You have been an Elvis fan for 15 years, through the ups and downs since 1956. When the Beatles came to Boston seven years ago, you stayed home. Now, finally, the one you were really waiting for is here.
You forget about the borrowed camera you are clutching as Elvis appears, as if out of magic.
Fans erupt in screams. You do not even realize that you are yelling, too, as Elvis grabs the microphone.
'Well, that's all right little mama, that's all right with you. That's all right little mama, just any way you do', he sings. Are you dreaming? Is this really happening? By the middle of the show, you suddenly remember the camera. You only make it a little closer before the police and security guards push you back. You have never used this camera before, but you snap away, hoping it is close enough to preserve this moment, this feeling, forever. Then, all too soon, it comes to and end. Before you know it, Elvis is gone, and 39 years have passed.
You would have never believed back then that photos you snapped in 1971 would appear in an official release of the Elvis concert you witnessed that day at Boston Garden. You even write the liner notes, filling them with your memories of this unforgettable event. Like the idle daydream of an Elvis fan, it sounds too good to be true. Yet, this is exactly what happened for Cathi Avenell, who supplied photographs and liner notes ...
Bridging the gap
While the best concerts of the 1969-1977 Elvis era undoubtedly took place in the hot Vegas summers of 1969 and 1970, this November 1971 show stands out among the others. For this time period, it represents the earliest recording yet released of Elvis on the road - rather than in a Las Vegas showroom. It also serves to bridge the gap between his 1970 and 1972 live recordings. Though this show only precedes his 1972 Vegas engagement by three months, the difference is sometimes striking. This late 1971 Elvis still has some of the 1969 and 1970 fire in him, as opposed to the subdued performances of the early 1972 engagement.
This late 1971 Elvis interacts with the crowd and still apparently enjoys himself, while the early 1972 Elvis seems to do little of either. If anything, the Boston show often feels like a bizarre crossbreed of August 1970's That's The Way It Is concerts and June 1972's Madison Square Garden shows.
Quick tour of the tracks
Track 01/02 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' / 'That's All Right': Elvis experimented with various show openers over the years, but the ultimate was 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' (theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey) segueing into 'That's All Right', his first record. Elvis really rocks 'That's All Right', the first sign that this will be a great show.
Track 03 'I Got A Woman' / 'Amen': What sometimes feels like a throwaway version of 'I Got A Woman' early on eventually tightens up. 'Amen' here is relatively short, not the endless repeats of later years.
Track 04 'Proud Mary': Though it sometimes has more energy, this sounds like Elvis' 1972 versions.
Track 05 'You Don't Have To Say You Love Me': I have still yet to hear a worthwhile version after 1970.
Track 06 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin': Disappointing. Elvis sounds distracted throughout.
Track 07 'Polk Salad Annie': Here is a perfect example of why Boston Garden is so cool, a hybrid between the 1970 and 1972 variations of this song. While the overall vibe matches 1972, the talking portion is still present at the beginning. Elvis jokes his way through the 'little story' though, perhaps an indicator of boredom that resulted in its eventual removal. After the jokes, this is a strong version of the song.
Track 08 Instrumental: You'll recognize this one as 'Comin' Home Baby', the instrumental often played while Elvis introduced his band and other stage performers. No introductions on this track, though, making it a rare stand-alone version of the song.
Track 09 'Love Me': Already sounding like 1972 and beyond throwaway versions, this 'Love Me' lacks the spark of the 1970 versions.
Track 10 'Heartbreak Hotel': Speaking of throwaways, one of the worst versions of this song I have heard by Elvis. I like the bluesy take on it he first introduced in 1969, but Elvis fools around too much on this one for my taste. Maybe it was a 'You had to be there' moment.
Track 11 'Blue Suede Shoes': Rushed, 1972 style. Better than 'Heartbreak Hotel', at least.
Track 12 'One Night': Right after he sings, 'Just call my name. . ', someone with an irritating voice yells out 'ELVIS!' and spoils an otherwise great version, reminiscent of 1970.
Track 13 'Hound Dog': The typical bluesy slow start into a fast rocking ending, 1972 style. I never cared for this arrangement.
Track 14 'How Great Thou Art' (incomplete): We get about two-thirds of the song here before an artificial fade. Hard to judge without the big ending, but it probably would have been a contender for best song on the album had the performance been intact.
Track 15 Introductions (incomplete): 'Comin' Home Baby' plays again as Elvis introduces the band (joined in progress).
Track 16 'I'm Leavin': A true highlight, the best live version released so far. This was only six months after he recorded the song in RCA's Nashville studio.
Track 17 'Bridge Over Troubled Water': A stunning performance, especially considering that it sounds average at the beginning. Do not miss this one, best track on Boston Garden.
Track 18 'I Can't Stop Loving You': A tad slower, but otherwise sounds like a 1972 version. Enjoyable.
Track 19 'Love Me Tender': Annoying that this becomes a throwaway with ad-libbed lyrics, because Elvis sounds in such good voice.
Track 20 'Suspicious Minds': By far, the biggest disappointment of the album. Perhaps the worst live version I have heard, due to jokes and distractions. Arrangement is 1972 style.
Track 21 Elvis Talks: For the third time, 'Comin' Home Baby', as Elvis does his traditional request to turn the house lights up so that he can better see the audience. It is fun hearing Elvis thanking the crowd in a mellow kind of way as the music goes on behind him. It almost sounds like he is about to leave on the spot but instead he launches into ...
Track 22 'Funny How Time Slips Away': Like 'Polk Salad Annie', this version is interesting as a previously missing evolutionary step for the song. The softened lyric 'In time, it's all gonn' be okay' has already replaced the original 'In time, you're gonna pay', but the finale is still 'Ain't it surprising how time slips away.' Probably the best post-1970 version.
Track 23/24 'Can't Help Falling In Love' / Closing Vamp: 'Let's take it home', Elvis announces, launches into a decent 1972 style version of 'Can't Help Falling In Love', and the show is soon over.
Taken as a whole, Elvis As Recorded At Boston Garden '71 is a strong release. Concerts probably should not be picked apart song-by-song as I have done here, as it is the overall experience that counts. Elvis more than delivers a fantastic show. This is one of many concerts where I find myself wishing that I could have somehow been there. The sound quality is impressive, considering that it is a soundboard recording. I love how FTD tied in the album art with the Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden album. The liner notes and photos by Avenell give this release a personal feel and warmth. A must-have for fellow fans of the era.
The perfect companion CD for this book is Elvis As Recorded At Boston Garden '71. [November 10, 1971]
Elvis By Special Request : '71 At '40 is the first JAT book devoted solely to 1971, something that has been requested many times of the years. This special edition hardcover book will feature many rare photographs of the rarely seen and exciting 1971 tour. With over 100 unpublished color and black and white photos, this book will be a throwback to some of the early classic JAT titles. This title although much more elaborate will be produced in the spirit of early JAT books. Longtime JAT writer Mike Eder will once again be providing the text. Over its 23 years JAT Publishing has captured almost every element of Elvis Presleys illustrious career with the exception of a book devoted entirely to the November 1971 tour.
01 Also Sprach Zarathustra
02 That's All Right
03 I Got A Woman/Amen
04 Proud Mary
05 You Don't Have To Say You Love Me
06 You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling
07 Polk Salad Annie
09 Love Me
10 Heartbreak Hotel
11 Blue Suede Shoes
12 One Night
13 Hound Dog
14 How great Thou Art (incomplete)
15 Introductions (incomplete)
16 I'm Leavin'
17 Bridge Over Troubled Water
18 I Can't Stop Loving You
19 Love Me Tender
20 Suspicious Minds
21 Elvis talks
22 Funny How Time Slips Away
23 Can't Help Falling In Love
24 Closing Vamp
Lead Guitar: James Burton; rhythm guitar: John Wilkinson; bass: Jerry Scheff; drums: Ronnie Tutt; piano: Glen D. Hardin, acoustic guitar and backing vocals: Charlie Hodge; backing vocals: Kathy Westmoreland, The Sweet Inspirations, J.D. Sumner & The Stamps Quartet. The Tony Bruno Orchestra conducted by Joe Guercio.