An American Trilogy

FTD CD review

Las Vegas, season six, ran from January 26th through February 23rd, 1972.

Elvis was in great shape both physically and vocally, and he was once again serious about performing. Some critics noted that the oldies were delivered at lightning speed; and all the songs, both new and old, were executed back to back without Elvis hardly saying a word between them to the audience.

Billboard Magazine however characterized the season best by saying, "The tight, fast paced, just long enough show had no weak spots, well worth the show room’s minimum. Presley gave the audience what they came to see."

Review by Armond Joseph/Piers Beagley

Las Vegas, season six, ran from January 26th through February 23rd, 1972. Elvis was in great shape both physically and vocally, and he was once again serious about performing. Some critics noted that the oldies were delivered at lightning speed; and all the songs, both new and old, were executed back to back without Elvis hardly saying a word between them to the audience. Billboard Magazine however characterized the season best by saying, "The tight, fast paced, just long enough show had no weak spots, well worth the show room’s minimum. Presley gave the audience what they came to see."

RCA was also there to do some multi-track recordings on February 14th – 17th for a live album that was to be titled, "Standing Room Only." A combination of new songs from season five and six, "You Gave Me A Mountain," "Never Been To Spain," "The Impossible Dream," "It’s Impossible," "It’s Over," and "An American Trilogy," were coupled with new interpretations of "Hound Dog," "A Big Hunk O’ Love," and "Little Sister/Get Back" for what would’ve been a great live album.

On the Opening Night Jan 26th 1972 Elvis also premiered 'I'll Remember You', as well as this being the first time that Elvis used 'See See Rider' as his opening number - although coincidentally it had been used as the first track on his 'On Stage' LP. Also included were 'Polk Salad Annie', 'Proud Mary' and 'Suspicious Minds' so the set-list was one of Elvis' very best.

The "Standing Room Only" album although advertised on the jacket of the "An American Trilogy" single "for summer release," never saw the light of day.

It was first held back when RCA considered changing course in order to release a soundtrack of the "On Tour" documentary film, but that too was canned when it was finally decided that a rush job of the recording made at Madison Square Garden in June of 1972 would be the next live album.

Other than the 'American Trilogy' single released in 1972, the live recording of 'It's Impossible' was released in 1973 on the album titled "Elvis" and the rest of the recordings remained officially "in the vault," until after Elvis’ death. Subsequently, some of the recordings made for "Standing Room Only" have appeared on various RCA releases, most notably on the excellent compilation CD "Burning Love" (1999). To date, FTD’s "An American Trilogy" serves as the most complete representation of what was to be the "Standing Room Only" album. Given its history, it would’ve been appropriate for FTD to give this release that honorary title. 

There are 24 tracks in all. The 17 songs that make up the main body of this release are multi-track, real stereo recordings! Tracks 10-14 are previously released, and they mysteriously sound flat on this CD in comparison to the other releases of the same tracks found on "Walk A Mile In My Shoes - The Essential '70's Masters," "Burning Love," and "Inspirational," (which has an incredible mix of "The Impossible Dream" by audio wizard Vic Anesini).

The rocking new 1972 version of "A Big Hunk O’ Love" was also recently released on the 'Writing For The King' FTD package. The lesser mix of the previously released tracks not withstanding; you’re treated to 12 totally new tracks (not counting the bonus tracks) of what is arguably some of Elvis’ best work on stage. Furthermore Elvis was accompanied by a full orchestra, (sadly not always the case, especially later on) which gives every song added depth and an "in studio" quality. Just listen to the string section on "It’s Impossible," and you’ll know what I mean.

There are songs from each recorded concert performance, with the majority being from the Midnight show on February 15th. Except for a couple of edits, the sound engineer seamlessly combines the songs to give the feel of a complete concert. However, the sound level drops considerably in spots, which is noticeable when the CD is played at a lower volume. Some basic normalizing may have resolved that minor problem.

The songs are well known, so I won’t "introduce them to you individually." However as expected Elvis was more inspired by the newer songs and of course these early arrangements are different, often more subtle, than the final more "regular" versions that we are used to. It is worth noting Elvis' extremely gentle approach to 'You Gave Me A Mountain' where he adds a special touch  @02.00 to his "She took my pride and my joy, she took my reason for living". Similarly on these early versions of  'Trilogy' Elvis joins in during the Stamps solo from the line "Take my stand" - again it's a lovely understated version.  Characteristic of the overall period Elvis' on stage banter is almost non-existent with Elvis showing little audience interaction and without his usual happy jokes- a point accentuated on this CD by the absence of the band introductions (they were probably not recorded).

There is also no doubt that other things were on Elvis' mind. With Priscilla leaving Elvis for good only 4 weeks previously, and taking Lisa Marie with her to Los Angeles, his world had been emotionally rocked.  While Elvis had been having a relationship with Joyce Bova & others it wasn't until August that he would meet Linda Thompson. With Elvis' personal turmoil in mind, it is his interpretation of the emotional ballads that really captures his mood at the time.

'It's Impossible' is of course so familiar to us from this released performance that it is fascinating to realise that this was the last time Elvis would ever sing it. This was his only version from this Vegas season and yet he had been performing it since August 1971.

Similarly 'It's Over', which Elvis had started singing in the summer of 1971, was only performed a handful times in 1972 and only once in this season. Although we are so familiar with the song from Elvis' 1973 'Aloha' performances, again Elvis only sang it a four times that year & never returned to it again.

Elvis has some trouble with a slight cough during the lead in to "Hound Dog," (the infamous Vegas throat?) and he is obviously irritated with himself when he messes up "It’s Impossible". This false start has not been released before and it is a fascinating bonus. "Blew it, Blew it! Go back, go back, go back... Start the son-of-a-bitch over," is Elvis' statement just prior to the well known, beautiful rendition of this song.

This was also the first season that Elvis began using the 2001 opening theme followed by the brilliant start of 'See See Rider' and it packs a punch. So if you’re a fan of Elvis circa 1972 (my personal favorite Elvis period) you will really enjoy this CD. Except for minor sound inconsistencies, the stereo quality pars with RCA’s "An Afternoon In The Garden," "Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden," and disc 4 of "Elvis Close Up," (a complete concert from April 1972).

The only real downside to this CD is paying again for previously released tracks; something which seems to be counterintuitive to the mission of the FTD label. I’d of rather had more unreleased songs from the recorded dates, even if they were repeats, than having five songs that were previously released (and in superior mix elsewhere).

The CD is rounded off by seven (only available on a bootleg until now) bonus tracks from the soundboard recording of the Opening Show, January 26th. The sound quality on the bonus tracks is less than average for a soundboard, but good enough. "Bridge Over Troubled Water" is a highlight—with Sammy Davis Jr. leading a standing ovation. Elvis' very first version of 'I'll Remember You' is also delightful in its simplicity - and this time dedicated to singer Don Ho.

The original 2001 Bootleg "Opening Night" (Jan. 26, 1972) has always been a fan favourite so is a shame that the two stunning debuts of both 'You Gave Me A Mountain' (sung even more delicately & with a lighter arrangement still) and 'An American Trilogy' (where Elvis sings very softly at the start with his vocal slowly building up through the song) have been missed out. With space to spare - and with tracks repeated elsewhere on other FTDs - this seems a missed opportunity.

As for the artwork FTD continues with its minimalist, "less is more" approach. And while the cover photo is impressive with Elvis nicely framed in the blackness, seemingly alone & singing emotionally from the heart - the pictures are actually from the later August 1972 Summer Festival, the same as the 'Summer Festival FTD!


This January/February season was very different in that Elvis for once took a break from the jumpsuits and wore his very cool looking multi-coloured paisley shirts with stylish trousers.

As featured on the right, there are some great Ed Bonja photos from the time, so it seems ridiculous to place this January/February concert CD within the incorrect setting by using a summer picture.

Verdict: This Vegas concert season was an all-important step as Elvis headed towards his 'On Tour' filmed performances and finally to Madison Square Garden. So with the plethora of poor quality soundboards, audience recordings and trash that floods today’s Elvis market, having a (mostly) previously-unreleased, professionally recorded Elvis concert from 1972 makes "An American Trilogy" worth the price. It is one of the better releases by FTD in a while, and it is refreshing to be pleased once again by a new Elvis CD.

Review by Armond Joseph.
With additional notes by Piers Beagley
Copyright EIN - February 2008

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'An American Trilogy' - FTD 2007 April release #8869703614-2

Las Vegas, February 15 MS 1972

1: Also Sprach Zarathustra
2: See See Rider
3: Proud Mary
4: Never Been To Spain
5: You Gave Me A Mountain
6: Love Me
7: All Shook Up
8: Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel
8: Hound Dog
9: Little Sister/Get Back (Feb 14 MS)*
10: It's Impossible (Feb 16 MS)*
11: It's Over (Feb 17 DS)*
12: The Impossible Dream (Feb 16 MS)*
13: A Big Hunk O' Love (Feb 14 MS)*
14: American Trilogy (Feb 14 MS)
15: Can't Help Falling In Love
16: Closing Riff
Bonus Songs
17: Until It's Time For You To Go (Jan 26 OS)
18: Polk Salad Annie (Jan 26 OS)
19: One Night (Jan 26 OS)
20: Bridge Over Troubled Water (Jan 26 OS)
21: Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Jan 26 OS)
22: I'll Remember You (Jan 26 OS)
23: Suspicious Minds (Jan 26 OS)

(*) Previously released
Track 17-23 are taken from a soundboard recording










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