Triple Elvis powers a fresh vision of ALOHA FROM HAWAII

WARNING: This review contains major spoilers for Aloha From Hawaii: 40th Anniversary Edition.

Elvis Presley’s 1973 Aloha From Hawaii television special still stands as a significant milestone in his legendary career. The January 14 concert aired live via satellite to certain parts of the world.  Over the next several months, it aired in other locations, including the United States on April 4.

NBC’s US version of the broadcast featured a slightly edited concert, but also included several additional “insert” songs taped after the main show when the audience left the building. With only slight modifications, this was essentially the “standard” version used for rebroadcasts and home video releases through the 1990s.

2004’s Aloha From Hawaii: Deluxe Edition DVD from Elvis Presley Enterprises and BMG featured a new edit of the full concert. In addition to showcasing some new camera angles, it removed many of 1973’s split screen techniques – which had become dated over the years. The set also contained a January 12 rehearsal show taped as a backup, the January 14 insert song session, and the April 4 NBC broadcast. This 2-DVD set is the definitive release of Aloha From Hawaii.

“Definitive” does not always mean “final,” though. On Monday, EPE released a new 2013 edit of the main show on DVD. Originally created for an Elvis celebration in Honolulu that marked the 40th anniversary of the TV event in January of this year, this edition features a wider presentation that makes use of split screens to show multiple camera angles at once.

Unfortunately, EPE has thus far spent very little effort marketing this new version of Aloha From Hawaii. Press releases and product descriptions have been high on hyperbole but low on detail. Therefore, before getting into the fun stuff, I want to start this review by explaining exactly what to expect with the new Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii – 40th Anniversary Edition DVD.

Specifications

Unlike 99% of DVDs professionally released in the last 10 to 15 years, Aloha 40th contains no technical specifications on the back cover, or anywhere else for that matter.

There are no indications of aspect ratio, running time, or audio channels. There is a “Dolby Digital” logo, but that is as close as it comes to giving technical information. Lack of standard details such as these made the product packaging appear amateurish.

Here are the key technical specifications for the main feature (concert), which I derived on my own:

  • Visual format: Anamorphic widescreen (enhanced for 16:9 widescreen TVs)
  • Aspect ratio: 3:1 (approximate)
  • Running time:  77 minutes
  • Audio: English 5.1 Surround (Dolby Digital)
  • Closed captioned: No
  • Disc region: All
  • Disc format: NTSC

Explanation of Aspect Ratio

Aloha 40th has a radically different aspect ratio compared to previous versions. To this point, Aloha From Hawaii has always been presented in its original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (also known as 4:3). This means that for every 1.33 units of width, there is 1 unit of height. This new version is over twice as wide, at about 3:1. For every 3 units of width, there is now only 1 unit of height. This is actually wider than most films of today, which are usually 2.75:1.

What all of this means is that there are black bars at the top and the bottom of the Aloha 40th image, no matter the kind of television used to watch it. Old-style 4:3 televisions will have much thicker bars, however, than modern 16:9 televisions.

Below are simulations that compare the standard 1.33:1 Aloha with the widescreen 3:1 Aloha 40th, in terms of image space used on each kind of television. This is not intended to illustrate relative image quality.

Simulation of original 1973 ALOHA FROM HAWAII image on an old-style 4:3 television

Simulation of original 1973 ALOHA FROM HAWAII image on an old-style 4:3 television

Simulation of 2013 ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION image on an old-style 4:3 television

Simulation of 2013 ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION image on an old-style 4:3 television

Simulation of original 1973 ALOHA FROM HAWAII image on a modern 16:9 widescreen television

Simulation of original 1973 ALOHA FROM HAWAII image on a modern 16:9 widescreen television

Simulation of 2013 ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION image on a modern 16:9 widescreen television

Simulation of 2013 ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION image on a modern 16:9 widescreen television

Hanging Out Upstairs at Graceland

When I place Aloha 40th in the disc player for the first time, I do not know what to expect. I am always excited to watch a new Elvis DVD, but I am also afraid that this one will be disappointing. Will the contents be treated in the same amateur fashion as the packaging?

At first, the opening moments are fantastic, with bits of the Aloha press conferences interspersed with shots of the Earth from space.

Then, it zooms down to Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, and things quickly go awry.

As the camera closes in on Elvis’ bedroom window, there is a knock on the door. The scene cuts inside and the camera takes on the point-of-view of someone exiting his room upstairs at Graceland.

Jerry Schilling is waiting in the hallway for this person, who turns out to be an Elvis imitator wearing an American eagle jumpsuit. Though shot in the present day, the footage is made to look vintage. In fact, it is made to look much older than 1973 for some reason.

In the background, the annoying “Also Sprach Zarathustra” substitute song that was used during backstage portions of Elvis On Tour (1972) and This Is Elvis (1981) plays. With fake “Also Sprach Zarathustra” as his introduction, is fake Elvis about to take the stage for a concert right there in real Graceland?

Not quite. The real Jerry takes fake Elvis down the stairs, through the den, and out real Graceland’s back door.

In the backyard, the real Joe Esposito is waiting to take them to a blue and white helicopter that has landed in the pasture.

These opening moments are reminiscent of both This Is Elvis and Elvis Lives: The 25th Anniversary Concert (released 2007). Ignoring for a moment that the unnecessary use of an Elvis imitator made me queasy, the new opening also left me with more questions than answers:

  • Jerry and Joe are both their present-day selves, so if this footage represents 2013, who exactly are they supposed to be retrieving from Elvis’ bedroom? His spirit?
  • If this footage is supposed to represent 1973, then why is (fake) Elvis already wearing his jumpsuit? Graceland is over 4,000 miles from Honolulu.
  • Where is that helicopter supposed to be taking fake Elvis anyway? To the airport? Elvis always took a car to the airport.

Surely, the creators of this segment are not trying to imply that fake Elvis, after being put out to pasture wearing his fake jumpsuit, rides that helicopter all the way to Honolulu? Everyone knows that when (real) Elvis arrives in Honolulu, he is in a green helicopter and wearing a corduroy suit.

Besides, if they really wanted to impress me, they would have loaded fake Elvis on the real Lisa Marie airplane and used CGI to show the plane take off for Hawaii right from Elvis Presley Boulevard. Sure, Elvis had not yet acquired his own plane at the time of Aloha, but why try to introduce logic into this insanity now?

Yes, I am nitpicking what is obviously supposed to be a fun little segment played for laughs. However, I watch Aloha to see the genuine article, not an imitation, so this poor opening almost spoiled the DVD for me.

Almost.

Then, the scene cuts to the familiar 1973 show opening – enhanced for widescreen. As the satellite graphic appears on screen, morse code begins to spell out E-L-V-I-S.

Soon enough, fake Elvis is wiped from memory as real Elvis takes the stage in all his dazzling glory. Except now, there are three of him!

The Triple Elvis Threat

Example of the split screen technique used in ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Example of the split screen technique used in ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Throughout most of Aloha 40th, there is a main camera angle in the middle section of the screen, with two slightly smaller, cropped angles on the left and right sections of the screen. This configuration is used in one of three ways:

  • One angle: Same angle repeated in all three sections
  • Two angles: One angle in middle section, a second angle repeated on both sides
  • Three angles: A different angle in each section

I did not attempt to measure this, but my rough observation is that the two angle configuration of the three sections is used most often, while the three angle configuration is used least often.

The real power of Aloha 40th is being able to view multiple angles at once, so I found the one angle use to be disappointing in most cases. However, when used appropriately, it could still be effective.

With at least two different camera angles on screen at most times, there are undoubtedly some new angles mixed in there that have not been seen on previous releases. One of my favorites that I have noticed so far is Elvis giving a nervous look directly into the camera during James Burton’s “Steamroller Blues” guitar solo. I love moments like this, which humanize Elvis. He has become such a legend, such an icon in death, that his underlying humanity is sometimes lost. He was a real man, after all, who could get nervous on stage.

Watching the split screen angles is a treat, but it also gives my eyes a real workout. I keep scanning back and forth, trying not to miss anything. Meanwhile, the fast, modern editing techniques, including many jump-cuts, also leave me trying not to blink.

While the screen contains three sections most of the time, there are also segments where it splits into dozens of images at once – though still only one or two different angles. Those segments, which are thankfully brief, look like cheap gimmicks, as if someone was allowed to play with Microsoft Movie Maker too long.

"There is nothing wrong with your television set." Visual overloads, such as the above, are thankfully rare in ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

“There is nothing wrong with your television set.” Visual overloads, such as the above, are thankfully rare in ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

To be fair, I am certain that the visual overload segments look far better in the environment for which this edit was originally created: Display on a huge movie screen in a large concert arena.

As for the concert, the complete version is used, meaning it includes the “lying like a rug,” “general flunky,” Jack Lord introduction, and other small lines cut from the NBC version.

All of the concert songs appear, including “Johnny B. Goode,” the song Warner Home Video was unable to secure usage rights for in its 2010 Blu-ray and DVD release of Elvis On Tour. EPE was either better at securing a deal with Chuck Berry than Warner, or the terms of its circa-2004 deal allowed for this release as well.

Insert Songs

Most of the “insert” songs from the NBC version of the special are included as well. Different imagery appears in these songs than in the 1973 versions, though.

Inserted between “You Gave Me A Mountain” and “Steamroller Blues,” “Early Morning Rain” contains various shots of Hawaii while Elvis is shown singing on stage after the audience has left.

“Blue Hawaii” features Elvis on stage again, but this time the additional sections are used as a scrapbook of sorts, showing various still photos of Elvis in Hawaii over the years, including production photos from Blue Hawaii, Girls! Girls! Girls!, and Paradise, Hawaiian Style. There are several images that I do not recall seeing before. However, I am not a photo collector, so they might be common.

Since Elvis sings most of “Blue Hawaii” with his eyes closed, the impression is given that he is thinking back on the events shown in the montage. It is an extremely effective sequence, though, in reality, Elvis is probably thinking, “Man, I just finished the biggest show of my career, why am I still stuck here singing to an empty room?”

While previously inserted between “Hound Dog” and “What Now My Love,” “Blue Hawaii” is now placed between “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Hound Dog” for some reason. Perhaps the “lying like a rug” line seemed too abrupt of a stopping point to move to the insert. I prefer it in its original position, though.

“Hawaiian Wedding Song” is omitted (as is “No More,” technically, but that was left out of the 1973 broadcast as well, so I am not counting that one). It is the only missing song, and its absence after “I’ll Remember You” does not leave near the same hole as the absence of “Johnny B. Goode” did for the opening of Elvis On Tour.

The remaining insert song is “Ku-u-i-po,” which appears in its traditional spot after “Long Tall Sally/Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” At first, I am annoyed that only two sections of screen appear, neither of which include Elvis singing in 1973.

Then, it happens.

The Surprise

Right there, in the middle of “Ku-u-i-po,” with no fanfare, no preparation, comes footage of Elvis appearing live in Hawaii.

In 1957.

In color.

It is 30 seconds long.

But . . . wow.

This previously unreleased footage is part of a new exhibit at Graceland, called Elvis’ Hawaii: Concerts, Movies and More.

While the split screen techniques of Aloha 40th will someday seem as dated as the 1973 versions did by 2004, the real legacy of this release, what it will be remembered for long-term, will be those 30 seconds of 1957 footage.

Audio

In no way do I claim to be an audio expert, so all I can do is present my subjective opinion on this topic as a layman. My first impression of Aloha 40th‘s 5.1 audio was that I did not like the new mix.

For instance, there seemed to be little use of the rear speakers, except for background singers. In addition, Elvis’ vocal was far too prominent for my taste.

As a comparison, I played “An American Trilogy” from the original pressing of the 2004 edit of Aloha versus the same song on the 2013 edit. While the 2004 mix also has room for improvement, it is far better, in my view, than the 2013 mix. The 2004 mix has a fuller sound with more ambience.

The difference in mixes is best exemplified by what I refer to as the musical “cannon fire” portion of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the part where the orchestra goes, boom! Boom!! BOOM!!!

On the 2004 mix, you are the one under fire. In the 2013 mix, the cannons are merely firing off at someone else in the distance.

My primary listening for Aloha 40th was on a six-speaker surround system that used the Dolby Digital encoding (left, center, right, left rear, right rear, and sub). I also listened to selections on a standard two-speaker stereo setup (left and right).

Unlike the 2004 edition, there is not a dedicated stereo track available. Presumably, this means it is left to one’s audio equipment to convert the 5.1 sound to 2.0. In my case, it sounded fine. In some ways, I enjoyed it more than the true 5.1 version, but that might be due to having lower expectations.

Video

As shown in the aspect ratio image examples above, the tradeoff of the multiple angles on Aloha 40th is that the visuals are now smaller overall, using less screen space.

That being said, video quality never jumped out at me as a significant issue on this release. I also do not claim to be a video expert, though, so I only present my perspective as a fan who has watched and enjoyed Aloha From Hawaii for years.

Overall image quality is about the same as the 2004 edition, which was very clean. Once again, I used “An American Trilogy” to make most of my comparisons.

Some of the video footage this time out has an occasional darker look, though, but that may be an intentional effect. Though I noted it, it was not distracting.

Coloring sometimes varies from angle to angle. For instance, Elvis’ jumpsuit sometimes looks white, while other times it is an off-white. Due to the many factors that could cause this, though, I am not prepared to blame the variances on this release in particular. In fact, I am almost sure this has always been the case. The split screens simply make it easier to detect.

One of the things that surprised me was that the 2013 image often appeared crisper than the 2004 version. Since I was watching on a high-definition television, this unexpected benefit was likely due to the comparatively low-resolution image not having to be artificially expanded as much for the increased resolution of modern TVs.

My primary viewing of Aloha 40th was on a 73-inch widescreen TV, from a distance of about ten feet. I also viewed selections on a 27-inch widescreen monitor, from a distance of about three feet. Unfortunately, I did not have ready access to an old-style TV to test how Aloha 40th appears in that format.

Due to the extremely wide aspect ratio and split screen technology, larger, widescreen televisions will obviously have better results than smaller units. However, even on the 27-inch widescreen, Aloha 40th was still enjoyable.

Extras

Aloha 40th also includes the following bonus content:

  • 40th Anniversary Aloha From Hawaii Celebration: A four-minute documentary, which, combined with the main show, certainly makes this DVD a fine souvenir for those fortunate enough to participate in Graceland’s Elvis-themed Hawaiian vacation package earlier this year. It just makes the rest of us jealous, though.
  • Elvis’ Hawaii: Concerts, Movies, and More! Exhibit: A five-minute documentary about Graceland’s new exhibit, narrated by Angie Marchese, EPE’s Director of Archives, who created the exhibit. This documentary does a great job in the time allotted explaining what went into creating the new exhibit, as well as giving a nice walkthrough of its contents. This is another chance to see that spectacular 1957 concert footage, by the way. This documentary also reminds me that I really need to go back to Graceland one day.
  • Aloha From Hawaii Press Conferences: Five minutes worth of footage from Elvis’ September and November 1972 press conferences. I have seen this footage elsewhere in better condition.

Though I will not watch them very often, the extras are fine. I especially enjoyed the one about the exhibit, which acts as a commercial for Graceland without being obvious about it.

The only additional item I would have preferred in a release of this nature would have been a “making of” documentary about the 2013 edit.

Booklet

The booklet that accompanies the Aloha 40th DVD is actually a modified version of the program given at the 40th anniversary event in January. Though it is nicely assembled, the 12-page booklet contains typical information and pictures. It contains no further details about the DVD. Even the song-listing included is noted as supposedly being for the 1973 NBC broadcast version.

Overall Verdict

Ultimately, the wide format and split screens of Aloha 40th work better than I imagined they would, and they serve to shed new light and energy upon a concert that has become so familiar to Elvis fans. Use of split screen technology returns Aloha to its roots, albeit in modern form.

Aloha 40th should not replace previous edits of Aloha From Hawaii, though. Instead, it should stand alongside them as another viewing alternative.

I know there are some fans who do not enjoy Aloha From Hawaii. They criticize it for a multitude of reasons: Elvis is sluggish, Elvis is nervous, Elvis disrespects his older hits, etc.

While many of those kinds of observations are indeed valid to some extent, I cannot help but love Aloha From Hawaii anyway. While Elvis was alive, it was really his last moment in the international spotlight. Though it might never be in serious contention as his best show, I still find it hugely entertaining and compelling.

If you have not been a fan of Aloha From Hawaii to this point, this DVD is not likely to change your mind. No amount of special editing could ever do that.

If, on the other hand, you already enjoy Aloha From Hawaii and are willing to embrace change, then the Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii – 40th Anniversary Edition DVD is a must.

Once Elvis took the stage, I had a big smile on my face the entire time.

It’s Elvis. It’s fun. What more could I ask?

Booklet cover for ELVIS: ALOHA FROM HAWAII - 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (2013)

Booklet cover for ELVIS: ALOHA FROM HAWAII – 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (2013)

Elvis Presley Enterprises to release ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40th ANNIVERSARY EDITION DVD in mid-August

ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40th ANNIVERSARY EDITION DVD (2013)

ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40th ANNIVERSARY EDITION DVD (2013)

This product snuck up on me in the recent official Elvis products catalog. As far as I can tell, there has been absolutely no publicity thus far about a DVD release of Aloha From Hawaii: 40th Anniversary Edition. Nevertheless, Elvis Presley Enterprises is set to release the new DVD in less than two weeks, on August 16.

It will contain the 2013 edit of the concert as shown earlier this year in Hawaii. The new edition features split screen visuals that expand the viewing area, resulting in a more theatrical presentation than the standard television editions seen in the past. Time will tell, but I’m hopeful this expanded width will look terrific on modern 16:9 widescreen TVs.

Here is the item description:

Elvis Presley made television and entertainment history with his “Elvis, Aloha from Hawaii” concert television special. The performance took place at the Honolulu International Center, now known as the Neal Blaisdell Arena, on January 14, 1973. It was beamed live via Globecam Satellite to various countries, on a delayed basis to approximately 30 European countries and first aired in the U.S. on April 4 on NBC. The viewing audience was estimated at over one billion worldwide.

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of “Elvis, Aloha from Hawaii,” fans from around the world gathered in Honolulu in January 2013 for five days of celebrations. The highlight of the week was a screening of a special re-edited version of “Elvis, Aloha from Hawaii,” that was shown at the Blaisdell Arena on January 14, exactly 40 years to the day Elvis performed there.

The re-edited version, which includes rarely-seen footage and audio, received rave reviews from critics and fans alike. This special 40th anniversary edition offers a new look at Elvis during one of his most outstanding concert performances of his career.

ELVIS ALOHA FROM HAWAII
• Re-edit of “Elvis, Aloha from Hawaii” as seen at the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu on January 14, 2013

BONUS FEATURES • Event footage from the “40th Anniversary Aloha from Hawaii Celebration” in Honolulu in January 2013
• A Look Inside the New “Elvis’ Hawaii: Concerts, Movies and More! Exhibit” at Graceland
• Clips from Elvis’ “Aloha from Hawaii” Press Conferences
• Replica Booklet of Program from January 14, 2013 Screening Event

I’ve read this a few times, and it sounds almost too good to be true. In the back of my mind, there is a nagging question that I wish would go away: Have any songs been removed from the 2013 edit of the concert?

August 7, 2013, Update: According to a Shop Elvis email blast that went out today, the release date on this item is now August 19. Unfortunately, no further details on the the technical specifications.

August 22, 2013, Update: Check out my full review of Aloha From Hawaii: 40th Anniversary Edition DVD.

Never say goodbye to Aloha From Hawaii

Elvis on NBC, 1973

NBC aired the Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii special on April 4, 1973

Welcome to a rare “full-color edition” of The Mystery Train Blog. Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the United States television broadcast of Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii on NBC. The special had been taped in January 1973 during a “live via satellite” broadcast to certain parts of the world. With all of the hype surrounding the first live satellite broadcast by an entertainer, many Americans to this day wrongly believe they saw 38-year-old Elvis perform the show live. Little did they know that he was watching the TV special, too.

The NBC version of Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii aired from 8:30 PM to 10:00 PM on April 4, 1973. It became the most-watched show of the week. Among the viewers was indeed Elvis himself, who tuned-in from his home in Los Angeles. This edition of the show included the one-hour January 14 concert as well as four post-concert insert songs that Elvis recorded after the audience emptied from the venue.

Among Elvis fans today, the show receives mixed reviews. Some see it as the pinnacle of his career and success, while others see it as one of the first indicators of his decline. My Mom is one of those who adores Aloha From Hawaii. An Elvis fan since 1956, Aloha From Hawaii represents her ideal version of Elvis. I have a hard time getting her to watch anything else Elvis-related with me, unless we look at this one first.

As a second-generation fan, I wasn’t even born when Aloha first aired. In fact, I’m now the same age (almost to the day) Elvis was when he performed this show. While I prefer the ’68 ELVIS special and 1970’s That’s The Way It Is, I definitely enjoy Aloha From Hawaii. Though it was not his best show ever, in many ways it represented his final triumph in the eyes of the world.

Elvis Aloha From Hawaii, 2004 Deluxe Edition

Elvis Aloha From Hawaii, 2004 Deluxe Edition

Though the show had appeared on home media several times before, Elvis Presley Enterprises and BMG released an ultimate version in 2004 as the 2-DVD set Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii – Deluxe Edition. Here are the contents:

DVD 1
1. January 9, 1973: Elvis Arrives and Greets Fans (17:30)
2. January 12, 1973: Rehearsal Concert (56:39)
3. January 14, 1973: Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii Concert (1:04:18)

DVD 2
1. January 14, 1973: Post-Concert Insert Songs Session (27:00)
2. April 4, 1973 (broadcast): Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii NBC TV Special Version (01:16:39)

Contents of Elvis Aloha From Hawaii, 2004 Deluxe Edition

Contents of Elvis Aloha From Hawaii, 2004 Deluxe Edition

2004 was a milestone year for Elvis fans. On the same day as the above, EPE and BMG also released the 3-DVD ELVIS: ’68 Comeback Special – Deluxe Edition set. I could barely contain my excitement when both sets arrived at my house nearly a decade ago now.

Executive Produced by Gary Hovey and the late Todd Morgan, both of these deluxe sets turned out to be among the most important Elvis releases ever. For obsessive Elvis fans like me, these DVDs represent essential viewing. I return to them often.

Though DVD 2 also holds interest, when it comes to Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii – Deluxe Edition, I tend to watch DVD 1 most often. The 2004 re-edits of the rehearsal and satellite shows represent the best releases of this material to date.

Last night, however, I plopped in DVD 2 in order to watch the April 4, 1973, version of Aloha From Hawaii. Before “Burning Love” could even finish, to my horror, the image on my screen began pixelating. It finally froze. An examination of the disc revealed scratches. I skipped ahead to the next song, but the problem kept occurring. I ended up watching about twenty minutes of the show in fits and starts.

I think I am very careful with my discs, so I’m not sure how these phantom scratches sometimes occur. I guess I have to chalk it up to equipment oddities. Either that or my dog plays my CDs and DVDs when I’m not around.

In any event, the reason I was horrified was not due to having to halt my 40th anniversary viewing of Aloha From Hawaii, but because I knew Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii – Deluxe Edition was now hard-to-find.

In fact, only a few months ago I had searched for it as a potential Christmas gift for someone. At that time, it was only available from third-party sellers at three times the original price. I love Elvis, but I refuse to pay exorbitant prices to such speculators. A quick check last night revealed the pricing to be the same.

Naturally, I did what any self-respecting fan would do in such a situation. I took to twitter to whine.

By this time, it was around midnight. I do not always get along with the twitter late at night, so I managed to tweet the following message to myself: My 2004 Aloha From Hawaii Deluxe Edition is giving out. If only @ElvisPresley would re-release this essential 2-DVD set.

Tweeting to myself

Tweeting to myself

I wish I could blame tweeting to myself on having a few too many, but I never drink. I don’t need to imbibe in order to do stupid things, it seems.

Fortunately, my message somehow managed to get through to @ElvisPresley, the official Elvis Presley Enterprises twitter account. Apparently the people over there at EPE actually know how to work twitter, for they sent me a link via direct (private) message to where the Deluxe Edition was still available on ShopElvis.com.

Now, why didn’t I think of that? I spend more money than I will ever admit on ShopElvis.com, but missed checking for the Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii – Deluxe Edition in this most obvious of places last night. Sure enough, it was there, in stock, and at a fair price.

  • Replacement copy of Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii – Deluxe Edition? Ordered.
  • Backup copy of ELVIS: ’68 Comeback Special – Deluxe Edition? Ordered. [This one is also now “hard-to-find” and is at crazy prices from third-party sellers.]

There is an Aloha From Hawaii for everyone. If you are not quite as obsessive as me when it comes to wanting to view all possible footage, 2006’s Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii – Special Edition DVD features only the 2004 edit of the January 14 main show. It is less expensive than the 2-DVD version and will certainly satisfy more casual fans.

Last month, Sony released the Legacy Edition of the Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite soundtrack album as a 2-CD set. Note that this is only the music, no video.

I’ve not picked this one up as of yet, but be sure to read this fantastic review of the Legacy Edition of Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite over on The Second Disc.

Here are the contents of the Legacy Edition:

CD 1
January 14, 1973: Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite (original album, 1973 vintage mix, remastered by Vic Anesini)

CD 2
1. January 12, 1973: Rehearsal Concert (2013 mix and mastering by Steve Rosenthal and Rob Santos)
2. January 14, 1973: Post-Concert Insert Songs

Elvis Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite, 2013 Legacy Edition

Elvis Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite, 2013 Legacy Edition

REVIEW: Elvis – The Complete Masters Collection (Part 3)

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.

Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection - Volume 5

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

With thirty-one CDs still to go, continue to look for future installments here on The Mystery Train Blog.


Read Part 4.

Elvis news . . . in a flash

Now that we’re starting to get back to “normal” here on The Mystery Train Elvis Blog after wall-to-wall coverage of Elvis On Tour, I thought it would be a good chance to catch up on some of the other things going on in the Elvis world.

Too much, plus tax

While I’ve got some book and Blu-ray reviews in the works, one upcoming Elvis release I’m not likely to be reviewing anytime soon is The Complete Elvis Presley Masters collection, formally announced by Sony Legacy this week and available for pre-order. This 30-CD set checks in at $749 US, plus tax and shipping.

The initial run is limited to only 1,000 units worldwide. You get 814 recordings, a new 240-page hardcover book, and a display case.

Don’t get me wrong here. This looks like a terrific set, and I’m drooling over it as we speak! $749 is simply too much for me personally, especially considering I already have all of the songs (though not always in the same sound quality as what will no doubt be included on this set).

Checking out the other Elvis blogs

Over on Elvis Today, Thomas recently reviewed the FTD edition of How Great Thou Art. He notes, “Getting a front seat in RCA’s Studio B in Nashville and being able to listen to Elvis’ new producer Felton Jarvis directing the session with his supportive comments and encouragement, offers a valuable insight into how the recordings took place and how the songs evolved.” Certainly, a must-read post and, apparently, a must-listen CD set as well.

Phil has some great coverage this week on ElvisBlog about what he calls “Two Very Rare, Weird, and Valuable Elvis Records.” Each one of those rare records will actually cost far more than the 30-CD set referenced above, by the way. One features “Doncha’ Think It’s Time” by Elvis accidentally pressed by RCA on a record labeled as “One For The Money (Part 1)” by The Whispers. How Elvis’ 1958 recording ended up on this 1976 single is anyone’s guess.

This reminded me of a similar mistake that Sony Legacy recently made – in reverse! Some editions of their 2-CD reissue of On Stage-February 1970 have an Alice In Chains album as the first CD – though it is still labeled as Elvis. Sony is offering a disc exchange, but that’s one I’d recommend keeping if you happen to have it, even if you don’t like Alice In Chains. It’s kind of a double collectible, for Alice In Chains fans may want to obtain this unique disc as well.

Continue keeping Myrna Smith in your prayers

One of the beautiful voices you’ll hear on the real version of On Stage is that of Myrna Smith. Because of Elvis, I’ve been listening to Myrna for all of my life.

I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but I want to bring it up again. If you’re going to be in Memphis during Elvis Week, be sure to attend Elvis Unlimited‘s Back In Memphis concert, which will benefit Myrna – a founding member of the Sweet Inspirations vocal group that backed Elvis in concert performances from 1969 until his death in 1977. Myrna is hospitalized with a serious illness in California and the medical bills are quickly adding up. Kudos to Elvis Unlimited for taking the initiative to bring fans together to help her.

Even if you can’t attend the show, keep Myrna in your prayers, everyone. May she recover soon.