Thursday, March 31, 2011

Live In Vegas

To think that it took 31 years before a complete concert from Elvis' first Las Vegas engagement was released (on the Live In Las Vegas box set in 2001). Now, thanks to Ernst Jorgensen and Roger Semon, no less than six shows has been made available to the fans, the latest one only last month on the FTD album Live In Vegas.

Featuring the August 26 dinner show, it has been my companion to and back from work for a couple of days now, playing on my iPod. Feeling a bit tired at seven thirty in the morning, Elvis has woken me up on my way to the tram stop as he rocks through "Blue Suede Shoes," "I Got A Woman" and "All Shook Up."

Fully awake, I've sat down aboard the tram and enjoyed my ride with the help of songs such as "Love Me Tender," "Heartbreak Hotel" (that have Elvis continuing the song as it's about to end) and "My Babe." Then there's Elvis belting out an incredible version of "Mystery Train"/"Tiger Man" so full of energy I practically jump of the tram at my stop.

Reaching the University where I work, I open the front door to my faculty with a smile on my face as I listen to Elvis' entertaining monologue about his life and career.

Nine ours later Elvis is back with more contemporary songs as I head for home, "In The Ghetto" and "Yesterday" among them. He even tries out one of his recently recorded songs, "Inherit The Wind". Approaching my apartment I once more feel energized with the help of the show stopper "Suspicious Minds."

Some questions and reflections have also surfaced while listening to Live In Vegas:
  • Why does Elvis always introduce "Memories" with the words, "A song I just did on my recent TV show, which wasn't too good, but you can't win them all." Didn't he like his NBC TV Special, or is it the song he has problems with? Or does he mean the poor chart position the song reached?
  • During the monologue, isn't it a bit strange that Elvis mixes up his private recordings at Sun with his first single "That's All Right?" ("I went in to make a record ... the guy put the record out about a year and a half later.")
  • On the other hand, his experience of singing dressed in a toxedo to a real dog on a stool on the "Steve Allen Show" he clearly remembered, describing it in great detail. It must have been humiliating.
  • I just love the way Elvis sings "Mama..." and "Oh, I Can't..." at the beginning of two of the verses on "Inherit The Wind."
Do you want to know more about Live In Vegas? Be sure to check out Tygrrius thorough review of the album over at the Elvis Australia web site.

Friday, March 25, 2011

An Early Benefit Performance

Pulling out the second LP included in the Elvis Aron Presley box set and looking at the cover I'm taken back in time, to the early eighties. For some reason or other, a record store in Stockholm sold the eight records from the set individually, and I went for the one titled An Early Benefit Performance. (I bought the complete box years later.)

Playing the CD version of the record right know, I'm reminded that it was a wise choice. Maybe the sound quality wasn't the best, but what did it matter. This was Elvis' historical U.S.S. Memorial benefit concert, showing just how good Elvis sounded live in the early sixties and at the same time serving as a reminder of what could have been, had Elvis continued doing concerts through the sixties.

As it turned out, the benefit concert performed on March 25, 1961, marked the last of only three live performances (the other two took place in Memphis a month earlier) Elvis did in the early sixties. He wouldn't return to the stage in another eight and a half years (not counting the live recordings done for his NBC TV Special in 1968).

The repertoire that day, exactly 50 years ago, was an exciting one, with about two thirds of the material from Elvis' pre-army days and the rest from his then current catalog. And unlike some of his concerts some ten or fifteen years later, he treated each and every song with the same respect. In fact, he delivered songs like "Heartbreak Hotel" and "One Night" much the same way as he had in the 50's.

But I thought then (listening to the LP), as I do now (listening to the CD), that the most exciting part was Elvis singing his recent songs, such as "Reconsider Baby" (featuring an incredible sax solo by Boots Randolph) and "Such A Night." He even sang "Swing Down Sweet Chariot" from his religious album His Hand In Mine.

All in all, Elvis was in top form that night, full of energy and humor and with a great playing band behind him. To Boots Randolph it was "one of the highlights" of his life, according to Peter Guralnick's book Careless Love. I'm sure glad the tape of the show survived.

Be sure to check out Troy's post The Pacific War Memorial Commission Proudly Presents In Person: Elvis Presley (The Mystery Train Elvis Blog) that inspired me to listen to An Early Benefit Performance.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What'd I Say

Having worked as a journalist for ten years I'm used to asking the questions, not answering them. But recently I had to do just that, when I was interviewed by the editor of the official news magazine for the university where I'm currently holding a position as a public relations officer.

As I wrote a couple of months ago, the editor asked me if I wanted to be portrayed in the magazine under the headline In my spare time. About a week ago, he paid me a visit at home together with a photographer. At first, he didn't look too impressed, not finding a single room solely dedicated to Elvis. But when he left about an hour and a half later, he was deeply affected.

The interview took place in the living room where I have my record collection and my books. Pretty soon I found myself answering questions like, "When did your interest for Elvis start?" "Is it just the music you like about him?" and "You say that you experience something that has to do with Elvis practically every day, how is that possible?"

At first I thought carefully about my answers, but then I just kept pouring my heart out. After all, it's not every day someone wants to know all there is about your biggest hobby. So I talked about my love for Elvis' music and my interest in learning more about him as a person, played records and tried to get my points across. The editor scribbled for dear life on his notepad.

The whole thing ended with the photographer asking me to leaf through some of my LP records, which I obedienlty did, feeling a bit silly as his flashes went off.

A couple of days later I got a call from the editor, thanking me for an interesting evening. He also told me that it would take a while to finish the article, because of all my lengthy answers. So I guess I have to wait a while until I'll see the final result.

The photographer was faster. Almost immediately he sent me the shots that will accompany the article. I thought they were pretty good, here's for hoping the article will be as well.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Press release

The Elvis Today Blog Book

What is probably the first Elvis blog book is now available. Thomas Melin, author of the blog Elvis Today, has collected the first 271 posts he penned, from August 16, 2007 to January 8, 2010, in a volume for sale on blurb.com.

“I've always wanted to write a book, especially about Elvis. Having blogged for a couple of years now, I realized I've sort of written one already,” says Thomas Melin, a public relations officer living in Sweden.

When he set the blog up back in 2007, the subject was a given. There were, and still are, a lot of websites covering news related stuff about Elvis, but no one was writing about Elvis from a personal point of view. With a few exceptions, that is still the case, which in a way is a bit surprising, taking Elvis popularity into account.

“It's like I write on my blog, I’ve been an Elvis fan for more than 30 years now. I guess not a day goes by without him taking part in my life in some way or the other. That’s what the blog is all about.”

At first, Thomas' posts dealt mainly with Elvis related experiences and memories. But soon he started to express his opinion concerning albums, books, movies and so on. Now and then someone would leave a comment, something that always makes him happy.

“It's great fun writing for Elvis Today, and it still amazes me all the things there are to tell. The well of Elvis never runs dry, it seems. But it wouldn't be half as fun if I didn't know that what I write is read by fans such as myself,” says Thomas Melin.

The Elvis Today Blog book is available on blurb.com for US $9.95 http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2063179.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"That's Your Version!"


When my brother and his family recently visited, I felt slightly embarrassed when he found my copy of FTD's Chicago Stadium unopened and still enclosed in plastic. I could put the blame on my four month old daughter, as taking care of her is a full time job. But to tell you the truth I hadn't felt all that excited listening to another 1976 concert (or in this case, two concerts, from October 14 and 15, respectively) since its arrival, and therefore had prioritized listening to other Elvis stuff instead.

But there and then I decided to give it a spin, and me and my brother quickly established that it was a pretty good release. As A Minnesota Moment (featuring another concert from the same tour) proved when released about a year ago, Elvis was in far better shape than during previous tours that year, and seemed to be enjoying his work again.

Both shows included on Chicago Stadium are enjoyable, especially the one from October 15, where the sound is even better than on the recording from the day before. Just like on A Minnesota Moment, we are treated to a great version of "Steamroller Baby" which has the band cooking and Elvis delivering the goods. "Help Me" is another highlight, where Elvis restarts the beginning when he and Charlie Hodge sings different lyrics. "That's your version," he jokingly tells Charlie. "And I Love You So" offers another beautiful rendition.

An eight page photo booklet is even included, showing Elvis wearing the Inca Gold Leaf Suit (on October 14) and the Indian Feather Suit (On October 15). But why such an unimaginative title like Chicago Stadium? I know FTD was in a hurry to release the album as the bootleg label Gravel Road was about to put it out, but come on! It's like naming the Aloha show Honolulu International Center and the 1974 live album from Memphis Mid-South Coliseum.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Elvis Sings Guitar Man

Turned out I was wrong. Promised Land isn't going to be the next in line to get the FTD classic album treatment. That honor will instead go to another "what if" album, called Elvis Sings Guitar Man. Just like Elvis Sings Memphis, Tennesee it will include songs recorded in Nashville, this time from the period 1966-67.

Actually, I wasn't completely off the mark, as it was one of eleven titles I thought was left to be announced in the Classic Album series. The only difference is that my "what if" album featured the four Nashville tracks recorded in 1968 as well. Where FTD will include "Too Much Monkey Business," "U.S. Mail," Goin' Home" and "Stay Away" now is anybody's guess.

That said, it looks like a nice release, with a cool pick of Elvis from the movie Clambake on a cover that is done in a 60's retro style. Speaking of Clambake, four of the songs found on Elvis Sings Guitar Man ended up as bonus songs on the soundtrack album, including the title track. Something I recently covered in a guest blog over at The Mystery Train Elvis Blog.

Elvis Sings Guitar Man will be released in April, at the same time as Live in LA, a CD originally part of the book/CD combo with the same name. Turned out I was right about that one.