As Recorded At Hampton Coliseum: ELVIS ON TOUR – First Reactions

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.

ELVIS ON TOUR (Sony, 2023) | Credit: Sony

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/The 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 “The 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.

Elvis Presley performing at the Hampton Coliseum on Sunday, April 9, 1972 (MGM)


“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.”
Matthew 3:16

2021 Songs of the Year

Well, folks, congratulations for making it to 2022!

My traditional first post of each year is an analysis of my music listening trends for the previous year. I know you have been waiting anxiously to learn about these numbers, and there were a few surprises in the 2021 data.

Out of exactly 5,000 Elvis Presley tracks in my digital collection on iTunes, the one I played most often in 2021 across all devices was a shocker…

Credit: Vevo’s Elvis Presley channel (YouTube)

I did not backup the undubbed/unedited version of “Merry Christmas Baby,” as released on Back In Nashville, to iTunes until December 8, 2021, and I stopped playing Christmas music after December 25 – so it was at a huge disadvantage to Elvis tracks that I have been playing all year. However, it still took the prize for my most-played song of the year with 14 plays.

In a tie for second place with 13 plays each were the master versions of “Mystery Train” (1955), which of course inspired the name of my blog, and “Any Day Now” (1969).

The win for the alternate version of “Merry Christmas Baby” is even more remarkable considering the track clocks in at over 8 minutes, whereas “Mystery Train” is about 2 and a half minutes, and “Any Day Now” is about 3 minutes.

This means the alternate “Merry Christmas Baby” played for about 114 minutes total in 2021, while runners-up “Mystery Train” came in at about 33 minutes and “Any Day Now” at 39 minutes for the whole year.

I listened to 3,333 Elvis songs on my devices in 2021 (including duplicates). That is an average of 9 Elvis songs a day. I listened to 1,747 different Elvis tracks during the year.

Out of 6,663 non-Elvis tracks in my collection, my most played song overall in 2021 was Bethel Music’s “It Is Well,” with lead vocals by Kristene DiMarco. Featured on the 2014 album Live At The Civic: You Make Me Brave, this recording played 11 times on my various devices this year.

Credit: Bethel Music channel (YouTube)

My other top-played songs by artists not named Elvis Presley were:

  • Joy” by for KING & COUNTRY, Burn The Ships, 2018, 10 plays.
  • God Only Knows” by for KING & COUNTRY, Burn The Ships, 2018, 9 plays.
  • “Fine Fine Life” by for KING & COUNTRY, Crave, 2011, 9 plays.

Overall, I listened to 6,350 recordings using my digital devices last year (including duplicates). That works out to 17 songs a day. I listened to 3,751 different tracks during the year.

My music listening was way down in 2021 compared to previous years. These numbers are about half of what they were in 2020. I would chalk it up to the ongoing global pandemic (i.e., not having a commute to work greatly reduces my music listening time), but this was also true of 2020. So, I am not sure what is going on in my music listening habits. I know I still love music, though, especially by Elvis!

As we continue to face the surging virus, I pray that you and your family have a 2022 full of health and peace.

Blessings,
TY


“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”
Hebrews 12:1-2

THAT’S THE WAY IT IS: Six in the Summer of ’70 (Playlist Recipes #9)

Elvis Presley performs “Polk Salad Annie” at the August 12, 1970, Midnight Show, in Las Vegas, Nevada, captured for the ELVIS: THAT’S THE WAY IT IS documentary film (MGM)

About seven years ago, I wrote a review of That’s The Way It Is: Deluxe Edition. The 2014 Elvis Presley boxed set included 8 CDs and 2 DVDs, and my review rambled on about them for nearly 10,000 words.

Despite the length of that review, there are some loose ends that I would finally like to begin tying up regarding my all-time favorite Elvis event. I don’t know how many posts this will actually take, and they won’t necessarily run sequential to one another, either. Such is the way of things when you ride The Mystery Train.

By the time of the That’s The Way It Is project, Elvis had already performed two month-long engagements at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. From July 31 to August 28, 1969, he performed 57 concerts, 11 of which RCA recorded in full near the end of the series and compiled into the Elvis In Person half of the From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis double album.

Elvis performed another 57-show engagement from January 26 through February 23, 1970. RCA recorded portions of nine shows from the middle of this engagement, which resulted in the core of the album On Stage.

MGM’s camera crews were rolling for the Elvis: That’s The Way It Is documentary as he began his 3rd engagement on August 10, 1970. Marketed as the “Elvis Summer Festival,” this one ran through September 8 and included 59 shows. RCA recorded the first 6 concerts in full–concluding with the August 13 Dinner Show. Only four of the live songs found their way onto the That’s The Way It Is album, which acted as a tie-in to the film but otherwise featured studio songs Elvis had recorded in June.

These first three engagements at the International Hotel include some of the greatest live performances of Elvis’ career, but the vast majority of the recordings languished away in RCA’s vaults until long after his death. While performances of individual songs were often superior in the two previous engagements, to the extent there was overlap, the overall shows in the third engagement, as captured for That’s The Way It Is, are better than any that preceded or followed them.

All right, if I’m not careful, I’ll be on the way to another unreadable 10,000 word post. I love this topic, but let’s get on with it.

To assist with today’s post, I created the following infochart covering the six concerts RCA recorded for That’s The Way It Is. The numbers in the concert columns represent the sequence he performed those songs in that particular show.

Elvis Presley Summer 1970 Setlists Infochart | Compiled by Tygrrius

Focusing on the 6 shows that RCA recorded in the course of 4 days, Elvis performed only 6 of the songs at every single concert:

  • That’s All Right
  • Love Me Tender
  • You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
  • Polk Salad Annie
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water
  • Can’t Help Falling In Love

All of these are strong highlights, with only a couple of exceptions in individual shows.

The following songs appeared in 5 of the 6 concerts:

  • Hound Dog
  • I Just Can’t Help Believin’
  • Heartbreak Hotel
  • Suspicious Minds

Of these, the highlights are tremendous versions of “Suspicious Minds” and “I Just Can’t Help Believin'”. While the “Suspicious Minds” live performances are not quite as good as his August 1969 renditions, the August 1970 versions are still stellar and far better than the ones captured in February 1970. Though again inferior to 1969, “Hound Dog” and “Heartbreak Hotel” remain entertaining at this point and are not yet the throwaways they would unfortunately soon become – particularly “Hound Dog.”

Not including snippets, the following songs appeared in only 1 of the 6 concerts:

  • The Next Step Is Love
  • Don’t Cry Daddy/In The Ghetto
  • Stranger In The Crowd
  • Make The World Go Away
  • Twenty Days And Twenty Nights
  • The Wonder Of You
  • Don’t Be Cruel
  • Little Sister/Get Back
  • I Was The One
  • Are You Lonesome Tonight

All of the one-off songs have something to offer. One of the great “misses” of the time period, in my opinion, is “Stranger In The Crowd” not being chosen and promoted as a single for That’s The Way It Is, in lieu of “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me.” The “Stranger In The Crowd” studio track is amazing, and his subsequent rehearsals with his core rhythm group for the live show prove it could have been dynamite. Unfortunately, the sole live version is marred by featuring too much of the Imperials vocal group and the orchestra’s horns. If only the Elvis team had worked out a simpler arrangement that was closer to those early rehearsals.

As it was his most recent hit at the time of these concerts, it is interesting that Elvis performed “The Wonder Of You” only once during the six shows.

Featuring Elvis on electric guitar, “Little Sister/Get Back,” “I Was The One,” “Love Me” (August 12 version only), and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” are all top-notch. Even the non-guitar version of “Love Me” (August 11) is a stand-out and far better than any post-1970 version.

With revised arrangements, “Words” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You” are two songs Elvis improves in Summer 1970 over his Summer 1969 performances.

Other highlights of the overall six-concert span include “Mystery Train/Tiger Man” (of course) and “Just Pretend.”

These are darn-near perfect shows. The only major Elvis categories they are lacking are gospel and the blues. It is unfortunate that Elvis did not perform “Oh Happy Day” at any of these concerts, despite having rehearsed it at the last minute, as he surely would have recorded a superlative version at this time in his career. However, the gospel sound is certainly present on a few of the secular recordings, including showstoppers “I Just Can’t Help Believin'” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” As for the blues, some of that influence can certainly be heard in the aforementioned electric guitar segment from the August 12 Midnight Show.

Here is my “August 1970 Ultimate Show” playlist recipe for this concert engagement. As noted, Elvis’ setlist varied widely each night, so no single show actually contained all of these songs. In fact, such a concert would have been longer than any show Elvis actually gave in his entire life, to my knowledge.

  1. Opening Riff/That’s All Right (August 10, 1970, Opening Show [OS])
  2. Mystery Train/Tiger Man (August 12, 1970, Midnight Show [MS])
  3. I Got A Woman (August 13, 1970, Dinner Show [DS]
  4. Hound Dog (August 11, 1970, MS)
  5. Love Me Tender (August 11, 1970, MS)
  6. The Next Step Is Love (August 10, 1970, OS)
  7. Just Pretend (August 11, 1970, MS)
  8. Don’t Cry Daddy/In The Ghetto (August 13, 1970, DS)
  9. Men With Broken Hearts/Walk A Mile In My Shoes (August 11, 1970, MS)
  10. I’ve Lost You (August 11, 1970, DS)
  11. There Goes My Everything (August 11, 1970, MS)
  12. I Just Can’t Help Believin’ (August 12, 1970, DS)
  13. Stranger In The Crowd (August 13, 1970, DS)
  14. Words (August 12, 1970, MS)
  15. Something (August 11, 1970, MS)
  16. Make The World Go Away (August 13, 1970, DS)
  17. Patch It Up (August 10, 1970, OS)
  18. Sweet Caroline (August 12, 1970, MS)
  19. I Can’t Stop Loving You (August 11, 1970, DS)
  20. Twenty Days And Twenty Nights (August 12, 1970, DS)
  21. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (August 12, 1970, MS)
  22. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me (August 10, 1970, OS)
  23. Polk Salad Annie (August 12, 1970, MS)
  24. The Wonder Of You (August 13, 1970, DS)
  25. Heartbreak Hotel (August 12, 1970, MS)
  26. One Night (August 12, 1970, MS)
  27. Don’t Be Cruel (August 11, 1970, MS)
  28. Blue Suede Shoes (August 12, 1970, MS)
  29. All Shook Up (August 12, 1970, MS)
  30. US Male (August 11, 1970, MS)
  31. Little Sister/Get Back (August 12, 1970, MS)
  32. I Was The One (August 12, 1970, MS)
  33. Love Me (August 12, 1970, MS)
  34. Are You Lonesome Tonight (August 12, 1970, MS)
  35. Bridge Over Troubled Water (August 11, 1970, DS)
  36. Suspicious Minds (August 12, 1970, MS)
  37. Can’t Help Falling In Love (August 12, 1970, MS)

Though I did not structure it this way on purpose, all 6 shows are represented in this “best of” playlist. If you want an even fuller compilation, you could even include “Introductions By Elvis” from the August 12 Midnight Show after “Polk Salad Annie” and before “The Wonder Of You.”

As you can probably predict from the above playlist, my favorite show of the Summer 1970 engagement is the August 12 Midnight Show (disc 6 of 2014’s That’s The Way It Is: Deluxe Edition and disc 2 of 2000’s That’s The Way It Is: Special Edition). In fact, this is my favorite Elvis concert ever. It features an impeccable setlist, Elvis in top form, and the fun electric guitar segment.

Though he still had many stellar recordings and accomplishments ahead of him, Elvis was never quite as awesome again as he was in Summer 1970. I am grateful we have so much material from that time period to enjoy. I wouldn’t be as strong an Elvis fan without the magic of That’s The Way It Is.

Blessings,
TY


“We put our hope in the LORD. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.”
Psalm 33:20-22

Elvis: The Ultimate Live Top Ten Hits (Part 4)

This is the finale of a four post series covering Elvis Presley’s best officially-released live recording of each of his US top ten hits.

[Read Part 3]

Released as a 2-LP set in 1987, The Top Ten Hits contained all 38 of Elvis’ top 10 hits on Billboard‘s key US charts. Other than a few outliers that failed to make the top 10 and are not on the set (“Blue Suede Shoes,” “Blue Christmas,” “Viva Las Vegas,” “My Way,” and “A Little Less Conversation”), it includes all of his most famous songs for the general public. Indeed, outside of boxed sets, The Top Ten Hits remains one of the most comprehensive Elvis releases to date when it comes to mainstream songs.

Today’s post will feature hits included on Side D of The Top Ten Hits, most of which were studio recordings on the original album.

01. Return To Sender (hit version recorded 1962)
Ultimate Live Version: August 1, 1976, Hampton Roads, VA, New Haven ’76
Per request, Elvis performs “Return To Sender” off the top of his head at a concert in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Included as a bonus track on New Haven ’76, this is the only officially released live version of the song. Considering it was recorded in 1976, the nadir of Elvis concert years, it actually isn’t horrible.

02. Devil In Disguise (hit version recorded 1963)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
It is unfortunate that Elvis never performed live in the mid-1960s. This song would surely have resulted in a classic rendition at that time.

03. Bossa Nova Baby (hit version recorded 1963)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
A medley of “Return To Sender” and “Bossa Nova Baby” might have been fun in his 1969 live shows to acknowledge a couple of hit songs from his 1960s movies.

04. Crying In The Chapel (hit version recorded 1960)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
Voice-wise, 1968 probably would have been the best time for Elvis to have performed “Crying In The Chapel” live. I don’t see where it would really fit in any of his four shows captured for the ELVIS special, though. August 1970 probably would have been a good vocal opportunity for it, too. I would love to hear the Blossoms or the Sweet Inspirations backing Elvis on this instead of the Jordanaires.

Elvis Presley performs “The Wonder Of You” at the August 13, 1970, Dinner Show, in Las Vegas, Nevada, captured for the ELVIS: THAT’S THE WAY IT IS documentary film (MGM)

05. In The Ghetto (hit version recorded 1969)
Ultimate Live Version: August 26, 1969, Dinner Show, Las Vegas, NV, From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis [Elvis In Person]
Elvis’ live versions of “In The Ghetto” never quite lived up to the studio versions. While he usually performed it strongly, he never seems as “into” the song. A stripped-down version, with just Elvis and an acoustic guitar would have been ideal.

06. Suspicious Minds (hit version recorded 1969)
Ultimate Live Version: August 25, 1969, Midnight Show, Hot August Night
An apparent mistake is actually what gives this live version of “Suspicious Minds” an edge over other stellar versions recorded in the same concert series. After James Burton’s opening guitar solo, Elvis fails to begin singing, so Burton continues the solo. Overall, this live version is even better than the studio master.

07. Don’t Cry Daddy (hit version recorded 1969)
Ultimate Live Version: February 18, 1970, Dinner Show, Las Vegas, NV, Greatest Hits, Volume One
While I love “Don’t Cry Daddy,” it does not work as well in a live concert setting, and I can understand why Elvis dropped it by 1971. That said, this live version is top-notch.

08. The Wonder Of You (hit version recorded live, February 18, 1970, Midnight Show, Las Vegas, NV, On Stage)
Ultimate Live Version (after hit recorded):
August 13, 1970, Dinner Show, Las Vegas, NV, The Way It Was
I have found that time behaves inconsistently in certain situations and for certain people. Elvis’ entire career, for instance, was compressed into about 21 years, yet he left a wealth of material behind that continues to forge his musical legacy. Elvis released his February 1970 live version of “The Wonder Of You” as a single in April 1970, and it peaked at number nine on June 27, 1970. Less than two months later, during one of the concerts captured for the MGM documentary movie Elvis: That’s The Way It Is, he introduces this August 1970 live recording by stating, “I had a record out last year that–-this year . . . this year, wasn’t it?–-that did pretty good for me. I’d like to sing it for you.” In this case, two to four months in “Elvis time” was like a year in normal time.

09. Burning Love (hit version recorded 1972)
Ultimate Live Version: April 18, 1972, San Antonio, TX, Close Up
Featured in the documentary movie Elvis On Tour (MGM, 1972), this rockin’ version of “Burning Love” exceeds any other live renditions released thus far. The March 1972 studio master remains the best, however.

Well, that about wraps things up for our look at Elvis’ best officially released live recordings of his hit songs. Over 43 years after his death, Elvis Presley concert recordings continue to surface. With that in mind, we may have to check in on these live hits again in a few years.

Thanks for reading.

Your Conductor,
TY


“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”
John 14:1

Elvis: The Ultimate Live Top Ten Hits (Part 3)

This is Part 3 of a series of 4 posts covering Elvis Presley’s best officially-released live recording of each of his US top ten hits.

[Read Part 2]

Today’s post features hits included on Side C of The Top Ten Hits (1987), all of which were studio recordings on the original album.

01. Stuck On You (hit version recorded 1960)
Ultimate Live Version: March 26, 1960, Miami, FL, A Life In Music
Three weeks after Elvis finished his two-year stint in the US Army, he taped a television special with the legendary Frank Sinatra, The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: It’s Nice To Go Traveling – Welcome Home Elvis. The program also starred Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop, and Nancy Sinatra. In front of the studio audience, Elvis performed both sides of his new single. A strong rendition, this is the only live version of “Stuck On You” to have surfaced to date.

Elvis Presley performs “Stuck On You” on March 26, 1960, as part of the WELCOME HOME ELVIS special (ABC)

02. It’s Now Or Never (hit version recorded 1960)
Ultimate Live Version: February 23, 1970, Closing Show, Las Vegas, NV, The On Stage Season: The Opening And Closing Shows 1970
When seeing Elvis in Las Vegas, some of the best shows to catch were either the Opening Show that began a concert engagement or the Closing Show that ended one. In the Closing Show that concluded his January 26-February 23 concert series at the International Hotel in 1970, Elvis sang an off-the-cuff yet solid version of “It’s Now Or Never.”

03. Are You Lonesome Tonight (hit version recorded 1960)
Ultimate Live Version: August 26, 1969, Midnight Show, Las Vegas, NV, Elvis Aron Presley
In one segment of each of his 1969 live shows, Elvis played electric guitar on a few songs. During this portion at the August 26 Midnight Show, Elvis begins a version of “Are You Lonesome Tonight” that sounds fairly normal at the beginning before he makes a humorous lyric replacement and breaks down into fits of laughter as soaring soprano Cissy Houston of the Sweet Inspirations continues diligently to sing in the background without missing a note. This only makes Elvis more hysterical. Elvis often had fun with “Are You Lonesome Tonight” on stage, but this version, which I refer to as “Are You Laughing Tonight,” by far, is the most endearing. If you want a “serious” version, though, I point you to the August 25, 1969, Midnight Show, from the previous night – first released on Hot August Night.

04. Surrender (hit version recorded 1960)
Ultimate Live Version: August 21, 1969, Midnight Show, Las Vegas, NV, Collectors Gold
Sure, it lasts less than 30 seconds and consists only of Elvis singing “la-da-da-da-da-da-da-daah”‘s instead of the actual lyrics to “Surrender,” but it is the longer of the only two live versions officially released. Oddly enough, I enjoy listening to it.

05. I Feel So Bad (hit version recorded 1961)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
If only Elvis had attempted “I Feel So Bad” during one of the 1968 “Sit Down” shows or rehearsals for the ELVIS special.

06. Little Sister (hit version recorded 1961)
Ultimate Live Version: August 12, 1970, Midnight Show, Elvis Aron Presley
Rare in his 1970 shows (and permanently absent by 1972, as far as I know), Elvis includes a segment where he plays electric guitar at this show – my favorite concert ever released. Captured for Elvis: That’s The Way It Is, he kicks that portion off with a great version of “Little Sister.”

07. His Latest Flame (hit version recorded 1961)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
“His Latest Flame” surely would have been terrific had he performed it at that same August 12, 1970, concert.

08. Can’t Help Falling In Love (hit version recorded 1961)
Ultimate Live Version: June 29, 1968, 6 PM Show, Burbank, CA, ELVIS-TV Special
Almost as good as the studio master.

09. Good Luck Charm (hit version recorded 1961)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
While I enjoy the studio recording for what it is, it is no big loss that Elvis apparently never performed “Good Luck Charm” live.

10. She’s Not You (hit version recorded 1962)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
During rehearsals captured for Elvis On Tour (1972), Elvis made a surprise attempt at “Young And Beautiful” from 1957’s Jailhouse Rock. Unfortunately, it appears he never performed that one live. Along the same lines, I imagine “She’s Not You” would have suited his voice just as well in 1972.

Next time, we’ll wrap up our look at Elvis’ best officially released live recordings of his hit songs. Until then, take care. Thank you for reading.

Blessings,
TY

[Read Part 4]


“Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:17-18

Elvis: The Ultimate Live Top Ten Hits (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a series of 4 posts covering Elvis Presley’s best live recording, of those officially released, for each of his US top ten hits.

[Read Part 1]

Today’s post features hits included on Side B of The Top Ten Hits (1987), all of which were studio recordings on the original album.

01. Don’t (hit version recorded 1957)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
Though a live version of “Don’t” has never been released, there is a rehearsal version from July 29, 1970, that can be used to imagine what it might have been like. The rehearsal was first released on 1992’s Elvis: The Lost Performances VHS and Laserdisc. It appeared in last year’s That’s The Way It Is: Collector’s Edition book & CD set. A truncated version of the “Don’t” rehearsal also appeared on the A Life In Music CD set (1997) and the That’s The Way It Is: Deluxe Edition CD & DVD set (2014).

02. I Beg Of You (hit version recorded 1957)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
This is shaping up to be a great post, isn’t it?

03. Wear My Ring Around Your Neck (hit version recorded 1958)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
Okay, maybe this wasn’t such a wonderful idea.

04. Hard Headed Woman (hit version recorded 1958)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
Come on, Elvis! Well, for “Hard Headed Woman,” we do at least have a rehearsal version from July 29, 1970. Sure, it is only about 10 seconds long and not very good, but at this point, I’ll take it. This was also on last year’s That’s The Way It Is: Collector’s Edition.

05. One Night (hit version recorded 1957)
Ultimate Live Version: June 27, 1968, 6 PM Show, Rendition #1, Burbank, CA, Memories: The ’68 Comeback Special
Finally! Now, this is more like it. Over a dozen official live versions of “One Night” have been released over the years. His 1968 live versions for the ELVIS special are nearly as good as his 1957 studio master. As with “Jailhouse Rock,” covered last week, Elvis’ raw 1968 voice serves “One Night” well. Though understandable, the smoother vocal approach he used in 1969 and beyond due to the demands of performing up to two shows a night did not serve songs like “Jailhouse Rock” and “One Night” well.

Elvis actually recorded two versions of “One Night” back in 1957. The first used the song’s original lyrics (e.g., “One night of sin is what I’m now paying for”) whereas the released version used modified lyrics to make them slightly less controversial (e.g., “One night with you is what I’m now praying for”). In his 1968 live versions, Elvis intermingles lyrics from both versions of the song.

06. I Got Stung (hit version recorded 1958)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
Sigh.

07. A Fool Such As I (hit version recorded 1958)
Ultimate Live Version: March 25, 1961, Pearl Harbor, HI, Elvis Aron Presley
Here we go! There is only one live version available of “A Fool Such As I,” so it wins by default. It is a strong version, though. Benefiting the USS Arizona Memorial, which was having funding problems despite the approaching 20th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack that drew the United States into World War II, this 1961 concert is a must-listen. Elvis’ show raised over $50,000 and turned a spotlight on the issue to encourage contributions from others, including the US Congress. The memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day 1962, 13 years after fundraising efforts began.

08. I Need Your Love Tonight (hit version recorded 1958)
Ultimate Live Version: March 25, 1961, Pearl Harbor, HI, Elvis Aron Presley
This is another winner by default due to being the only live version available. After this Hawaii concert, Elvis did not appear before an audience again until the first “sit-down” show on June 27, 1968, captured for the ELVIS special.

09. A Big Hunk O’ Love (hit version recorded 1958)
Ultimate Live Version: February 16, 1972, Midnight Show, Las Vegas, NV, Walk A Mile In My Shoes
“A Big Hunk O’ Love” is rare among 1950s hits in Elvis’ 1970s concert repertoire in that the arrangement is respectful of the original version and Elvis performs it with care.

Thanks for reading. Next time, we begin taking a look at Elvis’ best live recordings of hit songs first released in the 1960s.

Blessings,
TY

[Read Part 3]

Elvis Presley performs a solid version of “A Big Hunk O’ Love” on January 14, 1973, captured for the ELVIS: ALOHA FROM HAWAII VIA SATELLITE special (NBC)


“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”
Proverb 16:9

Elvis: The Ultimate Live Top Ten Hits (Part 1)

Elvis Presley rocks “Heartbreak Hotel” during taping of 1968’s ELVIS special (NBC)

I was 13 years old during Spring Break of 1988. At that point, I had about a half dozen Elvis Presley albums to my name. At the record store that week, I bought my first 2-record set. The Top Ten Hits was part of an “Elvis Presley Commemorative Issue” series that marked a decade since his 1977 death. I eventually obtained all four of the albums in the series, though I never did mail away for the special bonus album (a future eBay purchase, no doubt).

I had been collecting Elvis records for about a year at that point, and The Top Ten Hits certainly firmed up the foundation of my new obsession by containing all 38 of Elvis’ top 10 hits on Billboard‘s key US charts. These are what I now call mainstream or “general public” Elvis songs in that they are his most famous songs. Back then, these were the ones that various radio stations would still play.

The only two general public Elvis songs that failed to make the US top ten and, thus, this album were “Blue Suede Shoes” (peaked at #20) and “Viva Las Vegas” (peaked at #29). If we include posthumous releases, 1977’s “My Way” (peaked at #22) and 2002’s JXL Radio Edit Remix of “A Little Less Conversation” (peaked at #50) are also general public Elvis songs that are not present on this 1987 release. Except for those few titles and maybe “Blue Christmas,” everything else is here from a mainstream audience perspective. Outside of boxed sets, which really belong in their own category, The Top Ten Hits remains one of the most comprehensive Elvis releases to date when it comes to the general public.

I wore this record out in my 7th and 8th grade years, to the point where many of these songs became boring to me for a time. I will at some point cover this and the other Elvis Presley Commemorative Issue albums as part of my ongoing Vinyl Elvis series. Today, however, I want to use The Top Ten Hits as a jumping off point for a series of four posts covering Elvis’ best live performance of each of his hits. As is the norm here on The Mystery Train Blog, the focus will be on officially released recordings. No bootlegs.

Today’s post will feature hits included on Side A of The Top Ten Hits, all of which were studio recordings on the original album.

01. Heartbreak Hotel (hit version recorded 1956)
Ultimate Live Version: June 29, 1968, 6 PM Show, Burbank, CA, ELVIS-TV Special
Recorded in front of small studio audience for Elvis’ 1968 NBC television special, ELVIS, this version of “Heartbreak Hotel” rocks more than any of his other takes on the song. It is unfortunately a shortened version, though, due to being part of a medley with “Hound Dog” and “All Shook Up.” I once created a splice with the June 27, 1968, 6 PM Show version of “Heartbreak Hotel” to partially rectify this (inspired by and in the same vein as the “Blue Suede Shoes” splice on the This Is Elvis album, except starting with the June 29 “stand up” show version and ending with the June 27 “sit down” show version).

02. I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (hit version recorded 1956)
Ultimate Live Version: June 5, 1956, Los Angeles, CA, A Golden Celebration
As performed on the Milton Berle Show, following a skit with the host.

03. Hound Dog (hit version recorded 1956)
Ultimate Live Version: December 15, 1956, Shreveport, LA, Young Man With The Big Beat: The Complete ’56 Elvis Presley Masters
The finale of one of Elvis’ greatest recorded concerts, this version of “Hound Dog” is not to be missed.

04. Don’t Be Cruel (hit version recorded 1956)
Ultimate Live Version: January 6, 1957, New York, NY, A Golden Celebration

Credit: The Ed Sullivan Show channel (YouTube)

After Elvis released “Don’t Be Cruel,” he caught an act in Las Vegas that was doing a number of his songs. The lead singer was Jackie Wilson, and Elvis liked his version of “Don’t Be Cruel” better than his own. When Elvis performed the song on his third Ed Sullivan Show appearance in 1957, he incorporated some of Wilson’s upgrades to the song. What I love about this story is that Elvis inspired Wilson, who, in turn, inspired Elvis. Incidentally, this is the infamous “from the waist up” Sullivan performance where TV cameras were ordered not to show Elvis’ hips and legs – which, of course, only added to his legend. Watch it above or over on YouTube.

05. Love Me Tender (hit version recorded 1956)
Ultimate Live Version: June 29, 1968, 8 PM Show, Burbank, CA, ELVIS-TV Special
This live version, recorded for the 1968 ELVIS special, far exceeds Elvis’ original studio recording of the song from 1956. His voice is like velvet.

06. Love Me (hit version recorded 1956)
Ultimate Live Version: June 27, 1968, 6 PM Show, Burbank, CA, Memories: The ’68 Comeback Special
This was a close call with the August 12, 1970, Midnight Show, version of “Love Me,” but I slightly prefer the raw sound of the 1968 version.

07. Too Much (hit version recorded 1956)
Ultimate Live Version: January 6, 1957, New York, NY, A Golden Celebration
This is the only live version officially released of “Too Much,” to my knowledge, so it wins by default. A decent if sloppy version, performed on the Ed Sullivan Show and broadcast from the waist up.

08. All Shook Up (hit version recorded 1957)
Ultimate Live Version: August 26, 1969, Midnight Show, Las Vegas, NV, All Shook Up
The earliest available live version of “All Shook Up,” which is closer to the arrangement of the studio recording, is March 25, 1961, but the performance is tepid compared to his 1968 and 1969 versions.

09. Teddy Bear (hit version recorded 1957)
Ultimate Live Version: January 26, 1970, Opening Show, Las Vegas, NV, The On Stage Season: The Opening And Closing Shows 1970
This live version of “Teddy Bear” was a pleasant surprise on one of my favorite FTD releases.

10. Jailhouse Rock (hit version recorded 1957)
Ultimate Live Version: June 29, 1968, 8 PM Show, Burbank, CA, ELVIS-TV Special

Credit: Vevo’s Elvis Presley channel (YouTube)

As with a few of the others on today’s list, this incredible live version of “Jailhouse Rock” was captured for the 1968 ELVIS special. It almost equals the flawless studio recording. Watch it above or over on YouTube.

If only some of Elvis’ 1957 concerts had been recorded. Perhaps ultimate live versions of “Too Much,” “All Shook Up,” and possibly even “Jailhouse Rock” would have been among them. Every now and then, new recordings are unearthed. I maintain hope that a 1957 concert will eventually see the light of day.

I pray all of you are doing well and staying healthy. Drop a note in the comments below about some of your favorite live versions of these Elvis classics.

Blessings,
TY

[Read Part 2]


“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
James 1:2-4