Some Elvis Presley fans have been waiting over 50 years for his record label to release an extensive collection of audio from MGM’s 1972 concert documentary Elvis On Tour. Though there have been some scattered releases over the years, a comprehensive, six-volume set for Elvis On Tour audio finally appeared last month on digital and this week on CD. It’s been only about 30 years of waiting for me, though, as I wasn’t aware of the amount of Elvis On Tour recordings until the early 1990s.
While much of this material has been bootlegged in varying degrees of quality, the vast majority of it has not been officially released. As I tend to avoid bootleg releases, it appears my patience is finally being rewarded.
I don’t really feel like doing a formal review as I did for 2014’s similar That’s The Way It Is: Deluxe Edition, which covered MGM’s 1970 documentary of the same name. While there is less material here, I also have far less time and energy than I did back then. Instead, I am going to write in a “live” stream-of-consciousness type way. I hope you don’t mind. I plan to cover one CD in this first post.
I am cutting the packing tape off the outer shipping box now. I am really not into unboxing videos, but I’m sure you can find one from someone else out there. The packaging wasn’t the best. The outer case of the actual CD set is slightly bulged out on the top. However, it’s acceptable to me. I am liable to mar it myself at some point anyway. So, I’m proceeding to remove the shrink wrap. Otherwise, this would have been the shortest post ever as I arranged a return and exchange.
The box art isn’t bad. I like the vintage style logos. Elvis has always looked a little “off” in Elvis On Tour to me, and that is reflected in many of the related photos.
It’s the music I care about, though, so on with Disc 1. I don’t even know which show is up first! Let’s see…
Well, the disc doesn’t even bother to say. Let me check the booklet.
Disc 1 is the Hampton Coliseum in Virginia, April 9, 1972. This concert formed the bulk of the Elvis On Tour movie, for which the four concerts included in this set were recorded and filmed. Outside of the film footage itself, only “An American Trilogy” from this Hampton show has been officially released on audio until now.
Let me hook up my headphones. I don’t want to blast the family out of the house.
The show is over 66 minutes – pretty long for an Elvis concert. He usually kept them at about an hour, probably due to the influence of his Las Vegas stints on his tour shows. The hotel’s priority in Vegas was to get the audience back out into the casino to gamble, so management did not like when his show lasted over an hour. While that wouldn’t have been a consideration as he criss-crossed the country on multiple tours throughout the 1970s, Elvis was definitely a creature of habit.
Also Sprach Zarathustra: Best known as the theme to MGM’s 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, “Also Sprach Zarathustra” is an exciting way to begin a concert – perfect for Elvis, despite having been written in 1896! It’s unfortunate that a “sound-alike” piece was used in the film itself in lieu of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” due to rights issues with the composition. The inferior piece, called “2001 Alternate,” was re-used in 1981’s This Is Elvis as well. As proven here, Elvis concerts used the real version, not the one you hear in the Elvis On Tour and This Is Elvis movies.
See See Rider: Right off the bat, Elvis sounds a little off. I know this is a good show, though, based on the movie, so I’m not too concerned. James Burton’s guitar sounds awesome! Matt Ross-Spang, who has a proven track record with Elvis releases, mixed this set, and the sound is exciting. This song was used in the 1972 film.
I Got A Woman: This track has audio issues on Elvis’ vocals. He is in the background only. A disappointing way to start the set, I have to say. This song is used in the movie without these kinds of issues. Okay, about a minute or so in, Elvis is now fully audible. Why wouldn’t they fix this? Some fans have done so, taking minutes. Why not a company with the resources of Sony? I will never understand these kinds of missteps on Elvis releases. Well, no matter, it’s just a minute, and on a lesser song at that.
“I’d like to tell you it’s a pleasure to be here in West Virginia,” Elvis jokes. And then we’re on to the next song.
Never Been To Spain: In the realm of useless trivia, former racecar driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s favorite song is Elvis’ version of “Never Been To Spain” (presumably from the As Recorded At Madison Square Garden album). Here in Hampton, this is a decent version. Again, James Burton on electric guitar is a highlight. This show sounds great!
You Gave Me A Mountain: Oh, Elvis, it’s too early in the set for such a downer song. But here we go. Just a few weeks into his separation from his wife Priscilla, this is where Elvis was at this time in his life, and I respect that he was attempting to heal through his music. “You Gave Me A Mountain” has never been a huge favorite of mine, but this is certainly a decent and committed version. You can hear the pain in his voice as he sings, “My woman got tired of the heartaches.” This rendition appears in the film.
Okay, I got bored during “You Gave Me A Mountain” and looked up what day of the week this concert was held. It was a Sunday.
Until It’s Time For You To Go: Elvis keeps the pace slow. This was one of his singles in 1972, and it wasn’t a good choice. His voice sure is pretty on it, though. I wasn’t even born when Elvis performed this show, but how I wish I could have somehow been there. I was only two when Elvis died, so never had the chance to see him in concert. In some ways, you could say my intense fandom of Elvis Presley is due to him being ripped away from the world too soon… and this has all been my quest to experience what it would have been like to witness Elvis first-hand.
Polk Salad Annie: Here we go! Elvis picks the pace back up. My first complaint as far as the mix on this CD, though, is that Jerry Scheff is way too buried in the mix on this song. This song is a showcase for Jerry on bass, but you can barely hear him. James dominates in the mix. Now, I love some James Burton, but this is Jerry’s song. Anyway, you’ll recognize this performance from the movie, too. It is great to hear the Sweet Inspirations at least – as this is a showcase song at times for them as well.
“I’d like to do a few oldies but goodies for you, ladies and gentlemen,” Elvis says before launching into “Love Me.” I believe this is the first time I’ve heard Elvis use that phrase – and about his own classic songs at that.
Love Me: It’s a typical 1972 version. In the recent past, he did it much better in 1970.
All Shook Up: The video of this one made its debut on Elvis: The Lost Performances VHS in 1992. This is its first official audio release. It’s really not that notable, however.
Teddy Bear/Don’t Be Cruel: Also from Elvis: The Lost Performances, Elvis has fun with Glen D. Hardin by making him begin the song on piano multiple times before finally singing. This medley isn’t a favorite, but it’s a decent version. Unfortunately, the audio of the “Don’t Be Cruel” part of this performance was later used in the 2010 DVD & Blu-ray release of Elvis On Tour to replace “Johnny B. Goode” over the opening credits due to rights issues. New old stock of that release was included in the physical version of this Elvis On Tour set – i.e., the Blu-ray included in this 2023 set has the butchered opening from 2010. The real selling points of this release are the CDs. I see the Blu-ray as a free bonus disc. Best used as a drink coaster. For the proper opening, I recommend watching the movie by buying/renting a digital version or streaming it. Or catch it during a TV broadcast, of course (how quaint!).
Are You Lonesome Tonight: A beautiful rendition of one of my favorite songs. Featured in The Lost Performances, I’m thrilled finally to have this rendition in my collection at this sound quality.
“Please ‘Release Me,’ baby,” Elvis says, but Glen instead launches into “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Getting Elvis back for that “Teddy Bear” fun?
I Can’t Stop Loving You: Okay, so I guess the whole segment from “All Shook Up” to “I Can’t Stop Loving You” was in The Lost Performances. Between that release and Elvis On Tour itself, we have most of this concert available in video form. I never thought it would take over 30 years for this audio from The Lost Performances to be released – much less 50 for the audio from the film proper.
Hound Dog: This has the “bluesy” intro, as later featured on the As Recorded At Madison Square Garden album (June 10, 1972). I practically grew up on that album, so I like it. This Hampton version has a little too much “scatting” from Elvis for my taste, though.
Bridge Over Trouble Water: Elvis absolutely conquered this song in 1970. By 1972, it just wasn’t the same, though. His voice sounds thin here. Elvis also had an unfortunate tendency to speed up a song over time. I guess to fit as much into those 60 minutes as possible.
Suspicious Minds: Wow, this feels way too early in the show for this song. This is a fast version, but he sounds good. His best versions are from 1969 and 1970, but if you can put that aside, the 1972 and 1973 versions are good on their own terms. Oh, to have been there! “Suspicious Minds” is one of those songs I always look forward to on a new-to-me concert. This one was a slight let-down due to Elvis playing around a bit with the audience, but still good. This was my Mom’s favorite song (specifically the Alternate Aloha version).
For The Good Times: Better than the sleepy version later recorded at Madison Square Garden.
Comin’ Home, Baby/Introductions By Elvis
An American Trilogy: Dixie/Battle Hymn Of The Republic/All My Trials – The video and audio from this first appeared in 1981’s This Is Elvis movie and album, albeit with additional instrumental overdubs added after Elvis’ 1977 death. That version is by far my favorite of “An American Trilogy.” The more authentic version here is unfortunately disappointing by comparison. The prominent scream from an audience member prior to the reprise of “Battle Hymn Of The Republic” is still there, at least (I used to wonder if that was overdubbed as well).
I mean, it’s still a great version, but it loses something in this mix. Or maybe due to not having the overdubs. Anyway, it’s wonderful finally to have it in the context of the full show. A version of this song recorded during a February Las Vegas show was another 1972 single for Elvis. While a powerful and dramatic song in concert, this didn’t make for a great single choice, either.
Love Me Tender: Not a bad version until ruined by Elvis joking near the end of the song.
A Big Hunk O’ Love: By 1972, Elvis wasn’t treating many of his “oldies but goodies” with very much respect. This one is an exception. Fantastic version. This appears in the movie.
How Great Thou Art: Stunning. Probably his best live version. The highlight of this show so far. This can also be viewed on The Lost Performances.
Sweet, Sweet Spirit (J.D. Sumner And The Stamps): I didn’t really “get” this song and thought it was a waste of time in Elvis On Tour until I finally saw the movie on the big screen in 2010. Watching Elvis become lost in the moment while hearing his backing vocalists perform this gospel song at his request was really something special, particularly while being part of the theater audience – and I wasn’t even saved yet at that point of my life.
Lawdy, Miss Clawdy: Oh no, based on what I remember from the movie, the show is nearing its end. No, Elvis, we want more! This is a great version for the 1970s. Probably the best one from that decade, at least of the ones I’ve heard, of course. This one appears in the movie.
Can’t Help Falling In Love: Noooo, the show is indeed ending! This rendition appears in the movie. What a terrific concert. Songs from throughout his career. Different styles. A strong voice.
All in all, a wonderful start to exploring the Elvis On Tour set.
“After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him.”