This is Part 3 of an ongoing series reviewing Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection. Read Part 2.
CD Vol. 5: Complete Aloha From Hawaii Concert
Volume 5 of The Franklin Mint‘s 36-disc Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection (mastered by Vic Anesini) presents the 1973 concert album Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite as well as bonus songs recorded for insertion into the NBC version of the Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii TV special.
This disc features the original mix of the 1973 double album. In 1998, BMG/RCA released a CD with a new mix and mastering by Dennis Ferrante. At that time, I tried to keep my Elvis CD collection consolidated. Since I much preferred the new mix, I gave away my older Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite CD with the original mix. Therefore, I do not have anything to make fair sound comparisons against for this CD. These days, I put more stock into owning the original mixes as released during Elvis’ lifetime than I did back then.
Elvis recorded all songs on the Complete Aloha From Hawaii Concert on January 14, 1973. Though it aired live in some parts of the world, Aloha From Hawaii did not air in the United States until April 4 of that year. To this day, many Americans wrongly believe they saw the special live. In reality, it had an even longer “tape delay” than NBC’s abysmal Summer Olympics 2012 coverage.
01. Also Sprach Zarathusta/02. See See Rider: “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (used as the theme for 2001: A Space Odyssey) was the perfect way to open Elvis concerts in the 1970s. This is a particularly fine version, beginning with low rumbles and building into a fantastic crescendo as Elvis appears on stage and quickly rocks into “See See Rider.” Listen to James Burton’s guitar work on the solo, sounding better than I remember it.
03. Burning Love: Elvis moves right into another rocker, “Burning Love.” The sound on this CD is so incredible, I can already tell I may go back to this mix when I want to listen to Aloha, over the 1998 version. Elvis just kills the song on the end during the “Hunka’ hunka’ burnin’ love” segment. What a fantastic opening to the live broadcast. Sounding sheepish, Elvis quietly tells the audience after the song, “Good evening, and I hope you enjoy our show tonight. We’re gonna try to do all the songs you wanna hear, you know.”
04. Something: For this third song of the international event, Elvis launches into a Beatles number, “Something.” The performance is okay, but a bit of a letdown after the concert’s stellar opening. Wow, this CD sure does sound awesome, though. It can make an okay song sound a little better.
05. You Gave Me A Mountain: Elvis had first tackled Marty Robbins’ “You Gave Me A Mountain” while on tour in 1972, including one performance used in the 1972 documentary Elvis On Tour. While this version is a step down from that one, Elvis still sounds great here.
06. Steamroller Blues: Next up, Elvis takes on James Taylor with “Steamroller Blues,” adding some much-needed energy back into the show. Elvis earned a top 20 hit when RCA released this performance as a single (backed with the 1972 studio cut “Fool”). Authentic to the original album (the end of side 1), the CD fades on the applause after the song ends.
07. My Way: As with the original album, “My Way” begins with the piano strains, leaving out Elvis’ introduction of the song. This is a fine, though not very compelling, version of the Frank Sinatra hit. In the first six songs of his live event, Elvis has already tackled the blues, rock ‘n’ roll, the Beatles, country, James Taylor, and Frank Sinatra.
08. Love Me: Before the song, Elvis mentions that he’s planning to do a medley of his records later in the show, to which an audience member shouts, “Do all of them!” Elvis hears this and replies, “Okay, I’ll do it, all 429 of ‘em. I’ll do it.” He then dips back into his own catalog for a disappointing version of 1956′s “Love Me.” The song borders on being a throwaway, which is a shame.
09. Johnny B. Goode: James Burton carries this Chuck Berry classic on guitar, as Elvis forgets some of the lyrics early on (the song was added to fill time when a rehearsal revealed the planned show was too short). Still, Elvis rocks the song and the show benefits from its inclusion.
10. It’s Over: ”I’ll watch you walk away somehow, I have to let you go, because it’s over,” Elvis sings in what must have been another heart-wrencher for him, as his own marriage was ending at this time. Unfortunately, “It’s Over” is otherwise forgettable.
11. Blue Suede Shoes: It’s back to rock ‘n’ roll, this time with a rousing but short rendition of Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes.”
12. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry: Elvis introduces the Hank Williams classic “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” as “the saddest song I’ve ever heard” and proceeds to do a commendable job.
13. I Can’t Stop Loving You: Next, Elvis moves right into “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Though the arrangement is the same, Elvis sounds much more subdued here compared to the rocking version found on the previous year’s As Recorded At Madison Square Garden.
14. Hound Dog: Elvis then launches into a perfunctory version of “Hound Dog,” lasting a mere 45 seconds and leaving me to wonder, “Why bother?” As with the record, the CD fades out shortly after the song ends, leaving out Elvis’ joke about first performing that song when he was twelve-years-old.
15. What Now My Love: Elvis gets serious again and puts more effort into “What Now My Love” than his own hit material. This is one of the highlights of the show, and the sound quality on this CD makes it shine even more.
16. Fever: Maybe it’s because I heard this one first, but I’ve always preferred this live version of “Fever” over Elvis’ 1960 recording of the song for the Elvis Is Back! album. The song just works better in a concert setting. I also see this as the point in Aloha From Hawaii where Elvis finally shakes off the rest of his nerves and really loosens up – making for a better second half to the show.
17. Welcome To My World: This is a lightweight song that serves as a breather for Elvis between “Fever” and “Suspicious Minds.”
18. Suspicious Minds: Growing up, the first versions I heard of “Suspicious Minds” were on this album and the similar one released on As Recorded At Madison Square Garden. It took me a long time to become accustomed to the studio version. While I now prefer the studio and early live versions best, I still enjoy the 1972 and 1973 versions. Great to hear Elvis rocking on one of his more contemporary hits.
19. Introductions By Elvis: I’m not going to start reviewing band introduction tracks, but I will point out that this is the edited version as released on the original album (i.e., Elvis calling Charlie Hodge a “general flunky” and later mentioning Hawaii Five-O star Jack Lord have been omitted).
20. I’ll Remember You: Also omitted is Elvis explaining that proceeds from the concert would benefit the Kui Lee Cancer Fund. “I’ll Remember You,” first recorded by Elvis in 1966, was written by Kuiokalani Lee, who passed away from cancer that same year. The lyrics take on even more signficance if you listen with that in mind: “I’ll remember you long after this endless summer is gone. I’ll be lonely, oh so lonely, living only to remember you.” Though a decent live version that matches the mood of the show, “I’ll Remember You” really does not live up to Elvis’ 1966 recording – both in terms of the vocals and the percussion.
21. Long Tall Sally/Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On: The closest thing the show gets to the promised medley is this combination of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” which Elvis recorded in 1956, and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” popularized by Jerry Lee Lewis in 1957 and recorded by Elvis in 1970. While the medley works in the show and picks up the pace as needed, both songs pale next to Elvis’ studio efforts. “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” in particular has a completely different, watered-down arrangement compared to Elvis’ version from less than 3 years earlier.
22. An American Trilogy: Reportedly, when asked what kind of costume he wanted for the live broadcast, Elvis noted that he wanted something that said “America.” The custom-designed American Eagle jumpsuit fit the bill visually, while “An American Trilogy” sealed the deal on the musical side. This is both the climax of the show and the most impressive performance on the album. An argument could even be made that this moment was the climax of his career as well. Though not evident on the record, Elvis throws his jewel-studded belt into the audience shortly after this song.
23. A Big Hunk O’ Love: Serving as a bookend of sorts with the similar “Burning Love,” Elvis reaches back to 1958 for this hit and serves up a great rendition. If only he had treated his other classics with this respect for this show. “A Big Hunk O’ Love” provides a powerful rock ‘n’ roll ending for the live broadcast.
24. Can’t Help Falling In Love: Finally, Elvis closes out the show with a quick version of “Can’t Help Falling In Love.” It is not in the same league as his 1968 or 1969 live versions, but it almost does not matter at this point. The power of the overall concert wins out, and it ends in utter excitement. What a performer.
25. Blue Hawaii [Re-recording]: For the NBC version of the special, Elvis recorded several “insert” songs without an audience to extend the length of the special. This is a fine version of the title song to his 1961 movie Blue Hawaii.
26. Ku-U-I-Po [Re-recording]: The remaining songs on this CD were first released after Elvis’ death, on the 1978 album Mahalo From Elvis. Though they are technically outside of the parameters of Franklin Mint’s Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection, I am happy to have them as bonuses. This is a great re-recording of “Ku-U-I-Po” from Blue Hawaii.
27. No More [Re-recording]: Though recorded for the NBC version of the show, “No More” actually went unused. The visual portion of this performance was first released on DVD in 2004. This is another strong re-recording of a song from Blue Hawaii.
28. Hawaiian Wedding Song [Re-recording]: ”Hawaiian Wedding Song” was featured in the finale of Blue Hawaii. Elvis does another good job on this re-recording. Perhaps he should have performed one or two of these Blue Hawaii songs during the actual concert. Why not drop “Welcome To My World” or “It’s Over” for one of these? (Other than the fact that the other two songs had never been released before by Elvis.)
29. Early Mornin’ Rain [Re-recording]: Though Elvis had first recorded it only two years earlier, this re-recording of “Early Mornin’ Rain” has a different vibe. I enjoy both versions. Again, this would have made a great number for the actual concert.
The sound is terrific, and so is the show. This will now become my go-to edition of Aloha From Hawaii.
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I was about 13-years-old before my older brother would allow me to touch his record collection. As a small child, I had a bad habit of accidentally destroying his stuff (Star Trek posters, a trumpet, and pretty much anything else I could get my curious little hands on), so his records were off limits for a long time.
Of his fifty or sixty Elvis albums, the one I considered the most special was Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite. I was sure at the time that this was the greatest Elvis concert ever. Though I could name dozens of live recordings now that would top it, I did relive some of that youthful exuberance when listening to the Complete Aloha From Hawaii Concert. While I do not have the older release to compare, I am sure this album has never sounded better on CD.
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With thirty-one CDs still to go, continue to look for future installments here on The Mystery Train Blog.