Book Review: "E.P. in Concert"

Paul Lichter, Jesse Books, USA, Hardback, 1997, 156 pages, Illustrated, ISBN: 0961602783

Elvis resplendent in a white, jewel encrusted jumpsuit holding his audience captive...mere mortals mermerised by the musical God who outshines all others....this was what we came to expect during Elvis' concert years.

And when one considers books about Elvis' concert years from 1969 to 1977 four names spring immediately to mind: Sean Shaver, Joseph Tunzi, Stein Erik Skar and Paul Lichter.

For the purposes of this review I will discard the Shaver and Tunzi's photobooks and focus on a book which offers not only a photographic record of Elvis' post 1968 live shows but also an important historic narrative of that time replete with fascinating concert data.

Paul Lichter's E.P. in Concert has justifiably achieved iconic status in the world of Elvis books and you will discover the reason why below. The result of 28 years of research it is truly an impressive visual and narrative record of Elvis live in performance in his later years. Not surprisingly it draws inevitable comparisons with Skar's sublime, Elvis The Concert Years 1969-1977.

While copies of the Skar book are still readily available from sources such as Bill E. Burk, Lichter's painstakingly detailed tribute to Elvis' jumpsuit years is a very rare find these days. The few times a copy appears on ebay invariably results in a sale price well over US$100.00.

Released in 1977 as a limited numbered collectible (5,000 copies), E.P in Concert sold out in only a few months and is now one of the most sought after books by Elvis collectors. With its pages hand sewn into the cover spine it is a book designed to last.

Narratively, there is at least one claim in the book that is controversial. As you will note from the author's message to EIN below, he stands by his claim (sourced directly from the files of Colonel Tom Parker) that the opening show in Las Vegas in 1969 was on 27 July, not 31 July, as most sources suggest.

However, any controversial claims are quickly put aside when one realises the enormity of Lichter's release and the veritable goldmine of visual feasts, evocative narrative description, and factual data, E.P in Concert offers the reader.

There are some structural weaknesses with E.P In Concert but these are overshadowed by the author's painstaking research and visual cornucopia. Undoubtedly, Skar's book has a better design and certainly more pages (272), but E.P. in Concert is also a great one.

A value added feature is Lichter's detailed three page listing of the photographs presented in the book - photographs of nearly all of the jumpsuits worn by The King from 1969 to 1977! By itself this is a hugely important historic record.

The center color section (Souvenir Concert Tour Photo Book) is particularly eye catching. Across the nearly 40 pages of this section we are treated to a wondrous collection of Elvis images. From full page in-your-face portraits to smaller intimate shots, the hundreds of visuals on display perfectly showcase the performance majestry of the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Even the famous '68 Comeback Special gets a guernsey.

The photos in E.P in Concert were sourced from a number of photographers. Apart from the author himself their credibility is obvious when yo see names like Sean Shaver, Keith Alverson and Bob Heis.

It is just a pity that the visuals are not all in color as this would have made it easier to identify each jumpsuit. While the quality of the photos is consistently very good throughout the book I felt greater impact would also have been gained by using full gloss rather than semi-gloss paper stock.

That the author personally witnessed around 850 Elvis shows is, in itself, a remarkable fact. It also provides him with a rare insight to the "live" Elvis.

This, combined with the phenomenal visual library presented, allows for a fascinating journey on the road with The King.

From the author's account of Elvis triumphant at Madison Square Garden:

At the first show comedian Jackie Kahane ran into an extremely rude New York audience. They hissed, booed and shouted, "We want The King"....

Elvis materialised in a white suit of lights sparkling with gold studs....Time stopped and everyone was innocent. He dominated the mortals who filled The Garden. He used the stage and played to the people. He stritted, shook and was quite simply brilliant!

As with the Skar release, E.P. in Concert includes a show by song listing for each show/tour, show attendance figures and details of the jumpsuit worn by Elvis at each concert. Lichter also includes information on the belts worn at each show as Elvis would often wore the same jumpsuit but interchange his belt. Elvis historians will relish this information.

Structurally, I would have preferred had the author adopted a more linear, chronological approach to presenting the Elvis in Concert years.

The final section of E.P. in Concert is 30 pages of press reviews of selected shows which further brings to life the excitement and energy of being in the King's presence as he delivered a high energy, adrenalin fuelled performance.

In researching this review EIN contacted Paul Lichter. This was Paul's response:

"Glad to hear you found a copy. I hope it brings you pleasure.

We printed 5,000 copies of EP In Concert and as you are aware the book sold out in a matter of months. I believe the jumpsuit list to be complete and 90-95% correct. I tried and thought that I had accomplished a photo of Elvis in every jumpsuit. I am quite certain that the only missing suits/photos would be a couple of the two-piece outfits that feature jackets without sleeves. Examples can be seen during Elvis' 1972 Vegas engagement on the Behind The Image DVD.

When compiling the list of concerts and what Elvis wore at each I found it very difficult in many cases for the following reasons. Photographers who were there at the time (example Shaver and Leech) had faulty memories especially concerning the Blue/White Bicentennial Suits. I arrived at what appears in the book concerning Elvis' outfits through a wide variety of sources; my own attendance at concerts, my personal photo archives, newspaper reviews (not very accurate as one had to guess from their poor descriptions what suit they were referring to) and a variety of original Elvis photographers, newspaper photographers and Elvis super fans.

There has been some controversy concerning Elvis' first show at the International in 1969. The date and information given in my book came directly from the Colonel's wife who had documents from Charles Stone indicating the date and information that I list. Although I've heard some gripes concerning this information no one has provided any definitive proof that the Colonel's original tour documents were, in fact, wrong.

Of the many books I have written Portrait In Music (see visual below), which was and is the definitive statement concerning Elvis' worldwide vinyl releases and EP In Concert, were the most exhaustive and rewarding projects. They have both stood the test of time for which I am very grateful."

Verdict: E.P. in Concert defines itself as a "must have" inclusion in the Elvis library due to its painstaking research and visual record of virtually all jumpsuits worn by Elvis between 1969 and 1977.

Visit Paul Lichter's "Elvis Unique" website

Elvis Books by Paul Lichter

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