'Elvis: Summer Festival 1970
MRS CD / Book
- Review by Nigel Patterson / Piers Beagley
‘ELVIS: SUMMER FESTIVAL 1970 – THE REHEARSALS’
The CDs contain rehearsal highlights from one of the most memorable periods in Elvis’ career - his captivating performances at The International Hotel Las Vegas in the summer of 1970.
These truly historical recordings, remastered and restored capture the raw and early development of songs that were performed weeks later in Las Vegas.
The accompanying 40-page booklet includes rare photographs taken at some of these rehearsal sessions.
EIN's Nigel Patterson & Piers Beagley provide an in-depth review of this new MRS release
we apologise for the lateness of this review, it was delayed due to issues with International delivery to Australia
Memphis Recording Service, UK/EC, 2021, Hardback with 3CDs, 40 pages, Illustrated (color/b&w), MRS10007070
Compilation produced by Joseph Pirzada, Introduction notes by Gordon Minto and Design by Kev Reape. Audio Restoration and Remaster by Studio D.
EIN's Nigel Patterson & Piers Beagley provide a combined review of this new release
Elvis Summer Festival 1970 The Rehearsals is the latest in Joseph Pirzada’s popular MRS series of book and CD sets.
The 3CDs are securely bound into the customary MRS hardback cover, one CD at the front and two at the back.
This is a smaller Book / CD combo compared to the recent MRS 100-page deluxe sets such as 'Elvis: Back In Living Stereo' and more like the 5”digipack smaller sized earlier MRS releases
The book design by Kev Reape is strong, with the cover image eye catching.
The brief (2 pages) introductory notes by Elvis The Man and His Music’s, Gordon Minto, provide a compact, contextual overview of proceedings around Elvis’ rehearsals for his 1970 summer season in Las Vegas:
After meeting with various people connected to the planned movie, the rehearsal phase started on 14 July at MGM’s soundstage in Culver City, California. The first stage involved him and his core band listening to acetate recordings of the songs chosen from the recent Nashville sessions. Even at this stage, key songs were emerging....
For a book and CD set I would have preferred more substantial text....... however, it is the audio and visual elements that drive interest in the release.
The images are predominately in color and are high quality. They are a heady mix of shots during and between songs, plus one candid of Elvis outside the recording studio with a fan. Importantly, they are crystal clear images that really shine on the thick, high grade gloss paper stock they are printed on.
Highlights (there are many), include the photos on pages 9 (Elvis with mic to his lips), 17 (Elvis at full throttle), 22 and 23 (the latter both wonderful photos which will especially satisfy his female admirers).
One unusual image (page 10) highlights the perils of recording as Elvis inserts his microphone way up high inside his mouth. Thankfully, despite how uncomfortable it looks, its removal would have been an easy one. At times (pages 20-21), quite amusingly, Elvis’ choice of hats is questionable.
While we have seen the images before, they provide a fitting balance to the audio part of the set and enhance our feeling of Elvis in the studio as we listen to the rehearsals.
The obvious point of this release is to give the General Public a chance to hear the highlights of Elvis’ rehearsals for his classic MGM TTWII movie and at a reasonable price.
The cool purple paisley design is stylishly used, even on the CD labels
EU Public Domain: It is surprising to some Elvis collectors that these rehearsals fall under Public Domain. As far as EIN believes this is because these recordings were made by MGM – and not RCA – and so anything that was not released in MGM’s TTWII movie, and has not been released by MGM in the last 50 years, then falls under EU Public Domain.
These recordings were of course recently featured in the outstanding FTD Deluxe set ‘The Making Of TTWII’ but that huge set was too expensive for many collectors and was only released through the Fan Clubs and Elvis dealers. Unfortunately SONY/RCA did not follow-up with a ‘best of’ cheaper set for the General Public as they did for the similar ‘Boy From Tupelo’ set. Perhaps culling an 8-CD set and 600 page book to a small package was too daunting. Here MRS has cleverly filled that gap for the mainstream.
Audio Quality: There is of course little one can do with poorly recorded audio sources, especially when it comes to Elvis’ vocal track distorting and being recorded with over modulation. And so there has to be several times here where the audio quality sounds similarly poor as previous releases. However once we move into the well recorded MGM material this MRS release truly shines. There is plenty of ‘top-end’ clarity on these MRS versions (check out Ronnie Tutt’s percussion) and an overall upgrade in the studio sound. It seems that this set has been taken from first generation tapes whereas other releases have sounded more muffled and less clear.
(Perhaps the initial Sony digital transfer from the rehearsal tapes used too much high-end filter to try and repress the original tape hiss)
These new versions not only have a full-frequency but look at the two scans below – taken from ‘The Wonder Of You’ 24th July rehearsal. MRS top scan, the recent FTD TTWII below. You can see that MRS have used more compression to give more “balls” to the overall sound, yet don’t hit peak distortion. If you can see the difference, you can hear the difference.
The first CD sets the scene, featuring 22 rehearsals taken from the earlier sessions at MGM on July 14 and 15, 1970.
Unfortunately MGM were not concentrating on audio quality – these were the first two days of filming and Elvis was just settling in with the cameras watching his every move – and so the sound quality is very variable.
Elvis collectors will be familiar with the poor audio quality and peak distortions but what the General Public make of it being right at the start I am not so sure. Luckily, of course, this will get better and very quickly.
‘Words’ and the short section of ‘Bridge’ sets the rehearsal scene with Elvis reacting and chatting with his band before ‘Stagger Lee’ blasts you out of your seat “Screw Stagger Lee!”.
‘Mojo Working’ similarly features vocal distortion and also MGM film technicians talking in the background. Impassioned they may be, but annoying distortion doesn’t help the overall enjoyment.
Personally I would have moved all of these early rehearsals to a later section or to the third CD of this set.
While feeling a little dismayed suddenly The Beatles' ‘Yesterday’ started playing and sounded so, so sweet as if you are there is the studio with the band. This seemed such a positive jump in audio quality that I immediately compared it to my previous copies. There is a real spatial mix to this song, with the band super-clear, Glen D’s piano and Ronnie Tutt’s cymbals so shiny. Although it is not my favourite song, listening on headphones I was stunned as it sounded so beautiful.
Comparison proved the version on the recent FTD TTWII Deluxe set very muffled by comparison. The SONY 2014 Deluxe rehearsal release is similarly muffled.
Despite what others have stated, there is no way that this shiny audio quality could have been created from a copy of SONY or FTD’s releases. This truly sounds as if it is from the original tape, lots of top-end – with at times tape hiss – whereas the FTD recent version has either had deliberate high-end frequency reduction or it was from a lesser generation tape.
Similar improvements continue on the fabulous ‘One Night’ with lots of bright percussion, a beautifully open ‘That's All Right’ (unfortunately still with Elvis’ distorted vocal) and ‘Twenty Days and Twenty Nights’ also shines with James Burton’s guitar so clear along with Ronnie Tutt's tight drumming. Whatever MRS used as their tape source is truly impressive.
(Fans might notice that tracks such as ‘How The Web Was Woven’ which featured in the original MGM movie with Elvis on piano is obviously absent here.)
The cracking ‘Stranger In The Crowd’ rehearsal ends the first CD with Elvis neatly saying, “That's a wrap fellows, let's go home”.
Elvis at full throttle
Elvis’ glorious rehearsals on 24 July at RCA studios are the real key to this release, and the part that fans are bound to enjoy the most. The film cameras were absent and so there was less reason for Elvis to fool around and these were rehearsals that truly counted. Elvis working hard, and working his musicians hard, while still keeping his light-hearted approach.
When first released on bootleg by Fort Baxter back in 1998 these recordings were absolute collectors gold. Elvis at the peak of his comeback performances, rehearsing some power-house songs with only his rhythm section. Twenty seven classic songs and with Elvis not only rehearsing the familiar songs we would all come to know from the MGM movie but also songs he would never perform on stage.
The importance of these rehearsals was neatly explained when first released on the ‘The brightest star on Sunset Boulevard’ bootleg set.
“For the Elvis fan, the release of these rhythm band-only rehearsals prior to his August'70 Vegas gig are both a revelation and reason to celebrate. For those who want to know about Presley's musicianship, goofy humour and ability to lead and interact with a band, it's all here.
When not fooling around one notices the grace with which Elvis delivers "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" or "Bridge Over Troubled Water." There's an appealing, weary edge to his voice; "I've Lost You" in cracking quality and the absence of strings and a dozen other vocalists only enhances its strangely attractive, melancholy chorus.
"I Just Can't Help Believin'" is a treat in three nice'n'easy run-throughs; his affection for this B.J. Thomas hit is very evident; it's a treat to hear him warm up lines like "her tears are shining, honey-sweet with love". No wonder the live cut available on RCA's 'That's The Way It Is' album was so damn good; he worked hard to make it right!
When all is said and done, two things are really striking about the July'70 rehearsals. First is the absolute joy that radiates from every moment Elvis is making music; how and why it seemed to disappear within a year of these recordings is a mystery, but it did.
– Johnny Savage”
It has to be noted that these recordings were close to “Binaural” with Elvis’ vocal track basically placed only on the left-hand channel.
Once again there is more top-end frequency on this MRS release and some neat compression boosting the power of these performances.
CD 2 – RCA Studios 24th July 1970
With an excellent clarity to the audio Elvis kicks off with a powerhouse performance of ‘That’s All Right’.
There’s a real pace to these try-outs and after a kick-ass ‘I Got A Woman’, ‘The Wonder of You’ is a brilliant 6 minute rehearsal and the audio compression / improvement by MRS’s audio engineer ‘Studio D’ is obvious. (as shown in the can above). This sounds great.
‘I've Lost You’ such a beautiful track, showing that Elvis can bring a heart-breaking emotional performance to every moment, even in a rehearsal with his friends, a true delight.
‘Something’ has a lovely open feel, in fact all the tracks here have a lovely clarity with ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ sounding so beautiful and clear.
Far longer than any of his actual concerts, the two hours of Elvis rehearsing in top form with tracks such as ‘Polk Salad Annie’, ‘I Can't Stop Loving You’, ‘Just Pretend’, ‘Sweet Caroline’, ‘Words’ and ‘Suspicious Minds’ all performed with hardly a breather, this really does sound like a genuine rhythm section dress rehearsal. Every track offers a delightful insight into Elvis working with his core rhythm section and without the backing singers and orchestra.
Bonus Stereo Mix Tracks.
As noted above these MGM tapes were basically recorded in ‘binaural’ and as a bonus MRS have done a neat remix creating a proper stereo version of two key tracks, ‘You've Lost That Loving Feeling’ and ‘Sweet Caroline’.
With Elvis’ vocal now placed in the centre of the audio and the rest of the musicians playing “in stereo” these really do sound like the ambience of the Las Vegas International Showroom.
There is no doubt that these two songs sound so different from the same recordings featured earlier on this CD that they would fool a lot of fans into believing that they really are “on stage” performances. It's an impressive trick.
As a “purist” I do prefer the original rehearsal tapes because these really do sound so different from the reality of Elvis rehearsing in RCA studios. However as bonus tracks they are a real treat.
CD3 - RCA Studios 24th July 1970 & MGM Culver City 29th July 1970
‘I Just Can't Help Believin’’ – an all-time favourite Elvis song –kicks off the third CD in fine style. Elvis really digs deep into the lyrics and throws a trick double-ending or two to the band even in rehearsal. A sublime 11 minutes.
The delights continue, ‘Mary In The Morning’ sounding so clear, ‘You've Lost That Loving Feeling’ with the band this time teasing Elvis with a fake ending, “Where's the big motherfucker ending!”
‘Heart Of Rome’ sounds very strained, no wonder he never did it in concert, while Elvis decides to do dog impressions on ‘Memories’.
Luckily a full-blast and rocking ‘Johnny B Goode’ brings everybody back on track. This is a full-bore serious workout, one of Elvis’ very best performances of the song. At the end Elvis notes, “That's a good number, boy!”
‘Make The World Go Away’ is another brilliant performance including a nice discussion between Elvis and the band explaining how everybody has to be “with him” to help out on the power ending. Elvis notes that recently recording the song in Nashville, "I blew my lungs out on the end, so everything's got to be with me... I didn't sing any more that night."
‘Stranger In My Home Town’ (with additional x-rated lyrics) and fast-and-furious ‘I Washed My Hand In Muddy Water’ – both songs that Elvis should have added to his set-list - take them to the end of the session, both sounding great with a nice clear percussion.
What a fabulous rehearsal - what a fabulous session.
Elvis’ choice of hats is questionable.
With space to spare, MRS fill up the packed CD with six more tracks this time taken from 29 July session recorded back at MGM studios.
Elvis with a well-worn voice tries out a neat version of ‘Something’ - “Hey, there’s some new lyrics I’ve never seen. Very suggestive lyrics!” However once again Elvis seems less focused and tracks such as ‘Froggy Went A-Courtin’ and ‘Hava Nagila’ show more of the silly side of Elvis' rehearsals compared to the previous session.
Two classic tracks that never made it to Elvis’ onstage performances ‘A Fool Such As I’ and ‘Such A Night’ are a neat addition for fans who have never heard them before.
All in all, a brilliant listen, most enjoyable, play loud.
To be honest I could never understand why this stunning July 24th rehearsal set was never a mainstream RCA release. ‘Mary In The Morning’, ‘Johnny B Goode’, ‘Muddy Water’ plus an edited ‘The Wonder Of You’ gave fans a glimpse of this stunning rehearsal on the BMG ‘TTWII 30th Anniv’ set while the FTD ‘The Way It Was’ added another five song for collectors. Surely an 80 minute best-of would have had more mainstream interest than say BMG’s ‘Home Recordings’ or ‘Such a Night - Essential Elvis Vol.6'.
Overall Verdict: This release is a fabulous “Best-Of” that will satisfy any mainstream fan / Amazon purchaser, continuing MRS’s policy of releasing quality Elvis product. Of course EIN cannot deny that for hard-core collectors and Fan Club members the FTD deluxe TTWII 8-CD set offers everything you need. But having purchased both sets EIN was extremely impressed by the improvement in audio quality on this MRS set, plus the neat ‘Stereo’ bonus mixes. A larger booklet would have been a nice bonus as Elvis looks so damn good in every photo. However with this new MRS set offering fans close to four hours of Elvis working hard to perfect his on-stage material (for what would be the filmed live “performance-of-his life”) plus a pile of gorgeous photos and at a reasonable price – what’s not to like? Very impressive. Play Loud.
Please note that the low-res personal scans used in this review do not show the true quality of the images.
EIN Member and keen Elvis collector James Bracken sent us his independent review.
“I have been an Elvis fan for decades and I am at an age where I can afford to buy a couple of new cars if I wanted. So the question of not being able to afford FTD TTWII Deluxe Box Set does not arise. However I won’t pay over-the-odds for anything. When released I felt that the FTD Rehearsals box-set were over-priced; ie way too expensive for me personally - although I appreciate that some will cherish this collection and rightly so. However the MRS ‘Summer Festival’ was more than a fair price and I got it. Their packaging is always top notch, the Booklets Super and the Sound Quality Brilliant. And here in Ireland it arrived on the 2nd of March and yet wasn’t due for release until a week or so later.
I now have the new Live 3-CD set ordered and the sample that’s available just shows we have another wonderful MRS collection to look forward to.”
|CD1 MGM Sound Stage 1, Culver City, Los Angeles, California
14 July 1970
02. Bridge Over Troubled Water
15 July 1970
03. Stagger Lee
04. Got My Mojo Working
05. I’ve Lost You
06. Stranger in the Crowd (Rehearsal 1)
07. The Next Step is Love
08. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me
09. Sweet Caroline
11. Ghost Riders in the Sky
13. Peter Gunn Theme
14. One Night
15. Alla En El Rancho Grande
16. That’s All Right 03:09 Arthur Crudup
17. Twenty Days & Twenty Nights (Rehearsal 1)
18. Twenty Days & Twenty Nights (Rehearsal 2)
19. Patch It Up
20. Cotton Fields
22. Stranger in the Crowd (Rehearsal 2)
CD2 - RCA Studios, Hollywood, California
24 July 1970
01. That’s All Right
02. I Got a Woman
03. The Wonder of You
04. I’ve Lost You
05. The Next Step Is Love
06. Stranger in The Crowd
07. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (Rehearsal 1)
09. Don’t Cry Daddy/Don’t Cry Daddy (faster version)
10. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me
11. Polk Salad Annie
12. Bridge Over Troubled Water
13. I Can’t Stop Loving You
14. Just Pretend
15. Sweet Caroline
17. Suspicious Minds
Bonus Stereo Mix Tracks
18. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (Rehearsal 1)
19. Sweet Caroline
CD3 - RCA Studios, Hollywood, CA
24 JULY 1970 (continued)
01. I Just Can’t Help Believin’ (1)
02. Tomorrow Never Comes
03. Mary in the Morning
04. Twenty Days & Twenty Nights
05. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (Rehearsal 2)
06. I Just Can’t Help Believin’ (2)
07. Heart of Rome
09. Johnny B. Goode
10. Make the World Go Away
11. Stranger in My Own Hometown
12. I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water
MGM Sound Stage 1, Culver City, CA
JULY 29, 1970
13. Elvis Talking
15. (Now and Then There’s) A Fool Such as I
16. Froggy Went A-Courtin’
17. Such A Night
18. It’s Now or Never
19. Hava Nagila
MRS 'Elvis:Back In Living Stereo' in-depth Review: The new MRS set contains 6CDs of essential 1960-1962 master recordings, plus rare alternate outtakes - including plenty of officially unreleased material - and all of the personal home recordings Elvis made during the 1960s.
The 100 page book, with text from Gordon Minto, includes rare unpublished documents and photographs, supported by a comprehensive text discussing each of Elvis’ RCA studio (non-film) recording sessions held during 1960-62.
Musically the packed cds - over seven hours - present a stunning look at Elvis recording in the early sixties before the shine wore off. The "Master" sessions nicely contrast with the looser "Outtakes" discs and with Elvis getting even more uninhibited on the Home Recordings. - Very unihibited with a certain Nancy Sharpe!
But with so much thrown into the mix, and some tracks in poor audio quality, have MRS packed "Too Much" into the one release.
Go here as EIN's Nigel Patterson & Piers Beagley check out the positives and negatives in their in-depth review.
(Book Reviews, Source;ElvisInformationNetwork)
'Elvis - Made In Germany’ In-Depth Review: The new MRS 'Elvis - Made In Germany – The Complete Private Recordings’ 4CD set contains more than 3 hours of the private recordings Elvis made while off duty in Germany when he was serving as a soldier in the US army during the 1958 -1960 period and, includes rare tracks from a recently discovered tape comprising over an hour of unheard personal recordings.
The 152-page hardback book contains rare photographs and documents plus a comprehensive text provided by Gordon Minto, which discusses each of Elvis’ RCA studio (non-film) recording sessions held during 1957-58, before focusing on the private recordings he made in Germany.
The BONUS CD features the essential RCA studio masters from 1957-58.
With such an expansive book, along with hours of Elvis jamming with his friends in Germany, there is plenty to discuss as well as finding out what extra material this set contains over the official releases.
Go here as EIN's Nigel Patterson & Piers Beagley provide an in-depth review of this new MRS release
(Book Reviews, Source;ElvisInformationNetwork)
EIN's reviews of other MRS releases:
The Complete 50s Movie Masters Session Recordings
Elvis Studio Sessions '56 The Complete Recordings
The Complete Works 1953-1955
Elvis On Television 1956-1960
Elvis Live in the 50s The Complete Concert Recordings
Off Duty with Private Presley
Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley
Memphis Recording Service Volume 2 'The Rise of Elvis Presley' 1955
Memphis Recording Service Volume 1 'The Beginning of Elvis Presley' 1953-1954
'The Complete ‘50s Movie Masters And Session Recordings' In-Depth Review: This MRS 'The Complete ‘50s Movie Masters And Session Recordings' 5CD/Book combo pays tribute to Elvis Presley’s complete music recordings made for his movies during the 1950s.
The 5CDs contain the complete works of the master and session studio recordings made for each of Elvis’ movies during the 1950s, and all tracks have been remastered.
The 200-page book focuses on each of the recording sessions held for the four motion pictures made between August 1956 and March 1958.
The comprehensive text is complemented by rare and previously unseen photographs and documentation.
So what surprises will collectors discover in this new set, what is in this new collection that FTD have missed and how good will the audio sound.
Go here as EIN's Nigel Patterson & Piers Beagley provide an in-depth review of this new MRS release
(Book Reviews, Source;ElvisInformationNetwork)
|‘ELVIS: Studio Sessions 1956' In-Depth Review: MRS newest release, a massive 3CD/172 page book compilation "Elvis Studio Sessions ‘56 The Complete Recordings". The 172-page book, with text by Gordon Minto, focuses on each of Elvis’ studio recording sessions during his first year of national stardom - from the first one in January, held in Nashville, then later in New York, before finishing his final session of the year in Hollywood in September. The full and comprehensive text is complemented by rare and previously unseen photographs and pieces of documentation.
The 3CDs contain the complete archival master and session studio recordings of Elvis Presley from 1956, along with bonus interviews. All 90 tracks have been remastered and restored. Also for the first time on CD is the complete ‘The Truth About Me’ from an original US 45rpm flexi-disc. Also included are all the out-takes from this interview.
Once again MRS release a first putting all of Elvis' key 1956 Studio Session masters onto one disc, with the addition of two other fully-packed cds of 1956 material and a stunning 172 page book. But what does this set offer over other previous releases
Go here as EIN's Nigel Patterson and Piers Beagley check out this new volume from MRS to find what is on offer. Includes stunning example photos & a detailed audio investigation.
(Book Review: Source;ElvisInformationNetwork)
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