Although having turned forty earlier in the year and having also been hospitalised Elvis’ March 1975 Vegas season, his 12th in Las Vegas, found him back in fine form.
Despite the fact that ill health had caused his regular January season to be postponed for two months, Elvis’ mood had improved, perhaps due to the new presence of girlfriend Sheila Ryan.
Elvis had recorded his final studio album ‘Today’ only one week before and although the album wouldn’t be released until May 1975 Elvis was happy to include 3 new songs from it in his set-list. Sheila Ryan was also in the studio for the session and helped inspire Elvis’ delightful performance of ‘And I Love You So’.
Officially released concerts such as Dixieland Rocks, the fascinating ‘Southern Nights’ and ‘Big Boss Man’ all show Elvis in good humour and happy to be on stage.
Gone were his regular jumpsuits along with his 1974 Karate rambles to the audience.
The FTD ‘Big Boss Man’ showcased Elvis’ fine performance from March 30th Dinner Show (Barbra Streisand was in the audience) but this Midnight concert from Friday March 22nd has always been a fan favourite and is one of Elvis’ best Vegas concerts from 1975.
Originally released by Fort Baxter on their ‘A Profile Vol.2’ box-set it was the best concert in the series. Now 12 years later it is upgraded and re-released by the Audionics/Fort Baxter team – the 4th in their ‘Classic Concerts’ series.
1975 was the last time that Elvis made any major changes to his repertoire and the new additions created a fascinating concert, as well as keeping it fresh for Elvis and the band.
The 16 page booklet features some great photos of Elvis looking cool in his two-piece suits – so much more stylish than the terrible jumpsuits he would wear in 1976 – and some fine sleeve notes by ‘Suave Harv’ which also helps place the night in historical context. . .
"For visitors to Vegas in March 1975, those choosing not to gamble would have had a more conventional choice of music for their evening's entertainment. Petula Clark was playing the Riviera, with The Stylistics, Fabian was down the road at the MGM Grand, and Sinatra himself was swinging out of retirement and packing them in at Ceasar's palace.
Over at the Hilton, of course, Elvis was back in town, and as usual, was creating as buzz all over the City. The devoted travelled from all over the world to attend the King's court. Much to the dismay of the Hilton management, these fans largely ignored the clatter of the roulette wheels and one armed bandits.
Elvis was a major concert draw in 1975. His tours and residencies at Vegas and Tahoe always sold out."
The sleeve design is a nice homage to the very seventies rainbow design of the 1972 'Elvis Now' album.
From the brooding 2001 intro one can notice the audio improvement and while not as exciting as the stereo ‘High Voltage’ audio-upgrade there is now less peak distortion on Elvis’ vocals and, best of all, the speed has been corrected. The original Fort Baxter ‘A Profile’ ran a tad too slow which made the ballads drag a little. (‘And I Love You So’ sounds much better here). The original tape from this night unfortunately isn’t as full-sounding as the ‘Big Boss Man’ FTD, however the audio improvement here is noticeable over previous versions, even on official releases.
Right from the punchy start of ‘C. C. Rider’ Elvis is obviously on good form as he plays with the words. Listen out for his wonderful deep ‘oh yeah’ @00.33 on ‘I Got A Woman’. While he does fluff the start of the second verse it’s not in his later absent minded way. You know that Elvis is up for a good night when he also stops the song to laugh about his curled lip, "Wait, my lip ain’t working. . . I went fishing one day with my Uncle and the hook got caught on my lip like that. . . Everybody thought ‘He’s trying to be sexy’!"
Saying hello to the audience Elvis apologises for his lip-sore, "Someone put the hoomie on me. I’ve got the creeping-crud right here. If you want to catch it I’ll be glad to share it with you!"
Of course it is the new songs that Elvis treats most passionately and the variation to the set-list makes it a fine selection including ‘Fairytale’, ‘And I Love You So,’ ‘Green Green Grass Of Home’ and even ‘I’ll Remember You’ makes a return after a nearly 2 year gap.
Even the slight ‘If You Love Me, Let Me Know’ finds Elvis really enjoying the song and working along with the backing-vocals. His enthusiasm shows as he sings along right at the start before the start of the verse and this is a much punchier version than from the ‘Big Boss Man’ dinner show.
The first highlight is ‘And I Love You So’ which is a beautifully understated version which would, of course, been totally new to the audience. The soundboard mix here of the orchestra and band is extremely good.
Showing his enjoyment Elvis kicks the pace along with, "Quick, get onto the next song" and it’s a rockin’ ‘Big Boss Man’ with Elvis really digging into the words and adding a nice falsetto @02.10 to the mix.
Once again it’s straight into the magnificent ‘It’s Midnight’ (his last single) and one of Elvis’ best performances of this song. Beautifully sung you can feel Elvis’ emotions and in this recording the touching soprano replies from Kathy Westmoreland blend extremely well.
Elvis had somewhat cut back on the "oldies" this season (what no ‘Love Me Tender’ or ‘Jailhouse Rock’?!) and one sure hopes that the audience appreciated what a fine show they were getting - but being a Vegas crowd, probably not!
Charlie Hodge then suggests ‘Burning Love’ but Elvis chooses a spontaneous ‘Green Green Grass of Home’ instead joking, "I don’t wanna do nothing hard!."
A favourite song of Elvis’ this is another classic live version (Elvis is only known to have sung this live four times in concert). The spoken part is touching as Elvis recounts, "Arm in arm we’ll walk at daybreak." And you wonder if Elvis is thinking of Graceland or possibly the less complicated earlier times of Tupelo.
‘Fairytale’ is taken at a cool pace with some excellent guitar work from James Burton and with a great audio mix too. This is yet another track which would have been a total surprise to the audience. It’s one of Elvis best versions as he adds a sincere edge of anger to his vocal as he sings, "I’ve been lost in a dream, pretending that you care."
In 1975 the introductions were thankfully still short & sweet but Elvis still has some fun with the band. Glen Hardin gets the intro, "Play it Jerry Lee", while Elvis also explains to the audience that, "I’m only allowed on stage for 55 minutes to one hour. We’ve got 62 more songs to do!"
‘My Boy’, his most recent single from January, gets a great crowd reaction and Elvis sings a very touching and sincere version. Elvis plays with his vocal and holds the note @ 03.02 – very stirring nice indeed. The performance gets one of the biggest ovations of the night.
Elvis follows with a touching ‘I’ll Remember You’ which includes some crowd interaction causing Elvis to laugh on the last lines. It doesn’t however detract from the song as it only shows how much Elvis was enjoying being on stage that night.
Elvis is still laughing as he sings the first verse of ‘Let Me Be There’ before he performs the compulsory crowd-pleasers of ‘Teddy Bear/Don’t Be Cruel/Hound Dog’.
Elvis is only known to have sung Bobby Darin’s 1963 hit ‘You’re The Reason I’m Living’ once in concert and this concert was the very night.
Preceded by two lines of ‘I’ll Be There’ this was also featured on the BMG box-set ‘Live In Las Vegas’ as well as a bonus track on ‘Big Boss Man.’ However the audio is speed corrected here and it’s a classic performance as Elvis admits that it was, "Totally unrehearsed. We’ve never done that song in our natural lives!" It’s such a spontaneous version as Elvis has to instruct the band as he sings, and it’s great to hear it in the context of the complete show.
After acknowledging his thanks to the crowd for the flowers that both he and his Father received when they were in hospital earlier in the year Elvis heads on home with ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love.’
The only real disappointment here is that the Vegas Hilton wanted his audience back to the poker machines and wouldn’t allow Elvis to play longer.
There is also the very short hidden bonus track of the one verse of ‘Roses Are Red’ captured on a bad audience tape from the Dinner show the same evening. It’s a cute bonus but of very poor quality.
Verdict: One of Elvis’ very best Las Vegas concerts from 1975 featuring an unusual and totally unique set-list. If you are a collector and missed out on the original bootleg version on ‘A Profile Vol.2’ then this is an essential purchase. However this is also a worthy upgrade to another classic concert and what we have come to expect from the Audionics/Fort Baxter team.
Review by Piers Beagley
Copyright EIN - September 2008
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Note - EIN does not support bootleggers since they do deprive songwriters & musicians of their well-deserved earnings. There is however no doubt that FTD/BMG check on these similar 'Classic Concerts' upgrades for future collector's releases as in the upcoming 'Nevada Nights'.