Sunday, November 13, 2011

From Sweden To Richmond/From Richmond To Sweden: A Little More Conversation

Welcome to the first ever simultaneous post of Elvis Today Blog and The Mystery Train Blog. We're going to try something a little different and present a discussion of Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis: Recorded Live On Stage In Richmond, Virginia – March 18, 1974, one of the latest CDs from Sony's Follow That Dream Records collectors label for Elvis fans.

The Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis title reflects that Elvis closed out his tour two days after the Richmond concert with a show in Memphis - portions of which became the 1974 album Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis.

Troy [The Mystery Train Blog]
I'm glad you thought of this idea, Thomas. I've probably lost all sense of objectivity on this particular release, since it was recorded in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia.

Thomas
[Elvis Today Blog]
Yeah, well, it must have been exciting when you heard of this release. What was your first impression when you listened to it?

Troy

That this was obviously the best Elvis Presley release in history, as I'm sure you'll agree! Just kidding... The first time I played it, I just tried to imagine being there, in the Richmond Coliseum that night.

Thomas
I would've loved to be there, that's for sure. The atmosphere during that particular tour in the southern states obviously was an indescribably electric one, and the shows were of high quality. Have you noticed the joyful laughter from one person in the audience when "Also Sprach Zarathustra" begins? A safe bet is he's one excited man.

Troy
That almost nervous laughter was the first thing I noticed. My other first impression, I was really happy to hear Elvis make Richmond-related references not once, not twice, but three times during the show. I think you've heard more Elvis concerts than I have, Thomas, but I believe it is rare for him to mention what city he is in - outside of Las Vegas, that is.

Thomas
And multiple times at that! Also, I was pleased that he mentioned Sweden as well!

Troy
This is probably the only concert where he mentions both Richmond and Sweden. That's another reason for us to do this post as a joint effort. Now that I think about it, I suppose he very well could have mentioned both during the March 12 show in Richmond, too. This March 18 Richmond show was added because the March 12 one sold out so quickly. So there might be two concerts where he mentions both Richmond and Sweden

Thomas
The reason Elvis mentioned my country is because Sweden's Per-Erik "Pete" Hallin was playing piano for the group Voice at the time. I actually interviewed him once, but that's another story.

Troy
He was a second piano player on the stage at the same time as Glen Hardin? Or just when Voice was opening?

Thomas
I think he was just playing the piano when Voice was opening, and then sang together with them on stage while Elvis was on. Elvis actually mentions Pete at the end of this concert, during "Can't Help Falling In Love," when he sings "... some things, you know, Pete, are meant to be..." He did this two days later in Memphis as well, where he also introduced Pete and the other members of Voice individually.

Troy
I had always wondered who "Pete" was on the Memphis show, so that clears it up. Funny that he gets the exact same mention here on the Richmond concert. As far as I could tell, it is just Elvis doing the same joke, not an audio repair or anything where they pulled it from the Memphis show.

Thomas
I agree, it's the same joke. Elvis obviously liked to recycle his jokes, like the "I saw J.D., with baldheaded Sally" that was used both in Richmond and in Memphis during the "Rock Medley."

Troy

I'm also pretty sure, outside of Vegas, I've never heard Elvis reference the hotel where he stayed. After the introductions on Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis, he thanks Richmond's John Marshall Hotel.

Thomas
Yes, I was actually surprised to hear him mention the hotel. That is unusual.

Troy
So, that first time through, I was really happy with this CD. I was all kinds of worried that I would be disappointed with either the sound or the show itself.

Thomas
Glad you liked the show as well as the sound. Now there's been a lot written about the sound, this being a newly discovered 2-track copy of a 16-track tape.

Troy
Right, we should address the sound controversy. I was already excited about this release when it was first announced. This represents the first official release of an Elvis concert in Richmond, after all. However, when the news later came out that the source of this concert was a 16-track professional recording, rather than the expected soundboard, I think that brought the rest of the Elvis World to where I already was in anticipating this CD.

Thomas

Yes, I was excited when I heard of this, also. A newly discovered 16-track professional recording, where did that one come from?
Troy
That's right. All the fans were excited until FTD essentially said, "Oops, did we mention this was mono?" Then, I think FTD took a lot of heat for that. Some of it deserved, for poor communication. At the same time, I think the reaction by some fans was way overblown. But, hey, I guess that's what Elvis fans do. How did you feel when you found out Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis would actually be in mono?

Thomas
At first, a little disappointed, maybe, but I was looking forward to the album anyway, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised when I listened to the show for the first time. I think the sound is great!

Troy

I agree, the sound is incredible, especially considering that it is from a mono tape. I was glad to be able to put that concern to rest. I'm not someone who hates mono recordings, though. After all, Elvis has quite a few more mono songs that maybe a few of the complainers should try hearing someday. Such "unknowns" as "Mystery Train," "Jailhouse Rock," "One Night," "Baby, Let's Play House," "Love Me," "Santa Claus Is Back In Town," and "Don't Be Cruel" - to name but a few. There are also some 1960s movie soundtrack songs that I think sound better in mono than their stereo counterparts. "Viva Las Vegas" is one that immediately comes to mind. You can never please everyone, though.

Thomas
Yes, they should give them a spin. I remember when RCA made "electronically created stereo" out of a lot of the mono albums - they sounded terrible!

Troy

I'm glad they didn't try that here.

Thomas
Yeah, me too. Thinking about it, it's really incredible that a show in this sound quality surfaces so many years after it was recorded.

Troy
That is the real mystery here, and the liner notes really do nothing to clear that one up. Just the same kinds of speculation all of us were doing when we first heard.

Thomas
Anyway, I bet you're happy it was Richmond they choose.

Troy
37 years late, but yeah!

Thomas
So, what about the actual show, Troy? No doubt Elvis is in good spirits and enjoying his work, wouldn't you agree? He sounds happy and close to laughter on many occasions. "Fever" is probably as close to a laughing version as it gets. "That's a fun song to do!" he says. At the same time, he delivers good, solid renditions of many of the songs. "Steamroller Blues" is one of the highlights to me, as is "Polk Salad Annie" and "An American Trilogy." Not to mention "Trying To Get To You," where he really uses his voice to the fullest.

Troy
Well, jumping right into "Fever," I've never been a big fan of the "I light up when you call my name... ELVIS!" versions of this song, for some reason. So, that is my least favorite track on the album.

Thomas
In a way I agree, but I think the version two days later in Memphis is even worse.

Troy
I agree that the Richmond Fever is better than the Memphis Fever, but it's a bad bug, either way. At times, "Let Me Be There" also grates on my nerves, and don't even get me started on J.D. Sumner's "Amen" dive-bomb routine. However, those are just about the only negatives I ultimately found about this show.

Thomas
Maybe that was a song that was more fun to watch than only hear.

Troy
I was also worried about "Suspicious Minds" - a favorite of mine. I was really disappointed by the Memphis live version of that one when it finally came out a few years ago. So, I was worried that I wouldn't like the Richmond version, either. But it's great, very energetic. It would've been great to see.

Thomas
Yes, by this time he'd performed "Suspicious Minds" for five years or something, and I always thought he was tired of it, when I heard the version from Memphis. But in Richmond he does sound happier with it, that's true, Troy!

Troy
The other highlights for me were "Also Sprach Zarathustra"/"See See Rider," for the excitement of imagining Elvis taking the Richmond Coliseum stage by storm. "Steamroller Blues," which I might like even better than Memphis version, my favorite rendition until this point.

Thomas
I just love the way he shouts "Aargh!" at the intro of "Steamroller Blues," and what then follows really lives up to the song's name.

Troy
Let's see, I also enjoyed the "Rock Medley" - what a great idea for Elvis to link together all those songs. Rather than just do the typical "Hound Dog" throwaway, I think it worked somewhat better like this, at the tail end of the medley. It's still too fast, but not as disappointing as most of the other post-1970 Hound Dogs.

Thomas
For some reason I thought the "Rock Medley" rocked even more than it did in Memphis, and I love the tail end too!

Troy
Yes, the "Rock Medley" was another one that Elvis performed better than its Memphis counterpart. No doubt due to the incredible crowd of Richmonders there to inspire him!
"Polk Salad Annie" was one I didn't care for on Memphis, but loved it in Richmond.

Thomas
I always enjoy hearing Elvis saying things I've never heard in songs before, like during the guitar solo in "Polk Salad Annie" by James Burton where he says something like "Sneak up on him, Ronnie!" I can just imagine him casting a glance in Tutt's direction while saying this.

Troy
Yeah! I guess because we've heard so many of his shows, that's the kind of stuff that stands out to us. While the general public would say, "Why do I need another 'Polk Salad Annie'?"

Thomas
The two songs that got the most serious renditions were the gospel songs, "Why Me, Lord" and "Help Me."

Troy

I was relieved that "Why Me" wasn't a laughing/joking version. Not that I mind some joking, but it seems ill-suited for a gospel song. I think I like the Memphis version of "Why Me" better, though.


Troy

You know, that's one of the terrific things about his show, especially from this time period, the way it brings together so many kinds of music - gospel, country, blues, rock 'n' roll. What other so-called "rock star" could do that?

Thomas
That's true, Troy, Elvis sang "Something for Everybody." Speaking of the gospel stuff, I did miss "How Great Thou Art." But hey, that's a minor complaint.

Troy

Funny, I was just about to say the same thing about "How Great Thou Art," which of course featured prominently on the Memphis concert album. I had a slight twinge of disappointment when I saw the Richmond track listing and it wasn't there.

Thomas
I just love it when he sings the ending one more time in Memphis. And his voice, so powerful, it gives me goose bumps!

Troy
At least the Grammys got that one right. So, what did you think about the bonus songs, recorded in Tulsa and Memphis? I thought it was cool to hear "Sweet Caroline" in 1974. I don't remember hearing that one outside of 1970 before. Also, "Johnny B. Goode" is always welcome.

Thomas
I think the most important thing was that they showed what a difference there is in sound quality between a soundboard and the professionally recorded Richmond concert. And once again I was reminded how very similar "My Baby Left Me" and "That's All Right" sound.

Troy
It was really awesome to hear a 1974 version of "That's All Right" in Memphis. That live performance was just a few months shy of the 20th anniversary of Elvis first recording it at Sun Studio there - the record that started it all.

Thomas
I hadn't thought of that. That is indeed awesome!
Troy
What do you think about Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis being presented in the oversized, 7-inch digipack format usually reserved for FTD's Classic Albums series?

Thomas
I thought it was great that it was presented this way. I'm a bit tired of the live material not getting treated as serious as the classic album series.

Troy
Agreed. If I remember correctly, they originally planned this treatment for As Recorded At Boston Garden last year, but a production issue or something caused them to put it in the standard, smaller format.

Thomas

Or was it the latest 1969 concert, I don't remember.
Troy
That's right, it was actually the Live In Vegas release they originally planned for the larger format. Maybe, FTD now intends to use that format more often? Perhaps, at least on "special" releases of live material where the sound and/or show is of a high quality.

Thomas

Here's hoping the last couple of August 1969 and 1970 concerts will get this treatment.

Troy
That would be great. I hope that's the case as well.

Thomas

Hopefully the 1972 concert in Richmond will also get an official release soon, together with the other shows recorded for Elvis On Tour.

Troy
Yes, that is the Richmond show that has the best chance of also getting an official release in my lifetime. I just hope it's sooner, rather than later. Until Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis came out, I always assumed the Elvis On Tour show would be the first Elvis in Richmond concert I would be able to hear. Do you think the release of this 1974 show will mean that there will be less of a chance of the 1972 Richmond show coming soon?

Thomas
I hope not, Troy. I've heard that Ernst Jorgensen is waiting for Turner/Warner Home Video to make a move with the unreleased footage, to do a combo of sorts, but that won't happen anytime soon, I'm afraid. I just hope he realizes this and releases the shows from Elvis On Tour anyway. For now I'm really pleased with FTD for releasing this Richmond show, it's not an album that's going to collect a lot of dust on the shelf for a long time yet.

Troy
I'm definitely happy about this release as well. This is a special CD that I'll be playing often for the rest of my life. What are your final thoughts on this CD? What are you going to remember most about it?

Thomas
You know what I thought halfway into listening to it the first time? It hit me how happy I am being an Elvis fan, and what a pleasure it gives me to listen to a great concert like the one from Richmond. Also, that Elvis was in great shape during the March 1974 tour, delivering the goods in style! But I guess, I'm gonna remember the most how incredible it is that a professionally Elvis concert like this can suddenly make an appearance out of the blue. It was almost as exciting waiting for it as listening to it. Well, not really, but hopefully you see my point.

Troy
Yes . . . it shows hope that there is still more out there, waiting to be discovered. Things not even rumored to exist.
For me, it was really something to finally hear an Elvis concert recorded here in Richmond. This is something I have dreamed of since I was a little boy, reading over the lists of cities that he visited, wishing that there was a Richmond album to go alongside As Recorded At Madison Square Garden, Aloha From Hawaii, and all the others. It's still hard to believe I now hold that album in my hands.
He appeared here 15 times
. This is number 14, yet he still sounds engaged, like he's having a great time. Obviously, everyone here was, too. It was a fantastic show. Though he came back here once more in 1976, my understanding is that this 1974 concert was his last great show in Richmond. The only thing that could potentially top this feeling for me would be Warner releasing Elvis On Tour: Richmond 1972 on Blu-ray.

Thomas
In that way, I envy you, Troy. As he never came to Europe and Sweden, I can't begin to imagine how great that must feel.

Troy
Thanks again, Thomas. This has been a fun little experiment, but I wonder if people will enjoy reading this kind of post?

Thomas
I sure hope so. At least it was enjoyable to write, so thank you, Troy!

Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis

Live At The Richmond Coliseum, March 18, 1974
01) Also Sprach Zarathustra/
02) See See Rider
03) I Got A Woman/Amen [edited with Memphis, March 20, 1974]
04) Love Me
05) Tryin' To Get To You
06) All Shook Up
07) Steamroller Blues
08) Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel
09) Love Me Tender
10) Long Tall Sally/Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On/Your Mama Don't Dance/Flip, Flop & Fly/Jailhouse Rock/Hound Dog
11) Fever
12) Polk Salad Annie
13) Why Me
14) Suspicious Minds
15) Introductions By Elvis
16) I Can’t Stop Loving You
17) Help Me
18) An American Trilogy
19) Let Me Be There
20) Funny How Time Slips Away
21) Can’t Help Falling In Love/
22) Closing Vamp

Bonus Songs
23) Sweet Caroline [Tulsa, March 1, 1974]
24) Johnny B. Goode [Memphis, March 17, 1974]
25) That’s All Right [Memphis, March 17, 1974]

7 comments:

Michael said...

Great job Thomas & Troy! This wonderful review, complete with the wealth of background information, really puts me in the mood to hear this album. Very innovative, guys!

MĂ„rtenbrother said...

Really fun to read, guys! Great job!

Thomas said...

Thanks, both of you! We did the review by chatting online, I really enjoyed it.

As Troy points out over at his blog, I'm six hours ahead of him as far as timezones go, so that meant I had to stay up pretty late. But it was so fun "talking" this way that I didn't notice it was suddenly in the middle of the night!

I'm sure you'll both like the Forty Eight Hours To Memphis album!

Staffanbrother said...

Thanks a lot guys! Great job with the links and everything!

JohanD said...

Excellent post, a fresh air in the internet world!!

K said...

Hi - only just discovered your blog while looking for reviews of He Touched Me FTD. Great reviews, good fun & informative to read, have added you to my Elvis bookmarks. Greetings & best wishes from England.

Thomas said...

Hi K, and welcome to my blog! I'm honored that it is now added to your Elvis bookmarks.