'Takin' Tahoe Tonight'
FTD CD review
By Piers Beagley
Early 1973 was an emotionally traumatic time for Elvis. Although Priscilla & his divorce had been officially settled, Mike Stone (Priscilla's boyfriend) was now trying to limit Elvis' access to Lisa Marie which really upset him.
The year had started on the perfect high of The Aloha special but, having achieved the ultimate live show, was there really any challenge left to divert him from the sadness of his personal life?
Takin' Lake Tahoe - There is no doubt that the emotional stress was affecting his health and his voice was also reflecting the strain. During his first 1973 Las Vegas season his voice sounded weak and Elvis had to cancel several shows. On Feb 15th Elvis' voice even failed him halfway through the concert and he had to halt the show.
Only 3 days later four men jumped on to the Vegas stage to try and attack him! It certainly was an eventful start to the year. While a few bootlegs do capture Elvis during this period, RCA realised that Elvis was not performing at 'full blast' and until now no concert from this period has ever been released.
So this new FTD CD is a real first. A live 1973 soundboard show, a Lake Tahoe performance, as well as the first concert release featuring Emory Gordy playing bass guitar. An interesting change since it is Emory Gordy's thundering bass that drives along the 'Burning Love' single so fabulously. This was Elvis' second Lake Tahoe season and after an earlier rest for 2 months his voice was improving. He must also have been in a good mood since he offered to perform this extra Mother's Day concert at 3am, from which he donated his own fee to the local hospital in his Mother's name.
Incredibly this was his third performance of the day, as he had already done his usual Dinner and Midnight shows, and what fun it is. Elvis is obviously in an excellent mood and treats the crowd to some superb & spontaneous moments. The real selling point of this live release is that it is an excellent mix, superbly capturing Elvis' vocal, the band, as well as the orchestra. If this is the sound that the audience heard that night then they were very lucky!
Apart from the occasional peak distortion, when Elvis really goes for it, & the slight hiss, sometimes it is hard to believe that this is a soundboard recording. It actually sounds like the audio engineer wasn't using the usual audio-compression this night, giving it a very dynamic sound. Now while we are all familiar with the set-list, since this concert was only 4 months after Aloha, there are still plenty of surprises.
An energetic 'See See Rider' kicks off the show with the horns sounding as clear as a bell and James Burton really chickin' pickin'! Elvis laughs & jokes mid-song "Just woke me up, Whooo!" but this time, unlike the later Las Vegas Dinner shows, it is obvious that he is joking! A laid-back 'I Got A Woman/Amen' follows during which you can notice that Elvis is holding back vocally. A bonus is that, even with a J.D Sumner double-ending, this version is short and sweet unlike later versions.
After a quick "Good Morning", noting the early hour of the day, Elvis unusually drops the regular 'Love Me Tender' and goes straight to 'Help Me Make It Through the Night'. Maybe this was intentional since it was his 3rd show that night! Taken at a noticeably faster tempo than the '75 versions, his voice sounds far from the best and he adds the interesting & possibly deliberate.. "We don't want to be alone, Help us make it through the night" This is also the earliest live recording of this song yet released.
'Steamroller Blues' warms things up nicely and the band is cookin'. At a faster tempo and sounding funkier than the "bluesier" Aloha version, it helps show off the great soundboard mix along with Emory's funky bass. Elvis really digs into the track, "I'm a steamrollin' mother" - yes indeed!
'You Gave Me A Mountain' again shows the dynamic mix on this tape and, as later, Elvis' restraint actually works on this song. Listen to the line "Just tired of being my wife" and his enjoyment is obvious as he hollers, "Whoo", mid-song! The concert does seem to 'connect' at this point and Elvis' humour is infectious.
During a cool 'Love Me' he exclaims, "Behave James!" to James Burton and laughs with the band, teasing Ronnie Tutt with, "You want to play funny? Eh, Ronnie?" Knowing that Elvis loved Peter Sellers just think of the laughs he would have had (must be having?!) at Austin Powers! Elvis is definitely enjoying himself & having fun.
'Long Tall Sally' features the line "Saw J.D with bald-headed Sally" and listen out for his delightful giggle just before 'Blue Suede Shoes.' It is obvious that, even with his voice causing him worry, he was still the consummate performer.
Since 'Aloha' and his on-going voice problems Elvis had been avoiding the song 'My Way' but tonight he is obviously feeling much better. Here it is the first real challenge of the show. On the stage of Lake Tahoe Elvis sounds perfectly alone, and the power-ending shows that his voice really has improved since earlier in the year. There is also a genuine, cute moment when he forgets the line "But through it all, when there was doubt" and hums the last few words!
Elvis also gives 'What Now My Love' a power-ending but otherwise hangs back on this and, surprisingly, 'Suspicious Minds' too which is very laid-back compared to the Aloha version. His throat sounds positively sore at points but James Burton & the band are on great form. It also sounds like Charlie Hodge is trying to compensate for Elvis.
After the quick 'Introductions' Elvis is warming up for some fun that continues right through to the end of the concert. He sings "I Remember You,,, Alfie!" and announces "This is from the TV Special we did recently" before cracking up as he changes the lyrics to reflect that it is 3am. His laughter is a treat and captures the overall feel of this Charity show. The original lyric. .. "Long after this endless summer has gone I'll be lonely, oh so lonely" Here becomes. . . "Long after this, long morning is through I'll be horny,. . lonely, oh so lonely" He announces "Well that's about enough!" before playing with the audience during a fun 'I Can't Stop Loving You' which warms us up to another highlight.
'Bridge Over Troubled Water' was an Elvis classic sadly missing from the Aloha shows. In fact Elvis hadn't been performing it since June 1972 so this was a real bonus and also a highlight of this night's show. The mix is terrific with Glen Hardin's piano & Emory's bass nicely shaping the song. Here Elvis' voice really does suit the sentiment of the lyric and he enjoys it so much that he does a rare reprise at the end. This is a real treat and also a surprise for the band! Unfortunately there is a bit of peak-distortion on the tape but the dynamic of the song is perfectly captured.
Elvis suggests 'The Impossible Dream' as the next track. Although Joe Guercio is there at Lake Tahoe, the Al Tronti orchestra obviously haven't rehearsed the song which is a shame. Elvis also asks for 'For The Good Times' but that suggestion is rejected too! Showing his spontaneity, & good humour, instead he goes for a very enjoyable 'Funny How Time Slips Away' which works very nicely with some good crowd interaction.
Then for the second time Elvis suggests 'The Impossible Dream' but again gets told "We can't do it!"
This time Elvis chooses 'It's Over', before jumping straight into 'Release Me'. This he kicks off in too high a key which causes it to fall apart after 30 seconds. He comments "Goddamn that's high. Hold it, hold it! Let's do Faded Love." This really surprises the band and Elvis has to ask them to adjust the tempo - They were playing fast that night.
'Faded Love' is excellent fun, with Glen D Hardin and even the brass section really getting into it, and fits nicely into the spontaneity of the concert.
Sadly, with dawn in sight, it was time to wrap up the show and those dreaded words "I'd like to sing a song from Blue Hawaii for you" and 'Can't Help falling In Love' takes us home.
However an excellent bonus on this CD are 2 extra performances from the Midnight Show. A delicious and rare 'I'm Leaving' is another highlight. What a shame that this beautiful song never got added to the Aloha show. Again this is the earliest official live release of this song, although Elvis had sung it live as far back as 1971.
A storming 'A Big Hunk O' Love' also shows that Elvis was on fine form that day. So while this CD doesn't feature Elvis on top form vocally, it does show the natural, spur-of-the-moment side of his character especially when compared to the restraint & seriousness of the '73 Aloha special. The cover does features some terrific photos from the actual concert and is one of FTD's best layouts.
Overall Verdict - Although this may not be an essential purchase for everyone, Elvis is loose, having fun, the mix is excellent and it does capture an important part of Elvis' emotional year. Recommended listening.
Note - Now 1971 is the only year remaining for which we have no official Elvis concert release. Hopefully FTD has a show from the November tour when Elvis was in good form & playing to larger crowds. Jesse D. Presley was even at one of them (Nov 7th) to see his grandson perform!
Reviewed by Piers Beagley
Copyright EIN - 2003
Click to comment on this review
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.