'Elvis In Alabama'
The Last Double-Date (September 6 1976)
- 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. Apart from the exceptional blast of the final December 1976 Tour the year was an inevitable downward spiral.
However considering the abysmal ‘state’ Elvis was in just over a week previously at the ‘Houston’ 28th August show, these two Huntsville concerts from September 6th 1976 demonstrate a real transformation...
Elvis soundboard super-collector Geoffrey McDonnell checks out this new FTD double-pack from 1976.....
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.
A true sign-of-the times was that from the 1976 April Tour #17 through to his August Tour #21 Elvis basically wore his "Bicentennial Suit"at every single concert, surely a sign of a bored performer. And that blowsy-shirtsleeves-and-waistcoat look did Elvis no good at all as a cool-looking jumpsuit.
In fact amongst fans Elvis' 1976 August 28th Houston performance is often noted as his "worst concert ever" but his shows throughout most of the summer often sounded as if Elvis was on auto-pilot, bored, overweight, unhappy, ill, overmedicated and desperate.
How did our hero, who stepped onto the Vegas stage on July 31st 1969 to reclaim his throne as a slim and sexy hyper-powered Adonis, fall so low in just seven years?
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.
FTD’s most recent soundboard release is 'Elvis in Alabama: The Last Double Date'
released by FTD in mid-December. This was also the last time Elvis wore the White Bi-Centennial suit!
Huntsville Alabama, September 6, 1976 is featured in this 2-CD set of both his last ever Afternoon Show combined with his Evening Show from Huntsville on the same day.
The Evening Show was previously released on bootleg as ‘Still Rocking The Nation’ in 2000 and also as "The Man in White Vol 2’ in 2002, with the latest and 3rd release being by FTD.
The Packaging is simple 5" double digipack without any booklet. The front cover and inside photos are by Keith Alverson and Elvis looks ‘ok’ although the Bicentennial suit was hardly flattering. The inside cover shows Elvis introducing Kathy Westmoreland at the show while the nice inside photo shows Elvis accepting a rose given to him during ‘Love Me’ at the A/S. The remaining photos are from the E/S.
At his seventies concerts it was fairly common for Elvis to joke to his loving audience that, "I just got out of bed." While it hardly seemed to matter in his earlier concerts by 1974 / 1975 there was often a feeling that Elvis really was waking up as he hit the stage especially in the first concerts of a double-date.
While ‘Elvis In Alabama’ is far better that the recent slow and uninspiring ‘Elvis In West Texas’ (which was the 8.30pm Evening Show!) there is still the feeling that he has to get himself up-and-running during the Afternoon Show.
Col Parker must have noticed the same problems as he would no longer book Elvis for two performances in one day.
Disc 1 The Afternoon Show.
Missing the ‘2001 Theme’ this starts immediately with C.C. Rider and in good balanced sound - as with all soundboards this tour. . In fact Elvis sounds ‘good’ for this opening number but this lots of J.D.Sumner bass also in the mix.
Next up is I Got a Woman / Amen – but despite Elvis’ regular request for J.D to repeat the dive-bomber ending, Elvis gets distracted by his belt-buckle and it isn’t done! Again the audio mix is very heavily sounding from J.D.Sumner!
Making the concert more interesting, this is where Elvis’ belt-buckle was coming off and we come to the story as told by Linda (known of FECC) where she drove over from Atlanta to Huntsville by herself but did not have a ticket but finally buying a ticket on the 7th row centre for $30. Linda walked up to the guard and told him she had driven from Atlanta and wanted to give Elvis the hat/sunshades. He asked Linda where she was sitting and told her to come to the stage and give Elvis the hat/shades. The shades had "Elvis" written on the lenses in sequences. It was quite unique.
Elvis called her up and told her that she was the only one to notice the buckle coming off, and he pulled it the rest of the way off and gave it to her, so Linda noticed this and the other woman got the buckle!~ Elvis had been wearing the White Bi-Centennial suit for this show and never wore it again after this belt-buckle came off (he wore the Blue Bi-Centennial suit for the tours remaining last 3 shows)!
Love Me was next after Elvis notes "Good Afternoon –sounds strange! Monday, is it Monday? Labour Day" and performs the usual ‘throwaway’ version.
Fairytale next is different because whilst a good strong version Elvis struggles with the key being "up higher", even causing Elvis to comment about this afterwards.
You Gave Me A Mountain is a quite decent low-key version followed by the crowd pleasing ‘quick oldies’ of All Shook Up, (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear / Don’t Be Cruel (medley).
A gentle And I Love You So follows, which is quite nice if again low-key.
It is at this point that there is an obvious jump in energy as Elvis seems to "wake-up" and become more enthusiastic. His intros and chats to the audience also become more focused.
Elvis’ increase in energy is immediately noticeable as Jailhouse Rock is half decent for 1976 as he puts some real effort into this routine oldie.
At this point Elvis delightfully jokes to a moaning female fan, "Honey, I got to remind you there are children in the audience. It’s got to be a half.. a quicky!" Followed by a deep "I love you too, honey".
Elvis then starts + stops Fever before singing America the Beautiful - complete with a stronger reprise - nice. The evening performance would be vocally stronger – but Elvis would unbelievably forget the words! Strangely enough the Fever false-start and America reprise are omitted from the FTD track listing.
One Night, a rarity for 1976, is next and is a passable version even though badly lacking the energy of the versions from a few years previously.
Elvis seems to realise that he needs to up the energy and suggests, "We need to do something .. yeah... Polk Salad" kicking off Polk Salad Annie strongly but for some reason it ends up sounding a little lacklustre and doesn’t get the huge applause you’d expect.
Then Elvis mentions "Alligator Airlines" and starts a ‘one liner’ of Patti Page’s Allegheny Moon (a #2 hit in 1956) before the Introductions.
Early Morning Rain is charming for being lightweight and which Elvis decides to start again mid-song. What’d I Say + Johnny B. Goode are pretty forgettable with too much Charlie Hodge intruding then the obligatory Drum solo and Bass Solo(‘Cut") before David Briggs solo which also has its start ‘cut‘ before a fairly decent slow-paced but not dragging Love Letters.
There is the obligatory Charlie Hodge intro (as Elvis loves it whenever the fans react to someone introduced as being from Alabama!) and the regular School Day.
In 1976 Hurt would be one of Elvis’ concert highlights but it isn’t that good this afternoon, Elvis not having the usual good vocal control. Elvis also realises this as he didn't bother with the usual reprise.
A ‘throwaway’ Hound Dog follows and a passable Funny How Time Slips Away (after asking for the lights to be turned up) before the concert ‘highlight’ of That’s All Right (after reminding Charlie not to hit him in the face with the microphone like he did on 5th Sept show.) "I’ve been onstage for an hour and five, so let’s put on the guitar.."
That’s All Right was a rare setlist inclusion for the first part of 1976 - this was only his sixth performance of the year – and it features the rare inclusion of the "I need your lovin"’ line plus with some heartfelt energy from Elvis this is the real ‘highlight’.
"I’d like to tell you we have another show here tonight, so you take care of yourselves.." with closing good wishes to the fans and Can’t Help Falling in Love and Closing Vamp -wishing people a ‘good afternoon’!
Overall the positive fact is that Elvis sounds ‘clear’ with NO slurring but still lacking a bit of energy and a bit lacklustre throughout, but with enough highlights to make the concert enjoyable.
It was a GOOD AFTERNOON IN HUNTSVILLE - which the after-show announcements "Get your Elvis Super-Souvenirs" make 100% certain we know!
Disc 2 The Evening Show
The FTD version sounds approximately 10% better balanced sound than the Bootlegs with again no 2001 Theme, and its straight into C.C. Rider which clearly shows up the soundboard level adjustment problems, as Elvis’s voice volume is turned up and down and finally the Band volume turned up!
It is a much stronger opening than the afternoon show, Elvis was obviously up and running and his vocal again sounds good and clear. There’s no slurring and right from the start Elvis is up for some fun with his audience. Tonight Elvis is driving the band rather than being dragged along by them as was often the case in 1976.
Someone has her grandmother with her and a sign, "Elvis, Granny is here".
"What am I supposed to do with her?" jokes Elvis – "Come here granny!!" This on-going fun causes much laughter throughout the show!
I Got a Woman / Amen – again with Elvis showing some real energy for 1976 - features some ringing feedback throughout and finally gets an exasperated Elvis saying that he is going to strangle his sound engineers. Tonight’s version does include J.D Sumner’s annoying dive-bomber routine repeated.
Love Me is the usual throwaway before Elvis explains how high up he had to sing performing Fairytale during the A/S and Fairytale (with False Start for no apparent reason) is performed well again tonight, and afterwards Elvis refers back to the A/S show version.
You Gave Me A Mountain is also quite good for a later version before the ‘usual’ lacklustre throwaway medley of All Shook Up, Teddy Bear / Don’t Be Cruel.
And I Love You So is again nicely performed before a standard 1976 version of Jailhouse Rock.
Tonight a ‘regular’ Fever is performed with Elvis laughing in the middle, "not you again, Granny!"
Then, just before the next song, Elvis is given a doll which seems to worry him as he suggests it’s a Voodoo Doll!. "That’s Charlie, that ain’t me. You don’t stick any pins into it, do you?"
Elvis loudly announces that "I like to do our version America The Beautiful for you" but unfortunately tonight it is dreadful because for the first time I know of he forgets the words and has to ask for help, "What’s the next line?"!
The Introductions features as always the songs Early Morning Rain, What’d I Say, Johnny B. Goode all very standard versions tonight plus lengthy Drum, Bass, Clavinet solos.
Finally a charming Love Letters before School Day which Elvis really gets in to tonight.
Even though it was released six months previously Elvis still introduces Hurt as "We have a new record out I’d like to do for you" which in this Evening Show is performed MUCH more strongly and even has a reprise ending that goes ‘up higher’.
This is a concert highlight as Elvis finishes sounding almost as if he’s being strangled at the end! "Whoo" notes Elvis as the crowd goes nuts.
The crowd pleasing Hound Dog is a real ‘throwaway’ (as he kisses the girls) before Elvis gets Sherrill to perform Danny Boy but its sounds quite different - maybe not as good as the 1977 solo versions - also from FTD.
Why do they cut out a song such as ‘My Heavenly Father’ at the 13th Dec 1975 Dinner Show, but ‘allow’ this solo to stay in? it is a mystery to me. (EIN notes, probably because Kathy Westmoreland is asking for good compensation!).
Then once again Elvis gets his guitar "Tell you what. Give me the guitar and the water-bucket!" and performs strongly on both That’s All Right and Blue Christmas "It’s a strange time of year to do it. I don’t need you yellin’ at me ‘cos I’m still gonna do Blue Christmas!" again these are concert highlights.
Elvis had only recently started adding Blue Christmas to his 1976 set list (since the previous Christmas) but it would become a regular from now on.
After a powerful intro to Mystery Train Elvis forgets the words and quickly re-starts the Mystery Train/Tiger Man medley even noting "It’s been a long day". It’s a good performance with Elvis still putting some real energy into the song.
Before going into a ‘standard’ Funny How Time Slips Away Elvis has the lights turned up and then bids a nice farewell to Huntsville and with the finale Can’t Help Falling In Love, Closing Vamp + announcements, Elvis left the building.
Sadly Elvis would never return to Huntsville.
As a side note, Joe Moscheo (from the Imperials Quartet) was in Huntsville in 1976 and Elvis asked to see him, so Joe met with Elvis in his bedroom Suite alone. After a few pleasantries Joe noticed Elvis looked tired and sick and presented Elvis with a Bible, telling Elvis all the answers he needed were in there. Elvis unusually hugged Joe as they said goodbye. Joe Moscheo never saw Elvis alive again.
The A/S ran about 65 minutes and this E/S 10 minutes longer.
Overall Verdict: Considering the abysmal ‘state’ Elvis was in just over a week previously at the ‘Houston’ 28th August show, these two concerts representing this tour come as a transformation although still NOT as good as the next tour proved to be in October.
However these are still quite acceptable shows for this tricky year of 1976 with Elvis sounding quite ok- CLEAR SPEAKING and up-beat despite the occasional memory loss. In the photos he looks alert and enjoying performing in Huntsville where he always knew where he was and puts out enjoyable decent shows. Elvis’ energy level and interactions with his loving audience at the evening show is pretty impressive considering the treadmill grind Colonel Parker had him under.
Thanks FTD for now representing this tour and his last ‘on tour’ double date in one day, Labour Day 1976.
If the Huntsville E/S hadn’t been released on Bootleg twice before this would have had a great attraction and if I personally wanted to complain about this release I’d rather have had the Jackson 5th Sept show instead of the Huntsville E/S. However the Huntsville Evening Show is certainly the more powerful and getting it in better quality audio makes this is a very fine release, thanks FTD - now a break from 1976 please!
Addendum: I certainly doubt there will be many takers for the sale of a forthcoming announced bootleg featuring this Huntsville E/S for a record 4th time along with the El Paso June 2nd Bootleg a second time!
Review by Geoffrey McDonnell - with added comments by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN January 2016
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
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'Elvis In Alabama: The Last Double Date: Sept 6 1976' - FTD December 2015 release
Disc 1 - The Afternoon Show
01 See See Rider 2:49 02 I Got A Woman / Amen 8:17 03 Love Me 2:45 04 Fairytale 3:09 05 You Gave Me A Mountain 3:04 06 All Shook Up 1:08 07 (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear / Don’t Be Cruel 2:08 08 And I Love You So 3:20 09 Jailhouse Rock 2:46 10 America The Beautiful 4:51 11 One Night 2:35 12 Polk Salad Annie 4:22 13) Introductions 8:42 a) Early Mornin’ Rain b) What’d I Say c) Johnny B. Goode 14) Love Letters 2:47 15) School Day 1:41 16) Hurt 1:59 17) Hound Dog 2:30 18) Funny How Time Slips Away 3:40 19) That’s All Right 2:08 20) Can’t Help Falling In Love 1:39 21) Closing Vamp 2:03
Disc 2 - The Evening Show
01 See See Rider 4:39 02 I Got A Woman / Amen 7:19 03 Love Me 2:00 04 Fairytale 4:24 05 You Gave Me A Mountain 3:05 06 All Shook Up 1:06 07 (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear / Don’t Be Cruel 2:02) 08 And I Love You So 3:19 09 Jailhouse Rock 1:35 10 Fever 4:02 11 America The Beautiful 2:54 12) Introductions: 10:43 a) Early Mornin’ Rain b) What’d I Say c) Johnny B. Goode 13) Love Letters 2:49 14) School Day 1:23 15) Hurt 2:42 16) Hound Dog 1:28 17) Danny Boy 3:44 Performed by Sherrill Nielsen 18) That’s All Right 2:08 19) Blue Christmas 2:23 20 Mystery Train 3:39 21) Funny How Time Slips Away 2:43 22) Can’t Help Falling In Love 1:39 23) Closing Vamp 1:44
FTD CD Credits: Album and Art produced by Ernst Jorgensen. - Mastered by Jan Eliasson.
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