'The West Coast Tour '76'
- In-depth FTD review by Geoffrey McDonnell -
1976 is not an easy Elvis live-in-concert year to review. There were no major set-list changes, no dramatic "emotional roller-coaster" of 1974 and no high-flying "Huntsville" 1975 excitements.
By late November 1976 however Elvis had become involved with new love Ginger Alden. As fans are well aware Elvis’ final 1976 tour of December is well known for having the most energetic and exciting concerts from this tiring and lacklustre year, however back in November Elvis was already more energised, losing weight and excited to be with Ginger.
Elvis soundboard super-collector Geoffrey McDonnell checks out this new FTD double-pack from 1976.....
Superfan Tom McAllister - who was at the concert and took the front cover photo - also adds his own comments..
To be honest 1976 is not an easy Elvis live-in-concert year to review. There were no major set-list changes as had happened in earlier years, no dramatic "emotional roller-coaster" of 1974 and no high-flying "Huntsville" 1975 excitements. Apart from the exceptional blast of the final December 1976 Tour (inspired by the challenge of new-young-love Ginger) 1976 in retrospect seems a slow-grind continuing the inevitable downward spiral.
By early 1976 Elvis’ set-list had become routine. I Got A Woman would always feature the JD Sumner double dive-bombing routine, the Introduction and solos would be drawn out with the inclusion of Bass and Drum solos, usually two piano solos plus Early Morning Rain and Love Letters. Hurt and America the Beautiful became the regular dramatic highlights with only the occasional surprise addition (Danny Boy!) making a real difference.
Unfortunately for collectors the number of Elvis soundboards available in good quality increase at a similar rate that Elvis’ performances declined. His tours also got shorter and shorter. This means that if FTD are to release a soundboard from every Elvis tour we will always get more concerts from 1976 than any other year.
This is a real shame as there are proportionately far fewer good quality soundboards from Elvis’ sensational early years of touring.
FTD will soon have released sixteen concerts from 1976 - compared to only two from 1971.
Go here to see the stats and EIN’s list of FTD/BMG live releases.
Following on from the 1976 double 'Elvis in Alabama: The Last Double Date'
the latest soundboard release by FTD is 'Elvis: The West Coast Tour' 76'
This double 1976 live performance FTD was released in early march, delayed slightly by the addition of 5 new Bonus tracks from the same tour, 3 from Eugene on 25th and 2 from Eugene on 27th November 1976.
By late November 1976 Elvis had become involved with new love Ginger Alden who was only 20 years old. As fans are well aware Elvis’ final 1976 tour of December is well known for having the most energetic and exciting concerts from this tiring and lacklustre year, however back in November Elvis was already more energised, losing weight and excited to be with Ginger. If you can glimpse some of the Elvis’ new found happiness in these concerts it would be due to Ginger being in the audience and seeing Elvis in action for her 2nd and 3rd time since she first caught his Memphis show back on July 5th.
The double digi-pack features five photos, 4 from Anaheim, November 30 1976, in his Indian Feather jumpsuit and one from San Francisco wearing his Blue Rainbow jumpsuit a day earlier. There are no liner notes apart from track listings on the back cover. So it is minimalistic packaging but, after all, it’s the content that matters.
Both shows are incomplete with them both missing 2001 and the opening vamp. Back in 1975 with Glen Hardin threatening to leave the TCB Band, some soundboards were recorded as “binaural” with solo piano on one track. This meant that future pianists could easily rehearse the show by listening to these tapes. By November 1976 pianist Tony Brown had been with the group 8 months and would stay with Elvis’ band until the final concert, yet for some reason these concerts were also recorded split-track with solo piano. FTD audio engineer Jean-Marc Juilland has mixed the concerts to “stereo”, however the only stereo component is still the piano and so it does dominate the mix.
DISC 1: San Francisco, November, 29,1976
Immediately you notice the sound for the San Francisco show is left channel heavy and with a tiny bit of distortion present at times. However in general, off reel-to-reel tapes they are Good Quality with good bass sound, a good mix of the orchestra and a pleasure to listen too.
Press reviews of this show were ‘rather harsh’, yet in some videos you can see Elvis looks quite ok performing the Mystery Train/Tiger Man medley which is in fact missing from this end of the incompletely recorded concert.
LA Times Journalist Robert Hillburn said he did at least appreciate a slimmer Elvis since he saw him in April in Long Beach!
“Not only did the weight loss make Presley more animated on stage - there was even a rare these days karate kick during "Polk Salad Annie" - but it also enabled him, crucially, to better fulfil visually the requirements associated with the celebration of his past that is very much at the heart of his concerts.”
During the opening numbers I get my ears to adjust to the sound featuring Piano and am enjoying this mix. (Reviews of the Cow Palace - a venue I have indeed visited myself! - mention that the sound was poor/tinny!) Also reviews say Elvis didn’t move around much - well if they last saw him in this venue in November 1970 then I would agree!
There is a bit of distortion present during the opening number as they sort out the sound levels but Elvis does sound pretty all right and more energetic on ‘See, See Rider’ than other earlier 1976 performances. The set-list is all too familiar though and, yes, JD Sumner does repeat the low-flying bomber routine both nights.
Elvis had played San Francisco the previous night also at Cow Palace, holding over 14 thousand adoring fans. Love Me is ‘ok’ before Elvis gets concerned about kids hurting themselves rushing forward in the audience, “The only thing we are concerned about is you falling down and getting hurt, have a good time but just be careful.”
Whilst both shows are pretty much identical up until ‘Bridge’, songs such as It’s Now Or Never (luckily with no Sherrill Nielsen solo), You Gave Me A Mountain and even Fever that are memorably ‘nicely’ performed.
I can also imagine Elvis singing his ‘standards’ he introduces as ‘some of my Old & established songs’ as less than ‘exciting’ for regular fans present.(Although some band members found Elvis’ description hilarious!)
“Last night we performed Jailhouse Rock, so tonight let’s do Blue Suede Shoes” Elvis comments before the audience-pleasing number. The song sounds very different being piano led rather than guitar driven!
‘And I Love You So’ was a regular on the set-list and tonight’s version is somewhat spoilt by intense fan screams which causes Elvis to get distracted mid-verse.
Fever seems ‘ok’ though and afterwards Elvis performs ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ for only the 2nd time this year (since May 6th). He would perform it only three times in the whole of 1976 and has to ask for the lyrics as well as checking first that the band know it.
“We haven’t rehearsed this so if we make some mistakes, you know… Take it from the top, I’ll ad-lib!”
With Elvis singing delicately a capella - with Tony Brown solo piano - for the first section it is a nice addition although not outstanding – and has a some bad peak distortion towards the ending. The audience rightly go crazy, which Elvis acknowledges.
The Intros at 16 minutes are as lengthy as always. It does however amuse me as when we get to David Briggs and his instrumental sounds quite similar to incidental music in the T.V series ‘The Streets of San Francisco’. Similarly Love Letters is ‘ok’, as is Morning Rain. The rest of the intros however are highly boring and tedious.
“Our latest record is called Hurt, so I’d like to Hurt for you” Elvis announces and it is not bad tonight with a slightly longer and up higher ending – but no reprise. It was the show's “performance piece” and another crowd pleaser.
The all too routine Hound Dog and Funny How Time Slips Away follow before the tape runs out. Mystery Train/ Tiger Man, Hawaiian Wedding Song and Can’t Help Falling In Love are all missing.
The big pleasure however is in five great quality sounding Bonus Songs from two, earlier in the month, Eugene, Oregon shows of November 25 and 27.
It’s Now Or Never is delightfully sung and America is sincere and ‘ok’. Elvis was performing ‘America The Beautiful’ at every show earlier in the year but started leaving it out on this November tour.
Steamroller Blues only performed once on this short tour is of course another ‘highlight’ and is a strong version for 1976 with Elvis really digging into the band solos.
Love Me Tender, again only performed once on this short tour, just seems a throw-away addition but there is a strong finish with the medley of Mystery Train/Tiger Man (missing from the end of the concert on 29th) Sound for ‘bonus tracks’ is ‘very good indeed’.
Overall Elvis' show at Cow Palace comes across as a passable show in great sound with nice bonus tracks.
As FTD have released what they had from 29th November it nicely complements what the bootleggers released as the partial 28th “Recorded Live at Cow Palace” November 1976 show in 1997 and again in 2011 where Elvis looks ‘fine’ and enjoying himself.
Disc 2 - Anaheim – November 30, 1976
Anaheim was the closing concert of this short 7 date tour and as soon as the performance starts straight away it is quite an up-beat and fast See See Rider with a very noticeable strong piano sound in the left channel, more annoying in the sound mix than the overall better sounding San Francisco show - although the audio quality is very fine here no peak distortion tonight.
Click HERE for a 3 minute YouTube clip of Elvis live in Anaheim.
I Got a Woman features yet more annoying piano and of course Elvis insists J.D. does his ending twice - but thankfully tonight’s is distortion free.
A routine Love Me features more worst-ever piano before If You Love Me has a joke intro of “let me know or if you don’t, then forget it”.
By the time we get into You Gave Me A Mountain I get the impression a sluggish sounding Elvis has now woken up and the better part of the concert continues with a not bad (for 76) Jailhouse Rock, then It’s Now Or Never receives a nice intro and is a touching version-also here the Piano seems better in the overall mix.
The required “Oldies” All Shook Up / Teddy Bear / Don’t be Cruel are passable scarf throwing-away fare.
And I Love You So is a very nice, sincere version tonight – and the end Elvis notes, “Oh yeah” while Fever really shows up Scheff’s BASS in the mix! - Also Elvis injects the amusing line change of ‘when her Daddy tried to Milk him’ not a bad version.
Elvis selects Bridge Over Troubled Water again noting, “I’m going to look at you for the words, Ok?” and performed for the 2nd time here since May 6th 1976. There is something interesting about hearing how Elvis performs this classic 1970 song later in his career and tonight it is a very a passable version - as well as being a change from singing America. However the start is interesting since it is affected and delayed by a female fan running into Elvis across the stage.
This means Tony Brown has to keep repeating the piano intro until everything is sorted out and also causes Elvis to chuckle on the very first line. Annoyingly Elvis also stops the song halfway through himself claiming he mistakenly caused a microphone ‘pop’ – as if his adoring fans would care! This is a real pity as otherwise there are some nice asides / falsetto and it is a lovely gentle song of love performed here tonight (EIN recommends a quick edit to fix the interruption for maximum enjoyment!).
Elvis would perform Bridge only a handful more times in his career including his final concert – the best version of the year being his 4th 1976 attempt in Las Vegas on Opening Night December 2nd .
Tonight another bonus for the crowd was the addition of some ‘Polk Salad’, only performed twice this short tour, which lacks any bite compared to his 1970 versions but gets a good work-out towards the extended ending and was certainly a crowd-pleaser. (there is some unfortunate tape-damage at the end).
As always the Intros are the long, boring 15 minute 1976 ones with only a bit of ‘interest’ like when Elvis introduces Ed Enoch as having “a powerful voice and a weak mind”!
The tape cuts before the end of Morning Rain and starts again for What’d I Say. Next J.B.Goode and the drum solo suffer an amplifier ‘Buzz’ and by the time we get to David Briggs he is off on his ‘Streets of San Francisco’ styled electric keyboard solo.
Love Letters performed next is again quite nice before Marty Harrell is introduced as conducting the Joe Guercio Orchestra.
FTD collectors may remember that School Day /Hurt /Hawaiian Wedding Song /Blue Christmas /That's All Right were all released by mistake (at the time the tape was noted as being Dayton in October) on the FTD ‘A Minnesota Moment’ some 6 years ago - but back then with a mastering error causing 'Hawaiian Wedding Song', 'Blue Christmas' and 'That's All Right' to have thin out-of-phase image. Thankfully now, although strictly speaking some of these are a re-release, the sound is ‘consistent’ throughout the Anaheim show. (see A Minnesota Moment review & details here)
Hurt again has a very lengthy and surprisingly good power-ending – but with no reprise - before we get the complete throwaway Hound Dog.
The Hawaiian Wedding Song is beautifully sung but the ending seems to ‘fade away’. Just after Elvis has asked for the lights are brought up and is preparing to perform ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’ a fan requests Blue Christmas and he sings it well. Elvis says he’s going to play guitar, "Is the guitar in tune?" There’s a lovely touch where Elvis says in a deep voice "last line" and it has a nice slow "country" feel.
Another treat is ‘That’s All Right’ with the fabulous joke that someone in the audience suggests the 1957 movie song ‘Lonesome Cowboy’! Elvis reacts with shock and the band even begins playing a few bars of the song! It sounds fine for 1976 although perhaps taken too fast a tempo. Elvis however sounds pumped-up as he kicks the band along, "Walk on, Walk on.."
Elvis then notes, “All Kidding aside, you’ve been a pleasure to work for and anytime you want us back just lets us know and we’ll come back here. Until we meet again..”
Sadly, Elvis would never get the chance to return to the West Coast.
Can’t Help Falling in Love seems ok tonight and then it’s a full 2’30” of closing vamp & announcements featuring Jerry Scheff’s playing the hell out of his Bass.
Overall this Closing Show was a good solid show and quite enjoyable throughout. It was not the usual ‘short’ 1976 summer Quick-Close-Syndrome disappointment of only Hurt / H.Dog / C.H.F.I.L. after the introductions. Instead this final show of the tour featured the additional ‘Polk’ before the intros plus another three songs afterwards running a full 76 minutes even with the 2001 theme missing.
As Double-Pack for a single FTD price this is a very fine representation to cover this better quality 1976 tour. A welcome release even if a few tracks we had already released before - Thanks once again to the team at FTD.
As we have no FTD from December 1976 in Las Vegas it is nice to get the end of the tour show just before Elvis kicked off his final Vegas season on FTD in stereo / binaural mixed sound.
Review by Geoffrey McDonnell - with added comments by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN March 2016
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
Click here to comment on this article
|Elvis super-fan Tom McAllister took the front cover photo used on this FTD release and kindly tell answered some of our questions.
He also has copies of his best photos for sale if fans would like them.
EIN: How many Elvis concerts did you see and how many did you photograph or film?
Tom McAllister: From 1970-76, I saw 32 concerts/Vegas shows. Some I was able to film, record & photograph. For many years I offered my photos to all the fans thru fans clubs around the world. The photo in the lower left corner below is the full un-cropped photo of the one FTD used for their cover shot.
EIN: What happened in Anaheim?
TM: In Anaheim, I had 3rd row seats. I took approx. 25 min. of Super 8 film, which has been considered one of the best quality films taken of Elvis in concert from the audience. While it is great to get any concert in good quality sound, it is sad that the soundboards lack the sound of the audience. The audience reaction is what makes a concert recording special.
In the CD package is a photo of Elvis kneeling & holding a white flower. This occurred just before the start of Love Me. He knelt down, received a flower from a girl & then kissed her. The stage was too high, so the security guards had to lift her high enough to reach Elvis. The crowd went nuts, lots of screams. You do not hear the audience screams on the soundboard recording, but it is very exciting on my recording of the concert.
EIN: Any other special memories?
TM: Then, at the end of Fever & the beginning of Bridge OTW, in my film you can see behind the stage (& behind Elvis and the orchestra) a person jump from the 1st balcony on to the rear of the stage. It was a girl with brown hair, brown jacket & levis. She ran around the stage (between James Burton & the Sweet Inspirations) & grabbed Elvis. Dick Grob & the other bodyguards ran onstage & literally pulled her off Elvis, as she was wrapped around him & hanging on. Elvis had a big smile on his face & said “well as I was saying” as a joke. They restarted BOTW. Unfortunately, you do not hear the shuffle & audience reaction on the soundboard recording, but on mine it is pure hysteria.
EIN: Did Elvis appear healthier at the November show?
TM: According to various Elvis books, SF was Linda Thompson’s last concert & Anaheim was Ginger Alden’s first (as his guest). I saw him (& filmed, photographed & recorded) in Long Beach (2 shows) in April 1976. He looked healthier in November, but sounded great at all 3 shows. While the soundboard lacks the audience, Elvis’s voice is very clear. Better quality than most other soundboards. However, on my audience recording of Anaheim, he sounds good. On the soundboard recording you can hear his health is deteriorating.
It was shocking to see photos in early 1977 of his deteriorating condition. He looked so good and happy at the Anaheim concert.
EIN: You think the audience recordings are more representative of Elvis' shows than soundboards?
TM: There are few things in life more exciting than the anticipation of Elvis’s stage entrance. At every show I saw from 1970-76, audiences went crazy, the screams were deafening & flash bulbs lit up gigantic arenas. It is so sad that none of this excitement is heard on any soundboard recording. The New York Times MSG review in 1972 summed it up perfectly….”He was like a prince from another planet”.
If anyone is interested in good quality copies of my personal photos - and at a good price - they are welcome to contact me. I have sets of photos dating from 1970 to 1976.
Fans can contact me on email @ Tom.McAllister@cbre.com
--- Tom McAllister
'The West Coast Tour '76' - FTD March 2016 release
Disc 1- San Francisco 29th November 1976 - See Rider / I Got A Woman / / Love / If You Love Me (Let Me Know) / You Gave Me A Mountain / Blue Suede Shoes / It’s Now Or Never / All Shook Up / (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear / Don’t Be Cruel / And I Love You So / Fever / Bridge Over Troubled Water / Introductions / Early Morning’ Rain / What’d I Say / Johnny B. Goode / Love Letters / School Day / Hurt / Hound Dog / Funny How Time Slips Away-concert ends incomplete. Bonus Songs Eugene November 1976:- It’s Now Or Never-25th/America-25th/Steamroller Blues-27th/Love Me Tender-27th/Mystery Train/Tiger Man-25th.
Disc 2 -
Anaheim – November 30, 1976
See Rider / I Got A Woman / Amen / Love Me / If You Love Me (Let Me Know) /You Gave Me A Mountain / Jailhouse Rock / It’s Now Or Never / All Shook Up / (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear / Don’t Be Cruel / And I Love You So / Fever / Bridge Over Troubled Water / Polk Salad Annie /Introductions: / Early Morning’ Rain (incomplete)/ What’d I Say / Johnny B. Goode /Love Letters / School Day / Hurt / Hound Dog / The Hawaiian Wedding Song / Blue Christmas / Lonesome Cowboy-title only and brief instrumental/That’s All Right / Can’t Help Falling In Love / Closing Vamp
FTD CD Credits: Album and Art produced by Ernst Jorgensen & Roger Semon
- Mixed by Jean-Mark Juilland - Mastered by Jan Eliasson.
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
Elvis Presley, Elvis and Graceland are trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises.
The Elvis Information Network has been running since 1986 and is an EPE officially recognised Elvis fan club.