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Concerts Reviewed - 1975





"Good To Be Back - December 13, 1975 MS "
A review by Joern

Elvis concerts in 1975 do belong without a doubt to the best of Elvis latter years on stage. The bootleg label Gravelroad Music re-released the midnight show from December 13, 1975 and shows in which quality such re-releases should and could be done.

The concert was first released in 1991 through the legendary bootleg-label Fort Baxter. It was named 'Just Pretend' and it is up to now something special. It was the first superb sounding soundboard release and marked something like a start for numerous different soundboard releases since then.

Two years later the concert was released in a more complete form from the label Yellow Dog. The concert was more complete, but the soundquality wasn't on par with the one from Fort Baxter. In 1996 the concert was once more released through the obscure label Grapfruit, but it included only a simple copy of the Fort Baxter release.

The Fort Baxter CD still has an enormous popularity, but nowadays it isn't that easy to get for collectors, as it was released at the beginning of the nineties. So the new re-release through the bootleg label Gravelroad Music comes along just at the right time.

Normally Elvis would appear two times a year in Las Vegas - once at the beginning of the year and once again in the summer time. In 1975 the first engagement started on March 18 and ended on April 1. Through the complete engagement Elvis gave some very good shows and sang a bunch of new songs, some rare ones and some he hadn't played a while, just like 'Promised Land', 'Green Green Grass Of Home', 'Fairytale', 'And I Love You So', 'Help Me Make It Through The Night' and 'Steamroller Blues'. He even delivered the one-time performance of 'You're The Reason I'm Living'. Thus high were the expectations for the upcoming summer engagement, especially as Elvis had given some stand-out concerts during the summer in June and July.

The cancellation of the complete season after only five shows caused by illness of Presley must have been a big letdown for all his fans coming from all over the world to visit Vegas and see him in concert. Just to fulfill his contracts it was arranged that Elvis would fetch later the cancelled shows in December. The booking for a winter engagement was something no one had ever done before in Las Vegas. To the contrary of normally low booked shows in Las Vegas during the pre-season, all the Elvis-concerts were sold-out shows.

The vice president of the Hilton hotels, Henri Lewin, said that, "in December a Las Vegas showroom draws 20 to 30 percent of its capacity. That's the way it is. People stay home between Thanksgiving and Christmas and don't really come back to Las Vegas until after New Year's. Elvis Presley filled every show. Elvis sold out! Our slot machine revenue was doubled."

Obviously the three month rest had done something good for Elvis. Throughout the entire engagement Elvis was in a good mood and his voice sounded rejuvenated and better than before, especially in comparison to his latest infamous Vegas season in August-September 1974. Even the concert reviews were decent at the time. Surely they mentioned that Elvis had gained some weight, but the Melody Maker as well as the Los Angeles Times commended the shows as a whole.

The concert itself belongs to the best of a bunch of very good shows done by Elvis throughout the December engagement in 1975.

From the start Elvis and the band were focused and delivered some top notch renditions. The show kicked off with a good rendition of 'See See Rider', which is almost an indication for a good concert as a whole. A rather short 'well, well, well' routine leaded into Ray Charles' song 'I Got A Woman', what JD Sumner gave the opportunity to do his dive-bomb routine once more.

'Love Me' was next. The only thing to say about it is, that it was done less serious. Then things started to improve big time. That includes a breath-taking version of 'Trying To Get To You'. The following 'And I Love You So' gets also a major treatment. Thereby the song profits immensely from the improved soundquality.

The obligatory versions of 'All Shook Up' and the lifeless medley of 'Teddy Bear' and 'Don't Be Cruel' weren't much more as a marginal note. The people wanted to hear them and they did. There's nothing to write home about them.

Elvis delivered much better performances on 'You Gave Me A Mountain' and the seldom done 'Help Me Make It Through The Night'. The last mentioned track was followed by a hard rocking version of Tony Joe White's 'Polk Salad Annie'.

After the usual band introductions it was time for 'Just Pretend'. Before this season Elvis had done it for the last time on November 18, 1972 in Honolulu. It's just an excellent song and beautifully performed by Elvis. It was followed by tremendous versions of 'How Great Thou Art', a rocking 'Burning Love' and the melancholic ballad 'Softly As I Leave You'.

Vocally on top Elvis sang a beautiful rendition of 'America The Beautiful'. His most successful song ever - 'It's Now Or Never' - was also done in a good way. 'Little Darlin'' and 'Little Sister' are pure fun songs and mirrored Elvis good mood throughout the concert. Before the concert ended with the usual 'Can't Help Falling In Love' Elvis wished everybody a happy Christmas and a happy New Year.

It's easy to say that the engagement marked the last time that the audience in Las Vegas faced a rather good-looking and energized superstar which obviously enjoyed what he was doing on stage and delivered some really good to very good shows. Exactly one year later the audience in Vegas would see rather disappointing performances from Elvis who would present himself as a man in deep trouble for the biggest part of the engagement.

The new re-release from Gravelroad Music sounds better than the old Fort Baxter release. Here and there one can hear some overloads. Those were also to hear on the original release, but they doesn't distract from listening to the CD as a whole.

The design is - as expected - a major improvement in comparison to the original release. The layout looks like the menu card from December 1975. Also the booklet includes a few pictures of memorabilia and lots of photos from the actual engagement, but they're not all from December 1975 as is written in the liner notes. At least a few of them were photographed in Huntsville during the May-June tour 1975. Last but not least the used pictures aren't of the best quality, but that doesn't belittle the overall positive impression of Gravelroad's release.

As long as FTD won't release this show again, Gravelroad's release will probably be the ultimate release of a December concert from Elvis his second to last engagement in Las Vegas.

Recommended.

(c) Joern - May 9, 2011







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