Sunday, October 11, 2009

From Sunset To Las Vegas

There's been a lot of criticism leveled against the latest FTD release From Sunset To Las Vegas, featuring Elvis' rehearsal on August 16, 1974, recorded a couple of days prior to his Las Vegas engagement. After listening to it for the first time yesterday, here are my thoughts:

Many critics complain about the sound. Granted, it's not much better than it was on the bootleg From Sunset Blvd to Paradise Road released back in 1996, but there's only so much you can do with a tape that clearly wasn't professionally recorded in the first place. Actually, I think the sound is a little bit clearer on the official FTD release, although but not by much.

More serious is the omission of the first version of "It's Midnight," a take that was included on the unofficial release 13 years ago. Why is it missing? Is it because Elvis is using bad language at the beginning of the song ("Where's the fucking words?") or is it something else? I guess only Ernst Jorgensen knows the answer to that one.

Another complaint I concur with is that some of the live recordings on the second CD aren't unreleased. Both "Trying To Get To You," "Help Me" and "It's Now Or Never" were featured on the Live In Las Vegas box set in 2001.

It also annoys me that we get bonus songs in this way. What irritates me the most are the last two last tracks, performed by Sherill Nielsen on the closing show, September 2. FTD, as a collector's label, should be offering us the whole closing show, not snippets like this leaving the collector wanting more.

To me the whole problem with From Sunset To Las Vegas is that the bootleg From Sunset Blvd to Paradise Road is better content wise. On the unofficial release the second CD features the opening show, a more logical choice as most of the songs Elvis rehearsed are sung on that particular show as well. The next day songs such as "Down In The Alley" and "Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues" were dropped and the concert program back to the usual one again.

All this said, the rehearsal from 16 August is essential listening. It's fascinating to hear Elvis work with songs such as "Promised Land" and "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)": "What's so difficult about doing lo-o-o-ving-you. Well god damn, it's simple to me," he exclaims at one point, not being satisfied with the ending. That the sound isn't the best simply isn't that important, this is not an album you play in the background, it's a recording you study to so you can learn more about Elvis.

I only wish Ernst Jorgensen and FTD had treated this historical recording with a little more respect. That could have been done with the help of some better packaging, an informative booklet and a complete concert instead of the bonus tracks. If that would've meant a 3 CD album, so what? Elvis is worth it, don't you think? Come to think of it, so are the fans.


MĂ„rtenbrother said...

To omit one song is totally stupid! Fans would want everything, and they can get it, buying an unofficial release instead. Elvis has been cussing on official releases before. FTD is a great thing, but the effort and care is no longer the same as it used to be. A really good post, Thomas! The recordings are great to listen to.

Troy Y. said...

Hey Thomas,

Thanks for the review. Sounds like you are saying it'll make a good companion piece to Nevada Nights, which I enjoyed other than wishing it was a more formal recording rather than the kind of dull effect that soundboards have.

I haven't ordered From Sunset To Las Vegas yet. I am curious about a couple of things. How would you rate the sound quality of "Twelfth of Never" and "Softly, As I Leave You" on this release versus The Essential 70s Masters?

To me, on the 70s set, those two songs sound like the tape is slightly dragging and we are hearing it too slowly. It could just be that Elvis just sounded that way at the time and I'm way off, but that's how it sounds to my ears, anyway.

Any real surprises on the rehearsals? I've not heard the bootleg. How is "Promised Land"? Similar to the live version?

Sorry for all the questions, just trying to decide how to prioritize this one as far as when to buy.

Thanks as always for the great blog!

Thomas said...

Hi Tyggrius,

Yeah, it's the perfect companion, all the faults withstanding.

I clocked "The Twelfth Of Never" and it ended up as 2:35 on both releases. Comparing to the other songs he rehearsed, my guess is this is the way he sounded then. As for the sound quality, I would rate it about the same as on the 70's box set, maybe a little better.

"Promised Land" is very similar to the live version, and it's interesting listening to Elvis and crew working out the intro.

Other highlights include "Your Love's Been A Long Time Coming," "I'm Leavin'" and "If You Talk In Your Sleep."

Hope this will help. Like I wrote in my post, this is an essential recording, a rehearsal so late in Elvis career, and I'll think you'll enjoy it, Tyggrius.

Troy Y. said...

Thanks for the follow-up, Thomas. This one is definitely on my short list of future purchases, though I want see the tracklisting for Elvis 75: Good Rockin' Tonight first - which I'm hoping will be interesting enough to jump to the top of the list.

I was thinking about your 3-CD concept for the 74 rehearsals and opening show. While fans like you and me would love that kind of release and be positive about it, can you imagine the reaction at places like ElvisNews?

If the price was the same as the 1 & 2 discs FTDs (which I doubt):

"How can they expect us to pay the same amount for 1 & 2 disc sets when From Sunset To Las Vegas is 3 discs for the same price? That's not fair! Please ignore that I pay much more than this for 'imports' of a lesser sound quality all the time, but at least they have nicer pictures since they can steal those as well."

"I don't care about this release. I just want the Elvis On Tour concerts before I die. I will de-rail every FTD thread into a discussion about this until I get what I want."

If the price was higher than the 1 & 2 discs FTDs:

"How can they expect us to pay such an outrageous price during these econmoic times? Why do they only care about making money and not about making fans happy???"

"Who cares? I would only pay this much money for the April Elvis On Tour concerts. FTD has really gone downhill since the Classic Album series. I will conveniently ignore that this is outside of that series and is a legitimate, fan-based collectors release. I just want my Elvis On Tour concerts! I am entitled! Whine, whine, whine."

Unfortunately, though FTDs releases and packaging frustrate me at times as well, they are often in a lose-lose situation when it comes to pleasing certain fans.

You can bet when FTD or Sony releases the remaining Elvis On Tour concerts, the exact same people will find something to nitpick and complain about those releases as well. "I can't believe they cut out three seconds of audience applause between 'Burning Love' and 'Until It's Time For You To Go' just to fit it on the disc. They should have made this a two-disc release so that I could hear every second of the applause. I have waited all these years and now I have been ripped off! Blah, blah, blah."

Haha, I really am on a rant, aren't I? ;) It's just sometimes I think people over at that forum in particular forget just how lucky Elvis fans have it when it comes to availability and variety of officially available material.

(And yeah, I want those Elvis On Tour concerts, too - one of them was recorded in my hometown - but it doesn't ruin every other release for me just because it's not those concerts. How silly.)