'The Impossible Dream'
- FTD CD review -
- In-depth review by Piers Beagley -
By Elvis' 4th season in Las Vegas the excitement & novelty of live performing in front of the gambling crowd was already wearing off.
After the dynamic performances of the previous 'That's The Way It Is' shows Elvis had conquered Vegas and had little more to prove to the casino rollers.
Having already tasted the intensity of being On Tour and regular audiences of 12,000 or more, the International showroom was becoming just another job.
While Elvis stated in 1972 that "Every song is like we do it for the first time…The feeling is there every time.. We never let it down, 'cos there is a new audience out there", he obviously wasn't following his own advice during these pretty sloppy, early 1971 shows.
Understandably RCA/BMG have never released a live concert from this period and although fans have been demanding a 1971 live release, Ernst & FTD were never going to be able to satisfy everyone with this CD for a variety of reasons.
1. If they issued the excellent Jan 27th Midnight show then they would be damned by people who already owned the 'All Things Are Possible' bootleg.
2. If they issued a substandard newly found show then FTD would be blamed for not showing Elvis in a better light.
3. If they issued a compile of 'best moments', then FTD would be blamed for not issuing a complete show and misrepresenting Elvis' true history.
FTD bravely decided to go with issuing the previously unavailable Jan 28th Dinner Show along with some compiled bonus songs. However this time it just doesn't work, especially when compared to the quality of the previous TTWII shows and also the '1974 Live In Memphis' FTD release of the same time.
In 1971 The Hilton asked Elvis to keep his performances under an hour (so the audience would get back to gambling!) and maybe this new directive, along with the disappointment of doing Dinner shows, increased Elvis' dissatisfaction.
The cover photo is one of FTD's best but the large red ELVIS letters on the front (deliberately obscuring a great photo of Elvis) seem to emphasise the potential power & excitement of this live show. And the start certainly is exciting using tracks from the Opening night.
The concert has been taken from Soundboard cassettes and although the quality variesa little, depending on the concert, they are all of pretty good quality. Perhaps the slight annoyance is the lack of sound coming back from the audience which can make the live concert seem pretty distant at times. Fans must realise that these are NOT from multi-track professional recording like the quality of 1972's ‘Afternoon at The Garden’ nor like the great sound on FTD’s recent Polk Salad Annie from Feb 1970.
Here we have the very first use of 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' as the dynamic introduction followed by a powerhouse 'That's All Right'. At this point we move onto the newly discovered Jan 28th Dinner show during which Elvis plays it very loose, with lots of lyric changes, laughing and several false starts. Elvis stops 'Sweet Caroline' for apparently no reason and apologises saying, "That's the way we do things up here"! Hardly professional, and this is repeated on several performances, with some songs also cut very short.
After a vague start on 'Love Me' Elvis just gives up after one verse. He explains to the audience, "You see what's really funny is these people don't know what I'm going to do 'cos we know like 200 songs and so …" but it hardly justifies the ramshackle nature of the show for fans who may be seeing Elvis for the first & only time.
However there is no doubt that, following the instructions from management, Elvis does pack in the songs keeping them extremely short. This is a shame when 'Polk Salad Annie' is funky & fast and Elvis appears to be enjoying it but then cuts it down to only 2 minutes! He also misses out telling the intro story that he used so effectively the previous year.
Similarly Elvis sounds fine on 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling' - listen to his pleading on "Something beautiful's dying" - but again he suddenly asks for the end after just 2 ½ minutes.
While there are some good performances, a song like 'Something' unfortunately seems spoiled by Elvis' laughing towards the end. (The 'All Things Are Possible' version is more sincere and there he even does a delightful reprise with Kathy Westmoreland).
In the main show an appreciated 'It's Now Or Never' is introduced to Elvis' (70's) set list for the first time and 'Johnny B Goode' (edited in & obviously showing the true excitement of the Opening show) is a blistering performance.
||I am sure if you were at the concert then 'Suspicious Minds' would have been a stunner but the audio mix is a little thin here, which lets it down.
There is no doubt that the highlight of the show is the finale and the total stunner of 'The Impossible Dream'. One of Elvis' best versions with an extended intro and a great audio mix, along with a delicious & unusual solo from the Imperials' Armond Morales. This track alone is an essential addition to your collection.
Elvis always worked harder and had more fun with the Midnight Shows and the Jan 27th Midnight show (featured on the bootleg "All Thing Are Possible") demonstrated how good Elvis could be if he put his mind to it.
The majority of the Bonus tracks are from this concert which somewhat emphasises the disappointment of the featured Dinner Show. 'Mystery Train/Tiger Man' again from the Opening night has power & energy and the fun Elvis intro of "Good evening ladies & gentlemen. My name is Johnny Cash.. "
'Love Me' is fabulous, a great audio mix and some mean chickin-pickin' guitar from James Burton. Here Elvis sings it with unusual sincerity, obviously digging James' guitar. At the end you can hear Elvis call for the rockin' 'One Night' which for some reason has been strangely left off this CD.
'There Goes My Everything' sung with the enthusiasm of a Midnight show is excellent and 'Make The World Go Away' shows Elvis in good humour and James Burton's guitar work shines.
Both 'Only Believe' and 'Snowbird' previously only available on bootlegs are both absolute treats and again vital for your collection. On 'Only Believe', a one-off live version, Elvis puts his soul into the lyrics. Listen to "I believe, yeah, yes, I believe" @ 1.50 and you know that Elvis really did! With the backing vocals just right this is sensational, just brilliant.
'Snowbird' is fascinating mainly because it is performed so spontaneously. Elvis asks the audience "Do you like the song Snowbird? We don't know it but if you like it we'll do it!" It is a treat and in vastly improved audio quality than on the bootleg of the same name. (However FTD have been slack in not editing out the bad tape stretch @1.14 that was fixed up in the bootleg). Again Elvis comments oddly to the audience, "I ain't gonna work too hard tonight. Hell, I just got through eating."!
Elvis started singing 'How Great thou Art' in November 1970 but this is the first official live release. Unfortunately Elvis stops the beginning complaining, "You better light this stage up or I'm going to fall off it, fool. If I fall off onto one of these tables there are going to sue the hell out of me!" He then fools around during the song and realises that he has to apologise for it afterwards. Interestingly in the context of the dynamic 'All Thing Are Possible' Midnight show this always sounded forgivable and fun, however here as a featured Bonus Song it just sounds plain sloppy and should have been left out.
The closer is the out-of-context 'Can't Help Falling In Love' that was actually played mid-show on Opening night as producer Hal Wallis was in the audience. In the real concert Elvis dedicates the song to "Mr Wallis who still makes very good films" but here they have used the 'Goodnight' speech from before 'The Impossible Dream' closer of Jan 29th. Elvis' comment to a girl from Atlanta, "People from Atlanta think that when they die they go to Memphis" is very spontaneous & cute though.
I applaud FTD for releasing anything new and for those who don't own bootlegs there are multiple treats here that do make this worth buying. However if the majority of FTD buyers don't own all the bootlegs, releasing 'All Things are Possible' in better audio with different bonus songs would have made greater sense. This would also have been a far more enjoyable CD, while at the same time still not distorting "Elvis history".
By November 1971 Elvis had shaken off his lethargy and was once again touring outside Vegas with awe-inspiring shows. If FTD have a November soundboard available then that is something from 1971 to really look forward to.
(EIN Note- see 'As Recorded at Boston Garden' FTD review finally released in 2010)
Overall Verdict - With so many excellent Live Elvis concerts recently issued, EIN was disenchanted by this release, finding it neither Elvis nor FTD at their best. Having returned a few times to this CD there are unquestionably some treats here that do make this worth checking out, however I do feel that overall it could be disappointing for the unwary fan.
Review by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN May 2004
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