It is incredible that Elvis has been gone for such a long time and yet the last 6 months have seen three of the biggest-ever projects about our man released - The Complete Elvis Masters, The Elvis Files and now The Final Curtain.
Even more amazing is that this massive project focuses only on the last few months of Elvis’ life.
These last few months are ones of sadness, where fans can so easily observe the marvellous spark of Elvis’ life fading away all too quickly.
Instead of Elvis being given time off and medical treatment that he so obviously needed, Elvis was still being overworked ‘on-tour’ by a manager who was flogging his horse to death. And most likely solely to pay off his ever-mounting gambling debts (see EIN’s Spotlight The Dark Side Of Colonel Parker).
While a large number of fans are rightly not interested in the sadness of Elvis' final months, there is a core-group that are fascinated in this period of emotional turmoil as Elvis still managed to turn in some fine performances for his adoring fans.
Perhaps it is observing the inner-struggle and emotional roller-coaster that Elvis was facing, but 1977 certainly has more fascination than the despair of the previous year.
EPE owns the rights to the final CBS TV special (which I have no doubt they will release one day) however the TV special as it is doesn’t really capture any of Elvis’ final glory (Hell, they even left out ‘Unchained Melody’!) but it also misses out on any of the turmoil and struggle of Elvis facing that final curtain.
Elvis’ journey though these six months are all part of his amazing legacy, and also part of his personal history as well, and shouldn’t be omitted from the 1977 story.
So fans who are interested in this period - and still love to hear Elvis singing his heart out in those final concerts deserve a proper in-depth look into these final months, such as with a 400-page book, with soundboard CDs, home-video of Elvis’ final concerts and of course the CBS TV tapes.
Set in proper context, and compassionately written so as to not only explain the ups & downs but also the effect of Ginger Alden upon Elvis’ moods, it would help clarify how everything was falling apart on Elvis while he struggled to keep going - and at the same time put on great shows for his fans.
There is no doubt that EPE will never ever do this project properly. And it is highly likely that they will release 'In Concert' eventually but no doubt in its original form and with no money put in to re-edit it to a proper documentary about Elvis' final months. (Thus maximising their profit.)
So after an extraordinary delay – wasn’t it meant to be out June 26 2010? - ‘BOXCAR’ finally releases this massive project on Elvis’ final months for a small group of hardcore fans - and what an impressive production it is.
Presented in stylish packaging, the set features 6 CDs and 6 DVDs as well as an incredibly heavy hard-bound book. The weight of it alone is astounding.
I felt the same feeling of expectation as I opened ‘The Complete Masters’ or ‘The Elvis Files.’
Even more amazing is that the package only covers the last few months of Elvis’ life!
The package comes with a book and DVD inserts plus a stunning fold-out sleevs containing all the CDs and other DVDs. Photos of Elvis' final Aztek-suit are used to great effect for the covers.
While I am sure most fans will go straight to the unreleased concerts recordings and CBS DVDs, the book is a real stunner.
Personally I was very apprehensive about a 400-page book of Elvis in 1977. After all he was medically unwell, often overweight and oh so tired. However the first thing one notes – apart from the stylish layout - is that Elvis looks in much better form in the majority of photos than I had feared.
In fact for the last few months I had the horrors about having to see a 400-page book of 1977 Elvis photos and having to watch and listen to so much 1977 material. But I really have enjoyed it.
The text is interesting, all the collected reviews are good and having the photos to go with each day and performance in these final months makes the period far more interesting to read about.
You can listen to a concert, check out the review, see whether Ginger was there!, look to see how sick or happy Elvis looked.
It really can absorb you for hours.
In its honesty Boxcar hasn’t avoided the photos of Elvis looking worn-out - and at times down-right terrible - however these are in the minority and there are an amazing number of him looking in great humour and even surprisingly fit.
(Of course it could be that time has dulled my senses and expectations)
The surprise to me was the many unreleased photos and, best of all, there is lots of text and articles to read so the book is an important part of this 1977 journey and the box-set.
The book starts with a prologue and several pages featuring Elvis through the years to set the scene.
In fact surprisingly you don’t see an image of Elvis in 1977 until after the first 30 pages of fascinating and detailed text!
(Right:A full-page of Elvis in Kalamazoo, looking far better than you would expect)
This is what grabbed me at first, lots of details and descriptions of what Elvis was going through in 1977. The details of who he was travelling with, the troubles he ran into, the Hotels and the general pressure of touring.
During this period affecting Elvis’ mood and performances overall was whether Ginger Alden was there or even being nice to Elvis. What a burden for a 20 year-old.
(Right:A full-page spread of Elvis and Ginger candids from that fatefull night)
The book is huge with a very stylish, funky design. There are loads of pictures I hadn’t seen before – or certainly not in this great quality – lots of full-page images too. Even better is to have the photographs next to the reviews and newspaper cuttings, ticket stubs and suchlike.
Reading through the book Elvis’ emotional state is so obviously reflected in his look and also his weight that seems to fluctuate incredibly.
The suggested medical issue of "Fluid Retention" seems so real and looking at the worst shows it is shameful that neither The Colonel nor Vernon did anything to force Elvis into Hospital and off this money-making treadmill.
But with such a detailed book – almost every concert gets at least one review - the best thing is to load all six CDs into your CD-Stacker (remember them?) and read Elvis’ final journey while listening to the soundboards.
Double-page spread with the review "Elvis Puts On A Show" and photos from Providence May 23, 1977.
Listening to the concerts - or even the selected of highlights – while studying the photos is a revealing and fascinating exercise. How did Elvis manage to put that weight back on so soon after Rapid City (the Madison show is a very sad affair) yet once again look fine for his last two shows in Cincinnati (lots of great photos from June 25th) and Indianapolis.
The book dedicates a huge section to Elvis’ Final Concert in Indianapolis – forty pages – all in colour and it also includes the stage set-up, floor-plans etc which are of interest being the very last performance. None of these photos show Elvis looking particularly ill or even fat. He seems to be sweating less than in most concerts while have a glint in his eye and enjoying being on stage.
Maybe this was only because it was his last show of the tour and a relax at Graceland was in sight – but it is still nice to see Elvis looking fine and not struggling for his final curtain.
Note – even better we get 36 minutes of good quality fan-footage of this show in the fan-footage DVDs.
The intensity and clarity of some of the photos is truly amazing.
(Right:Full-page Louisville May 21)
While there is no way I have yet had the time to read every word of the book, my only complaints would about minor details such as the initial mis-quote that Elvis said "HE don’t sing like nobody" or later on that Gladys died aged 47.
The many newspaper reviews are also described correctly by the day they were printed - rather than the actual concert date - which can be a little confusing to begin with.
The book ends with a photo of the memorial plaque at the Market Square Arena and a stunning double-page spread of the Indianapolis Arena being finally demolished.
The book is truly a high quality production.
The Soundboards CDs
CD 1: West Palm Beach and St Petersburg.
The Final Curtain soundboard journey starts with Elvis performing on February 13th at West Palm Beach and also Feb 14th at St Petersburg.
Best thing about these shows (which have been around for a while) is the soundboard quality which is brilliant. Sadly however Elvis' performance is low-energy and fairly routine.
But the Final Curtain is all about Elvis' 1977 journey and the accompanying photos and reviews printed in the book are honest in showing that Elvis in his first tour of the year was far from recuperated and in a terrible way compared to the amazing highlight of New Year's Eve.
As the book explains...
... For the first half of the tour, Elvis' appearance was as bad as it had ever been. He was pale, puffy, and sweating profusely. Throughout the show his eyes were heavy-lidded, and his voice strained. The drop in quality between this performance and the one he gave on New Year's Eve less than a month and a half earlier was dizzying, but the 15,500 fans in attendance treated him to the usual amount of adulation. But it was not an easy crowd if one believes the clippings of the Sun-Tattler and the Miami Herald where it was written that dozens of people had left and demanded their money back because of "surging fans who blocked their view and drowned out the music". The deputies on site even told two wheelchair bound fans to better leave the Sportatorium for their own safety because the crowd was going apeshit.
It's a shame that 'Little Sister' isn’t the great start it should be and here 'My Way', a messed up 'Blueberry Hill' (Tony Brown is sadly no 'Glen Hardin') are the only real interest. There is no doubt that Elvis was aware of the struggle he was feeling and there is some honesty in his ending ‘CHFIL’ "Wise men know when it is time, time to go..".
However Elvis’ roller-coaster ride of 1977 is immediately demonstrated when Elvis was on much better form the very next day in St Petersburg Feb 14th, as the accompanying newspaper review also suggests.
"Elvis showed definite signs of improvement over the sluggish self-parody he delivered last year. - He is a top draw at any time at any price"
There is humour back in Elvis’ voice as he jokes with his ever-loving audience on this Valentine's Day. ‘Mountain’ is so energetic compared to the day before.
Highlights are a beautifully sung ‘And I Love You So’ and a poignant & powerful ‘My Way’. ‘Love Letters’ is another heartfelt version and he performs a terrific ‘Hurt’. Elvis even shows a little more interest in the oldies than usual and there's a nice jazz-swing feel to ‘Fever’.
Elvis' humour is truly obvious when he announces "A medley of some Spanish folk songs" and sings one line of ‘Guadalajara’ - I wonder what the hell the band thought at that moment! Later this night Elvis describes pianist Tony Brown as "warped" and then shows him how to play ‘Blueberry Hill’ properly, this is a true rarity. This concert was obviously a real Valentine's Day treat.
CD2: Orlando & Highlights
The first unissued soundboard here is Elvis’ performance at Orlando Feb 15th and Boxcar have noted that an extraordinary amount of time and money was put into the restoration of this previously unlistenable tape.
Having said that, the audio is a little strange and seems to be derived from a binaural tape of some kind as at times the audio is nearly Elvis and keyboards alone. However the fact Elvis’ voice is so prominent actually makes it a fascinating listen and once again Elvis is in a far better state than the first show of the tour.
It is a great show, Elvis throws in some rarities, some Peter Sellers imitations and even on the final ‘CHFIL’ an amazing falsetto ending. Tonight Elvis includes not only a delightful ‘Help Me’ but also a rockin’ ‘Big Boss Man’ - the only time Elvis sang it this tour.
The real highlight is an astounding SIX minute ‘My Way’ - "one step at a time sweet Jesus" Elvis says at the start. He has to restart due to feedback but this in no way spoils an incredible version which due to the mix is almost Elvis solo a-capella with the piano.
The crowd is so enthusiastic that Elvis has to appease their appreciation with a repeat of the second section of the song and really punches out at the end! It’s a great 1977 "Elvis Moment" – what a highlight!
Later Elvis again proves he still has it with a stunning ‘Hurt’ - "God help me" he teases at the start, but follows it again with a reprise "I’m gonna bust that last note wide open, with the help of God and a few of my friends" - and he does!
Thankfully the long-winded introductions are cut down leaving more time for an amazing fifteen Bonus Tracks from various concerts.
These concert highlights cleverly stop these soundboards from being a never ending cycle of the same 1977 set-list and makes them far more listenable that one might imagine.
A highlight is the Columbia Feb 18th ‘Release Me’ where Elvis eggs the band on to another verse - and as noted in the detailed book text, dedicated to Ginger Alden "Chicken neck"! Incredibly it was just before this concert that Elvis had been found unconscious after overdosing on anti-depressants!
Further highlights (some from Felton Jarvis’ Spring Tours soundboard recordings) include the astounding "part-spoken" ‘My Way’ from Abilene March 27th in great audio quality a new ‘That’s All Right’ as well. We also hear the lovely and rare ‘Bosom of Abraham/You Better Run’ from Alexandria March 29. Both Alexandria concerts were obvious low-points in 1977, each of around 45 minutes, and perhaps thankfully we only get the three tracks from these shows as bonuses.
CD3: Montgomery and Charlotte.
The third CD features another two February concerts this time from Montgomery Feb 16th and Charlotte Feb 21st both fairly complete recordings and both of which have been previously unofficially released.
Before the Montgomery concert Elvis had apparently made a quick trip to Disney World – but whatever the reason once again he is in much better form, although Elvis does seem annoyed at times. The sound quality is excellent and there are some great 1977 highlights in this show.
There is Elvis’ only performance of ‘Where No One Stands Alone’ "I have to play the piano because, you know, I know the chord changes" plus a fine ‘Unchained Melody’ along with a real rockin’ ‘Polk Salad Annie.’
There is also the amazing "ELVIS moment" when he gets given a pair of red pants made for nine year-old Lisa Marie from an audience fan which Elvis attempts to give to Kathy Westmoreland.
"Try it, anyway" Elvis suggests as the TCB band play a striptease instrumental! – and there are plenty of great photos in the book to go with it (see above right)!
Elvis finally ends the fun with another great Inspector Clouseau quote - "Enough, Kato, you fool!"
Charlotte Feb 21st was the last concert of the first 1977 Tour and what a changed man Elvis was from only 10 days previously. There are around forty great photos in the book showing a much improved, healthier & happy looking Elvis!
Unfortunately the opening 'Are You Lonesome Tonight' is a woeful mess – what was Elvis thinking about?! – but the final concert of the tour is saved by ‘Reconsider Baby’, "This is a blues song that I did about a month and a half ago" which is a classic work-out with Elvis having a great time. James Burton adds some fine blues guitar while Elvis thrashes at his acoustic showing that in 1977 Elvis still had the feeling within him if inspired.
There is also the only complete live performance of ‘Moody Blue’ - "I tried it last night but didn’t make it. If we goof it up please forgive us." – also ‘Little Sister’, ‘Release Me’ and ‘Why Me Lord’ where Elvis has to make the back up and start again, "It’s the wrong key fellows". All these give this concert a unique feel and show Elvis getting back on form when he needed to.
CD 4: Saginaw May 3 & Highlights
Another unreleased soundboard, Elvis’ performance in Saginaw on May 3rd was the final concert of Elvis’ third tour and in these last few concerts Elvis once again getting back in shape after some real low points such as Kalamazoo April 26th and both Milwaukee shows.
Elvis kicks off the concert with an energetic ‘That’s All Right’ and is in such a good mood he even attempts ‘Trouble’ as his second song – boy, the band must have been surprised! Unfortunately he gives up after a few lines, "It was a good thought anyway" before getting back to the normal "Well, well, well... I Got A Woman" routine.
The sound isn’t quite as good here as some of the other soundboards in this set as it has some peak-distortion and crackle in places but the show has some interesting moments.
Elvis sounds somewhat distracted at times - he refuses to do ‘Fairytale’ or ‘Big Boss Man’ even after the band has started playing the first few chords - but does sing a pointed ‘Help Me’ and another rockin’ ‘Polk Salad Annie’ - although he does have to change microphones and start again after the microphone splutters and dies.
Also a fine ‘Mystery Train/Tiger Man’ from a different sound source captures a much better sounding Elvis as he ends this Tour.
The six Bonus Songs here - including another two great versions of ‘My Way’ from Chicago May 1 and May 2 - are all in multi-track quality.
'Big Boss Man' from Duluth kicks on with an extra chorus that obviously surprises the band, while the touching ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water' has an astounding poignancy about it that the fantastic 1970 versions do not. A few of them have been out on the FTD ‘Spring Tours’
Click here for a YouTube audio sample of Saginaw’s ‘That's All Right’ & ‘Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel’
CD 5: Madison June 24 1977.
Another unissued soundboard and the full performance this time, but one that sadly does not capture Elvis in a good light.
This was only 3 days after Elvis got his act together for the CBS cameras in Rapid City but now he was obviously at another low point of his last roller-coaster ride – similar to the desperation of Omaha at points.
I find this strange as beforehand Elvis was in a good-enough mood to stop a local fight at a Gas Station on the way to his hotel. I guess this only goes to show how Elvis’ disposition and apparent health at the time were at the whim of drugs and his immediate feelings.
Surprisingly the Cincinnati concert the following night was so much better. Sadly the Cincinnati soundboard has not been found and so is not featured in this box-set.
The truly interesting point of this concert, and hearing it in this great quality, is that the Sweet Inspiration’s Jerome Stump took over the drums for this show - "He’s the Inspirations drummer and he’s fantastic" – and he plays very differently to Ronnie Tutt. He plays with a lighter, more soulful style than the rock’n’roll power-thump of Tutt.
Elvis’ voice immediately sounds pretty weak as he tries his best for ‘See See Rider’, Elvis laughs mischievously during his "Well, well" routine but sounds overly-tired and plain worn-out. And at this point in 1977 surely it’s not surprising.
Early on Elvis is surprised by a request for ‘Old Shep’ - "Oh no! I haven’t done Old Shep since I was 8 years old and a mere child!" and goes on to acknowledge his new drummer "We’re here to make you happy. And leave the driving to Stump!"
But overall the performance is very slow going as the band seems to be dragging Elvis along rather than vice-versa. There’s no energy to ‘If You Love Me’ and Elvis almost gives up singing the choruses leaving them to the backing vocalists & Sherrill Nielsen.
Mid-song for some reason Elvis says "Felton come on stage." Presumably because, as Elvis later points out, "It sounds tinny up here." Later on he has to change microphones.
Elvis left out any of his showpiece songs in this low-key night. There was no ‘My Way’, ‘Hurt’, ‘How Great Thou Art’ not even an ‘Unchained Melody’.
‘You Gave Me A Mountain’ is a kind of highlight but Elvis is even struggling here (it really is a Mountain), and even more noticeable on this soundboard than the previously obtainable audience recording.
And while not as drugged-up as the embarrassing Omaha concert this show could certainly be called "Mumblin’ in Madison". Poor Elvis.
Later on he lets Sherill Nielsen fill with two songs ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Walk With Me’ which are featured here along with all the long Introductions.
Highlights are a surprise of ‘One Night’ the last ever performance – with a long false start due to the bad microphone. No way is this a great version but it certainly would have been the highlight for the audience that night in Madison.
‘Early Morning Rain’ is also a touching version (shame that the is muffled in this section but improves again later) and ‘I Really Don’t Want To Know’ which fits the mood of the show.
Jerome Stump’s drum-solo tonight is interesting since it is Billy Preston’s ‘Will It Go Round in Circles" causing Elvis to laugh saying "That’s good man!" Elvis must have felt a little better at this point as he jokes with Jerry Scheff ‘What you gonna play, ‘Kissin’ Cousins’? – Play the blues!"
But really there appears to be no energy left as Elvis throws in a routine ‘Hound Dog’ introduces his Father and gets outta there, not even suggesting to the audience that he could come back if they wanted him to!
Probably the most low-key concert of the whole tour – it is amazing that the highs of Cincinnati and the final Indianapolis would follow.
This week EIN's friend Rick Croft asked 'Stump' what he had thought when Elvis said, "Leave the driving to Stump" at the Madison show.
Stump said that the comment made him nervous as hell, and really messed with his head. He said - rightfully- that the drummer drives the entire show. The beat sets the band up to play. If the drummer is off, the entire show is messed up, and there's absolutely nowhere to hide. He was afraid that if he messed up Elvis would call him out, or even close down the show, and leave....
"I knew that I was playing behind an icon, you know? A very powerful man, that fans adored, and some even looked at in a God like way. I wasn't only playing for Elvis, but I was in front of the fans, in front of my peers, you know, the other musicians, and the Sweets, all of them, everybody, man. In all of my life, in every gig I've played, playing behind Elvis was always the most stressful. It was completely nerve racking, man, you have no idea how bad it was, it made me a wreck. All three times I played for him I was just relieved to get off of the stage at the end of the show."
(EIN will have a full interview with Jerome Stump very soon)
CD 6: Indianapolis - The Final Concert
The book dedicates an incredible 44 pages to the final concert – great pictures too. And what more can one say to Elvis fans about his final concert?
It is a quite amazing performance knowing all that had gone before over the past four months. For some reason Elvis pours his heart into an impressive last stand. If this was due to the fact that he knew that ‘Elvis What Happened?’ was soon to be released – as the book suggests – or purely because it was the last concert of the tour and Elvis had had a good rest at Graceland the previous night, who knows?
Whatever the reason, it is a stunning show with Elvis rocking out from the very first moment of ‘See See Rider.’
While this is an audience recording, the version here is more complete than the well-known ‘Adios’ bootleg and starts right at the announcement "Can you turn the lights down please."
The audio source is still the same fan recording and while very similar in quality to ‘Adios’ it does have a little more clarity, presumably due to better mastering.
For an audience recording it is excellent – with stereo ambience - and I am sure will be released one day by FTD, presumably as their final release.
Elvis performs the regulars 'You Gave Me A Mountain’, ‘Little Sister’ and 'Hurt' etc but tonight they are all great performances. (Above: a scanned double-page spread of the action)
In this final concert Elvis would strangely leave out ‘My Way’ (and ‘Unchained Melody’) instead adding ’Fairytale’ "It’s kinda the story of our lives". He also adds rare treats, a rather cool 'Release Me', plus a seemingly spontaneous audience request for 'I Can't Stop Loving You.' Elvis also sings a very rare and poignant 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' - a song that he only performed 3 times in 1977.
Towards the end there is a rare ‘Special Thanks’ monologue as Elvis closes the last show of the tour. Elvis introduces his father, girlfriend Ginger, Dr Nick, cousin Patsy "she’s nutty as a fruit-cake", the sound engineer Bruce Jackson, Felton Jarvis, Bill Porter and almost every member of the troupe.
Elvis also thanks the audience and despite any conspiracy theory Elvis does actually state "If you want us back just let us know, and we’ll come back!"
With that and a sweet ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ Elvis left the building for the very final time.
Super-8 Magic Of '77 - The Fan-video DVDS.
Both fan-footage DVDs run about 2 ½ hours each, and of the total of five hours of footage an incredible 2 hours is previously unreleased.
With all the footage coming from fan-held video cameras you cannot expect great quality throughout, although the quality here has been improved on any of the clips I have seen before. Of course much of it is shot too far away, or blurred, but it is what one has to expect from home-video.
The vision is lip-synced to the concert audio throughout although due to the nature of the footage (most cameras held hardly any length of film in those days) the majority of songs have to be very short clips.
There is also no ‘song selection’ option on any of the concert, presumably due to this.
To pad out between available camera video there is a liberal use of panning-shots through the audience which at times become repetitive. However watching the various film-footage edited together and with lip-synced audio is far more enjoyable than previous poor-quality versions I have seen (and bought!).
(Right:A screen-grab from the Charlotte footage)
Incredibly the fan-footage uses some multiple camera angles where this is possible! This is astounding and the first time I have seen this done with this kind of material.
The most fascinating material for everyone will probably be the final two concerts of Cincinnati (21 minutes) and Indianapolis (37 minutes) where away from the stress of the CBS cameras Elvis is far more relaxed and in great form.
Cincinnati highlights include 'Unchained Melody' some amazingly good quality camera footage at times - plus the 2-camera angles used for the end of ‘My Way’ – (right) amazing video for fan-footage.
Indianapolis features some surprisingly good quality material - more 2-camera angles where possible.
The versions of ‘Hurt’ - includes different camera angles (right) and previously mentioned last ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ (two camera angles) and 'I Can't Stop Loving You' all show Elvis in a better state that the CBS special.
These are all great to see.
There is some very interesting and rare footage here, for instance the shows from Rochester, May 25th (20 minutes) and Binghamton May 27th (27 minutes).
Previously unseen footage such as Charlotte 20/2/77 is fascinating and other highlights I noticed were Baltimore May 29 (below right), and Macon June 1, that are new to me.
The footage from Chicago May 1st (19 minutes) and
Chicago May 2 (18 minutes)(Above left) is also great to see.
The above screen-grabs via my p/c do not do justice to the moving film-footage but are here to give an idea of the image quality.
DVD 3 – Omaha June 19th CBS Raw Tapes 71 mins
Most fans are aware that the Omaha concert is a very sad affair, Elvis looks bloated and is on very low-battery. The moments where Elvis tries to shake are embarrassing because they are such a poor parody of his previous grandeur. Too many painkillers, Dr Nick! However there are still times when the grin & smile of the real Elvis can be seen breaking through that sadness in his eyes.
This show features several songs that were never played in the much better Rapid City show making this the only professional filmed versions. 'Fairytale', 'Little Sister' plus 'And I Love You So' which is touching and definitely worth seeing as Elvis puts some real emotion into the song. Even the showpiece of 'How Great Thou Art' like far too many songs in the final CBS TV special was ruined with dreadful, pointless, audience cut-aways but here it is complete.
What you really need to know is that this DVD version is complete, from the very first note of the dimmed-lights and "Also Sprach’’ intro to the end of the closing vamp.
While it is the best quality I have ever seen and no longer that horrible "VHS look" that collectors have had to buy in the past. While stating this it is however the poorer of the three CBS tapes here.
Unfortunately EPE owns all the rights to these CBS concerts and images, so while I would like to present screen-grabs you will have to search the internet for those.
EIN cannot afford any legal action that other sites have been threatened with.
DVD 4- Rapid City CBS Raw Tapes - 76 mins
The first footage here is Elvis arriving backstage and meeting Sioux Indian girl, Monique Brave.
In an incongruous twist she presents Elvis with a Sioux "Medallion of Life" while she gets a kiss from Elvis.
This performance made up the vast majority of the CBS special and no wonder because Elvis seems 5 kilos lighter and a much happier man although it is only 2 days later.
As soon as he arrives on stage and he takes a rose from an audience member putting it between his teeth you can see a spark of a happier Elvis that was so missing in Omaha. 'See See Rider' has twice as much energy tonight and when Elvis says, "Just enjoy yourselves and leave the driving to us", this time you feel that he means it. Again several of these tracks never made the TV special. The soulful 'Trying To Get To You' should definitely have been included as well as astounding solo of 'Unchained Melody', the delicate 'Hawaiian Wedding Song' is also a treat to see, with Kathy Westmoreland getting a touching kiss at the end.
Rather strangely the band solos during the Introductions are still missed out from the master-tape, although once again Elvis introducing the actual band members are included!
Where possible the high-quality "In Concert" footage has been used but otherwise outake footage has had to be used - but this time with the ‘Timecode’ blurred out.
Again this is the best quality version I have yet seen.
DVD 5: The CBS ‘In Concert’ TV special - 51 mins
Surely every fan has seen this rather sad affair and has a poor quality VHS copy that no longer plays lying around somewhere? Well you haven't ever seen it in this great quality!
While trying to cover over the cracks of Elvis’ somewhat stumbling performances the producers added totally unnecessary clips of audience members saying nothing whatsoever relevant! They also seemed to remove the emotional heart of Elvis’ performance.
Having said that, the quality of this DVD is amazing and there are plenty of highlights such as ‘Hurt’, ‘How Great Thou Art’ and ‘Early Morning Rain’ to make it still fascinating viewing after all these years.
The DVD starts from the very first "clapper" - and the quality of this is stunning having come from a hi-def digital transfer of an original 2" broadcast tape and would be hard to beat apart from using the original TX master tape.
The book features two fascinating pages that show the TV Rundown sheets of the two CBS concerts with notes as to their idea of the quality of each song Elvis performed. Not surprisingly very few Omaha performances get a high rating, with only 'Hound Dog' and the '2001 Intro' getting the "Star" rating!
DVD 6: "Elvis Is Dead" - 2 hours
The final disc is a bonus DVD of various news related items from the USA mainly from August 16-18th.
The footage is of varying quality, some of it pretty poor, but I guess it is only here for historical interest.
There are six basic chapters focussing on ecah day Aug 16, Aug 17 as well as the US newscasters themselves.
It finishes with the ABC 'Love Me Tender' TV special with Geraldo Rivera with interviews including those with Charlie Hodge and Joe Esposito - oddly it also includes a colourised 'Jailhose Rock' but with Chinese subtitles!
A nice bonus and while certainly not the core of the box-set this DVD still helps complete this astoundingly detailed look at Elvis in his final year.
EIN contributor Nina Tryggvason sent us these interesting comments about the 'Elvis Is Dead' Bonus DVD that are worth noting.
... It is interesting to compare the style of news programs then and now.
One thing that was really driven home to me is how much more is known about Elvis than during his lifetime, or maybe how lazy news researchers were to get so many basic facts wrong. Including one newscaster who referred to Priscilla as Elvis' childhood sweetheart and said Elvis got into recording as a lark when he did a demo at Sun when he was 25!
I have a disc of TV broadcasts from Memphis the week of Elvis' death and the contrast between the more national broadcast and the local ones is startling. You really can't watch the Memphis ones without crying in response to the anguish the newscasters showed, while the national broadcasters are in that "Dirty Laundry" mode of not really responding to the terrible news they are informing us of.
But, I think Elvis' last months of his life and career are as important as the first few months and year of his career - watching Elvis go from struggling to bring a new sound to the world to struggling to just maintain at the end.
Elvis' career accomplishments seem to have been in spite of his management, and I have to wonder what more he could have accomplished or how much longer he would have lived, had Elvis wielded the power his talent earned him.
Overall Verdict: If you only want to see Elvis in all his magnificent glory of ‘TTWII’ or even ‘Aloha’ then steer well clear of this detailed look at Elvis’ final few months. However if you are interested in this period of emotional turmoil as Elvis still managed to turn in some fine performances for his loving fans, then this is the ultimate collector’s dream.
It doesn’t sell Elvis’ story short, and you do come away with a better understanding of how hard the period was for him and what he had to go through. The nicest surprise being the amazing number of photos of Elvis actually looking happy and enjoying being on stage.
With three unreleased soundboards, a great collection of concert highlights, the best quality DVD 1977 footage we have yet seen and a very stylish heavyweight book, this package is as impressive as all its pre-publicity. I can't imagine this being beaten by any future release.
However if you haven’t yet bought a copy you are already too late! I only hope that Boxcar send EPE a copy to show them how Elvis’ releases should be done.
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Note that EIN does not sell any bootlegs and being in Australia we are miles away from any "Bootleg" action. We also do not support bootleggers since they do deprive songwriters & musicians of their well-deserved earnings.
We also strongly support FTD for all they do in putting out great product to the fans and beating Bootleggers at their own game.
BUT after all, if this 1977 product was officially released then the Bootleggers would go out of business without the need of lawyer's involvement.
Review by Piers Beagley.
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