'Good To Be Back'
By Armond Joseph & Piers Beagley
Elvis was back in top form vocally in late ’75 after a three month relax and the December 13th, Midnight Show stands out as one of the finest from this engagement. This show was the first soundboard to be released on bootleg back in ’91, causing quite a sensation at the time. 20 years on, Gravel Road Music have re-released the album using renowned ProTools technology to improve the sound quality to the best.
Presented in a stunning digi-pack with numerous photos from the actual show, memorabilia related to this engagement, intelligently written liner-notes packed in a 28 pages booklet. The release also features a special limited 'Concert Tour ’75 Photo Folio' with some totally new color photos in high quality from the '75 Tours.
EIN contributor Armond Joseph reviews this great release.
Gravel Road Music (GRM) titled their current release "Good To Be Back" probably in reference to a statement Elvis made during the closing show on December 15, 1975: "I would like to say a few words, um, about how good it is to be back to work again." And indeed it was good; as Elvis performed all 16 shows of this season (December 2nd through December 15th) with high energy and enthusiasm.
The prior Vegas engagement, August 18th through September 1st, was cancelled after five shows due to illness.
So for the previous three months Elvis had relaxed on a well-deserved break, Linda Thompson had also returned after a brief separation, and Elvis had also taken delivery of the Lisa Marie jet in November so things were again looking up.
Out of this season, GRM delivers the midnight show from December 13th for the third time as an import
CD. While the earlier Dinner Show from this date has been officially released by FTD on 'Dinner For Eight', Elvis always preferred the Midnight concerts and with Linda Thompson and her parents in the audience Elvis was inspired to put on one of his best Vegas shows.
Fort Baxter released the show back in 1991; an excellent production, though filtered and edited (the reprise of School Days and introduction of Lisa Marie was dropped). The Yellow Dog label released the show again in 1993 under the title "Unsurpassed Masters Volume 4," this time in lesser quality, and without any editing or filtering.
And of course RCA released two singles from this show, "America The Beautiful" (1977) and "Softly As I Leave You" (1978), and again on the long out of print compilation "The Silver Box" (1980). The Fort Baxter release has been highly regarded as one of the best import CD's ever produced. So, is there much to be gained from GRM giving us this well-known show for a third time? The answer is a resounding Yes!
First, let's take a look at the packaging. The CD comes in a tri-fold digi-pack, which includes outstanding artwork and easy to read graphics. The text explains that Elvis was "Back In Business". It boasts loads of pictures from the actual show, a photo of the "souvenir bag" handed out on the opening night and the Elvis Christmas card from 1975. A bit the story behind the origin of the Silver Phoenix suit is also included. A 27 page booklet jam packed with more photos and relevant information is tucked neatly into the inner fold. And to top it all off, GRM included a "special product," an 8 inch square photo album on glossy, heavy weighted print.
The album shows various shots of Elvis on tour in 1975, obviously captured by a professional photographer, and clearly showing a handsome Elvis enjoying himself on stage. The photo album is incredible!
Okay, now for the show. I won't take you through every song, but suffice it to say that Elvis put together a fantastic song set that includes top notch performances of Tryin' To Get To You, Help Me Make It Through The Night, Just Pretend, How Great Thou Art, Softly As I Leave You, America The Beautiful, It's Now Or Never, and Little Sister.
Right from the start Elvis and the band are really rocking out - several notches up from the earlier Dinner Show.
Ronnie Tutt's drumming is total dynamite all the way through, even leading Elvis to comment after 'C C Rider', "What happened to the drummer, did you drink some gatorade between shows? That's the hardest you've played.. Did you decide to go crazy?"
The audio mix for a soundboard is excellent. James Burton's guitar is nice and clear as is Elvis' vocal and the placing of the orchestra. Also The Sweet Inspirations are deliciously prominent at times, like in the cracking version of 'Burning Love' giving the show a very soulful sound - it's a great version.
Elvis is also in great humour, at one point stating, "The lighting man is cutting me from the waist up. It's the same guy who worked on the Ed Sullivan show. You're not kidding me!"
One of my favorite parts of the show is the reprise of 'School Days' (the orchestra intro song). Yes, that's right, I said School Days. What makes it one of my favorite moments is not the song itself, but that Elvis asks "Joe" to reprise the end and to "feature Tony" (the orchestra's electric guitarist) because his parents were in the audience. Elvis says, "Hey Joe, do you mind doin' that last part again and featuring Tony on the guitar? His
mother and father are out there." Of course Joe agrees, and Tony goes nuts on the reprise! I can only imagine that his parents were thrilled. It was a very nice and giving gesture by Elvis, one that reminds me of his generous
While we all know the fabulous song 'Just Pretend' from the 1970 film TTWII it is interesting to note that Elvis only performed the song twice in 1970 (August 11 and 12th) and then only 3 more times, the last time being in 1972. It was innovative for Elvis putting it back into the setlist for this 1975 season. Strangely Elvis also only sang the song at the Dinner or the Midnight show, never at both. This night's version is marvellous and Elvis would only sing it two more times in his career.
'Help Me Make It Through The Night' is another rare performance only sung on this day due to Linda Thompson's parents being in the audience. Elvis had only perfromed the song seven times since 1973 and again would only sing it another four times in his career.
After 'Burning Love' Elvis genuinely asks the audience, "Is there anything you'd like to hear, specially?"
Interestingly this leads Elvis to sing 'Welcome To My World' but unfortunately stopping after the first verse. This would be the only time Elvis would sing the song outside the two Aloha performances.
Another very rare oddity is that after the "regular" version of 'It's Now Or Never' Elvis would then ask for the Italian lyrics from Sherrill Neilsen and go on to perform 'O Sole Mio' singing the lyrics in Italian.
The excellent website 'Elvis Presley In Concert' suggests that Elvis only did this 4 times in his career.
'Little Sister' would be another rocking real treat this night. Elvis only sang it four times this Vegas season and it is a suprise to find that he had only performed it once since 1972!
The other big moment is when Elvis sings 'How Great Thou Art'. You may have read that it's the best live performance Elvis gives of this song, and that is absolutely correct! Not only does he sing it with passion, but he also hits and holds the high note at the end, all by himself. The backup singers get nowhere close to matching his note! And on the reprise, he hits again....all by himself. I've listened to it hundreds of times over the years, and still to this day, it gives me goose bumps to hear it.
I could go on and on about the great performances Elvis gave on this night.
Let me just say that if you haven't heard this show, I hope that you'll get to someday.
A notable positive for some about this Las Vegas season might be that Elvis left both the Olivia Newton John songs out of his set-list - which I believe creates a much punchier rock'n'roll flow to the whole concert.
|So what about the sound quality? There are sound quality comments all over the board about this show on various Elvis web-sites. Here's my take on it. The sound quality is better than the Fort Baxter release in that GRM has toned down some of the distortion from the mic-overloads, and because they increased the gain (somewhat) on the lower volume "talking" moments of the show. That being said, it's still hard to hear what Elvis is saying in some spots as he speaks to the audience.
Also, GRM has given us the entirety of what was recorded, as did Yellow Dog back in 1993, but the GRM release is miles ahead of what Yellow Dog put out, both in clarity and balance. This probably means little to you if you've never heard the show, so let me put it in the context of an FTD release. The sound quality of the GRM product is pretty close to what you hear on FTD's Tucson 76, and slightly less in quality than FTD's Dinner At Eight (dinner show from the same night). Overall, Good To Be Back is clear and well balanced.... one of the better soundboard recordings.
Overall Verdict: This is a very stylish and professional presentation from
Gravel Road Music of one of Elvis' best shows from this December 1975 Las Vegas
season. Unfortunately since FTD have already released the Dinner show from the
very same day, it seems extremely unlikely that they would release this
sensational Midnight performance. Whether you've owned this show in the past or
not, I highly recommend buying this fantastic release.
Review by Armond Joseph - with additional input from Piers Beagley
-Copyright EIN February 2011
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Midnight Show, December 13th 1975
1. C.C. Rider
2. I Got A Woman - Amen
3. Love Me
4. Tryin To Get To You
5. And I Love You So
6. All Shook Up
7. Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel
8. You Gave Me A Mountain (with false start)
9. Help Me Make It Through The Night
10. Polk Salad Annie
11. Band Introductions
12. Johnny B. Goode (by James Burton)
13. Drum Solo (by Ronnie Tutt)
14. Bass Solo (by Jerry Scheff)
15. Piano Solo (by Glen D. Hardin)
16. School Day
17. School Day Reprise
18. Just Pretend
19. How Great Thou Art (with reprise)
20. Burning Love
21. Hound Dog
22. Welcome To My World (partly)
23. Softly As I Leave You (with Sherrill Nielsen)
24. America,The Beautiful
25. Its Now Or Never
26. 'O Sole Mio (sung in Italian by Elvis)
27. Little Darlin'
28. Little Sister
29. Cant Help Falling In Love
30. Closing Vamp.
MORE EIN relevant reviews and information for 1974, 1975.
FTD 'Dinner At Eight' review Las Vegas, December 1975
'Bringing It All Back Home' CD/Book Review March 16, 1974, June 10th 1975.
BMG 'Elvis LIVE' review
FTD Dixieland Rocks review - May 6 1975
FTD - Southern Nights - April, May, June 1975
FTD Big Boss Man review Las Vegas, March 28th 1975
'Moving Mobile' review June 2nd 1975
Asheville 1975 Closing Show, 'Pieces Of My Life' review
Ernst Jorgensen’s interview about ‘Southern Nights’
Elvis in 1974.
Venus productions 'Black Angels in Vegas' book/CD review
FTD 'Elvis: Live On Stage In Memphis' March 1974 review
FTD 'It's Midnight' Vegas August 1974 review
FTD 'I Found My Thrill' January 1974 Vegas review
'Chaos in College Park' review/spotlight September 27/28 1974
FTD 'Dragonheart' Oct 1st South Bend review. 3 days after College Park!
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