalogue.
The second CD feature something that many fans has asked for over and over again: A complete Las Vegas show, and on top of that, a show from one of Elvis strongest Las Vegas seasons ever. The concert here is the midnight concert from the night between August 12th and 13th, and quite a lot of it has actually been heard in the That's The Way It Is movie and the LOST PERFORMANCES video. Ernst & Co. has called it 'the best live recording we have', and while this statement is probably as much a promotional tool as it is anything else, upon listening to the show a number of times, it is definitely one of the best concerts I've ever heard with Elvis. At this season, the 'classic' lineup of the TCB band (James Burton, leadguitar; Jerry Scheff, bass; Ronnie Tutt, drums; Glenn D. Hardin, piano and John Wilkinson; rhythm) came together for the first time, supported by The Imperials, The Sweet Inspirations, Millie Kirkham and The Joe Guercio Orchestra, and it is evident both how well this band worked together right from the start and how well they worked with Elvis.
The show opens with an instrumental fanfare, that leads straight into a marvelous, rocking 'That's All Right' which then proceeds directly to the 'Mystery Train/Tiger Man' medley. Did anyone ever say that rockabilly couldn't be played with a large combo and massive vocal backing? If so, then these two performances should prove them wrong! Anchored by the greatest rhythm section in the world and highlighted by the red-hot playing of James Burton, these performances ROCKS, and show that Elvis was certainly still capable of delivering his old SUN anthems as powerful as they ever were. Together, these two recordings make for the greatest opening of an Elvis concert, I've heard. Elvis then introduces himself as Fats Domino, sings a line of 'Blueberry Hill' with Glenn D. Hardin and Ronnie Tutt instantly trying to pick up the song. After almost 1˝ minutes of fooling around - introducing it as 'a ballad, a love song' - and teasing the audience, Elvis virtually explodes and delivers one of the fastest version of 'Hound Dog' ever heard, without letting the song down one bit. Again, a fantastic performance.
The tempo is lowered for a (very) long version of 'Love Me Tender', and while this song was never a favorite of mine, neither studio or live, it is an amazing document of the interaction between Elvis and his audience, especially the female part. You can hear Elvis 'doing the kissing rounds', trying to calm some particularly excited female audience members down, and near-hysterical voices crying out for 'Eeeeelvis, Eeeelvis'! Then Elvis introduces the next song, which he says that is coming out on a new record in 1979. It's difficult telling if this is a sign of lack of interest in this particular song, but as a matter of fact his performance of the song doesn't sound neither too well-rehearsed or too engaged. We move on with a favorite of mine, Joe South's 'Walk A Mile In My Shoes', the lyrics of which I always felt were most appropriate to Elvis. The version here is the best one I've heard so far, and definitely superior to the February version from ON STAGE, as the bloody triangle from that recording is not present. This shows what Elvis could do with a good, temporary rocker.
Next, 'There Goes My Everything' is a slow-burning country-soul song, which Elvis here sings with much conviction, and with the Imperials and the Sweet Inspiration providing magnificent backing. The Bee Gees' 'Words' follows, and - sorry to say - I find it heard to say something positive about this. It's might have been suitable for the Bee Gee's, but for The King - no way. MOR Las Vegas-style at it's very worst. 'Sweet Caroline' is almost a rocker in comparison and though Elvis' version never differed that much from Neil Diamond's original, using exactly the same arrangement, it swings very well with the horns delivering a strong, beefy riff. This section of slower songs is rounded out with another highlight of the show in an almost six and a half minutes long version of 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling'. The first four minutes are identical to the mastertake of the song heard on CD1, but the really big surprise is that after the first applause, where the master ends, Elvis picks up the song again in the middle part in the same way as he did with 'Hurt' in later years, and the band fall in behind him, building the song to an even bigger crescendo than the first time. This is so good it gives me goosebumps just to think of it, and vocally it's Elvis at his very, very best.
The tempo is raised again for a great version of Tony Joe White's swamp classic 'Polk Salad Annie' which here has a much longer - almost two minutes - intro than most other versions, with great rhythmic playing from Jerry Scheff. Elvis was so much at home with this type of rootsy, southern material, and it's a shame he didn't perform such songs a lot more on stage and in the studio. We then head into four of the old classics, starting out with a burning, very bluesy 'Heartbreak Hotel' where James Burton's playing on Scotty Moore's classic solo is pure joy to listen to for any fan of both. Similarly, 'One Night' is played the way it should be, with Elvis singing his guts out, resembling his performance on the '68 'sit down' shows, and Glenn D. showing off his skills on New Orleans boogie-style piano. Then it's time for the 'Blue Suede Shoes'/'All Shook Up'medley (though sequenced as two separate tracks), and though neither is performed as tight as the two previous songs, they're still quite good compared with later renditions of old hits.
The following medley of 'Little Sister' (one of the very few non-soundtracks songs from the early 60's to make it into the live repertoire) and the Beatles classic 'Get Back' is another highlight. Though released previously on the ELVIS AARON PRESLEY box, the sound here is so much better, it's almost like hearing it for the first time. Unlike the later version on BURNING LOVE, here Elvis has actually bothered to learn the lyrics to 'Get Back' and the performance sounds very well-rehearsed and strong, with really funky wah-wah guitar from James Burton shining throughout. It is followed by an apparently impromptu 'I Was The One', previously released on WALK A MILE IN MY SHOES, which is mostly of curiosic interest. The performance of 'Love Me', however, is one of the best 70's performances of that song I've ever heard, as it is given a slower tempo than it was later on. 'Are You Lonesome Tonight' is performed much in the same way as the infamous 'laughing-version' from 1969 with the 'wish you had hair' lyrics, and while others will probably disagree, I don't find it particularly funny, mostly a little silly, honestly.
The show concludes with a virtual parade of show stoppers: 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' performed by Elvis' full, meaty voice makes Art Garfunkel sound like a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and makes the fake applause version on CD1 even more shameful. 'Suspicious Minds' is tighter and faster than the version from the before, and nothing but five minutes of delight, with the Sweet Inspirations giving it all they've got. And finally, it's time for 'Can't Help Falling In Love', the perfect song to end a near-perfect concert. This concert definitely shows that Elvis was - also in the 70's - able to give his old hits excellent renditions when he cared to, and how well contemporary material could work for him live - when he cared to.
CD3 is subtitles 'The Rehearsal', but opens never the less with nine live performances from the same Las Vegas season, all of songs not included in the concert on CD2, some very rarely performed and released in live versions for the first time here. As if trying to rival the opening of CD2, this one opens with an almost equally magnificent pair of songs, as Elvis in the Ray Charles mood hammers out thunderous versions of 'I Got A Woman' and 'I Can't Stop Loving You', both of which also goes to show how well the horns could be integrated also in the faster songs. As for 'I've Got A Woman', I have to say that this version is without comparison better than the latter-day 'Amen'medley.
Then we're treated to rare live performances of 'Twenty Days And Twenty Nights', 'The Next Step Is Love', 'You Don't Have To Say You Love' and 'Stranger In The Crowd'. Elvis introduces the first one by saying that he doesn't really like it, but 'they've asked us to do it and it's on the program, so…' Whether he's serious or not is hard to tell, but most of these songs are performed without too much conviction from neither Elvis or the band, which could also be a matter of unfamiliarity with the material. Still, it's nice to hear live versions of these songs. The exception to the rule is 'Stranger In The Crowd', a personal favorite of the reviewers', which is performed very convincing with the magnificent Tutt/Scheff team keeping the punctured beat right on time. The Hank Cochran classic 'Make The World Go Away' is likewise very convincing with Elvis giving it the 'full throttle' treatment. Concluding the live set, 'Don't Cry Daddy' and 'In The Ghetto' er both nothing but great performances, albeit very close to the versions from February, 1970, heard on the upgrades ON STAGE.
The rehearsal recording from July and the beginning of August starts off at a rather odd place, with the instrumental jam of the 'Peter Gunn Theme', to which Elvis to my knowledge participates only humming. This is, frankly, of very marginal interest and even then only to the most devoted fan. With the next take we're in for a much different ride, with a killer rocking version of 'That's All Right'. This is dated as July 15th, but is not the track from that date heard on GET DOWN AND GET WITH IT, which is much slower. It resembles the performance from July 24th a lot, heard on THE BRIGHTEST STAR ON SUNSET BOULEVARD, however, and I wonder if it has been wrongly dated by mistake. Another rarity is Elvis and the band jamming on a short but high spirited 'Cottonfields' - clearly inspired by Creedence Clearwater Revivals' version. This is far from a complete studio take, but very enjoyable none the less. Too bad, 'Stagger Lee' was deemed to 'politically incorrect' to be included!
As I stated in regard to 'Something' on CD1, Elvis performing the slower Beatles songs were never my cup of tea, and this goes for 'Yesterday' too. Simply too saccharin for my taste, even though it's definitely an improvement to hear it without the full orchestra. 'I Can't Stop Loving You' is as its' live counterpart a marvelous performance, with James Burton magnificent guitar being even more up front in this version. Can't get enough of that stuff, and the same goes for the next song, a rare performance of 'Such A Night', recorded by Elvis, of course, in his classic spring, 1960 recording session. Though incomplete, it swings very nicely, highlighted once again by Glenn D'.s fine blues piano. From the same period comes 'It's Now Or Never' in a performance that's miles and miles away from the later, Shaun Nielsen ruined version. Rounding out these oldies are another rare heard song, '(Now And Then There's) A Fool Such As I', which is also a very nice and quite enjoyable performance, even though the band appears to be more familiar with song than Elvis!
Then we're up for a fabulous tour de force of three magnificent performances; all among the best performances of the entire set. 'Little Sister/Get Back' is even better than the live version, as Elvis allows the band and especially James Burton to stretch out in this more than five minutes long performance, where they change back and forth completely seamlessly between the two songs several times. Tagged to then is four line of Joe Souths' 'Don't It Make You Wanna Go Home' - a shame Elvis didn't record a full version. 'Johnny B. Goode' is a definitive reading of this Chuck Berry classic, it's definitely superior to any of Elvis' live recordings of the song, and it might very well be the greatest performance of the song ever recorded by anyone - and I'm a big Chuck Berry fan! It's ended by a few lines of Roy Orbison's 'Running Scared' and Ernest Tubb's 'If Tomorrow Never Comes'. 'I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water' is very strong too, and performed at a much faster pace than both the studio version and the rehearsal version released on Platinum.
In comparison, 'Mary In The Morning' is simply not material of the same caliber, though it is performed very nicely, which also goes for 'The Wonder Of You'. Rounding out the CD are three performance from the August rehearsal with the band and the backup singers. The sound, however, is not nearly as good, as everything but Elvis' vocal is very distant. The songs are very interesting, never the less. 'Santa Claus Is Back In Town' is given a very fine, slow bluesy treatment and is a joy to the ear. 'Farther Along' is somewhat ragged, while 'Oh Happy Day', heard here by Elvis for the first time ever except for a very low-fi audience live recording is really good, with Elvis throwing himself into the song and giving it all his best. Strange that it was only performed on stage so rarely.
In many ways, it is a very satisfying set, that BMG has delivered to us this time around. Especially, the contents of CD2 and CD3 leave nothing to be desired. However, there are some serious problems with the concept behind this package and the logistics behind that concept. Regarding CD1, it is overall very difficult to see these recordings, good as some of them might be, as having very much to do with the THAT'S THE WAY IT IS movie, and therefore with rest of this release. It might have been a better idea to release this disc separately. Also, the choice of bonus tracks does not upgrade the quality of the disc - actually rather the opposite - but only the quantity. And lastly, it is honestly a disgrace to recycle the applause-version of 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'. To remove that would've been a real upgrading!
CD2 is overall faultless, but the fact that the long version of 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling' contains the master of the song means, that we're actually getting exactly the same four minutes of sound twice in same package. Talk about exploitation! Again, this only underscores, that CD1 should've been released separately. One source has suggested an alternate theaming of the three CD's as 1. The Concert, 2. The Rehearsals and 3. The Live Rarities.
CD3 raises more questions, however. First it is conceptually a very strange idea to subtitle a CD 'The Rehearsals', and then let it open with nine live recordings. It just doesn't make sense. Didn't anybody notice? Second, the contents of CD3 makes me wonder who this set is aimed at. 'The general public and not just the long time Elvis fans', we're told, but do the general public really want to hear Elvis humming along to 'Peter Gunn Theme' or singing a very unfinished version of 'Cotton Fields'? I don't think so, and interesting as I find them - though of course I've had them for years - I really don't see them as winning over many new fans. The same goes for e.g. 'Mary In The Morning', and knowing how many fine performances from these rehearsals still remain unreleased, there appears to be quite a few very odd selections.
Summa summarum, this set does have a tendency to sit between two chairs, of waiting to cater to two different audiences at the same time. This might be intentionally, but proves once again to be very, very difficult. Still, CD1 des contain some good performances, CD2 does actually contain maybe the best concert heard so far, and CD3 present us both with some interesting concert rarities and a large number of musically very satisfying rehearsals plus some interesting tidbits. All in all, that's definitely not bad, and this is in no way a bad release; it is on the contrary a quite good release. It just that it could've been a lot better with a just little more thought and consideration. I remains, however, an affective document of a time, when Elvis was at the peek of his powers as a performer. Copyright Jakob Skjernaa Hansen 2001
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