Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Sold Out Shows On Super 8

Sold Out! The Ultimate 8 mm Collection Vol.10 features fan footage from 1976–1977.

The tenth volume in the Sold Out! The Ultimate 8 mm Collection series, featuring 8 mm footage filmed by fans who attended some of his concerts in 1976 and 1977, confirms Elvis deteriorating condition during the last face of his career. But it also shows that Elvis, in periods, could get back in shape, and move around the stage like his old self, delivering solid performances.  

His first tour in 1976 is represented by fan-shot footage from Johnson City, March 17 and Charlotte three days later. I especially enjoyed the evening performance in Charlotte, featuring footage in good quality. Granted, Elvis looks a bit heavy in his bicentennial suit, but he sings well and seems to be having a good time. 

Maybe he put in a little extra effort due to the fact that he had a new pianist (Shane Keister) and drummer (Larry Londin) with him. Larry Londin can be seen behind his drums, belting away with a smile on his face, clearly enjoying himself. "Good job, man," Elvis tells him after his drum solo during the introductions. And at the end of "Polk Salad Annie," Larry Londin really lets loose on the drums while Elvis throws the mike and does some karate moves. Really cool.

It is also enjoyable to watch Elvis interact with a couple of kids that are lifted up on stage, especially a boy dressed in a home made jumpsuit. "Can he do imitations? Can he sing 'Hound Dog' honey?" Elvis asks the boys mother, then launches himself into the song, urging the boy to sing along, the boy looking up at him, then looking down again, shaking his head at his mother. He was probably shy or scared stiff. But he must have gained courage, as he is back on stage a while later, receiving a scarf and a kiss from Elvis. 

Each volume in the series includes two DVD discs.

Three months later, Elvis takes the stage in Charleston (July 24), and one week after that, New Haven is on the tour schedule (July 30). Not only does the footage reveal that Elvis has gained more weight, he also moves slower and with less energy. And he sounds tired, exhausted and out of breath, especially on the New Haven concert. 

Still, there is no mistaking the excitement flooding through the arena as Elvis enters the stage, with all those flash bulbs going off and a lot of people in the audience screaming at the top of their lungs. And there are some enjoyable moments, like when Elvis hands soprano singer Kathy Westmoreland a scarf at the end of "The Hawaiian Wedding Song." But as a whole, this is one of the weakest concerts with Elvis that I know of. 

On October 22, Elvis was captured on super 8 film while performing in Champaign, and the transformation is almost unbelievable. Positive things had obviously started to happen, as he is much leaner and radiates more energy. Also, he moves around a lot more, right from the start during "See See Rider," and his singing reveals a more powerful voice. A great example of this is "You Gave Me A Mountain," a song that is so much stronger than the version from New Haven three months before. 

Another great moment is seeing him throw his guitar to Charlie Hodge after the ending of the "I Got A Woman"/"Amen" routine. The footage from Champaign actually reminded me of how Elvis moved and looked during his Pittsburgh concert on New Years Eve two months later. And it certainly helps that he is wearing a new jumpsuit as well, the Inca Gold Leaf suit. 

Therefore, it is a bit sad to watch the footage from Tempe (March 23, 1977) and Norman, filmed two days later, revealing that things have gone to worse again. The volume ends on a more positive note, with Elvis' Chicago performance on May 2, 1977, an above average show that year with Elvis in a good mood and voice. 

Content and running time of the tenth volume.

Releases such as the Sold Out! The Ultimate 8 mm Collection series don't change history. But they do paint a more varied picture of what it was like seeing Elvis on stage during the 1970's, and the tenth volume is no exception. Like I wrote at the beginning of this post, 1976 and 1977 was a downhill slide for Elvis, but watching the super 8 footage it is evident that for short periods of time, he got his act together, looking and performing better.

Monday, February 28, 2022

From One Elvis Collection To Another

An Elvis collection for sale.

The other day my wife notified me of the following post on Facebook by our local record store:
We have received a collection with over 400 used CD records by Elvis! Come on in and take a look!
Studying the post and the accompanying photo of the collection, I decided to take a look at it in person. So away I went, nearly rushing to the store, half expecting all those Elvis records being surrounded by fans like myself. 

Of course that wasn't the case. But approaching the shelves with the Elvis CD's, I spotted an older couple looking at them, the man uttering something like "Are all those records really by Elvis?" Turning to them I responded cleverly, "There can never be too many Elvis albums," which earned me a smile from the woman. 

I then turned my attention to the collection, examining the CD's. The majority of them were RCA/BMG albums, but I also noticed some of the earlier FTD releases as well as a couple of bootlegs. A closer look revealed a few Japan pressings as well. As I've always had a soft spot for Japanese Elvis Presley releases, I picked them up (among them was On Stage, one of my favorite Elvis albums).

The CD An Elvis Double Feature: Speedway, Clambake was released in 1989.

As an afterthought, I also grabbed a strange looking release titled An Elvis Double Feature: Speedway, Clambake boosting a picture from the Aloha show on the cover. However, it only featured 16 songs in total, that is, eight songs from each movie album, respectively. Strange, indeed. 

As I was about to pay for the CD's, I asked the saleswoman if the collection was from someone who had passed away, and she told me it was. Just like me, she thought it a bit sad but also "good that those albums get a new home." I agreed, went home and added them to my collection. In these troubled times, it felt good to spend a little time with Elvis.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

He Touched Me – Undubbed Version?

Front cover of the He Touched Me album.

Having listened to the undubbed Christmas masters from Elvis Back In Nashville all through the Holidays, I decided to turn my attention to the undubbed religious masters on the same CD set.

Just like the Christmas masters, the track order is identical to the original album, in this case He Touched Me released in 1972. The exception is "Amazing Grace" which is included on disc one among The Country/Folk Sides. 

But unlike the Christmas material, the religious songs were recorded with background singers present in the studio. Most of the tracks were then left undubbed for release on the He Touched Me album. I guess this was a decision on producer Felton Jarvis part, mimicking the sound of Elvis singing gospel privately with his friends and backup singers to help unwind after a show.

A look in my well thumbed copy of Elvis Session III by Joe Tunzi revealed that only four of the religious songs on the He Touched Me album were overdubbed: "Amazing Grace" and "I, John" (both with more backup vocals), "He Is My Everything" (with strings) and "A Thing Called Love" (with strings and horns). 

Back cover of He Touched Me.

Still, I was looking forward to the whole undubbed He Touched Me experience, and it started well. The title track and album opener was as moving and soothing as ever, and the sound crystal clear. 

Then followed the more modern up tempo Christian number "I've Got Confidence," sounding fantastic with the electrical guitar more prominent and the song lasting about 25 seconds longer than on the original album, with frantic hand clapping and the band cooking. What a treat! (I recognized snippets of Elvis' voice at the end used to great effect on the version featured on the Where No One Stands Alone album released a couple of years ago, featuring new backing music and vocals.)

Next up was another pleasant surprise. Usually, when I listen to "Amazing Grace," I almost wonder if Elvis is there at all due to all the backing vocals. But in the undubbed format, I noticed that Elvis voice was more up front and the background singers more in the, well, background. The whole thing sounded so much clearer and less muddled. 

I then turned my attention to "Seeing Is Believing," with electrical sparks flying from James Burton's guitar. As always, it reminded me of  "I've Got Confidence," and I noticed another extra seconds at the ending here as well. I bet the writer of the song, Red West, was in the studio listening. How exciting it must have been for him to hear this. 

I was then unexpectedly disappointed. While I listened to "He Is My Everything" without the strings, I noticed that the original backing singers were gone, too. Slightly confused and irritated, my spirits lifted with the help of the next track, "Bosom Of Abraham." I always find it irresistible and infectious, reminding me of some of the spirituals on Elvis' earlier religious albums. The interaction between Elvis and the Imperials is pure joy. 

"Bosom of Abraham" was released as single together with "He Touched Me" in March, 1972. Interestingly it was titled "The Bosom Of Abraham."

In my imagination, I then flipped the album to the B-side. The two first numbers, "An Evening Prayer" and "Lead Me, Guide Me" sounded beautiful as always, maybe even more so in this new mix. But then surprise och disappointment struck again. As was the case of "He Is My Everything," the background vocals had been eliminated on "There Is No God But God." Although a pleasant enough song, in my opinion it really benefits from the backing vocalists responding to Elvis' singing. 

Fortunately, the rest of the tracks from "He Touched Me" were left undubbed as they were recorded in the studio. "A Thing Called Love" without the strings and horns worked well, even though bass singer Armond Morales' vocals were mixed down (in the original recording he is singing in union with Elvis throughout the song). "I, John" sounded more like a gospel quartet song without the overdubbed female singers and "Reach Out To Jesus" ended with the passionate ending I remember so well.

Two more religious tracks were recorded during the Nashville sessions 1971, and they are included after the "He Touched Me" tracks. "Put Your Hand In The Hand" and "Miracle Of The Rosary" were eventually saved for Elvis Now ("Amazing Grace" replaced "Miracle Of The Rosary" when no Folk album materialized), but it's evident they would have fit on Elvis' third religious album as well.

All in all, I enjoyed the undubbed version of He Touched Me. But it annoyed me that two of the tracks had their backing vocals removed. It also rhymes badly with what is written in the booklet:
NOTE: As the vocal interaction between Elvis and the backing singers is deemed fundamental to the gospel performances, they have been left as originally intended by Elvis and A&R man Felton Jarvis.
So, to sum it up. You now have two options to experience the He Touched Me album. You can either listen to the original album, with four overdubbed songs and the eight remaining tracks undubbed, or you can pick the one offered on the Elvis Back In Nashville set with all twelve tracks undubbed but two of them with the original backing singers removed. 

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