I grew up in a household where the name “Elvis Presley” was worshiped and revered (as was “McCartney”, “Lennon”, “Townshend”, “Beck” and “Everly”, but that’s a whole different story). My mother made it her business to have every Elvis album as it was released – right down to the “budget” releases RCA Camden used to put out. Thus, Elvis – Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis was no exception. We had it; I listened to it several times – and I do believe this was the album that introduced me to the track that completely turned me off The King for a long, long time – the excruciating “American Trilogy”. Nonetheless, I was 9 when this album came out – I was 12 when he died. And at 49, I’m as much of an Elvis fan as ever (see my story on our trip to Memphis a few years ago). So when I heard this was being re-released and expanded by the good folks at RCA Legacy, I knew I had to revisit it.
First and foremost, this is a live album and for all the jokes and shots people have taken over the years at Elvis, on his good nights, he was untouchable. Simply put, when he was on-form and ready to entertain, he was a fucking powerhouse. From the moment when the theme to “2001: A Space Odyssey” (a.k.a. “Also Sprach Zarathustra”) concludes and The King hits that stage with a ballsy “See See Rider”, you know it’s a show. This edition expands that original show with ten performances that were not part of the original album; by doing so, it gives the listener and the fans a chance to hear how expansive Elvis’ vocal talents really were.
Let’s not forget, first and foremost, Elvis Presley was a rock & roll singer; at this point, he was 39 and his voice hadn’t yet began to suffer (as he began to deteriorate not long after). He was still able to belt it out, hard and strong, especially with the bluesier numbers like “I Got A Woman” (recorded on his debut album in ’56), the medley which includes “Long Tall Sally”/”Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”/”Mama Don’t Dance”/”Flip Flop & Fly”/”Jailhouse Rock”/”Hound Dog” – we’re talking about Elvis here – and he still had it. This album even throws in “My Baby Left Me”, the other Big Boy Crudup track Elvis cut besides “That’s All Right Mama”. And add to the mix the unadulterated beauty of Elvis’ voice; the richness in his masterful “How Great Thou Art”. Elvis made you a believer, no matter what denomination you are, when singing to the Lord. Yes, there is the prerequisite schmaltz – like “Suspicious Minds”, now included with this edition, and the nightmare “American Trilogy”, but it was of its time and it was Elvis Presley. And this album is worth every moment spent listening to it.
The second disc is not dissimilar, containing the performance from the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Virginia – recorded two days before the Memphis show. There are also 5 rehearsal tracks as well, recorded at RCA Studios in Hollywood, while preparing for an upcoming Las Vegas engagement. A nice reminder of how good Elvis Presley was/could be as a concert performer – when talent was everything and you gave the audience what they wanted. Not to forget, this was all delivered by the one and only true King Of Rock & Roll.
Elvis – Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis (Legacy Edition) will be available on March 18th, 2014