This limited edition Viva Las Vegas 2 CD package has been out a month and still I am thoroughly enjoying it. It comes in a gold coloured case and a 12 page booklet with notes by Colin Escott, as well as several pictures from 1969-1972. Back of the disc gives track-listing and a picture of the 1969 International ELVIS on the front.
The presentation, notes and photos match the content of the 2 discs - which span from 1969-1972 (with the exception of track 1 disc 1). The compilation has been produced by Ernst and Mastered by Vic Anesini at Sony studios NYC, with the brilliant Ray Bardini being responsible for the outstanding sound on the 1969 show.
Whilst I found it a bit strange to hear a July 1963 track opening on Disc 1, Viva Las Vegas seems ok with Elvis in one channel and the music in the other channel.
Moving onto the all too familiar 1970 Vegas tracks, we hear once again:
2. See See Rider 3. The Wonder Of You 4. Polk Salad Annie 5. Release Me 6. Let It Be Me 7. Proud Mary (European version only) 8. I Just Can't Help Believing 9. Walk A Mile In My Shoes 10. Bridge Over Troubled Water 11. Patch It Up 12. I've Lost You (European version only) 13. You Don't Have To Say You Love Me 14. You've Lost That Loving Feeling. Then from February 1972: 15. An American Trilogy 16. Never Been To Spain 17. You Gave Me A Mountain 18. It's Over (European version only) 19. The Impossible Dream (The Quest)
Now really ALL of us have heard these tracks countless times before and yes they do mostly sound the same, except in some songs the stereo and instruments seem to sound sharper/more distinct. A great example being track 12 I've Lost You - the brass kicks in like never before and I realise that because of the re-mastering work, these tracks they REALLY do sound better! In the five Feb 1972 tracks, An American Trilogy sounds more powerful, Mountain is much more committed and brighter. Whilst I wasn't expecting to hear anything new on CD 1, I did hear an improved sound on the same old songs and it runs for 64 minutes.
Disc 2 is simply labelled as Elvis' FIRST recorded concert in 1969 and indeed I have no doubt that it comes from 21st August 1969. However there is a big discrepancy between listings of the Dinner and Midnight shows performed on that day and really all I have been able to conclude (and help is REALLY appreciated from Keith Flynn) is that the never heard before tracks 1-11 MUST come from the Dinner show on 21st. But comparing to Collectors Gold (1991 release) AND the old chestnut bootleg (The Legend Lives On - part of the 21.8.69 M/S), confirms that tracks 12-19 come from the M/S on the same day. A big clue comes after the famous Happy Birthday bit when just before Elvis sings In the Ghetto, he says he's never going to be singing Happy Birthday to James Burton again, thus confirming he ONLY sang this once!
The very first part of this 68 minute compilation (they MUST have missed out songs to splice this together in this way) is missing, and we're straight into the opening Riff before Blue Suede Shoes. This is performed OK and after a dismissive 'oh shut up', Elvis performs I Got A Woman in VERY good style! All Shook Up is exceptionally good and, backed with terrific rhythm from the band, kicks the show into full throttle.
Then we get the usual dialogue about the funky Angels on the wall and his first live appearance etc, but Elvis is stuttering so badly that he even comments 'Christ - whats wrong with me?' Love Me Tender in nice but routine, and after dialogue about Gatorade we're into a superb medley of Jailhouse Rock/Don't Be Cruel that drives, rocks and sounds like a fantastic medley of those 2 great songs should sound! Singing with such spirit and enthusiasm, you cannot image a better performance.
Heartbreak Hotel is more lightweight and after some more dialogue Hound Dog barks with sheer energy! Memories here becomes a scarf/kissing version, whilst Mystery Train/Tiger Man introduced as one of his first records, rocks! The lengthy monologue/life story up next is quite good, and Mr and Mrs Tippler are then introduced as the couple who gave Elvis his first job with Crown Electric in Memphis and he thanks them for that (similar intro to August 1972 found on 'Blazing Into The Darkness'). I'm certain after this first recorded show Elvis was asked to cut out some of the swearing and goofs so that a better and smoother overall show could be taped for later album release. Baby What You Want Me To Do is pretty good, but after this I'm sure we cut to the Midnight show because we have the excerpt of Surrender (first heard on 'Collectors Gold') here. Yet it is actually performed before he does Del Shannon's Runaway (great version and featuring James Burton) and NOT before the next song Are You Lonesome Tonight, which is well received by the audience. This is a straight version and quite good. Yesterday/Hey Jude is quite a nice melody even if not the very best performance. The introductions are great and so is the Happy Birthday to James Burton. Charlie Hodge gets the 'Woolly Booger' intro and after an aside about James, Elvis performs In The Ghetto very well. Track 17 Suspicious Minds is a 100% superb sounding highlight lasting 8 minutes, and is so well balanced I simply cannot imagine anyone not liking this performance. It may NOT technically be his best sung performance but the drive is awesome! What Did I Say is again superb, and features some excellent Chickin Pickin from James Burton before Elvis closes the show 'especially for you' with Can't Help Falling In Love which is performed at a nice pace.
Praise high enough cannot be said about the SOUND on this disc, although we've had previous 1969 shows released, here we get a whole new sound and show that is simply the best sounding release to date. The All Shook Up FTD gave us the 26.8.69 M/S in good sound, Elvis At The International has similar track listing but doesn't sound as good, so this release is best compared to the original In Person 11 track 1969 'live' Album that has a good mixture of different tracks. Disc 1 from Live In Las Vegas had an edited and poor sounding 24.8.69 D/S - so without doubt this newly released 21.8.69 outing is more than appreciated! Once again it must be emphasised that the source of these shows hasn't yet been 100% confirmed, but the looseness and some of his comments which later wouldn't have been allowed to appear on an album, suggest it's an early show from the six days of RCA recording. Play it again and play it soon, as with Vic & Ray mastering, the sound of a 1969 live show has NEVER sounded so dynamic.
Viva Las Vegas Tracklisting
1) Viva Las Vegas 2) See See Rider 3) The Wonder Of You 4) Polk Salad Annie 5) Release Me 6) Let It Be Me 7) Proud Mary 8) I Just Can't Help Believin' 9) Walk A Mile In My Shoes 10) Bridge Over Troubled Water 11) Patch It Up 12) I've Lost You 13) You Don't Have To Say You Love Me 14) You've Lost That Loving Feeling 15) An American Trilogy 16) Never Been To Spain 17) You Gave Me A Mountain 18) It's Over 19) The Impossible dream
1) Blue Suede Shoes 2) I Got A Woman 3) All Shook Up 4) Love Me Tender 5) Jailhouse Rock/Don't Be Cruel 6) Heartbreak Hotel 7) Hound Dog 8) Memories 9) Mystery Train/Tiger Man 10) Monologue/Lifestory 11) Baby What You Want Me To Do 12) Runaway 13) Are You Lonesome Tonight? 14)Yesterday/Hey Jude 15)Introductions 16) In The Ghetto 17) Suspicious Minds 18) What'd I Say 19) Can't Help Falling In Love
Reviewed by Geoffrey Mc Donnell, Australia