Back in 1970 'On Stage' was an all-important step in Elvis’ live album releases. While the previous ‘Elvis In Person’ marvelously captured the stunning dynamite of a resurrected Elvis LIVE in concert it was still basically an album of old rock-n-roll hits, a stunning look-back with a slight look forward.
‘On Stage’ in comparison was UNIQUE featuring a totally different message. Here was an album of Elvis in concert which featured NO Elvis oldies and hits!
It cleverly demonstrated that Elvis really was musically & professionally growing, recording an album that showcased original material from new songwriters and which no longer had to depend on his own greatest-hits.
EIN's Piers Beagley has a close look at this special 40th Anniversay release.
UPDATE - Scroll down for other On-Line Reviews, EIN readers' feedback and Have YOUR Say!
Following on from the recent high quality SONY/BMG Legacy presentation of Elvis’ crucial 1969 album ‘From Elvis In Memphis’ comes the 40th Anniversary release of Elvis’ classic ‘On Stage’ album.
Note that the sticker on the front also links the marketing of this release to 'VIVA ELVIS'.
"The Legend continues with the Cirque Du Soleil Show VIVA ELVIS."
Back in 1970 this was an important step in Elvis’ live album releases and his musical back-on-stage renaissance. While the previous ‘Elvis In Person’ marvellously captured the stunning dynamite of a resurrected Elvis LIVE in concert it was still basically an album of old rock-n-roll hits, a stunning look-back with a slight look forward (Suspicious Minds, In the Ghetto).
‘On Stage’ in comparison was unique featuring a totally different message. Here was an album of Elvis in concert which featured NO Elvis oldies and hits! It cleverly demonstrated that Elvis really was musically & professionally growing with the times, recording an album that showcased original material from new songwriters and which no longer had to depend on his own greatest-hits.
- And compared to the punk-rock feel of the stunning ‘In Person’ release, it was obvious that ‘On Stage’ still patched a punch but in a smoother, more-professional way.
Elvis showed that he could find great country-funk-rock songs, like the stunning ‘Polk Salad Annie’ and ‘Proud Mary’, while at the same time put his very soul on-line with an amazing ‘Release Me’ and ‘Let It Be Me.’ Elvis even made the classic Everly’s 1960 hit seem contemporary, while at the same time the only real “Oldie” was ‘See See Rider’ which most fans would not have been familiar with.
Elvis’ vocal and new arrangements not only suited the new material but also showed a deeper, richer style and a real progression from his last In-Concert album that was less than 12 months old!
If this was the “new” Elvis revitalized, and a pattern that would hopefully continue, then fans in 1970 could hardly fathom what excitements lay in store for them in the future.
Sadly of course this wouldn’t happen and we would become a little disappointed, as every future live album by Elvis would always follow the “Greatest-Hits plus few-new-songs” formula.
Looking back it is hard to remember that in 1970 ‘On Stage’ was THAT unique!
This new 40th anniversary Legacy edition of ‘On Stage’ contains the original 10 tracks (the one disappointment at the time was that it was a little short) plus three excellent Bonus Tracks, along with the full afternoon rehearsal of ‘The Wonder Of You’ released here for the very first time.
The second CD also includes Elvis’ ‘In Person’ live album plus six Bonus tracks. While serious Elvis fans will already own these songs from the last year’s ‘In Person’ FTD Classic Album, the presentation here is different with an alternate selection of ‘Bonus tracks’.
Since these Legacy releases are aimed at the General Public I can see the point of including ‘In Person’ here. Hopefully they will not see too much similarity between this release and the stunning 2007 ‘Viva Las Vegas’ compilation that was also aimed at the same market and featured a similar 1969 performance.
It’s a top-notch presentation with some fine photos – many taken from Ken Sharp’s excellent book ‘Elvis Vegas 1969’ but also including new photos from 1970.
It’s no real complaint but I do wonder why there is a 1969 Elvis photo behind DISC 1 (which is the ‘On Stage’ album) yet a 1970 image behind 1969’s DISC 2?!
The liner notes nicely comment on Elvis’ on-stage progression for the February 1970 performances and features quotes from the musicians and songwriters including…
...“Backstage, Elvis was a twitching ball of nerves, pacing the dressing room like a panther. Elvis and the Colonel were both nervous wrecks before the show.
"It was his first live show in eight years and it was a big challenge coming back," affirmed James Burton. "He'd been doing movies for so long and was very insecure about how his fans would accept him. Elvis came up to me right before the show and said, 'James, I'm so nervous, I don't know if I can do this.' I said, 'Elvis, when you walk out there and the curtain goes up, after the first two or three songs it'll be like sitting at home in your living room.'" Rhythm guitarist John Wilkinson remembered, "When the curtain was ready to go up, he was visibly shaking but he was ready."
Opening with a raucous rendition of Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes," Elvis, dressed in a stylish jet black Bill Belew designed outfit, grabbed the mike and sang the song's opening couplet, "Well, it's a one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready" and boy did that cat go. "When he walked out on that stage it was magical." enthused Priscilla Presley. "The energy was incredible. He was like this tiger on stage that was unchained. It was like watching an animal unfold in front of your eyes with this magnetism that drew everyone in. I'm sitting there in the first row seeing him perform and my mouth dropped open, 'My God, it's a totally different Elvis."'
During the press conference that followed opening night, Elvis fessed up that he indeed was nervous "for the first three songs or so, before I loosened up. Then I thought, 'What the heck. Get with it, man, or you might be out of a job tomorrow."'
Inside the packed 2.000 seat showroom, pandemonium ensued. "The audience was so incredibly loud - stompin', screaming and beatin' on the tables. The crowd was goin' nuts," remembered James Burton.”
The audio has been Re-mastered by the great Vic Anesini and similar to his work on ‘Elvis LIVE’, ‘Viva Las Vegas’ and ‘In Person’ these recordings have never sounded better. The album now sounds like the original vinyl release but with a stunning new clarity and deep, rich sound.
The audio has the “traditional” mix with drums left channel, Backing Vocals & James Burton guitar on the right and with Elvis and Jerry Scheff’s bass in the centre. This gives the concert a rich bass sound driving the concert along and with a new spatially open stereo mix it has a great feel.
(It has the same great mix as featured on Vic Anesini’s excellent 2006 ‘Elvis LIVE’ budget CD.)
Dennis Ferrante’s BMG 1999 ‘On Stage’ version was more compressed, less spatial, and with Elvis’ vocal often more buried in the mix. Elvis’ between-track talking was also changed by Dennis Ferrante.
One prime example is the sensational version here of ‘Let It Be Me.’ On the 1999 release even though the song is a Glen Hardin arrangement his piano was buried in the audio mix. The compression also lessened Elvis’ vocal track, which for some reason also had extra echo added to it, creating a far muddier mix. Here ‘Let It be Me’ shines like never before.
So to the album itself...
DISC 1 (46 minutes)
Kicking off with the great ‘See See Rider’ it’s interesting to note that in February 1970 Elvis did not start his concerts with this classic number as he would from 1972 onwards. The jump straight into the song without the usual TCB intro-vamp seems quite shocking! You can immediately tell that the audio here has been Remastered with the drums placed back on the left channel as they were originally. This audio mix worked very well on Vic Anesini’s ‘In Person’ FTD remaster and the placing sounds great here.
With little or no overdubs (and little orchestra) you can really hear the TCB band rock out on this excellent February 18th Midnight Show number. The Sweet Inspirations add the right amount of soul to the mix and the overall feel is of a more tightly working unit than on the earlier ‘In Person’.
Elvis sets the scene and tells the audience, “We’re recording a live album here tonight” which for some reason was missed from the 1999 version!
‘Release Me’ - If anything represents the fascination of this new “February 1970 season” Elvis it has to be his comment at the beginning, “You’re gonna like this. Let’s play it hard now.” - What a Classic Elvis comment!
While never fan of the 1967 Englebert Humperdinck smash hit (It was actually originally published in 1946!) Elvis managed to transform this fairly innocuous country song into a rockin’ ballad full of Southern Soul. His comments mid-chorus like “Yeah Baby” at 01.30 are SO Elvis, they always bring a smile to my face.
Not only does Glen Hardin start the song with a cute piano intro but his finger-work also really drives the song along, which was somewhat lost on the 1999 release. The new audio Master here gives the song an even richer, powerful, soulful feel.
It is also worth noting that Elvis was pretty sick with the flu/cough during this engagement (See FTD ‘Polk Salad Annie’ review) and it is surprising just how good his voice sounded. Also note that this even track begins with Elvis coughing!
‘Sweet Caroline’ follows with an acknowledgement to at-the-time fairy unknown songwriter Neil Diamond. Elvis performs it with a real passion (and of course you can imagine the performance from the film ‘That’s The Way It Is’ that would follow six months later.
Del Shannon’s ‘Runaway’ follows (more great “Yeah Baby”s) and if it sounds a little less professional in its arrangement than the other songs here, we of course now know that it was in fact from the previous year. It is a crying shame that RCA (Felton Jarvis) never decided on ‘Don’t Cry Daddy’ or ‘Kentucky Rain’ instead since they would have suited the album’s overall feel so much better.
‘The Wonder Of You’ – What more can one add about this stunning UK #1 single? I love Elvis’ comment beforehand, “Everybody ready?”* Who could imagine that Elvis could record such a stunning single when he was only rehearsing it that very afternoon!
The very first on-stage version performed and never bettered. * Interestingly the 1999 ‘On Stage’ release also featured Elvis extra words, “Watch me goof it up now, see!” which were not on the original album.
‘Polk Salad Annie’ – “Some of you never been down South too much!” What a brilliant introduction and so stunning swamp rock from the TCB Band. This one deserves cranking up loud. The rumble of Jerry Scheff’s bass along with the tight Bob Lanning drumming provides the perfect rhythm section – along with Gospel responses from The Sweets (“chick-a-bomb-chick-a-bomb” indeed!) and an excellent horn arrangement.
(The Nashville credited arranger Bergen White is acknowledged on the sleeve cover since he arranged Tony Joe White’s original version) .
As Tony Joe White says in the sleeve notes,
... "Elvis' producer Felton Jarvis told me, 'Elvis is gonna cut 'Polk' live,"' recalled White. "They flew us out to Las Vegas to see Elvis perform it. It was weird because I was doing Elvis' early stuff in my early days and now all of a sudden he was doing mine. I was totally in awe of the whole thing. Elvis connected with 'Polk Salad Annie' because he had eaten polk and he understood it plus it was a great rocker for him. He put all his moves and dancing into it. He really just got down with it. It seemed like he worked that song harder than anything."
Elvis needs to recover afterwards with some great comments follow “This gives me a little time to breathe folks. Honey, don’t get physical. Hang Loose everybody!”
‘Yesterday’ that follows again from 1969 (with an obvious audio sound difference, check the hum) fits better than the earlier ‘Runaway’ being a lovely orchestrated version of the Paul McCartney classic with nice piano work from Larry Muhoberac. Note that the piano has also jumped from left channel to right channel with the 1969 <>1970 edit!
‘Proud Mary’ gets us back to the soulful r&b gospel stew and as Elvis takes us down the river, “Take it on.” Elvis returned to this song in concert until 1974 so it was obviously a favourite. Elvis slightly worn voice here suits the number and it’s only a shame that this great version ran a short 2.20 minutes. Later versions would run longer.
More classic comments, “The scarf’s too short, my belt’s falling off. I’m losing my mind!” takes us to another great 1970 song of Joe South’s ‘Walk A Mile In My Shoes.’
The punchy horn arrangement and Gospel responses make this a prefect Elvis song, “Lord have Mercy”.
It’s surprising how little The Imperials are featured in the general mix compared to the soulful Sweet Sensations. And it is also a shame that the segue through to ‘In the Ghetto’ was not used on the album since Elvis’ 1970 arrangement of that song were more emotional than the earlier 1969 live versions.
By the ‘Let It Be Me’ finale the album seems to be ending far too quickly. Unlike the others, this song prominently featured the (great) Imperials and what a stunner it is. A composition that perfectly fitted Elvis’ 1970 style as well as his rich baritone and featuring a beautifully understated guitar solo from James Burton (“Oh yeah” acknowledged Elvis). The mid-song verse “Each time we meet love, I find complete love, without your sweet love - TELL ME, What would life be?” is So Elvis and stunning in it’s phrasing.
I may have heard it 1000 times before but it still gives me goosebumps listening it to every time! That’s the true emotional effect of Elvis and his soul breathing through every lyric for you!
The Glen Hardin arrangement works so well with the strings building-up and then the delicious fade at 02.56 powering through to that emotionally stunning ending, “Take It Home.”
What shame that Elvis only performed this song a total of twelve times in concert. Sensational.
Bonus Songs ‘Don’t Cry Daddy’ a February 18th Dinner Show recording (same as ‘The Wonder Of You’) has a beautifully on-stage feel and nice live string orchestration and would have fitted perfectly onto the original album. A Top Ten hit for Elvis in 1969 it’s hard to believe that no live version was released until 1981!
Note that the 1999 ‘On Stage’ release used a different February 17th recording of this song.
‘Kentucky Rain’“I have out a new record, just came out in the last week or so, I hope you like it.” This song, from February 16th Dinner Show, would also have fitted well on the album with this original comment. The single came out on January 29 1970. Elvis never perfected the emotional precision nor tricky timing when playing this song live and it does sound like he is concentrating a little on remembering the lyrics. However the Gospel addition of The Sweets as well as Elvis’ involvement “yeah” towards the end would have never disappointed had it been on the album.
Note that the 1999 ‘On Stage’ release used a different February 17th recording of this song.
The ‘Long Tall Sally’ arrangement however doesn’t work here and should have been left for the 1969 TCB Band! While Elvis’ singing is fine, rough & ready, what is that horn arrangement doing (left channel) sounding like a corny cheap pub-band!?
Here the 1999 ‘On Stage’ Dennis Ferrante mix does actually sound better as the tacky horn section are sensibly removed but with Glen D Hardin’s piano higher, giving the song a better rock’n’roll TCB Band feeling.
Rehearsal ‘The Wonder Of You’ full afternoon rehearsal is a lovely treat for fans. With Elvis in beautiful vocal he has some fun along the way as he teases the musicians. “You give me hope and constipation” he sings during the first run-through.
Here we get the full 7 minutes – a wonderful 4 ½ minutes longer than the previous release – and the feel of Elvis demonstrating the backing vocals at the same time as singing lead is a delight.
If you doubt Elvis’ sincerity and dedication to the song (another great arrangement by Glen Hardin) then give a listen to the very light sounding original hit by Ray Peterson.
The second more serious rehearsal that stops halfway through, is fascinating with Elvis still working on the arrangement, “Hold It, Bob” he notes as he then indicates the vocal changes he wants before the second bridge.
Even then the band and orchestra recommence while Elvis is still explaining to the Sweet Inspirations what he wants, “You can do ‘The Wonder of You’ with me!”.
The first release of this rehearsal in 1997 was one of the highlights of the Platinum box-set. Here the audio is even greatly improved (a real remix compared to the Platinum version) and how lucky Elvis fans are that these rehearsals tapes still exist. Absolute magic.
DISC 2 (54 minutes) The official ‘In Person’ re-release.
The original album of course rocks like a punk-on-heat and is stunning throughout.
While of course this has to be similar to the FTD Classic Album release the tracklisting here does differ.
Gone are the tricky attempts from the band at the more obscure Elvis ‘American Sessions’ tracks like ‘This Is the Story’, ‘Rubberneckin’’ and ‘Inherit The Wind’.
Remember that the TCB Band had not even played on the Memphis sessions. So while these songs were fascinating for being so rare they never seemed to fit in with the Rock’n’Roll format of Elvis’ 1969 live shows.
Here they are replaced by a better selection of songs that really do fit the format of the original ‘In Person’ album. Any of these tracks could have been added to the original vinyl release and would have not seemed out of place.
(Right:From the booklet a great shot of Elvis live on-stage action)
‘I Got A Woman’ captures more of Elvis’ R&B ‘My Babe’ feel while the ‘Jailhouse Rock’/’Don’t Be Cruel’“my nose is running, the eyes, the ears, everything else” is a nice early work-out of the regular set-list medley. Surprisingly this 1969 medley we all know so well was not officially released until ‘Collectors Gold’ in 1991 - can you believe that?!
The lovely and Bluesy ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ 1969 version was also a fabulous concert bonus with the added Gospel appeal of the Sweet Sensations. Again no classic 1969 rendering of this song was officially featured until ‘Collectors Gold’ in 1991.
‘Baby, What You want me To Do’ while a song perhaps well-recognized from the Comeback Special was another great inclusion in the 1969 set-list. Again Jerry Scheff’s driving bass-work gives the song a fabulous funky feel. These tracks are taken from the August 22nd Dinner Show as featured on the second disc complete concert of the ‘In Person’ FTD. Not August 23rd as indicated on these sleeve notes.
‘Reconsider Baby’ 1969 would have blown the hard-core Elvis fans minds had it been officially released. Showing Elvis’ love of truly classic emotive Blues it was sadly reminisce that RCA never bothered or even acknowledged this classic in their vaults again until ‘Collectors Gold’ in 1991. Elvis’ short attempt at ‘Loving You’ as he teases the audience is once again included here.
As a fan it seems obvious that releasing tracks such as these would have done a lot to strengthen Elvis’ musical legacy in the 1970s.
‘Funny How Time Slips Away’ also works as a great conclusion to this concert CD – an old Elvis favourite first released by him on the 1971 ‘Elvis Country’ album and the live version on the ‘Madison Square Garden’ album. Here Elvis is playing his guitar and this is a sensational early version which sounds beautiful due to the lovely clear mix and perfectly placed piano. This classic spontaneous performance – Elvis only sang it three times in 1969 and only ten times in 1970 – would remain in the vaults again until 1991.
What were Felton Jarvis and Joan Deary thinking of?
A rarity like this could have even fitted onto the mood of Elvis’ final ‘Moody Blue’ album and would have been a real treat for Elvis fans, far better than the repeat performance of ‘Let Me Be There’ copied directly off ‘Live In Memphis’ from 3 years earlier!
Performances like these above makes you realise how poorly treated Elvis fans were release-wise in the final years of his life through to the mid 1980s. More power to Roger Semon & Ernst Jorgensen for setting the record straight.
(Note that my only initial disappointment on hearing of this reissue was the initial dream
of getting a brand-new unreleased February 1970 concert as the second CD instead
of 'In Person' that I already own. However Ernst has previously stated that
Felton Jarvis for some crazy reason never recorded a complete performance that
Overall Verdict: Thirty-Two classic Elvis LIVE Vegas performances from his two most inspirational concert years – what more could you want? This 40th Anniversary release release of ‘On Stage’ is the perfect encapsulation of Elvis LIVE On-Stage in 1970 and 1969 when he truly was The King of Vegas and his concert performances were un-beatable. A very fine Legacy release.
I hope it sells buckets and remains prominently in the “CD Racks” next to his other classic Legacy album ‘From Elvis In Memphis.’
At less than $20 this has got to be a great bargain and a worthy upgrade.
ON STAGE - Sony Legacy Edition - RCA/Legacy 88697 63213 2.
"On Stage" Original Album
See See Rider
The Wonder Of You
Polk Salad Annie
Walk A Mile In My Shoes
Let It Be Me Bonus Tracks
Don't Cry Daddy [Feb 18th - Greatest Hits Vol. 1]
Kentucky Rain [Feb 16th - Elvis Aron Presley box-set]
Long Tall Sally [Feb 18th - On Stage 1999 release] Rehearsal
The Wonder Of You
CD Credits: Produced for reissue by Ernst Jorgensen.
Mastered by Vic Anesini.
"Elvis In Person" Original Album
Blue Suede Shoes
Johnny B. Goode
All Shook Up
Are You Lonesome Tonight?
I Can't Stop Loving You
Mystery Train/Tiger Man
In The Ghetto
Can't Help Falling In Love Bonus Tracks
I Got A Woman
Jailhouse Rock/Don't Be Cruel
Baby, What You Want Me To Do
Funny How Time Slips Away
Did Elvis Record 'Tiger Man' At Sun?: A question that has puzzled Elvis fans through the years is whether he actually recorded the song ‘Tiger Man’ during his years at SUN studios.
The basic question is why did Elvis refer to 'Tiger man' several times in concert as “The second song that I ever recorded, not too many people heard it”?
And if Elvis DID record it, then why hasn’t any reference to it at SUN or proof of its existence been found?
Elvis would first perform ‘Tiger Man’ in concert at his first 1969 Las Vegas International season and would continue playing it through the years – usually in a medley with Mystery Train - until his last performance at Saginaw on May 3 1977. He would sing it over 150 times on stage! The thought that there might be an acetate or undiscovered tape of Elvis at SUN singing ‘Tiger Man’ is a mouth-watering concept - but is it an unlikely fantasy or strong possibility?
Go here to our detailed 'TIGER MAN' spotlight as EIN's Piers Beagley puts in the hard yards to check the facts from the fantasy . (Spotlight; Source;ElvisInfoNetwork)
From: Jeremy R.
It does irritate me that SONY/BMG added Elvis In Person as the 2nd disc on "On Stage." They should have had enough Feb. 1970 bonus live cuts to fill out this project, even if they aren't complete shows.
"ELVIS IN PERSON" should have been released as a stand-alone project by Legacy, because I think it's Elvis' greatest live album, at least in the Top 5. I realize it was originally part of "From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis. So, if not as a stand-alone, then part of the double LP I talk about below.
Legacy Recordings is supposed to preserve an artist's original albums. They did that with last year's "From Elvis In Memphis." I only wish they had given the Legacy treatment to "From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis, Elvis's double LP from late '69.
It reached #12, one position higher than "From Elvis In Memphis," & it was one of a handful of Elvis LPs in his latter career to get that high on the charts. RCA is getting better at not screwing with Elvis' recorded legacy, but they're far from being perfect. Anyway, it's aggravating.
From: Steve P
The new 2010 is a great new release as you say. But I still love the old 1999 On Stage version as it had a very cleverly extended tracklist making it a far longer and more satisfying listen. The original album was to short.
You should have mentioned the 1999 full tracklist as songs such the extra Hey Jude, and I Can't stop Loving You and Suspicious Minds 02/70 version never made this new release.
Even better the Walk A Mile in My Shoes / In the Ghetto medley was also there.
As a legacy release this medley could have been in the Bonus section along with other missed songs.
I still recommend people to buy the new one - great sound - but don;t throw away your old versions.
EIN - That is a good point. The 1999 release played for 52 minutes and included an extra 7 Bonus Tracks (see right) new to the original album. I would happily listen to a Vic Anesini ReMaster of this too! - Piers
1999 RCA/BMG release Tracklist
1. See See Rider
2. Release Me
3. Sweet Caroline
5. The Wonder Of You
6. Polk Salad Annie
7. Yesterday / Hey Jude
8. Proud Mary
9. Walk A Mile In My Shoes 10. In The Ghetto
11. Don’t Cry Daddy
12. Kentucky Rain
13. I Can’t Stop Loving You
14. Suspicious Minds
15. Long Tall Sally
16. Let It Be Me
From: Jeff S
I never thought that the earlier expanded release sounded that bad. Remeber we are now ten years later and most CDs have had their sound improved. Elvis's voice was just great in this period in February 1970 and had been since the amazing Comeback Special. I like this combination of the two live albums but wish I had not alreday bought the FTD version of In Person. Must every Elvis fan buy everything multiple times even in the same year!
The power ballads sound great here but the original album also gave us a look into Elvis becoming a Vegas cabaret artist rather than the rock an roll star. I am not sure The Colonel actually did right by contracting Elvis to the Vegas showroom for so long.
having said that I am very happy with this new release.
A spot on review!
On Stage has always been my no 1 favourite Elvis live album. The Legacy release only confirms my love for the album. The bonus’ here and the inclusion of In Person must surely be a value-for-money for the general public imo.
From: Barry Mclean I would agree with your comments, I always thought 'On Stage' and 'In Person' were great, when they first came out, back in the day.
I ended up with 4 copies of this new issue, the paper sleeve advance set, the Jewel Case Promo, the Canadian as well as the U.S. issue. Crazy or what? Here is the 'On Stage' Promotional CD along with the paper inserts. The only thing different with the promo's, are they are in a jewel case, They have no barcode.On the back it states "Promotional".
EIN thanks super-collector Barry Mclean for the above scans
Other On-Line reviews for 'On Stage'
'Elvis returns with 'On Stage: Legacy Edition': It's 1970. You're in Vegas. You need a break from the gambling. What do you pick: the buffet, the showgirls or the King?
Even if you don't have the foresight to know he'll be dead in seven years, the correct answer was, is and always shall be Elvis in concert. This year, the 75th anniversary of Presley's birth, is a natural marker to unleash reissue upon reissue of his works.
Perhaps none is as essential to Elvis fans (and would-be fans) as "On Stage: Legacy Edition," released March 23 as a double CD. The album is really a repackaging of two earlier Elvis live albums: "Elvis in Person at the International Hotel" from 1969, and 1970's "On Stage."
These albums -- each one was a patchwork of Elvis shows in Las Vegas -- featured The King where he was at his best: performing live. Elvis was an actor, a gospel singer, a pompadour sensation -- but he never would have been any of those if he weren't also the consummate showman.
He knew this, too. Before breaking into a medley of his early hit "Mystery Train" and Rufus Thomas' "Tiger Man," he told the audience that when he first started out he just had a guitar and "a shaky leg." The latter is what drove audiences wild.
With "On Stage," you don't need to see Elvis to appreciate what a great performer he was. This was Elvis after his monstrous TV comeback special but before he became the rhinestone-studded-jumpsuit caricature of himself. Even on the songs that he didn't make hits -- "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond and John Fogerty's "Proud Mary," to name two -- Elvis manages to make them his own.
This album could have been cheesy. I mean, you have Elvis, in Vegas and (for part of it anyway) the 1970s. But what's remarkable is that this is a pretty straight-up collection of rock 'n' roll.
The early Elvis hits like "Hound Dog" and "All Shook Up" are here, but "Teddy Bear" is nowhere in sight. He also performs newer songs like the sublime "Suspicious Minds," "Kentucky Rain" and "In the Ghetto." Willie Nelson and The Bee Gees are represented with Elvis covers of "Funny How Time Slips Away" and the latter's "Words."
Note to younger readers: The Bee Gees made music before the awful disco era, and some of it was quite good.
"On Stage" benefits Elvis fans with the plethora of bonus material. Sure, there's a booklet of photos and an essay by Elvis author Ken Sharp.
More importantly, tracks have been added to the CDs. The disc that includes 1969's "Elvis in Person" expands that album by six tracks and the "On Stage" disc includes four additional songs, for a total of 32 songs.
The smaller moments help make "On Stage" endearing, though. Elvis fumbling the start of "I Got a Woman; " introducing "Kentucky Rain" with the seemingly modest "I hope you like it; " or a corny joke about which of his records were biggest: "They were all about the same size."
Some of the covers, like Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" and Del Shannon's "Runaway," risk turning the album into "Elvis Performs Golden Oldies." He does the songs justice but there are so many they begin to bog down the album. "Yesterday" was a recent hit at the time, but 40 years later it sounds maudlin and overdone. Elvis sounds best doing his own material.
That's even -- make that especially -- when he goes full-throttle on the Vegas sound, complete with strings, backup singers, horns and all. Elvis was made for Vegas. Maybe the reverse is true, as well.
In "On Stage: Legacy Edition" both come across in top form.
(Source: Adam Richter, The Express Times, 4 April 2010)
Elvis Presley's On Stage Sparkles Like Las Vegas: To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley's engrossing On Stage album, the fine folks at Legacy Recordings have reissued it as a double-disc set that captures him in Las Vegas at a critical point in his career. Presley had spent most of the 1960s making unmemorable movies but the famed '68 Comeback Special brought him an enormous television audience. Listening to On Stage, as well as the additional reissue of Elvis in Person, it's clear that Presley gave this engagement his best shot. "The Wonder of You," a vocal tour de force, originally came from On Stage, but I had never heard his lively rendition of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline." I wouldn't have thought that would work, but now I'm a believer.
I was too young to ever see him in concert, but I can visualize the "Vegas Elvis" working the stage whenever I hear "Walk a Mile in My Shoes." One of the bonus tracks is an early performance of a future signature hit, "Kentucky Rain," and another is a rehearsal of "The Wonder of You," in which he swaps out the word "inspiration," causing the band (and me) to giggle when he croons, "You give me hope and constipation."
On Stage was recorded in February 1970, while Elvis in Person comes from his August 1969 concerts. (Elvis in Person was initially released as the first disc of From Memphis to Vegas -- From Vegas to Memphis in 1969, then reissued a year later as a single album.) You can hear the women shrieking when he busts out "In the Ghetto," although I'm partial to his unexpected cover of the Bee Gees' "Words." Among the six bonus tracks here is a live rendition of Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away." Indeed, it is funny. But don't be mistaken -- this reissue is seriously cool. (CD Review, Source: Craig Shelburne, CMT, 28 March 2010)
CD Review: Elvis Presley - On Stage: Legacy Edition:
On Stage: Legacy Edition is the latest release celebrating the 75th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s birth.
Elvis had not performed live in eight years when he took the stage at The International Hotel in Las Vegas for four weeks during the summer of 1969. He returned for another month of performances in early 1970. A number of the songs from 1969 formed the live disc of the two record set From Memphis To Vegas – From Vegas to Memphis which was released during the fall of 1969 plus ten songs from the 1970 shows were released as On Stage during June of 1970. The albums were commercially successful receiving gold and platinum sales awards respectively.
RCA/Legacy has now combined this series of concerts into a two CD set. Each disc contains an original album plus bonus tracks. The sound has been scrubbed and cleaned and a booklet with photos plus a three thousand word essay gives a history of the performances and the albums.
I have most of the Elvis catalogue on vinyl and his 1969 concerts remains my favorite live performances. It presents a young, clean, and in shape Elvis at the top of his game. The patter with the audience shows a nervousness but makes the album have an intimate appeal that his later live work lacks.
His 1969 concerts concentrate on his early material and he presents it well as he had not performed it hundreds of times. During his last years this material would be presented quickly and many times in a truncated form. Here such classic songs as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “All Shook Up,” and “Hound Dog” quickly show why Elvis was The King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll. His medley of “Mystery Train/Tiger Man” is more straight forward rock while “My Babe” has toughness to it. His hits of the day, “In The Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds” provide a nice balance to the concert. The only real miss for me was a cover of the Bee Gees hit “Words.”
There are six bonus songs included and the first three are nice additions and continue the resurrection of his classic rock material. “I Got A Woman,” “Jailhouse Rock/Don’t be Cruel,” and “Heartbreak Hotel” are all given good work-outs.
The second disc, which represents his 1970 performances, finds a far different Elvis. His concert repertoire had begun to change to more modern cover songs and this disc represents that trend. “See See Rider,” which would be overdone through the years, sounds fresh here. An early version of “Polk Salad Annie” and his only hit, “The Wonder Of You,” to be included on the original release are both performed well. Such songs of the day as “Sweet Caroline,” “Proud Mary,” and “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” all benefit from his wonderful vocals but I would have preferred more of his own material from his vast catalogue.
The bonus tracks are more to my liking. “Don’t Cry Daddy,” and “Kentucky Rain” are two of his better songs from this part of his career. The rocking “Long Tall Sally” is great even if a little out of place given the other material. A rehearsal of “The Wonder of You” completes the album.
On Stage: Legacy Edition is a fine addition to the Elvis Presley catalogue. It combines some of his best live work into one package and has the sense to keep the flow of the original albums and concerts intact. While the material has been previously issued, it should prove pleasing to his vast fan base. (CD Review: Source: David Bowling, blogcritics.org, March 2010)