Wednesday, August 8, 2012

From Hawaii To The Rest Of The World

What if the previously unreleased cassette recording of Elvis rehearsing the day before his opening show at the Las Vegas Hilton on January 26, 1973 had been a rehearsal for an upcoming world tour instead? In an alternate universe, a review of the recently released From Hawaii To Las Vegas album from FTD would have sounded a bit different. To borrow a phrase from fellow blogger Troy Y: You've just crossed over into ... the edge of reality. 

Fortunately Elvis didn't return for another routine engagement in Las Vegas after his triumphal Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite show. As you all know, he went on a highly successful world tour instead, starting in Europe. The recent From Hawaii To The Rest Of The World release from Follow That Dream Records provides an unique “fly-on-the-wall” experience of Elvis rehearsing for his opening show in London. Captured on a personal tape recorder, the sonic quality is below normal standards, but historical significance more than compensates for its audio limitations.

The first two songs on the cassette recording are “Something” and “You Gave Me A Mountain,” both sounding very much like their counterparts from the satellite show. As Aloha From Hawaii served more or less as a blueprint for the song list included on the world tour, Elvis probably rehearsed “See See Rider” and “Burning Love” as well, before someone pressed the “record” button.

The third song, “Steamroller Blues,” is the extended version we know so well from the first world tour. Elvis sings the “I'm a napalm bomb” verse two times, first time low and bluesy right after the guitar solo, the second time in the same exploding style as the last “I'm a steamroller baby” verse. No wonder this became a firm fan favorite during the tour. 

My Way” is again very similar to the version from Hawaii, except for some clowning around with Charlie Hodge during the first verse. Then it's time for “Love Me” and “It's Over.” “Love me till it's over,” Elvis jokingly says before delivering a straight forward “Love Me” that ends with the orchestra playing a few bars of The Star-Sprangled Banner, evoking laughter from the band and musicians. “It's Over” is a nice version, every bit as beautiful as the one from the Aloha concert. 

Blue Suede Shoes” is a one minute throw away version, involving some uninspired singing from Elvis part. Thankfully, it always sounded much more full of energy when performed during the shows abroad. A far better rehearsal is “I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry” featuring the additional verse heard on the world tour as well. One of the highlights on the CD.

Listening to the rehearsal of “Welcome To My World” took me back to the time I saw Elvis perform in Paris for the first time (the soundboard from that concert was made available by FTD on the album Paris '77 a few years ago), the giant pictures of Graceland projected behind Elvis as he was singing the song. I remember it sent shivers up my spine.

Elvis then discusses the order of some of the songs to be performed on the opening show, among them “Hound Dog,” “What Now My Love,” “Fever” and “Suspicious Minds,” neither of which are rehearsed. (But listening to them on the Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In London album, it's obvious they turned out all right all the same.)

The ending of “I'll Remember You” causes the orchestra some problems. “I thought that was bad enough,” Elvis mutters after an abandoned attempt. After they finally get it right, Elvis launches himself into a driven and rockin' medley of “Long Tall Sally”/Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On.” Not only is this version one minute longer than the one from Hawaii, it's also much better, sounding very much like the one found on the Live On Stage In London album (although that one of course lasts for about five minutes). 

An American Trilogy” always evoked great response, not only in the southern states, but also when performed all throughout Europe and then the rest of the world during 1973. Listening to the powerhouse version on From Hawaii To The Rest Of The World it's easy to understand why. Similarly, the rehearsal of “A Big Hunk O' Love” gives you an idea of why everyone stood up and clapped their hands when this rock 'n' roll oldie was belted out by Elvis in arenas all around the world.

The catchy “I'm Leavin It Up To You” was always a highlight during the first world tour, but the rehearsal reveals that the song almost didn't make it to the set list. Lasting only for about 43 seconds, Elvis cuts it short with the words “That's all. Let's do 'Faded Love'.” Someone then asks him why he stopped, receiving the answer, “It was written with a pen. I couldn't read it.” Thankfully, someone must have produced typed written lyrics and convinced Elvis to rehears it again (after the cassette tape ended).

Just like “I'm Leavin' It Up Top You,” “Faded Love” wasn't performed on the Aloha From Hawaii show. But luckily Elvis choose to retrieve this number from his 1971 Elvis Country album. It was then regularly performed during the following world tour, the rehearsal reminding me of the version recently released on the FTD treatment of Live In Australia.

The rehearsal of “I Can't Stop Loving You” is a near copy of the version found on Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite. Not bad, but far more interesting are the two versions of “Separate Ways,” one with just the band and the other with band and orchestra. Always an emotional moment when performed during the first world tour, one can hardly dare to think about what a loss it would have been if Elvis had chosen not to try the song in front of an audience. Just listen to the heartbroken version included on the Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In London album and you'll understand what I'm talking about.

Another highlight during Elvis' first world tour was of course “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and it's nice to listen to a rehearsal of it, even if the live versions available all sound much more exciting. “Let's do 'Can't Help Falling In Love' and we can call it off,” Elvis then tells the band before the From Hawaii To The Rest Of The World release ends with an (incomplete) version of the show closer we all know so well. To think that Elvis didn't change that one until 1977!

To sum it up – From Hawaii To The Rest Of The World is an essential release. Granted, the sound quality leaves a lot to be desired, but as a historical document it's priceless. This is how Elvis worked with his repertoire up to the last moment before leaving for his opening show in London.

Back in this universe, I'd like to recommend From Hawaii To Las Vegas as well. It's certainly not everyday a rehearsal turns up like this. But what a strange experience it must have been for Elvis to return to doing routine shows in Las Vegas after the Aloha From Hawaii success just a few weeks earlier. What if the satellite show had been followed by a world tour instead. One can only dream.

This post is dedicated to Troy Y. who runs The Mystery Train Blog.

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