Another "Genre" CD and possibly the most interesting as it gathers 20 of Elvis best stage performances, in upgraded audio, to create an energy-packed concert demonstrating the magnificence of Elvis LIVE.
Surely every Elvis fan has their preferred live performances and most will have compiled their own favourite songs to create a personal "Best Of" concert CD. - Back in 2001 BMG released Elvis' "The Live Greatest Hits" which was an interesting selection of tracks (see below) and well-worth repeat playing. It featured a few strange choices (a very rough 'I've Lost You' and not the single version of 'The Wonder Of You') plus the usual complaint that it was a "fake concert". However from the rockin' intro of 'Blue Suede Shoes' to 'Can't Help Falling in Love' with 21 LIVE hits in 61 minutes it wasn't bad at all. It was also a full-price album.
Now in 2006 'Elvis: Live', the new genre CD, is a similar project and this time described as "Elvis’ Greatest Live Hits" which, in fact, can be interpreted slightly differently.
Featuring 20 tracks, extraordinarily it has only TWO tracks (Aloha's 'Burning Love' & ‘American Trilogy’) repeated from the previous 2001 compile - and it runs 72 minutes. Best of all, the audio has been remastered for the majority of tracks (great work by Vic Anesini - 'Close Up' etc) which means you can CRANK IT UP and enjoy Elvis at Full Blast. It even features the magnificent 7 minute version of the 'Elvis: In Person' 'Suspicious Minds.' Plus, like all the "Genre" issues, it is a mid-price CD.
Given an 80 minute CD to compile the selection is fairly obvious, but there are very few of these songs that I would miss out.
The audio-mix is excellent as Elvis slides gracefully, without pause, from 1969's 'Suspicious Minds' to 1970's 'The Wonder Of You' to 'Polk Salad Annie'. And although not a genuine concert, the CD represents a real power-packed show, nicely paced with some inspired ballads. The only real obvious complaint being, where is the grand finale of 'Can't Help Falling in Love'?
The track selection is excellent (although a 1970, rather than ’69, ‘In The Ghetto’ might have been my choice) and the various sources have been matched so that they sound as if they are from the same concert. A nice touch is 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' which is the excellent 'Platinum' version at last placed into a 'concert' context. It's an impressive collection.
From an audio upgrade perspective, the remastering has put a new shine onto a lot of the tracks and the 'On Stage' tracks have been deliciously improved with 'Polk Salad Annie' sounding better than ever. James Burton's guitar really rings out and Jerry Scheff's bass is nice & full. In fact all the 'On Stage' tracks are less muddied & really rock out.
The 1969 'In Person' selections are a similar mix to the original but the 'Aloha' tracks sound very different. On these the Honolulu audience has been faded back compared to the 1998 CD, allowing the band to have a better prominence. Interestingly the speed of the 'Aloha' tracks has also been corrected compared to the original CD (they play slightly faster now) and there is a clearer mix of the orchestra & brass. One oddity I noticed was the strings being mixed too low on 'What Now My Love'?
Another highlight is 'Walk A Mile In My Shoes' which has never sounded better, with a real clarity to the stereo mix and particularly the piano. Even John Wilkinson's rhythm guitar becomes a feature here! Quite fabulous & worth investigating.
Unfortunately the cover design is fairly ordinary and although someone at BMG believes this is a "modern look" they should check the stunning covers of recent chart-topping albums. The way-too-muted design will only help to relegate them to back of the record store shelves. Surely an 'Elvis LIVE' cover should be a dynamic explosive "Elvis in concert" image. Just compare it to some recent big-selling CDs below & their designs. In contrast to them you can hardly see Elvis at all.
Who decided on the murky Elvis 'genre' design?
Right: Three other recent charting CDs.
The short sleeve notes also mention Elvis' fabulous on-stage persona...
"Elvis had honed his act in Las Vegas during long runs in the gilded showroom of the International Hotel, starting in the summer of `69. Though Vegas had become the final creative resting-place for many a once-vital performer, Elvis transcended his surroundings, rattling the complacency of the hotel's pampered patrons with his very presence. The late rock critic Lester Bangs,
a hipper-than-thou character usually more at home with the likes of Lou Reed or Iggy Pop, proved that no one could be unmoved by Elvis: "When I looked at him I went mad with desire and envy and worship and self-projection. I mean, Mick Jagger never even came close."
But never mind, the real joy here is that you can turn it up and let it rock you! Even better, if you have a surround-sound system try out the CD in Dolby pro-logic and soak up the surround-sound audience feeling.
Interestingly 'Never Been To Spain' (1972, 70s boxset) sounds similar to its previous release and don't be fooled because 'You Gave Me a Mountain' and 'American Trilogy' are the Aloha versions - not "1972" as indicated on the cover. Perhaps this is a little disappointing as the official 1972 release of 'You Gave Me a Mountain' has the better pacing, and the 1972 single 'American Trilogy' (fabulous on ‘2nd To None’) is also the definitive classic.
A minor complaint it is that while the whole CD is compiled to feel like a complete & "real concert", it strangely stops to complete silence at four points which destroys the desired effect. The break before 'Bridge' is unnecessary and whereas Aloha's ‘American Trilogy' fades smoothly into 1972's ‘Never Been To Spain', there are silly gaps before 'How Great Thou Art' and 'Unchained Melody'. These things are hard to understand. Ok, while I'm at it, why is the fake audience overdub version still being used on the 1974 'How Great Thou Art'?!
And where is the grand finale, 'Can't Help Falling in Love'? This is both one of Elvis' "Live Greatest Hits" as well as being one of his "Greatest Live Hits" and no concert can be compete without it. There is also the perfect time left on the CD for it to fit. The finale here of 'Unchained Melody' (1977) gets to a dramatic end but then there is no real closure of an emotional, "Thank You, you're a beautiful audience, take it home". (BMG could even have tempted us with a 'unreleased' Hampton Roads version!)
However this CD is not really aimed at the over-keen Elvis collector but at the general public, and to them it should be just fine. But I do wish BMG had used the marketing opportunity of adding "If you enjoyed Elvis' live performances here, why not try these other great Elvis in Concert selections". The Colonel would be ashamed!
Verdict: Obviously aimed at the General Public this is actually a very fine LIVE compilation for all Elvis fans. I understand that the idea of a "fake" concert bothers a few hard-core fans and this is not for you. But the selection of songs, 72 minutes of Elvis concert magnificence, in upgraded audio quality, and at a cheap price! What more could you ask for? Worth searching out - ask for it at your local CD store.
Released. August 2006.
BMG - 82876857512.
Tracklist & sources:
1. See See Rider 1970 (On Stage)
2. Johnny B. Goode 1969 (In Person)
3. Medley: Mystery Train/Tiger Man 1969 (In Person)
4. In the Ghetto 1969 (In Person)
5. Suspicious Minds 1969 (In Person)
6. The Wonder of You 1970 (On Stage. Single version)
7. Polk Salad Annie 1970 (On Stage)
8. Walk a Mile in My Shoes 1970 (On Stage)
9. You've Lost That Loving Feeling 1970 (TTWII)
10. I Just Can't Help Believin' 1970 (TTWII, Single version)
11. Bridge Over Troubled Water 1970 (Platinum - August 11)
12. You Gave Me a Mountain 1973 (Aloha - sleeve says 1972)
13. American Trilogy 1973 (Aloha - sleeve says 1972)
14. Never Been to Spain 1972 (70s boxset)
15. What Now My Love 1973 (Aloha)
16. Burning Love 1973 (Aloha)
17. My Way 1973 (Aloha)
18. Steamroller Blues 1973 (Aloha)
19. How Great Thou Art 1974 (Live In Memphis, overdubbed version)
20. Unchained Melody 1977 (Moody Blue, overdubbed version)
Review by Piers Beagley
-Copyright EIN, September 2006
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Tracklist & sources:
Elvis: 'The Live Greatest Hits'.
I'm not sure whether the differing track selection of 'Elvis: Live' to the earlier 2001 'Live Greatest Hits' is deliberate or not. Ernst was not actually involved with the previous compile, although Roger Semon is credited on both but this helps make them both a worthy purchase, if these ‘fake’ compiles interest you.
1. Blue Suede Shoes 1969 (In Person)
2. Heartbreak Hotel 1969 (Collectors' Gold)
3. Jailhouse Rock/Don't Be Cruel 1969 (Live In las Vegas)
4. Are You Lonesome Tonight? 1969 (In Person)
5. One Night 1970 (TTWII boxset)
6. I've Lost You 1970 (One Night In Vegas)
7. I Just Can't Help Believin' 1970 (One Night In Vegas)
8. In the Ghetto 1970 (Elvis - The Concert)
9. Don't Cry Daddy 1970 (On Stage)
10. Kentucky Rain 1970 (On Stage)
11. The Wonder of You 1970 (first release)
12. Polk Salad Annie 1970 (One Night In Vegas)
13. Suspicious Minds 1970 (TTWII boxset)
14. All Shook Up 1972 (An Afternoon In The Garden)
15. Hound Dog 1972 (An Afternoon In The Garden)
16. You Don't Have to Say You Love Me 1972 (An Afternoon In The Garden)
17. Until It's Time for You to Go (1972 (An Afternoon In The Garden)
18. Burning Love 1973 (Aloha)
19. An American Trilogy 1973 (Aloha)
20. A Big Hunk o' Love 1973 (Aloha)
21. Can't Help Falling in Love 1973 (Aloha)
Click here for Genre CD review of 'Elvis: R&B'
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'Elvis: Live' BMG "Best OF" Genre - CD review:
25 Reasons to get 'Close Up' the Box-set
'ELVIS Viva Las Vegas': BMG 2-CD LIVE 2007 review:
Review - FTD 'At The International'
Click here for FTD review of 'One Night In Vegas'
Click here for FTD review of 'Live In Memphis'